The Future of SF?


    I recently found this link over at the lovely SF Signal. It’s an article in the Guardian by Brian Aldiss that discusses where the future of SF is. The article is called “Our Science Fiction Fate” with a caption that reads “The planet’s dire state makes the imaginative leaps of dystopian SF writers redundant”. First off, I don’t know if Aldiss is proposing that Al Gore is correct on his assertions that we, human beings, are screwing up our planet and it’s our fault that things are changing, or that the climate is changing, but the means by which this is happening are up for interpretation. He does posit that there are too many of us here, which is very true. Things are changing on this planet. People like Gore, who may think they are doing something for the betterment of mankind, are the wrong sorts of people to tell us about climate change. Why? Because when we first started listening to people who are hypocrites, we ended up with the skewed and failing governmental system we have today. Regardless, there are changes on this planet and it is ignorant for any of us–being humans–to assume that we know what the hell is going on. We know nothing. None of us have lived through a warming period and our history is nothing but a blip on the Earthen screen. The evidence that is constantly presented is skewed.
    First it was those saying nothing was happening at all. These were the same people who took all the evidence that supported their argument and ignored anything that suggested otherwise. Then things changed, and we ended up with these Global Warming enthusiasts, people that don’t really know anything about the state of the planet, but ignorantly assume that everything told to them in the 100% truth. The sad thing is that the same narrow minded, oppressive view that their predicessors had is present here in these new world thinkers. There is a lot of evidence to show that the planet is changing, and some evidence to suggest that it has something to do with humans, but in the wake of that is a mountain of evidence that suggests that humans have little influence on the direction of the planet. This evidence is ignored. People assume that it is conservative propaganda when really it is evidence provided by a group of very well minded scientists that are more concerned for the well being of our planet than the Global Warming enthusiasts are. Why? Because they have taken into account that radically changing worldwide policies will have adverse effects on everyone. Wouldn’t you want to be 100% sure before making changes? Imagine this is making the decision to shoot someone because they are evil. If your evidence is 50% that he is evil and 50% that he’s not, would you feel okay shooting him anyway? I fully understand the logic that change needs to occur and I am in no way proposing that we don’t make societal changes. Inevitably we have to make changes because oil is growing thin and we need sources that can easily be replicated and will not disappear. But I also understand that if we’re wrong and we make radical decisions, we could inadvertently destroy millions of lives and have to live with that on our consciences when the truth comes to the front.
    Now, Aldiss, it seems, is making the argument that science fiction writers have a problem with addressing what he calls ‘global threats’–Global Warming probably being the main thing to consider here–and with recycling ideas.
    To the first point:
    I cannot say that I agree with this, but only because I’m not overly familiar with any SF being written that addresses global catastrophes that we believe are around the corner. Certainly movies like The Core and The Day After Tomorrow–one that I refuse to see and one that I thought was rather entertaining–are examples of science fiction in the film industry. I can’t imagine that nobody is writing about Global Warming though. Perhaps what is happening isn’t that people aren’t writing about it, but that people who wouldn’t be considered SF writers are putting out books that are labeled as mainstream rather than SF. If that’s the case, then it’s no wonder we’re not hearing much about it in the SF world. I’ve seen some books that weren’t labeled SF about global catastrophe. So it seems that books on this subject exist, but perhaps not in the frequency that Aldiss would like, or at least not in the manner that Aldiss would agree is definitively SF.
    The second point:
    How does one avoid redundancy in any type of fiction, not just SF? When we look at fantasy, for example, there is a great tendency to be redundant because people constantly repeat the same basic things over and over. What makes it good is the writers. Someone can take a story about elves and make it really fascinating. Alternately, someone can write a story about traveling to Mars and do the same. But the argument seems directed towards dystopian redundancies–what I call commonalities. This is very true that dystopian ideals are repeated ad naseum. But this is the nature of SF. Our future seems very bleak, for good reason. Aldiss even points them out–the cold war, nuclear war, etc. When we look at it, we are constantly devising new ways to destroy ourselves, our governments are corrupt and manipulative, wars are being waged that shouldn’t, wars are dehumanized for those with technology, etc. We live in a world that is dystopian, as Aldiss has pointed out. Does this make for redundant SF though? I can’t say that it does, at least not in any different sense than the fact that fantasy is redundant too. The fact is that it’s human. SF simply addresses it a lot. There are still wonderful stories being told with gloriously fascinating futures intermixed.
    Another question that should be asked is whether people are even interested in other forms of SF. Are they? Would writing global threat stories that move away from the typical dystopian novel–bad governments, etc.–increase sales in SF? Somehow I don’t think so. If SF is to increase its sales, then someone needs to write something as profound as Harry Potter was to the young adult market. It needs to captivate an entire generation. I don’t know if SF is capable of that. This isn’t simply negative thinking. The problem with SF is that it generally isn’t accessible to everyone. It’s not like young adult fantasy. Fantasy, like Harry Potter, is very easily accessible to a wide range of readers, even to readers who don’t generally read fantasy. SF has a problem with moving beyond its boundaries. But perhaps this is an argument for another time. Look for that. I’ll write it eventually.
    In any case, I can agree to some extent with Aldiss, but at the same time I don’t find it so negative as perhaps he is implying. Maybe what Aldiss is proposing is more SF that is ‘near-future’, or works that are barely in the future at all and are very much like stories of what next year will be like, stories of tomorrow (literally). I would agree that this would help SF in a lot of ways and would provide a gateway into SF as a whole for those that might otherwise never read any futuristic SF. Maybe this will happen.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

2 thoughts on “The Future of SF?

  1. I am posting a comment.

    I did not read the article.
    The reasons for this are three-fold.

    1: It’s 9am, and I have to go in the shower any minute.

    2: I don’t care about the future of SF beyond hoping it continues for your sake.

    3:It didn’t have any paragraphs and look eye-hurting.

    But I still commented! Yay!

  2. Duly noted on the paragraphs thing. I think I fixed it so now I can put in paragraphs. I’ll keep looking for a hack that makes using the tab key in the blogger thingy automatically indent in the post…

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