Scifi Craftsmanship: Maturity Models – Part Two

Click Here to Read Part One – So yesterday’s blog post was the beginning of a conversation about applying craftsmanship to scifi through the use of a ‘maturity model.’ I spent most of that post talking about ‘why we should think about this.’ Immaturity in science fiction represents an existential threat; ignore the disaster and become the disaster that gets ignored. We can’t afford to look the other way. So instead, let’s talk about how we make things better, and take a deep dive into the details of scifi craftsmanship and maturity models.

Think back to the Reddit comment about education and maturity again, we see a huge opportunity for science fiction both as a genre and a community. How it would work is by asking ourselves some simple questions:

Am I consuming scifi or do I produce scifi, or a little of both?

You learn more about making art than you ever will by studying it. ‘Real artists ship,’ as Steve Jobs said, describing the difference between “real artists” who finish their projects and deliver on their ideas and “wannabe artists” who just tinker around. The process of art invariably forces you to think more deeply, especially as you put your work out into the world and see what other producers are doing. ‘But what if I’m not a producer?’ you ask. There’s nothing wrong with professional consumers of a product. Scifi needs influencers, so if that’s your path, then follow it! However, you have to remember that professional consumers / influencers of an art form have their own etiquette and protocol. That leads us to the next question …

Am I helping scifi improve?

There’s more to being an art critic than showinig up to galleries and drinking cheap wine. You have to be able to articulate what you enjoy about the work, or what you think might have improved it. Similarly, beer drinkers start out drinking Budweiser to IPAs, often making beer themselves. That’s the maturity path for other creative mediums. How can we mature as scifi ‘experiencers?’ Can we move beyond conversations like ‘this is why Star Wars sucks’ and into discussions like ‘Here’s how you fix Star Wars?’ 

Ultimately the answer is – ‘how could this be better?’ Discuss the vision, strategy, and tactics of a well-executed science fiction story (Looking at you, Dune – they did a great job, didn’t they?). Break down the model to figure out how other scifi could be just as cool. Then talk about how you could do that on a budget, like Primer, Midnight Special, or Coherence. The answers may not always be as valuable as the questions.

Do I remain open-minded to new scifi?

We have to remember as imperfect little meatbags that we’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to progress. We fall into ruts, we get set in our ways. It happens to everyone. How do we fall into ruts? Easy … just follow the path of least resistance one too many times. Here’s the good news: Since it’s easy to fall into a rut, it’s just as easy to avoid them. How? Three little words: try new things.

It’s as easy as that. Try some new scifi today! Read a new book. Watch a new movie. Download a new video game demo. How long should you try it before you decide it’s not for you? My personal rule is the ‘twenty minute test.’ If the new thing hasn’t captured you in 20 minutes, chuck it and move on. I’ve discarded hundreds of movies and books this way. Life’s too short for something that doesn’t grab you by the feels.

Open-mindedness has many personal benefits. For example, being open minded makes you ‘less susceptible to influence, persuasion, manipulation, and coercion. Instead of having a biased view of any given situation, you critically assess everything and gain a balanced perspective.’ Science fiction can’t survive and thrive without those new and continually evolving ideas. Both producers and consumers of science fiction must remain open to new science fiction ideas, concepts, and methods for us to achieve the growth we’re capable of as a species.

Mature Scifi is a Win-Win

Forgive the Stephen Covey reference, I’m trying to make this discussion something everyone can relate to. When scifi matures as a genre and community, it’s going to create the next generation of Asimov’s, Atwoods, and Butlers. Imagine an alternate history where Larry Niven got told ‘floating cities in space? That’s stupid, write something else,’ and listened to that advice. We’d never have Ringworld. Imagine a world where Gregory Benford never believed in himself enough to write “The Scarred Man” in 1969. We’d never know what a computer virus was.

My point is that we exist on the backs of previous generations’ commitment to maturity. Their courage, curiosity, and passion got us to here. Now it’s time for us to take the next step!

Think about what a ‘scifi maturity model’ should be to you and let’s talk about it. This is a universe where we can all build, grow, and change together. Let’s put our courage, curiosity, and passion to work.

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