The investigation of François Laruelle’s metaphysical research programme as developed in TETRALOGOS has led us to find many parallels with science fiction as a genre. Our list of terms and concepts used by both has expanded to include:
amplitude, inventiveness, mega-text, cognitive estrangement, futurality, world-building, neologism, transformed language, hard science fiction, space opera, cosmicity, Universe, cosmic voyage, willing suspension of disbelief, sense of wonder, quantum time, aliens, dystopia and utopia, human destiny, multiple worlds.
In this section we refine and extend our list.
6) Open, flexible and heuristic criteria
I will give five arguments for the loosening up of Laruelle’s formula
1) The examples we have just discussed argue for an extension of Laruelle’s formula for non-standard SF, by adding one of his other criteria, the generic, to criterion #1, which requires the use of the hard sciences to be included in the infrastructure of the science fictional Universe. One way to include the generic at this physical level is to schematize it as general relativity or statistical mechanics and to incorporate it on an equal footing with quantum physics as it appears in the first version of criterion #1.
This first argument in favour of an extended formula for GSF (general science fiction) emerges from the empirical examination of the canon of science fiction, a wider canon that one might believe from the analyses of TETRALOGOS.
2) More generally, if the laws of physics that govern a SF universe may differ from those that apply in our own universe, then we should prioritize the generic over the quantum in criterion #1. We must distinguish the quantic as model of thought from the quantum as a law of physics in our world.
Strictly speaking, the important point is not the presence or absence of quantum as a positive science, but the introduction of the quantic as a model of generic thinking. This consideration explains why Laruelle should explicitly include the generic in his list of criteria for SF.
3) These additional examples (Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Isaac Asimov) show that Laruelle should be more flexible in terms of his criteria. This is not a problem for his project. In fact, the ability to deploy a more open, flexible and extensive set of criteria is already available in his system. In the ascending movement of his cosmic epic, François Laruelle expands the new alliance between science and philosophy to bring it to the state of Reminiscience, a knowledge that includes both the generic and the quantum. It is this Reminiscience that has allowed us to propose a more developed formula for Laruellean SF.
4) A fifth problem comes from the particular version of the « quantic » requirement that Laruelle recommends. Whenever he speaks about the creators of quantum mechanics, he favours the interpretation given by one of the most classical quantum physicists, Max Planck (see also Laruelle’s article « Marx with Planck »), to the detriment of other possible interpretations. And he explicitly excludes Niels Bohr.
However, quantum mechanics is not an unambiguous thing, it comes from a wide range of dialogues and contradictory interpretations. Even today, its nature, interpretation and status are complex on the dialogical level. Is there a single « quantum » thought common to all these researchers? I do not think so. The « quantic » exists as a variable with a set of possible interpretations as argument.
5) Lastly, there is a danger of cognitive petrification in the formulation given of criterion #1. Laruelle endorses at the level of one of his general criteria (the quantic) the inclusion of a particular scientific theory (quantum mechanics) that could one day be replaced by a theory with a different structure, which amounts to making it both judge and party. We must not install as the foundation of science a theory that must be submitted to the same critical process as any other theory.
There exist many works of science fiction written by major authors which take a world-building framework based on a physics derived from another interpretation of quantum mechanics. A recent example would be RED MOON by Kim Stanley Robinson, which uses the pilot wave of David Bohm.
This rapid analysis of the criteria of Laruelle’s formula for a general science-fiction suggests that the first criterion (inclusion of quantum physics in the infrastructure of world-building) is too limited and restrictive, being much more specific (or less generic) than the other criteria. It should be broadened to include relativistic physics, other versions of quantum physics, and present or future alternatives. More generally the three criteria should be considered as optional rules, heuristics, and not as dogmas.
Criterion #1 (inclusion of the quantum) should not be treated as a necessity but as a heuristic recommendation for the inclusion of hard science not only as part of the surface furnishing, but as part of the infrastructure of the Universe of the novel (its world-building and its model of thought).
An interesting example of the interest of expanding criterion #1 is Yoon Ha Lee’s THE MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE trilogy. Its world-building is based on a technology that can produce non-standard or « exotic » effects, on the condition that everyone conforms to the same « calendar », calculated according to higher mathematics and given force by a series of painful feast days or « remembrances » recalling traumatic events and making use of torture and human sacrifice.
The first book in the series, NINEFOX GAMBIT, is the best, then the other two explore the innovatory physics less so as to concentrate on the characters. Lee explains that he could have done more with the maths, but that he found he had to choose between developing the speculative dimension and making the story accessible. To our loss, he oriented his writing towards accessibility.
Some people questioned its belonging to the genre of SF, seeing it as fantasy decked out as SF. I have argued that it is in fact SF, but that the hard science on which it is based is mathematics rather than the more usual physics.