What Futurologists Do
Futuristic Conflict In Romance
He encapsulated a vision we must ponder because it is so close to the world we are currently living in and plunging beyond.
Sagan was known for his non-fiction, and certainly not for writing Romance novels. But Science Fiction Romance -- romance between human and alien, or just plain Relationship between human and non-human -- is the main topic on this blog. To blend the Science Fiction genre with the Romance genre, we have to know a little science, yes, but also a lot more about how scientists think.
Not, mind you, a lot more about WHAT scientists think, but rather about HOW the thinking is done. Where do the conclusions we read in popular science articles come from?
One of the first things to consider, to habitually ask yourself, is, "What do they know that I don't know?"
And second most important habit for a writer tackling alien dialogue creation is, "What do I know that they don't know?"
What the writer knows that the aliens don't know is precisely what the reader knows that the Alien Characters don't know.
The results of focusing on these questions can be seen very clearly in the film, STARMAN. The 1984 version starring Jeff Bridges is the one I'm talking about here.
With the B&W very early THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL film, you have the beginnings of Science Fiction Romance in the video industry.
The captivating, moving and eternally memorable aspect of these Alien Romance stories is the "learning curve" -- the encounter with something utterly alien yet somehow familiar.
Futurologists do this kind of thinking along the time-line rather than between planets.
But the question the writer is asking inside their own mind is the same whether it is catapulting a self-image into some future world or bringing an "alien" (from the future such as The Terminator, from the past such as Iceman, or from another planet such as Starman, osr both such as DOCTOR WHO) into the reader/viewer's present reality is always the same.
"What do I know that this (alien/time-traveler) does not know?"
This key question has an answer that lies in the reader/viewer's blind spot -- the psychological black hole that forms the center of consciousness.
A newborn baby comes into this world knowing nothing, learning a million things a second. The votex at the center of our being from which our sense of "reality" comes, our sense of "right and wrong" and everything we judge acceptable or which must be exterminated is rooted in that big blind-spot at the center of consciousness.
Exploring that big, dark, churning mass of experience is often the main occupation of adulthood, especially for artists of all sorts.
But audiences are composed mostly of people who don't want to explore how they know what they know -- and in many cases, want to avoid knowing what they know that convinces them of the validity of their current opinions.
Challenging current opinions, boring into the black hole at the center of consciousness is the function of fiction in general, but especially of science fiction.
Fiction is an artistic, selective representation of reality. Science is the organization of our tested knowledge about reality.
There is a contradiction between those two mental processes -- organizing facts and testing them vs. depicting the truth we associate with what we know.
Science vs. Art -- many assume they are mutually exclusive and one must necessarily be superior to the other.
Science Fiction is about the seamless blend, the harmonious unity of these two modes of thinking so that the reader is treated to a vision of how the world works when science and art blend perfectly.
Nowhere in the Literature of science fiction is this blend better illustrated than in the First Contact story.
That is the category that Starman belongs to.
There are many classic stories in this First Contact category -- one of my favorites is In Value Decieved by H. B. Fyfe, November 1950 Astounding.
It has the flavor of a Gordon R. Dickson story -- or one such as Lulungomeena
https://youtu.be/P5KSmPHqKcQ -- YouTube audio of a Galaxy Magazine story done for Radio - X-Minus One.
Notice I'm citing items that have lived in memory of thousands of people for many decades. Do you want to write a Classic science fiction romance? Study the classics of the field that is just barely old enough to have classics!
These are all-time classics because they explore with a delicate probe and half-smile the sensitive depths of that black-hole at the center of the audience's mind, the one place we are most loath to explore.
Put it "out there" as "alien" and certain people will look at it willingly, and perhaps like and remember it because it allows them to access the depths of their own minds without shuddering.
What you know that the Alien does not know, and how the Alien reacts to learning what you know, teaches you about what what you know that you didn't know you knew and didn't want to know you knew!
Literature Professors often refer to the sensations this causes as Cognitive Dissonance.
In fiction, in Art, it can be induced in mild forms and be examined in a pleasurable context.
But in everyday reality, as Carl Sagan has indicated ...
...when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority;
... factions are chipped off the social whole, the social fabric frays, or whatever metaphore makes sense to you -- when communication FAILS, and individuals have "lost the ability to set their own agendas" then emotion erupts.
It is incomprehensible how a member of society, how a citizen of the country you consider yourself a citizen of -- how the OTHERS you have always thought were "like me" can possibly think what they (seem to) think!
Such thoughts, and such thinking is so evil, so anti-life, so apallingly counter-survival that it is necessary to eradicate the thinker of such thoughts, to expunge the pollution from the social fabric.
The rejection of the "Other" is visceral, and the more virulent because at some point that person or people like them were considered "us."
It is the seminal Horror trope -- that which is killing you is inside you, eating your guts. Yes, like cancer.
Sagan is talking about (what was to him) the future in which society is fractured by an inability to communicate about the highest levels in technology (Artificial Intelligence was purely fictional concept back then!), and the most abstract issues of social cohesiveness (such as race relations, gender pay-equality, and the proper role of government in civilization).
Each faction "knows" something with absolute certainty that the other factions don't know or could never believe (or don't want to believe).
This "knowledge" resides in that black hole at the center of being which gains its content in the first, pre-verbal years of life.
As Sagan notes, something drastic has changed and it is reflected in the media now relying on brief sound-bytes to "inform" the general public.
It is clear there is a "they" who knows things the "we" don't know.
Transmission of that knowledge from they to we -- or from we to they -- is just not happening.
All the factions seem to be talking different languages, chattering on about different topics, and when no listening is happening, the conclusion is reached that the "Other" must be irradicated. At all costs.
This is the situation readers now live in -- the futurologist writer has to leap over this maelstrom and depict the situation that will prevail 30 or 50 years from now, perhaps a thousand or two years from now.
Science Fiction does not have to be futuristic. It has to blend Science (the study and organization of our knowledge of physical reality) with Fiction (the study and organization of our knowledge of emotiional reality).
The classics of science fiction romance will be about "What do I know that this one does not know?"
And with the Romance genre angle completely blended in, the classics of our genre will be about, "How Do I Transmit What I Know?"
You can transmit what you know without knowing you know it -- all parents do that with their infants -- but you can't recognize successful transmission unless you actually know what you know. Parents are always shocked when their three year old behaves the exact way the parents have behaved.
Children learn at a stupendous rate, but adults depend on what they have learned.
What do you know that your readers do not know?
Your readers are adults -- so they learn more slowly. Can you transmit your knowledge of human emotional reality to your readers by using agreed upon scientific facts?
Carl Sagan has pinpointed the crux of the conflict that drives all Romance, particularly science fiction romance in this modern era.
The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable.
There is such a thing as "The Battle of the Sexes" -- and the battle is over "I know better than you!"
Put another way, the Battle is over whether what men "know" is true, or not.
Today, this is played out on the public stage by Conservative vs. Liberal -- "What I know is true is really true but what you blieve is true is actually false."
That is the core conflict of all Battle of the Sexes Romance novels - what I know is true but what you know is actually false.
As Sagan wrote, we don't want to study or learn what OTHERS think is true because that might call into question what we know.
Do we even know what we know? And how do we know it?
In his non-fiction work, FUTURE SHOCK, Alvin Toffler explained as of the 1970's how the acceleration of acceleration of "change" in society was making change run so fast that the basic human organism can NOT adjust fast enough.
Humans are adaptable and adjustable as infants -- our genetics and epigenetics discoveries are showing how individualistic and adaptable humans are, and later how very slow to adapt in elder years.
Even in the 1970's, what older people knew (from the content of their Black Holes) had already become false or irrelevant in that decade. Look how many who were adults in the 1970's did not adapt to the computer revolution of the 1980's.
What you KNOW is the enemy of your survival in a fast evolving world.
Even younger people are subject to this as their "black hole" was filled by yet older people.
There is a trend among Millennials to have their children later in life -- those children are being filled with OLDER truths. The rate of change of this society may slow down because of that.
This human limit is the essential source of all Romantic Conflict.
Can "Love" conquer this aversion to study and learning?
That is an important question to explore in fiction, using all the social science and brain studies you can find because studying and learning your spouse is the key to the Happily Ever After.
You can not agree to disagree -- therein lies misery ever after as the gulf of knowlege unshared grows ever wider with our accelerating rate of change.
Men must learn to look at the world through their woman's knowledge of truth, while women must understand the world through their man's understanding of facts.
Truth and facts should coincide, but due to black-hole-programing, they don't always quite make it.
The truth/fact dichotomy is the "All" that love must "Conquer."
Now the question is: "Does Conquering Actually Work?"
Does winning a war cause war to end? If so, how come we still have wars?
With all our change, have we "progressed" or have we "regressed?"
Ponder the Battle of the Sexes. Does the winner have a survival advantage?