Design Fiction

March 4th, 2005

Bruce Sterling on why he hangs out with designers these days:

I call myself a science fiction writer because that's the name of my genre, but when I'm trying to pin a scene down on the page, I'm really writing "design fiction."

I spend a lot of time thinking about imaginary industrial products, cyber products and post-industrial products. Design thinking has become a powerful means to my end.

I write fiction about science. I grapple with scientific knowledge from a literary perspective. I am using literary techniques to bridge the gap between what we have come to know about the universe, what that knowledge means to us and how that knowledge feels.

In doing so, I've found that a designer's approach is fruitful. It is more productive, more authentic, more convincing and more moving than the wide-eyed approach of a sci-fi visionary, a new-age guru, a pop-science Mr. Wizard figure or even a dot-com stock promoter.

Why? Because designers possess some kind of empirical reference, their ideas are linked to physical reality. If you aim at the sense of wonder first and foremost, if you grasp boldly and directly for the transcendental and the sublime, then you will end up utterly disillusioned, armpit-deep in the slime of the human condition. If, on the other hand, you approach the actual and study it with care, objectivity and with a humble, inquiring spirit, then you will reveal the sublime.Truth will drop her veil for you, and she is indeed a very wondrous thing.

Fiction about truth is inherently more interesting and engaging than fiction about delusions. It took me a surprisingly long time to figure this out. I had the disadvantage of having to unlearn a lot of my genre's bad habits in order to get here. But I'm no longer interested in my genre's bad habits; instead, I've become interested in design's bad habits.

[Via Amygdala]

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