Hal Clement
Jeffrey A. Carver

6,440 words
posted:  october 16,  1998

[The material below is an edited version of a
discussion held at MIT on september 17, 1998.]


The Mission of Science Fiction

Jenkins: Years ago, when Hugo Gernsback was envisioning a genre he called "Scientifiction," he envisioned it as playing a really important role in the popular understanding of science. Gernsback felt that science fiction should bridge the gap between scientific research and the general public by inspiring a sense of wonder about science. Hal, you've lived through a good chunk of the evolution of that genre so I am wondering, first of all whether you think that goal still remains a central part of science fiction and how successful you think science fiction has been in serving that goal?

Clement: It's a worthwhile goal for science fiction. I much prefer it to trying to sell political lines, and it's how I get my fun. I was a science teacher at the high school level for forty years and I suppose I haven't really changed that much. I write standard "What If?" stories and I like to keep them at a level where someone reasonably familiar with what we think we know about science at this point has a fair chance at solving the character's problems before I tell them the solution.

Carver: I remember my high school chemistry teacher encouraged all of us to read science fiction as a way of trying to excite us about science. My teacher was a science fiction fan and through the magic of the internet, I was recently back in touch with him. He told me that he felt he had really accomplished one of the items on his short list of things-to-be-accomplished-in-life by having taught and encouraged someone who actually went on to become a professional science fiction writer.

But I think that science fiction as it was being written back then was more discernibly popularizing science. The field has expanded in so many directions, especially from the sixties onward, that that kind of scientifically rigorous or at least scientifically interesting literature is a very vital subset of science fiction, but only a subset. There are so many things that are brought into the field now.

Writing Science Fiction

Michael Burstein: I saw an interesting contrast in the works that you both read. Hal's story was classic hard science fiction in the sense that almost everything in it seems to be extrapolatable based on contemporary scientific knowledge, while Jeff's story also had a hard science fiction feel, he is obviously dealing with a type of science that is incredibly theoretical. And yet either one of these stories could have been written twenty or thirty years ago. I'm wondering if you agree with that. Do you feel that current knowledge of science is affecting your work now? Or do you feel that you are creating something in the classical vein?

Clement: I try to keep up, not in an intensely professional level (I don't read the AstroPhysical Journal because I can't afford to subscribe to it) but I try to use what I read about at the Scientific American and Nature level as possible story material.

Carver: I guess the kind of story that I was reading could have been written twenty years ago but not forty years ago. I try to keep up with science too, but at a "much closer to layman's" level -- I read Science News instead of Science. And my primary interest in the scientific content is in inspiration and setting. I've written stories that are more hard science fiction than what I read tonight, but even there my primary interest is in the characters, both in how their lives are developing and in how they intersect with these scientifically possible future realities. I've been pegged as a hard science fiction writer, but I'm really more of a character writer than a hard science fiction writer.

Clement: You've certainly stayed much closer to the thoughts and feelings of your principle characters than I was ever able to.

Carver: And that's really where my stories arise from -- from the character. Something scientific may provide the initial inspiration -- Chaos Chronicles were inspired by Chaos Theory and it became a kind of metaphor for it, but if Hal were writing a story about Chaos Theory, I'm sure that you would probably more rigorously work it out from the scientific point of view.

Clement: I'm not sure whether it would turn out more rigorously. If I did read and somehow manage to understand a Chaos Theory article, I would probably treat it the way I do any other science article I read:"Here's an oddball situation, this could happen -- 3 by 5 card, this could happen -- 3 by 5 card." After a sufficiently tall stack of 3 by 5 cards, I start dealing them out so that eventually they are laid out in a plausible, chronological order. I simply find this much easier than plotting. (I hope there are no English teachers present.)

Jenkins: So how would you approach such a project?

Carver: My approach is very different. I don't use the same approach for eveything I write, but typically, I get some idea that involves a character in a situation (and there's often some connection to something I've read about concerning scientific findings) but usually it's a character with a problem or a passion or some driving need to do something. And rather than taking the approach of using some scientific idea and piling up more ideas of how that might go, I tend to look for ways to use the scientific finding as a means to illustrate the story that is already half-grown in my mind.

One reason why I tend to write more far-future stuff is that it gives me more latitude, but it is also my temperment. That is, I tend to be more interested in the far future among the stars.

Yos Bonsun: The question is, as authors thinking of new books, do you have a future history or a forecast of how you think things might go -- scenarios planned out -- and within that pre-existing framework, do you identify stories and characters and so forth? Or do you have a character and situation in mind and in order to flesh out something interesting around that character or situation, pursue a particular scenario? Which approach do you take?

Clement: I start with only the vaguest of future histories based on the pious hope that we'll retain enough civilization to continue developing our understanding of the universe. That way I can keep on writing science fiction because there will be new ideas coming up.

I never seriously considered a whole series of stories based on the same theme, the same historical development and series of characters. I did write a sequel to Mission of Gravity because somebody at a convention suggested a very good idea which called for Mesklinites and who was I to fight it?

I wrote a sequel for Needle for totally unscientific and different reasons. A fan in the Philadelphia area kept asking me to and I said, "OK if I can think of a really good idea." And after a few years he hit me with a different approach: "Hal, you promised that if I stopped smoking you would do a sequel to Needle. How about it?"

Well I don't remember making such a promise. Nevertheless, it seemed a worthwhile thing to encourage, so I said, "OK I'll give it a try." That was the real start of the story. Two or three months later, somewhere in the sixties, I was telling this story and Judy Del Rey was in hearing range and the next thing I knew I had signed a contract.

Carver: I work both ways. The star-rigger universe started as a short story that I later expanded into a novel. There was a throw away line in the novel, Star Rigger's Way, in which a character sitting in a space port bar muttering something about dueling with dragons along a particular route -- that was just for local color at the time that I wrote the book. Then a year or two later, it came back to me and the next thing I knew I was writing a story about an encounter with dragons in the Flux. And then that grew into a novel and a much larger and more involved sequel. So that's a universe that has grown as things have suggested themselves to me.

In this current book, Lagroder, the main character, was just a minor character seen very briefly in Star Rigger's Way and I got to thinking about what his story was. And the next thing I knew I had the outline for this book.

Now The Chaos Chronicles were very different because I sat down to deliberately do a change of pace. I had written a number of very long complex books and I was frankly tired. They were emotionally and physically exhausting to write and you don't get paid any more for a long book than you do for a short book and I was trying to make a living and I was just thinking that I have got to start writing shorter, snappier, faster-paced books that don't take years to write. But my mind doesn't seem to work that way. So I thought, "Well, what if I had a really long, complex story and I found a way to break it up into sections, each one of which would have some closure and satisfaction?" So, with that in mind, I traced out the rough outline of The Chaos Chronicles -- three of which have been written and published and three more have yet to be written. So in that case I knew the general future history and I was about half way through outlining that when I realized that a character was going to come into that story from two other previously published books that I had no idea at first were even in the same future history. And then I realized, "OK these two future histories are the same." At this point someone who had read all my stuff would know this only because at the very end of book three, this character, who was a robot, appears and his presence is eventually going to entwine the two universes. I have also written other stories which are set within their own individual time and space.

John Page: In folklore certain stories get told on certain occasions often when somebody has done something wrong, whether they've been cruel, forgetful, or have not shown enough persistence. So some of the most successful stories are ones which have some -- to use a terribly boring and Victorian term -- life lesson. I think when people are thinking over their plots in the early formation of a story, somewhere along the line, something might ring in the author's mind such as, "Gee, this is something I'd really like to convey to my kids or to my errant colleague." So I wonder, for each of you, is there ever a sense of, "Gee, through this story I can say this kind of thing." And if so, does that occur early, middling, or late in the stack of 3 by 5 cards or the scientific reading or reverie over some joy or affront that has happened during the day?

Carver: I think that for me it usually occurs somewhere in the middle. I don't think I usually set out to write a story that has a life lesson per se, but I wrote one story and about halfway through I realized, "OK this is really a coming of age story of a young man." The dragon books that I was talking about really started out as personal encounter of a young woman with a dragon and it evolved into a redemption story about her coming to terms with an abusive father, and her being willing to sacrifice for someone else. And when I was writing its sequel, which was much more involved with the whole culture of the dragons, I was only two thirds of the way through, when my editor, reading a rough draft, said,"You know there are a lot of resonances of The Lord of the Rings in this." And I said, "What are you talking about, this is science fiction, it has nothing to do with the... or does it?" And after he had pointed it out it became obvious to me that actually there were.

One of the frustrations of my writing style is that I tend to be a very intuitive writer. I often really don't know what the hell I'm doing.until it works itself out through the process of writing. Even in books that I've outlined in detail. Sometimes my books are outlined in fairly good detail and sometimes its just a short, incomprehensible synopsis that I've used to sell the book. Either way I keep finding myself discovering things about the story that were inherent in the story all along, but I just didn't realize it until I either beat my head against it long enough for it to come out or someone pointed it out to me.

A good illustration of this is The Chaos Chronicles. I had outlined the first book, Neptune Crossing, in fairly good detail before I wrote it. I had other problems writing it, but at least I knew the basic story line and I knew where the overall story was going in the broad scope. But then I really had no idea what was happening in book two. I just knew that book two had to get me from where I had left him to where he was going to be next. I just started writing and I was about three quarters of the way through that book before I really knew what the book was about.

It was really very much an act of faith and terror to write this book, because if I spent a year drafting a book and it turned out to just be stupid at the end it would have been a very disillusioning thing to do. Fortunately it does not seem to have turned out that way. So the subconscious is at work a lot in me. And actually there are some life lessons that come out of my stories, but I don't set out to write them that way.

Clement: For me, there is never a starting intent of preaching some sort of lesson. I'm blessed with, or stuck with (depending on your view point) a very materialistic attitude toward the universe. I think science is essentially our attempt to find out what the rules are and that is necessarily based on the assumption that there are rules. And I don't think very much of anyone's chances of getting very far, either as an individual or as the guide to a species, without knowing fairly well what the rules are. Otherwise your actions tend to be rather random.

This is one of the reasons I write the way I described a few minutes ago: think about a few things that could happen and then work out what order they would have to happen in. I have never been able to follow an outline. Once or twice I've tried to do it, but by the time I was 20 or 30 thousand words into the story, no one could have told from reading those 20 or 30 thousand words, what the outline had to do with it. There have been a couple of occasions when I have gone about that far into a story and realized that I had come to a good starting place.

In Mission of Gravity, I had not the faintest idea what the last paragraph was going to say until I was well into the last chapter. It might have been predicted by someone who knew me that it was going to be some sort of triumph for science, but I honestly didn't think of any alternative way of flying at that atmosphere until suddenly the hot air balloon flickered up from somewhere in my historical memory. That's likely to happen any time.

Michael MacAffey: A lot of people, I have noticed, tend to read the same material but process it differently. I am a very visual reader, words evoke images, but I know some people who let words wash over them until they take some meaning. I was wondering what kind of readers you might be and do you write the same way you read?

Clement: I am highly visual. I see the scenes as I read them and as I write them. My verbal skills, if that's what they are, don't approach what you were doing in describing the thoughts you read a little while ago. I might someday develop that power, but I don't think the chances are very good. I see everything. If I am trying to describe what someone is thinking, I'm more likely to make it obvious by what he or she is doing.

Carver: I tend to be visual also in the sense that I do a lot of internal stuff involving thought processes and I've had quite a number of scenes that involve direct mind connection to some sort of intelligence system or network and I tend to do that in a very visual way.

My basic reason for writing, I suppose, is that I write the kinds of stories that I want to read and I guess I like that kind of thing in other books by other people too. But I also like to read books where people have completely different strengths from what I have. And I am sometimes blown away by somebody's ability to tell a story in a certain way and then I feel utterly inferior because I know I couldn't possibly do that. But I don't know how my readers read my stuff. I know that I get wildly varying reactions to books that I've written. There was a reviewer of one of my books whose understanding of the story was so profoundly at odds with what the intent of the story was that I could not understand how someone could have drawn that image from what I had written.

Clement: This is where the media and communication problem comes in. I had a harmless ambition throughout 40 years of teaching: someday I would write a chemistry quiz such that every student who took it would understand every question exactly the way I meant it. It never happened.

Jenkins: One the undercurrents of the story you read, Hal, had to do with aged or physically disabled people you kept referencing.

Clement: Well, the background of the story, which did not come up in the chapters I read, is a sort of super AIDs situation. All sorts of diseases have been cropping up and the population of the earth has dropped to less than a quarter of what it is now. The people are getting just a little bit frantic about the whole situation. And for reasons which are perhaps politically unlikely, a lot of people had the idea that what was really needed was absolute, fundamental, basic research on the nature of life. Titan had been picked as the most probable, examine-able place in the solar system where the beginning of life might be found. The title of the novel, by the way, is Half Life.

Jenkins: So the idea is that because of technology, the people who are in various states of disorder are able to venture into...

Clement: Yes, well I said it fairly specifically in various places. The blending of what we now think of as nano-technology and genetic engineering -- working down into the same general field, simply because of the size of the structures one is using for the machines getting down into the molecular level. And I am assuming also that easily obtainable fusion has also been achieved. So manufacturing and energy sources are essentially cheap. The trouble has been design skill, and time and time again in the book, one or another piece of machinery turns out to have been designed without adequate foresight for what it might have to be used for. The reason why Inger had not landed on the lake to tank up was that nobody had thought in planning the machines, what would happen when they landed on the lake. The engines were under water or whatever, and no one was quite sure what would happen if they fired up the rocket fuel at that point. They found out the hard way later; that's the story.

Michael Burstein: It is a methane leak, isn't it?

Clement: Yes, mostly methane. But it is simply the fact that if a rocket engine is immersed in liquid with presumably fairly high inertia, just what do you try to do when you're boiling or otherwise vaporizing fuel in there? No one wanted to be the first to find out, when someone finally thought of this.

Jenkins So those of us who saw "Saving Private Ryan" this summer have learned the expression, "FUBAR." Wouldn't you say that this is....?

Clement: I haven't seen the picture. In fact, I haven't been to the movies since "Independence Day."

Burstein: Did that put you off movies forever?

Clement: No, it was more amusing than anything else. Come to think of it, I didn't go to the movies for that, my wife did. Someone loaned me the tape so I had to watch it. It's been amusing watching the development of that particular myth for the last fifty years. And I am awaiting with interest to see how the movie adds itself to the myth structure. They gave some specific information in the movie: the mothership was 550 kilometres in diameter. and a quarter of the mass of the moon. They didn't say how flat it was as a saucer, but if you assume a five to one ratio this corresponds to an average density between 40 and 50 times that of platinum. And I immediately starting wondering what the hell they were making this duplicate out of down at Base 31 or 51 or 81 or whatver the base is, and I would be interested in finding out.

The Return of John Glenn

Jenkins: One story in science right now that is capturing everyone's imagination is the return of John Glenn to space and I am wondering what the reflections of either of you were on this event.

Clement: I hope they'll think about sending a teacher again.

Jenkins: Are you volunteering?

Clement: Well as I said right after the Challenge accident, when the whole thing was being thrown into question, they don't really want a teacher in space. They want a retired teacher, who has had a good deal of experience, who can look at things, who knows a little bit of astronomy, who can write moderately well, who can paint pictures ... I mean, you've got the ideal guy right here, what are they waiting for?

Burstein: Hal, I'll flip you for it.

Clement: Pardon me while I find a loaded coin.

Carver: Well I was struck by an article I saw in the Globe about a woman who very nearly became an astronaut at the time of the original seven astronauts and due to internal NASA politicking got dropped rather summarily from the roles. I guess she's out flying bush planes in the Amazon or something and she wants to be next in line after John Glenn. I'd pull for her.

Clement: Well, I'd encourage anyone who wanted it.

Carver: But of course the writer in space is what we're really most interested in.

Optimism About Science

Jenkins: I'll ask a question of my own: Both of you seem fairly optimistic about the role of science in contemporary society and I'm wondering where that optimism comes from? What is it that gives you faith that we will figure out the rules or that we will preserve that sense of wonder as we travel into space?

Clement: Part of it at least is what science has done in the last three quarters of the century or so that I have been watching. The other is a profound distrust of most other attacks on problems that I have seen. If you're going on something which may be right, but there's only a chance and there is no really reliable evidence of it, the results often seem to be so weird that I can't trust following that line any further. I certainly don't trust untested inspiration, because too many of my own have turned out to be wrong.

Carver: I'm an optimist about people, I think. And I can't give any real basis for that because I probably observe people being nasty about as often as I observe people being noble and good and true. I really think that optimism and pessimism are hard-wired in.

My brother is a pessimist who studies optimism in his work as a psychologist and has clearly established that optimism is a good survival trait. You tend to recover from diseases better if you're optimistic. There are just all kinds of reasons for being an optimist. But he's not he's a pessimist.

Clement: I share your optimism about people to a certain extent, but I think it's more likely just a limitation in my imagination. I know that there are nasty people, people who actually can amuse themselves by making themselves inconvenient and unpleasant to others. I've met one or two of them. I have to grant that they exist. At the same time I cannot grasp a mind like that. I have no confidence whatever in my ability to create a believable villain and the net result is in most of my stories the only villain is the indifferent universe.

Carver: I think there is a real skill to creating a villain who is complex and believable villainously and at the same time is also a very interesting person. When on occasion I do have a villain, this is something that I struggle with because I have a hard time making them nasty enough. It's been pointed out to me over and over again by people who critique my work.

Reading Interests

Bosun: Before we wrap up, could both of you spotlight maybe two or three of you favorite authors and books in the hard SF arena besides your own of course. And, in particular, could you spotlight what it is about that piece of work that you really admire, that is to say, what aspect is remarkable?

Carver: I hate being asked to name favorite books because I have a list this long. OK. Ringworld by Niven. Some people would argue that it's not really hard SF because he missed a few things. I think it is a brilliant piece of hard SF even if he didn't get everything right, who does? What I love about it is the scope. It's such a mind boggling idea to begin with. He drew it in such a way as to make it feel absolutely real. He has really interesting alien characters. He is not a brilliant writer in a stylistic sense, but he is a good writer. He conveys his story smoothly and clearly. I became involved with his people and his world and it was a world I wanted to return to. So that's one.

Clement: I do like a number of modern science fiction writers of the hard variety.. The Canadian fellow Robert Sawyer is one of them. But I have reached a stage where I am commonly pushed by nostalgia. I deeply enjoy re-reading what probably is not very commonly called hard science fiction nowadays and is even often dismissed as space opera. I re-read with great pleasure Jack Williamson, Doc Smith, John Campbell --whether John Campbell or Don Stewart.

If you go outside the realm of hard science fiction, I am deeply hooked on Terry Pratchett's DiscWorld stories and that is pretty far outside hard SF. But I suppose I like it for the same reason that I like space opera. Things happen. And, given the background, you have some chance of figuring out what is going to happen and if you wind up having to kick yourself for being wrong, that's the game.

Burstein: Hal, I would suggest you like DiscWorld because it's Mesklin's planet taken to its final conclusion.

Clement: I don't know. I think the spire at the center where the gods live and have their little duels with the ice giants isn't quite like a 600 dot gravity south pole as it was.

Carver: Well, let's see I can name a few others: Jack McDevitt's Engines of God is a favorite of mine, which is not the hardest SF, but it deals with interstellar archaeology and I can't think of anyone else who has done that.

Clement: I remember a story in which some archaeologists were trying to figure out the purpose of a toilet bowl. The story for some reason was entitled "Waste."

Carver: "I don't know if you'd call this hard SF or not, but Fred Pohl's Gateway is a favorite. I think it is a beautiful piece of writing somewhere between a hard SF and space opera world with very real and interesting characters. And it's when people can do those two things together that I get really excited.

Gregory Benford -- I haven't read all of his Galactic Center series because it started to bog down a little bit for me, but the first book, The Ocean of Night, is a wonderful piece of writing. Greg Bear and David Brin are both very good.

Clement: I love Jen White's hospital station stories.

Carver: Oh yeah, I read those as a kid and I haven't really returned to them. I grew up on Arthur C. Clarke, I haven't really returned to his stuff in a long time either but The City and the Stars was a kind of epiphany for me at a certain age and Rendezvous With Rama was a kind of a landmark hard SF book. We could probably keep going all night.

Suzanna Mandel: Mr. Carver mentioned issues of style a little earlier and it was mentioned that you had a degree in English. I am just curious as to which writer outside of science fiction you enjoy reading and who has influenced you especially with regard to style?

Clement: Outside of science fiction I enjoy mysteries, even there it is largely nostalgic -- Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers -- there are some more recent ones: Lillian Jackson Brown and some others. I was put on to Lillian Jackson Brown by someone in the writers group that meets at my house. So I think I am up to date with them.

Carver: As an English major, I was a pretty good science fiction writer. I didn't follow the traditional course of an English major. I was writing stories and finding various ways to get around academic requirements so that I could do what I wanted to do. And this was in the sixties when there was an unusual degree of openness in the academic structure. Books that I have liked outside of science fiction tend to be things that somebody shoved into my hand. I don't have favorite writers whom I have followed by reading all of their books. Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, I'll go home and look at my shelf, but my real love has been science fiction.

Writing from Experience

Jenkins: When we had Joe Haldeman here he spoke a little about the role that Vietnam had played in shaping his science fiction writing and I wondered what thoughts you had on the role your military experience has had on your writing.

Clement: Not very much until this Half Life thing and the magazine story that preceded it. I had practically never written anything about flying, certainly nothing about military tactics about which I know very little anyway. It's all very well to say that I retired as a colonel, but this depended heavily on the fact that it was then the Army Air Corps and it was taken for granted that you had to be a commissioned officer to be a pilot. I was a bomber driver, that's what it boiled down to. I stayed in the reserve and didn't get promoted, but it was more time than anything else. By then I was doing mostly public relations work about the then incipient space program. So I can't see any particular connection between my military experience which was largely rather unexciting -- I never saw a German fighter and I'm not complaining you understand -- and my writing.

Page: Mr. Clement, your stories deal with crews of people in cramped spaces with machinery which sounds to me like bomber.

Clement: I could come up with an alternative hypothesis. I've had a rather Victorian upbringing. If people are encased in environment suits throughout the story, there is no way I could sneak sex into it -- or let them smoke.

Burstein: You should have set the story on Pluto then, so they could have a Plutonic love affair. (groan)

Carver: I have a comment to make about how one's past works its way into the writing. I wasn't in the military and I don't have that particular past to draw upon, but all kinds of things sneak into my writing.that come from 20 or 30 years ago.

There's a scene in Neptune Crossing that is set on Triton, moon of Neptune, in a mining camp. It's a really strange scene, this guy is out of his mind with silent fugue and he is operating machinery and that came straight out of my experience as a college student working summers on a Ford assembly line. I've also done a lot of diving and underwater imagery has crept in where I would least expect it. There was a scene with dragons at night diving down this endless wall and that's straight out of a night dive I had done at Naragansett Bay 25 or 30 years before that.

Clement: I took a scuba course 25 plus years ago in the hopes that it would at least give me some basic knowledge if I had to write about the field. Otherwise I never had any use for it.


The Future of Science Fiction

MacCaffey: Seeing as how science fiction has been called the genre of hope and seeing as how this series is called "Media in Transition," do you have any hopes for how science fiction develops in the near future?

Clement: The more wave bands you radiate the more complete the spectrum gets. I would say that science fiction is going to continue expanding, fantasy is going to continue expanding, historical novels are going to continue expanding and it's going to get more and more difficult to decide just what you're reading. I'm not sure that this bothers me much. I was never really firm or school-teacher-ish about definitions. I never liked what the high school chemistry texts did, trying to distinguish chemical reactions from physical ones and then keeping quiet about what happened when you poured water into sulphuric acid. Well, my stock example is that any six year old will tell you the difference between a plant and an animal, but have you ever tried to get a biology PhD to do it?

It is going to expand, but I suspect that there are going to be portions of it which will be less and less firmly describable as science fiction. This doesn't worry me as long as they are good stories.

Carver: I'm uncertain about what I think about the future of science fiction. There was an enormous expansion in the field around the time Star Wars came out; an expansion of movies and TV shows and a whole lot of new writers came into the field (me being one of them). It over-expanded and we are going through a big crunch right now, because publishers aren't publishing as many books. And we've reached the point that there are so many new books being published that it's a lot harder for individual books to stand out and the number of copies sold of any individual book is going down. Now we are seeing a lot of people being forced out. So we are in a period of retrenchment. My optimistic side would love to see that turn around.

But I have been wondering where book reading is going in a time when more and more people are spending more and more time on the internet, on video games and watching television. And while there is nothing wrong with any of these activities, they are taking time away from reading books. I am concerned about whether the younger generation that is growing up is reading as much as they are doing other kinds of things. I wish I had an answer beyond just going out and encouraging kids to read.

Jenkins: Do either of you have any closing remarks?

Clement: Why didn't you ask us before this started, I would have been trying to think of one? I am far too slow-witted to get anywhere in a pun contest. I can only say that as long as science fiction continues to be fun I will probably both read and write it.

Carver: I will say that science fiction is important to me because it really helps to shape and form the way people think about the world around them. I know it did for me when I was growing up and reading stories in which I had to think things through and knew that the author had clearly thought many things through in a way that I didn't get from reading other kinds of stories. And I know that it had a big effect on how I view the world and how prepared I was for change in technology and society. So I really think that science fiction has a potential to save the world!

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