The American people are basically anti-intellectual, they're not interested in novels of idea, and science fiction is essentially the field of idea -- P.K. Dick
SF is predicated on a modernist political program. It was, in fact, the fictional agitprop arm of the Technocrat movement, and it carried on marching in lockstep into the radiant future even after Technocracy withered in the 1930s.
The increasing complexity of the modern technosphere means that the low-hanging fruit have been plucked, and the era of the two-fisted lone gunman engineer uber alles is no more credible than any other wish-fulfilment superhero.
Pournelle: Yes, science works funny nowadays. There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough. We finally decided not to build the superconducting supercollider. Science is getting tougher in that respect. But, again, computers are making it a lot easier. You don't have to do the experiments any more.
Now, that could be dangerous. We're dry-labbing a lot of stuff, and if your assumptions are right, fine, but if you got your assumptions wrong, you keep getting the same answer, and it's just... wrong. We're down to the third decimal place in rocketry now. The payload on a single-stage-to-orbit ship is often the third decimal place. And our models are just not good enough. I don't know what the payload is. People keep pounding on me, if I got a six-hundred-thousand gross lift-off weight ship, what's the payload? I don't know! Somewhere between zero and nineteen thousand pounds. It may even be less than zero. It may not make orbit. But my guess is that, you build it strong enough, and you start flying, and you start boring holes in the structure when we discover places that have been overbuilt.
You ever hear that story? When Max Hunter was running the Thor program, about number four or so launches, and it started tumbling. And it holds together. And Max is looking at the movie, and he says, damn it, I told 'em they could have gotten another five hundred pounds out of that structure, it's much too strong. Because it shouldn't hold together, when it's doing that. That's the way to design these things. Computer models are bad in that respect.
Niven: It tells you the story you set it to tell. You've got to build.
The format of Saturday Night at the Movies was that of two movies, separated by interviews conducted by Yost. Yost has a unique, modest, enthusiastic, and well-informed interview style. In the early years the interviews were with local film experts, but the show's producers took the opportunity to interview visiting actors when they had gigs in Toronto. As the show grew in popularity, funds were found to send Yost and a crew to Hollywood to arrange interviews with film personalities. This library of interviews is said to be the longest of its kind.
The library included interviews with the stars of classic films, character actors, directors, screen-writers, composers, film-editors, special-effects people, and sometimes even their children.
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