One might be forgiven when reading the title that this is merely another linear history of our genre of choice. The same thing we’ve seen over and over - Verne, Welles, pulps, atomic scare and so on – but in this case, you’d be wrong. It IS a history of sorts, but not in the accepted norm - it’s more a story of the 'stories' of science fiction, the tropes, clichés, high concepts and low. It looks back, but, more in the spirit of the genre, looks forward to the future also.
The book is a series of insightful interviews conducted by Cameron with other notables from the cinematic world of science fiction, namely Guillermo Del Toro, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger and there’s an interview by Randall Frakes with Cameron himself. In between the interviews are essays about various aspects of the sci-fi genre.
But, of course, the meat of the book are the interviews and these aren’t like any that have been published before, as each participant engages in a thought-provoking and sometimes mind-blowing discussion about where the field is headed, what was predicted and has come to pass. Of particular interest is the discussion had with more of the interviewees regarding the creation of Artificial Intelligence, and the likelihood of such a creation becoming self-aware and sentient. Along with discussions about the possibility of travelling backward in time and the theoretical impossibility of travelling forward, it makes for a chilling, but absorbing and fascinating read. The sheer scope of the ideas and concepts being discussed here are themselves food for deep thought and will further debate among fans.
But it’s not all future concepts of dystopia and our own self-destruction, there’s a fair amount of insight into the films and books that have inspired the interviewees as well as some details about the inherent technical problems of visualising worlds and machinery that nobody has ever seen, nor thought of before and how hard it is at this particular point to stay ahead of the game.
An interesting and repeated point made in the book is that science fiction can’t predict the future, it can only extrapolate where we might go by giving a kind of twisted metaphoric view of where we are now. Case in point, the greatest technological and sociological achievement of the last several decades has been personal computing and the internet. Science fiction writers never saw THAT coming.
This is a remarkable book, well worth reading - but be warned, you’ll be thinking about it for a long time afterwards.
JAMES CAMERON’S STORY OF SCIENCE FICTION / AUTHORS: RANDALL FRAKES, BROOKS PECK, SIDNEY PERKOWITZ, MATT SINGER, GARY WOLFE, LISA YASZEK / PUBLISHER: INSIGHT EDITIONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW