The future as the past, specifically the 1980s, is a well-known trope in science fiction. Paul Walker-Emig emphasises this trope in his Guardian article, highlighting in particular how cyberpunk (as he refers to this 1980s future) needs to evolve or die. He has a point; however, his argument sweeps over crucial influences of the trope, such as continued anxieties and neoliberal capitalism.
The pervasion of mental spaces has increased dramatically over the last decade, particularly with the rise of social media. Most digital spaces have been sold and bought by corporations who push their corporate messages consistently onto vulnerable users. Such users (but not all) are vulnerable because they enjoy these spaces to relax and thus are not sufficiently circumspect against hidden advertisement. These corporate messages infiltrate mental spaces at such a regular and constant pace that they become assimilated unconsciously by users, which Alyssa Loh emphasises with regard to the USA; “Democracy in the United States, however, is less likely to end in spectacular violence than in the banal chug of market force...the gravest threat to our freedom today may be the steady erosion of our spaces of mental freedom.”
The question of whether fiction effects change, environmental for instance, has been pondered by many, including writers, readers and those who sneer at the study and creation of literature.
From unprecedented globalisation to industrial refuse, the contemporary world has changed the face of the earth, prompting geologists to define it as the Anthropocene, “the age of humans” (Purdy, 2015: 1). Jedediah Purdy elucidates that as “a driver of global change, humanity has outstripped geology,” eliciting tensions and anxieties toward future conditions of the earth (Purdy, 2015: 1). Science fiction illustrates these feelings in futuristic stories, usually situated in a post-apocalyptic world where a revelation often portends that worse conditions await regarding environmental sustainability and human lives. Molly Wallace argues that such fictions intend to “suggest that the means to the apocalyptic futures are already in the works and […] to prevent the outcome imagined” (Wallace, 2016: 98). Science fiction accentuates present conditions in an imaginary future, resonating with Fredric Jameson’s claim that science fiction does not aim to “give us ‘images’ of the future […] but rather to defamiliarize and restructure our experience of our own present” (Jameson, 1982: 151). By positioning the present in unfamiliar contexts, one is able to dissociate from the present and thus gain a broader perspective, encouraging the chance to take preventative actions against the depletion and devastation of the earth. Perceived as both preventative and aggravating, genetic modification often features in science fiction novels, either as a necessary action to enable human survival or as a man-made evil that inevitably becomes humanity’s downfall.
While the reputations of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are being slaughtered in the news, the state of our privacy is being questioned. Are we too willing to give open ourselves up to Big Brother? What are the consequences of such an open society? Is such a society even open?