Thursday, September 02, 2010

Paolo Bacigalupi: Science fiction that makes us look at the world through a different lens

In May Paolo Bacigalupi gave a talk at the Google offices in San Francisco, not long after winning the Nebula Award for his novel The Windup Girl

He talked about how science fiction can "stretch the normal" like a rubber band, that eventually snaps back and makes people look at the present differently (quoted from the transcript:

So the thing I like about science fiction is the opportunity to take what looks normal and then to twist it, to- to take an idea and stretch it out into some unreasonable place where you think the world is going to be safe and stable, and then to rip the floor out from underneath you and drop you into something else. Ideally that process is a bit like stretching a rubber band. You pull somebody out into a different world, and then you let the rubber band snap. And when people come back to this world they're going to look at our place now, the present, with a different lens as well. And that's really the thing that excites me about science fiction.
Bacigalupi also talks about using science fiction to make people environmental issues that might otherwise be ignored:
"[to] look at drought or look at how chemicals might disrupt our endocrine systems and turn us all into stupid people. Or how agricultural companies with their IP and their terminator genes might actually really change the way that we interact with food. [. . .] And maybe interact with in a more tangible, visceral way than we would otherwise.

[. . . ] Yes, I want my characters to be interesting. Yes I want my stories to be fascinating and gripping.  And yes, I actually am this evangelist banging on my pulpit trying to get people to pay attention to some things that are pretty interesting and fundamental. And that we mostly spend our time not looking at. And that we prefer not to.

He also reads from his disturbing short story "Pop Squad" and his all-too-plausible tale of drought "The Tamarisk Hunter"

Watch the video:

A few samples of Bacigalupi's short fiction with biological themes you can read for free:


  1. thanks for sharing this one and of course the video itself. It give me some thoughts

  2. I agree entirely; it often takes the imagination of an author to reveal new possibilities about how we operate in this world.


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