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2015年 河海大学研究生英语一 Unit 16 The Role of Science Fiction

Unit 16 The Role of Science Fiction

The year 1972 was marked by this publication of a controversial book. The Limits to Growth. This study of the world’s future, done by a team of MIT scientists with the aid of computer “models” of the future of our society, forecast a planetwide disaster unless humankind sharply limits its population growth and consumption of natural resources.

1972年为世人所瞩目的一件事就是出版了一本颇有争议的书——《增长的极限》。这一有关世界前景的研究,是由麻省理工学院一组科学家借助模拟未来社会的电脑“模型”进行的,预言了人类若不大幅度限制人口增长和自然资源消耗,就会出现全球性的灾难。

Most people were caught by surprise when the book came out. Many refused to believe that disaster is possible, probable, inevitable---if we don’t change our mode of running Spaceship Earth. But science fiction people were neither surprised nor outraged. The study was really old news to them. They’d been making their own “models” of tomorrow and testing them all their lives.

该书问世时大多数人吃了一惊。许多人拒绝相信存在发生灾难的可能性、盖然性、必然性——倘使我们不改变对“地球飞船”的管理方式的话。但科幻小说家及其读者却既不惊讶,也不愤慨。事实上,这项研究对他们来说已不是什么新鲜事了。他们毕生都在制作自己的未来世界“模型”,并付诸试验。

For what the scientists attempted with their computer model is very much like the thing that science fiction writers and readers have been doing for decades. Instead of using a computer to “model” a future world society, science fiction writers have used their human imaginations. This gives the writers some enormous advantages.

因为科学家们试图用电脑模型实现的事与科幻小说作家及其读者数十年来所做的非常相象。科幻小说作家并不依靠电脑来“模拟”一个未来世界,而是凭借人类的想象力。这给了作家某些极为有利的条件。

One of the advantages is flexibility.

有利条件之一就是灵活性。

Science fiction writers are not in the business of predicting the future. They do something much more important. They try to show the many possible futures that lie open to us.

科幻小说作家的职责不在预言未来,他们做的比这重要得多。他们试图展现许多可能出现在我们面前的前景。

For there is not simply a future, a time to come that’s inevitable. Our future is built, bit by bit, minute by minute, by the actions of human beings. One vital role of science fiction is to show what kinds of future might result from certain kinds of human actions.

因为并非只有一种前途,一种时代会不可避免地降临人间。我们的未来世界是由人类用自身的行动一点一滴地、一分一秒地创造起来的。科幻小说的一个重要作用,便是揭示人类某几种行为的结果会形成哪几种未来世界。

To communicate the ideas, the fears and feel of all infinite possible futures, science fiction writers lean heavily on another of their advantages: the art of fiction.

为了展示对可能出现的无穷多的未来世界的种种构想、恐惧和希望、形式和

感受,科幻小说作家在很大程度上依赖他们另一个有利条件:虚构艺术。

For while a scientist’s job has largely ended when he’s reduced his date to tabular or graph form, the work of a science fiction writer is just beginning. His task is to convey the human story: the scientific basis for the possible future of his story is merely the background. Perhaps “merely”is too limiting a word. Much of science fiction consists of precious little except the background, the basic idea, the gimmick. But the best of science fiction, the stories that make a lasting impact of generations of readers, are stories about people. The people may be nonhuman. They may be robots or other types of machines. But they will be people, in the sense that human readers can feel for them, share their joys and sorrows, their dangers and their ultimate successes.

科学家把资料用表格或图表形式表现出来时,他的工作几乎算完成了,而对科幻小说作家来说,他的工作则刚刚开了个头。他的任务是要讲述与人有关的故事:充当他故事中可能出现的那个未来的科学依据,仅仅是个背景资料。也许“仅仅”这个词的局限性还太大了。许多科幻小说除了背景情况,主要构想和新奇的玩意儿外几乎空无他物。但科幻小说中的上乘之作,即能对几代读者产生持久影响的作品,都是写人的故事。书中人物也许不是人类,可能是机器人或者其他类型的机械装置。但作为人的读者会同情它们,分享它们的喜怒哀乐,为它们遭遇危险而担忧,为它们终于成功而庆幸。从这个意义上说,它们应该算是人。

The art of fiction has not changed much since prehistoric times. The formula for telling a powerful story has remained the same: create a strong character, a person of great strengths, capable of deep emotions and decisive action. Give him weakness. Set him in conflict with another powerful character—or perhaps with nature. Let his exterior conflict be the mirror of the protagonist’s own interior conflict, the clash of his desires, his own strength against his own weakness. And there you have a story. Whether it’s Abraham offering his only son to God, or Paris bringing ruin to Troy over a women, or Hamlet and Claudius playing their deadly game, Faust seeking the world’s knowledge and power—the stories that stand out in the minds of the readers are those whose characters are unforgettable.

自史前以来,编故事的艺术并无多大变化。讲个引人入胜的故事仍然沿用老一套:塑造一个性格坚强的人物,一个勇猛无比、感情丰富、行为果断的人物。给他配上一个弱点,使他与另一名强者——或与自然——发生冲突。让主人公的外部冲突反映出自己的内心冲突,反映出他的各种欲望之间的冲突,自身优点与弱点之间的冲突。这样你的故事就编好了。不管故事说的是亚伯拉罕把独生子献给上帝,或帕里斯因一女子而使特洛伊遭受灭顶之灾,还是讲哈姆雷特与克劳狄斯图谋置对方于死地,浮士德对人世间的知识和权力的不断追求——凡是深印在读者脑际的故事都塑造了使人难以忘怀的人物。

To show other worlds, to describe possible future societies and the problems lurking ahead, is not enough. The writer of science fiction must show these worlds and these futures affect human beings. And something much more important: he must show how human beings can and do literally create these future worlds. For our future is largely in our own hands. It doesn’t come blindly rolling out of the heavens; it is the joint product of the actions of billions of human bings. This is a point that’s easily forgotten in the rush of headlines and the hectic badgering of everyday life. But it’s

a point that science fiction makes constantly: the future belongs to us—whatever if is . We make it, our actions shape tomorrow. We have the brains and guts to build paradise ( or at least try). Tragedy is when we fail, and the greatest crime of all is when we fail even to try.

只展示别的世界,描述可能形成的未来社会和潜在的问题是不够的。科幻小说作家必须指出这些社会、这些前景如何影响人类。比这项工作还重要得多的是,他必须揭示人类能够而且确实在创造这些未来世界。因为我们的前途主要掌握在我们自己手里。前途不是凭空从天上掉下来的,它是亿万人的行动共同造就的产物。在匆忙浏览报纸大标题时,在忙得焦头烂额的日常生活中,这一点是很容易被遗忘的。但这是科幻小说坚持试图说明的问题:未来属于我们——不管它是什么样子。我们创造未来,我们的行动塑造明天。我们有才智有勇气去建造天堂(至少可以试试)。如果我们失败了,那将是一场悲剧;然而倘若我们连试也不试一下,那就是最大的悲哀了。

Thus science fiction stands as a bridge between science and art, between the engineers of technology and the poets of humanity. Never has such a bridge been more desperately needed.

因此,科幻小说是沟通科学和艺术的桥梁,是连接精通工艺的工程师与深谙人性的诗人的桥梁。过去从未像现在这样迫切地需要这么一座桥梁。

Writing is the British Journal New Scientist, the famed poet and historian Robert Graves said in 1972,”Technology is now warring openly against the crafts, and science covertly against poetry.”

著名诗人与历史学家罗伯特·格雷夫斯于1972年在英国《新科学家》杂志上撰文说:“如今工业技术和手工在明争,科学则与诗歌在暗斗。”

What Graves is expressing is the fear that many people have: technology has already allowed machines to replace human muscle power; now it seems that machines such as electronic computers might replace human brainpower. And he goes even further, criticizing science on the grounds that truly human endeavors such as poetry have a power that scientists can’t recognize.

格雷夫斯的话道出了不少人都怀有的恐惧心理:工业技术已使机器代替了人的体力;现在诸如电子计算机之类的机器似乎可以取代人的智力了。他甚至走得更远,竟批判起科学来,其根据是,真正的人类活动诸如诗歌创作等具有科学家无法认识的威力。

Apparently Graves sees scientists as a sober, plodding phalanx of soulless thinking machines, never making a step that hasn’t been carefully thought out in advance.

显而易见,格雷夫斯把科学家视为外表严肃、动作缓慢、没有灵魂的思维机器,未经事先深思熟虑从不迈出一步。

But as a historian, Graves should be aware that James Clerk Maxwell’s brilliant insight about electromagnetism—the guess that visible light is only one small slice of the spectrum of electromagnetic energy, a guess that forms the basis for electronics technology—was an intuitive leap into the unknown. Maxwell had precious little evidence to back up his guess. The evidence came later. The list of wild jumps of intuition made by these supposedly stolid, humorless scientists is long indeed.

但作为历史学家,格雷夫斯应该知道,詹姆斯·克拉克·麦克斯韦尔关于电

磁的独到见解——即可见光仅是电磁能光谱的一小部分这一猜想,该猜想为电子技术打下了基础——是凭直觉深入未知世界的。麦克斯韦尔几乎没有丝毫依据来证实他的猜想。证据是后来找到的。那些被认为感觉迟钝、不苟言笑的科学家凭着直觉闯进了未知世界,这样的例子真可谓不胜枚举。

Scientists are human bings! They are just as human, intuitive, and emotional as anyone else. But most people don’t realize this. They don’t know scientists, any more than they know much about science.

科学家也是人! 他们与别人完全一样,也有人性,也有直觉,也有感情。但大多数人并没有意识到这一点。他们不了解科学家,对科学也知之甚少。

Today most people still tend to hold scientists in awe. After all, scientists have brought us nuclear weapons, modern medicines, space flight, and underarm deodorants. Yet at the same time, we see scientists derided as fuzzy—brained eggheads or as coldly ruthless, emotionless makers of monsters. Scientists are a minority group, and like most minorities they’d largely hidden from the public’s sight, tucked away in ghettos—laboratories, campuses, field sites out in the desert or on pacific atolls.

今天,大多数人对科学家仍然敬而远之。然而,科学家毕竟给我们带来了核武器、现代医学、宇宙航行以及除臭剂。但与此同时,我们看到科学家被讥为头脑混乱的书呆子,或被嘲为冷酷无情的怪物制造家。科学家是一个少数群体,与大多数少数群体一样,他们往往避开公众视线,藏身于他们自己的聚居区内——实验室、校园、沙漠中或太平洋珊瑚岛上的野外工作场地。

Before the public can understand and appreciate what science can and cannot do, the people must get to see and understand the scientists themselves. Get to know their work, their aims, their dreams, and their fears.

人们先得观察、了解科学家本身,然后才会懂得什么是科学能办到的,什么是科学无法办到的。要了解科学家的工作和目的、他们的梦想、他们的忧虑。

Science fiction can help to explain what science and scientists are all about to the non—scientists. It is no accident that several hundred universities and public schools are now offering science fiction courses and discovering that these classes are a meeting ground for the scientist—engineers and the humanists. Science and fiction. Reason and emotion.

科幻小说有助于向不从事科学工作的人解释科学是怎么一回事,科学家是干什么的。几百所大学和公立中学都开设了科幻小说课程。发现这些课是科学家、工程师和人文主义者聚会的场所,出现这种情况决非偶然。科学和小说可以打通,理智和感情能够交融。

The essence of the scientific attitude is that the human mind can succeed in understanding the universe. By taking thought, men can move mountains—and have. In this sense, science is an utterly humanistic pursuit, the glorification of human intellect over the puzzling, chaotic, and often frighting darkness of ignorance.

科学态度实质上就是认为人脑能够认识宇宙,人动脑筋、想办法便能移山倒海——实际上人类已经这样做了。从这个意义上说,科学是纯粹人文主义的追求,是颂扬人类智力战胜由于愚昧无知而造成的迷惘、混乱和恐惧。

Much of science fiction celebrates this spirit. Very few science fiction stories picture humanity as a passive species, allowing the tidal forces of nature to flow

unperturbed. The heroes of science fiction stories—the gods of the new mythology—struggle manfully against the darkness, whether it’s geological doom for the whole planet or the evil of grasping politicians. They may not always win. But they always try.

许多种幻小说歌颂这种精神。很少有科幻小说把人类描绘成消极被动的物种,听任自然力像潮水般肆意流动而不加限制。科幻小说的主人公们——新神话故事中的众神——无论面对全球性山崩地裂的厄运,还是面对贪得无厌的政客的罪恶行径,都挺身而出,勇敢地与黑暗势力作斗争。他们不一定总会成功,但他们总是尽力而为。

Perhaps, however, the most important aspect of science fiction’s role in the modern world is best summed up in a single word: change.

然而,科幻小说在现代社会所起作用最重要的方面,也许可以用一个词来贴切地加以概括:变化。

After all, science fiction is the literature of change. Each and every story preaches from the same gospel: tomorrow will be different from today, violently different perhaps.

说到底,科幻小说是描写变化的文学作品。每篇小说都宣扬同一个信条:明天与今天不一样,也许大不一样。

Science fiction very clearly shows that changes—whether good or bad—are an inherent part of the universe. Resistance to change is an archaic, and nowadays dangerous, habit of thought. The world will change. It is changing constantly. Humanity’s most fruitful course of action is to determine how to shape these changes, how to influence them and produce an environment where the changes that occur are those we want.

科幻小说极其明确地揭示,变化——无论变好还是变糟——是宇宙的一条内在规律。抵制变化是墨守成规,如今则更是危险的了。世界总是要变的。她在不断地变。人类最有成效的行为莫过于确定如何形成这些变化,如何影响这些变化,从而创造一个所发生的变化符合我们需要的自然环境。

Perhaps this is the ultimate role of science fiction: to act as an interpreter of science to humanity. This is a two—edged weapon, of course. It is necessary to warn as well as evangelize. Science can kill as well as create; technology can deaden the human spirit of lift it to the farthermost corners of our imaginations. Only knowledgeable people can wisely decide how to use science and technology for humankind’s benefit. In the end, this is the ultimate role of all art: to show ourselves to ourselves, to help us to understand our own humanity.

也许这就是科幻小说最根本的作用:向人类解释科学。当然,这是一件双刃武器,不仅要宣传讲福音,还要给予警告。科学不仅能够创造,而且能够毁灭;技术能够把人的精神提到想象所及的最高境界,也能够使人麻木不仁。只有具有真知灼见的人士能明智地决定如何利用科学技术造福人类。归根到底,这是一切艺术作品的最根本的作用:让我们自己看清自己,帮助我们认识自己身上的人性。