Vector #130

As writers we have the ability to create perfection, however: which may be another good reason for writing science fiction. From the biological standpoint we have a choice of two kinds of perfection: expanding or stable. The expanding kind postulates a dominant race, usually human, colonizing an ever-increasing number of worlds. There can be no end to the process of expansion because, like economic growth rates and the Roman Empire, the only alternative is collapse. Conflict is provided by the opposition of other races and such stories tend to be technological in content. An undeniable attraction lies in the headlong progression towards a vast Unknown, but the drawback is an uncomfortable similarity to our present situation on Earth.

I chose the second alternative for my recent novels because of its inherent optimism: it is theoretically possible to reach and sustain a stable perfection. The end product is a planet which a perfect ecology with a diversity of plants and animals dovetailing into a balanced whole. Conflict is provided by the arising of an occasional imbalance, either internally or externally inflicted. There is little room for technology in this kind of story because it would eventually be defeated by the finite nature of global resources, despite recycling and solar power. British SF often uses this introspective approach, although not always stating openly that life will go on after the difficult period that it often describes. Perhaps here there is an over-preoccupation with human life. The fact that the story is set at a point well before ecological stability is achieved sometimes brands it as ‘pessimistic’ in American eyes. This rather shortsighted view ignores the optimism inherent in the struggle for a stable perfection – as well as the practical impossibility of achieving an expanding perfection.

Michael Coney