Monday, December 14, 2009

The Compulsion to Showcase New Technology

Bill Corrie's Blog Hinterblog has an excellent post entitled "Compulsion of Technology in Sci-Fi" which got me thinking. This post is tangentially related to Bill's, but not directly.

Back when I released StarCluster 2E, I got a lot of people who asked - essentially - "Where's the nano-tech in StarCluster?" to which I would reply something to the effect of "In the factories where it belongs." This reply is, I think, insufficient.

I don't mention nanotech anywhere in StarCluster. Not once. Not in the core book and not in the supplements. This is by design. There are many reasons why, and I think they are compelling reasons.

First, the time frame of the game setting is some two thousand years in the future. By that time, nanotechnology will be a known, understood, and mature technology. People don't make a big thing about normal, everyday tech. Do you tell your neighbor "Hey! My new car burnes fluid hydrocarbon fuel in an internal combustion engine! Isn't that cool?" No - you only tell your neighbor how your car works if it's a hybrid or some other new technology. Nanotech is old stuff.

Second, many SF settings use nanotech in an obvious, personal way - grey goo that one squirts on matter to change one thing into another. I personally don't think nanotech would be used like that. For one thing, I think there would be elaborate safeguards to its use - it would be properly contained, programed to die if let out into the normal environment, and stringently controlled. It is too dangerous to be let out into the environment.

Third, I really dislike the use of nanotech as a substitute for magic. It's not, things don't work like that, and I'm not putting that into my game, thank you!

Thus nanotech is behind much of the technology explored in StarCluster - Active Plasteel, Active Color and texture, "Drugs" and other medical care, Bioroids and genetic design, etc. It's just used in the "factory" - behind bio-safeguards and underneath the hood, and not talked about as such. People talk about the products of nanotechnology, not the little critters themselves.


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