July 19th, 2009

wood cat

Readercon: IDIC for the Pre-Federation World: Coping with Diversity

More panel notes. Two more sets forthcoming.

IDIC for the Pre-Federation World: Coping with Diversity.
Robin Abrahams.
The Vulcans allegedly had a slogan "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations," which is pretty big talk for an entire race of people who all have the same haircut. In the 21st century, however, diversity is increasing—and increasingly hard to deal with. Robin Abrahams, writer of the Globe's "Miss Conduct" social advice column and the new book Miss Conduct's Mind Over Manners, discusses diversity of values, priorities, and experiences. Can we really say that nothing human is alien to us? How do we cope with the "other"? And how can we use science fiction to help us address contemporary social dilemmas?

The short version: engaging, entertaining, interesting speaker, but disappointing talk, because I expected two things from the description, practical tips and a response to RaceFail, and got neither (the speaker had not, in fact, been informed of RaceFail, though I know that programming had been advised of it, at length).

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science fiction

high-context SF?

At the Readercon talk on dealing with diversity (panel notes), the speaker brought up the idea of cultures having either high or low contexts, judged by the amount that people within the culture can take for granted in talking to each other. She went on to say that you can have SF about high-context cultures, but you can't have high-context SF, because you need a way in to the society.

Being a contrary sort, I immediately tried to think of examples of high-context SF. The first that came to mind was Doctorow and Rosenbaum's Hugo-nominated novella "True Names", which struck me as self-consciously SF 301 or even higher, that is, assuming a whole lot of prior knowledge of the field and making no concessions to catch you up.

What do you all think? Am I not understanding the terms properly? What about high-context fantasy, is there anything different there?