How Much Tech is Too Much Tech?

19 Sep

Ultratech – going beyond traditional science-fiction, using technology that can’t be conceived for even three generations. The problem is… does the lack of a cultural context alienate your readers?

So I’m struggling with my next story idea. After watching the Cyberpunk 2077 game trailers, I really got excited for doing “_____punk” again. However, I don’t want to do steampunk, I can’t finish my atompunk story, and I don’t have a good cyberpunk story. So how do I play with the ideas of extreme technology and societal collapse?

I made the mistake of picking up Ann Leckie’s award winning series at Book 3. So I had no context for the world she created. There was a human who’s the main character, but she used to be a ship, but somehow she gained command… okay, that I can move past and enjoy the book. However, it was the culture and the terminology that was so alien that I couldn’t connect with it. I finished the book, but I was left with a *bleh* at the end.

I feel like she was trying to do something different and cool but I had no way of appreciating it because I had nothing in the modern world to attach it to. It had something to do with the verbage and how that indicated how they ranked in their slave/less slave society, but it made it difficult to appreciate the story.

Now the best way to handle that is usually to have your point-of-view character be a normal human from our time, but that’s not going to work unless I want to pull a Buck Rogers or Planet of the Apes idea. Another solution is to have the society not changed much, but with the tech insane (this is the Star Trek: TNG theory of “technology changes, but man does not”), but that seems disingenuous and not authentic.

I don’t have to have all the characters speaking in future English or cityspeak: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem bitte!” As much as I love using alternative languages in my writing (my favorite is Oranje = Dutch/Afrikkans with English sentence structure), maybe just using some unusual words for slang can help without distorting my reader’s connection.

Have you got any ideas? If you have a solution – or a similar problem – let me know in the comments below!

4 Responses to “How Much Tech is Too Much Tech?”

  1. Msdedeng September 19, 2020 at 1:22 pm #

    I often ask myself the same question you pose!

    • M Harold Page September 19, 2020 at 3:44 pm #

      I think we have to assume that far future SF is “in translation”, so really all the terminology ought to be good faith attempts to convey the concepts.
      How tech impacts on the humanness of humans really depends on what the underlying economics are. Moorcock’s “Dancers at the End of Time” books depict what a magic tech society would look like – basically gods at play. Sarah Newton’s Mindjammer ttrpg and novel shows something slightly less magical but cheats by showing us the scouts/diplomatic people working outside their wired up utopia.
      For myself, I dislike too much ultra tech, because then it’s the equivalent of doing space in VR: I like to wipe the dust of an alien desert off my sweaty brow while drawing a bead with my assault rifle…

      • Msdedeng September 19, 2020 at 4:00 pm #

        “Gods at play” truly. And yes, do we remain human even? What do we do with our brains, with the like of AI?
        “Dancers at the End of Time” could perhaps give me an insight into that scary future.
        Thank you for your response, Harold!

  2. SirNolen September 19, 2020 at 8:27 pm #

    “Biopunk”, maybe? Genetic engineering and cosmetic surgery so widely available and so cheap that entire “body modification” subcultures emerge? Plot hook: How do you catch a serial killer when they change their fingerprints, appearance, race, and sex after every kill?

    It would probably require a lot of research, though. 😦

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