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About “A Love Supreme” in Discover Magazine

I’ve encountered surprise–nay, amazement–that Discover Magazine has published “A Love Supreme” in its September/October issue because it is science . . . fiction

To my mind, Discover Magazine and science fiction are a perfect match.  The august science journal Nature has reinstated its long-running “Futures” feature–vignettes written by science fiction writers, which can take the form of an essay or a short science fiction story.   New Scientist is publishing Arc, “Futures and fiction,” which features several science fiction stories per issue.  I think this close linking of science with science fiction in science magazines and journals is a trending wave. 

It may seem obvious why science fiction and science journals and magazines are a good match, but on the other hand it might seem counterintitive, depending on what you point to when you say “This is science fiction.” 

Science fiction, as I think of it, is rooted in science, but extrapolates worlds, premises, futures, and, most importantly, characters who live in these worlds, these futures.  In the main, these worlds are increasingly our own, and the time is the present, once-removed.  It is easy to recognize ourselves in these stories. 

This is because that which has long been characterized as “science fiction” (often with the qualifier just science fiction) has become our present.  That simple assertion packs a huge wallop.   When Jules Verne wrote about traveling to the moon, he was extrapolating from known physics and technology, but it all seemed far off.  Science-fictiony.  Weird.

Scientific knowledge has burgeoned since Jules Verne’s time.  It has become more intimate:  what will “we” be when our very genes will soon be embedded in myriad products (see  Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, by George M. Church)?  It has become more far-reaching:  “what if” Hugh Everett’s many-world theory is true?  Those two examples are just nanoparticles in the flood of information about our physical world, which includes us and our mode of relating to the world–consciousness–available to lay readers today through easily accessed science magazines, science documentaries, and books written by scientists striving to meld their specialized languages with plain English.

Stories are a powerful vector for exploring who we are and who we might be.  They are miniature “other worlds” in which we briefly live. 

Science fiction is one way of examining possible futures, but it is not predictive. Science fiction a literary and often lyrical window on our increasingly strange present.  Science fiction authors are writers who take into account all of the possibilities of our present, our day-after-tomorrow future, and our possible far-futures.  Because of the recent plethora of our interface with scientific information, more and more readers are interested in reading science fiction referencing such.  This is an exciting writerly path, as evidenced by the many “mainstream writers” who reach out with their cane of outmoded fictional models and subjects to hook themselves to the maglev of science fiction, thereby to try to find new purchase in the minds of readers who are immersed in the world-as-it-is as that world morphs ever more quickly into “the future.”

It is an honor to be one of Discover’s first science fiction authors.  “A Love Supreme” references one of my favorite musicians, John Coltrane.  Jazz, like science fiction, is outsider’s art that is deeply embedded in American culture, both having been born from it.  Much of my fiction has jazz underpinnings, beginning with my first novel, Queen City Jazz.  With Coltrane’s iconic chant at its heart, the story is a meditation on the present and near-future state of medical acess for Americans, showing how one agarophobic emergency physician copes with overpopulation and her father’s cancer, with new awareness; with epiphany. 

 

 

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