So, a little more than a month ago, I wrote a guest blog post for my good friend Collin Pearman, author of the excellent book “A Timeless Abandon“. In return, he wrote an article not only responding to my own, but going further on the topic.
This my friends, is that article.
Three Pathways to the Future of Science Fiction
As he often does, Brandon Scott got me thinking. Recently, I had the honor of having him write a guest post for my blog, on the future of science fiction as he’d like to see it. His one word for what he’d like to see? MORE. And he’s right, of course. More is what we most certainly need. But how? I present to you three pathways (principles?) to making this future a reality. First and foremost, we need to actually care about the future of sci-fi.
1.) Keep Caring about the Future!
While I agree with Brandon about the need for more of the classics (I know, it’s been forever, but I too would still flip out for more Firefly), the future of science fiction hangs on whether we still care enough about the future to invest in it…or not. As excited as I am about the new Star Wars movies, they point to a future of sci-fi that really isn’t so futuristic after all. We need to be creating worlds and exploring the impact of advances in technology in galaxies far, far away, but we also need to be shaping, and predicting, the future of this one; currently, the only one we’ve got.
Things sci- fi predicted about the future of our world: electric cars, flip phones, the atomic bomb, screen savers, the internet, video chat, etc. For us to live in the world that Brandon envisions, we’re going to need more of that. Which brings me to my next point.
2.) Support Sci-Fi Artists
Brandon hit the nail on the head when he said that we need MORE science fiction, in every way imaginable. Any art-form, as he said, can be given futuristic and prophetic concepts. We’ve seen it in antiquity. Consider Van Gogh accurately representing the way light, fluids, and movement work in the concept of turbulent flow in his painting of Starry Night (well before recent discoveries about the way turbulence actually works). In his own way, Van Gogh’s painting pointed toward scientific discoveries in an eerily sci-fi kind of way. We need more of this, across the art-forms. If we’re going to do this, though, we need to tear down the artificial dividing lines that might hinder the progress of sci-fi, in subtle ways.
3.) Tear Down the Dividing Lines
For one, the concepts of Hard vs Soft Sci- fi, in a subtle way, inhibit sci-fi fueled inspiration, and the way we categorize sci-fi according to these levels of hardness isn’t helping anyone.
Matt Austern (who participated in the discovery of the top quark) comments:
“I don’t see that scientific accuracy has anything at all to do with genre distinctions. You see, one category I recognize is “science fiction that has inaccurate science”. As I said, I’m a scientist, so of course I know more about science than most SF writers; picking technical holes in SF stories is an easy and largely pointless task. Almost all SF books I have read contain either errors or made-up science that contradicts things that are known today; most of the exceptions are books that are so vague that there isn’t any substantive scientific content. At some point, if you know enough science and if you want to continue to enjoy SF, you just have to learn to stop caring. I don’t see the value in defining SF so strictly that the set of “true” SF books becomes the empty set.”
Some of the dividing lines between hard and soft sci-fi seem more to me about drawing up lines about who’s really “in” and who’s not, and for some, only “hard” sci- fi writers and readers are in. For someone toying around with the idea of getting into science fiction for the first time, this might be disheartening. Star Wars isn’t really “hard” sci-fi, is it? Firefly? In many ways, they aren’t, but as Brandon said, they’re the classics.
Here’s a hypothetical. Imagine, if you will, a Jane Doe. What if our Jane Doe decides not to watch Star Wars (and yes, sadly, there are people out there who haven’t seen it), because it isn’t “hard” sci-fi? Going further, what if, if she did, in fact, watch it, she would be inspired to create the next masterpiece of science fiction? Scaring our Jane Doe away from watching (or reading, etc.) anything, ANYTHING, sci-fi, because she didn’t want to wind up being in the “out” crowd of science fiction nerds (using the term proudly), would be a horrible thing.
So, let’s keep caring about the future worlds yet to be imagined. Let’s encourage and support artists of all forms (be they painters, writers, musicians, or whatever) to create and to keep being inspired by reading their words, watching their films, giving them feedback; voting for them with our dollars, our time, and our energy. Let’s take down the illogical dividing lines. Finally, and most importantly, let’s continue to spread science fiction to all corners of the universe; maybe not at the speed of light…but… maybe close?