Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition Science Fiction?

I don't think so. Of course Science Fiction is already a fairly ill defined genre. However, I would define Science fiction as having a What if? Statement that is explored in the novel. For example, The Left Hand of Darkness asked what if there was a planet of androgynies. Neuromancer asked what if there were a world wide information network and AIs in habiting it. Pattern Recognition doesn't make any such supposition to me. It seems like a perfectly acceptable story that could really happen in real life, and for me that means that it is just fiction. Everything in Pattern Recognition was based in reality in a way that Science Fiction doesn't seem to be. The most far fetched thing was Cayce's allergy to trademarks and brands, but as a psychosomatic disorder, it seems like it could happen. The rampant use of email can be used as an example of science in the fiction, but it appears just like normal life. Had this book been set 10-15 years ago, I could see email being as ubiquitous as it is in the novel as a argument for science fiction, but because people actually use email as often as it is used in the book it no longer seems out of the ordinary. Meeting people from forums is also old hat. The story of people meeting online, dating, and then falling in love and marrying is now a common place story. Pattern Recognition is a good book, but I can't consider it science fiction.

I'm halfway there to agreeing with you, but I don't know if I strongly disagree with what you're saying. I do think there is an element of science fiction. We talked about the how broad this genre is, and how it can include speculative fiction. I think this novel definitely poses some strong "What if" questions. Maybe Gibson didn't have to defamiliarize the technology because it's already so prevalent in our society. He could have easily taken emails and such to the extreme, but I think he wanted the readers to realize that the technology we have now is what many authors of older science fiction have been imagining...

I see what you are saying, and it makes perfect sense, but I still think Pattern Recognition fits as science fiction better than any other genre. It could, perhaps, be classified just as a mystery/thriller, but it doesn't quite match there, either. It is much more technology-centric - the story revolves around, and is enabled by, the internet and other such gadgets. The reader experiences the world through science.

Additionally, there is a bit of the "what if" scenario. Though Gibson claims that the future now changes so fast that it is impossible to predict, he did imagine a widely-distributed viral video before YouTube sprang up. Bigend is interested in the footage because it is such a brilliant marketing strategy - and what is the most effective, and popular, kind of marketing today, used with great effect for the Dark Knight, Cloverfield, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Viral campaigns. One of the few "predictions" Gibson makes in the book, and it is spot-on.

I think that the "what if" definition is far too general. I mean, fantasy novels ask questions like "what if there were dragons?" What if there were elves, and they had magic?"

My own personal definition involves the use of technology in the novel, and the focus on technology. I think that the more central a role that technology plays, the more "sci-fi" the novel is. And technology plays a very important role in Pattern Recognition. It is through technology that Cayce finds out about, views, and discusses the footage, and it is through technology that the footage is even able to be produced. Her reliance on e-mail, on her cell phone, on digital surveillance, though they may be commonplace now, still bring this novel into the realm of science fiction, in my opinion.


Excellent point by Dreamfall that the viral vids could fit the definition that I gave of what if? to mean Science Fiction. Then theres the point that the What if? definition doesn't really just definine SF, but could define things like Fantasy as well.

I think that the what if? definition needs to be changed slightly to better reflect Science fiction and not fantasy. I dislike to use this wording, but something along the lines of a What if? that could happen. That seems extrememly vague to me, but it cuts out most fantasy. Of course you could say that the possiblity of happening is directly related to the what if, but I think here we can see that Fantasy and SF are extremely similar in their scope. I don't like the definition of technology means SF, simply because it is extremely relative. One could say that a novel set in the present is automatically SF if it fell through a wormhole and was published in 1950. The definition gets extremely sketchy there, because in that case there could be a plausible what if? statement, but I think the intent matters more than the result. Thus, a what if? question in fantasy is not intended to have the same result, so there can still be a dividing line between fantasy and SF. That rambled enough for now.