Where Do We Go from Here?
Science Fiction Beyond the Tech Horizon
“Science fiction is dying. Everything is science fact now.”
Science fiction will die only if the world ends tomorrow. Otherwise, what is not, will become. As ever. Cycles will spring from each new baseline; invention will remain inspired by our current and future capability.
Conceivable capability, to be more accurate.
See Apple products. Wireless ear buds. Pioneering iOS.
Or, read the latest article on sex robots. Civilian space travel. Artificial intelligence. Magic pills.
VR helmets are now available at your local Wal-mart, by the way.
Thought+Invention=Realization is an organic equation—the equivalent of the ongoing circle of life for our technology.
“Science fiction is based on our understanding of what we believe to be possible,” is another misguided notion. The word possible kills that idea. Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve is Holy Truth, proven over and over again.
Decades ago, I watched an episode of Star Trek (TOS) with my father. He turned to me and said, “One day we’ll all have computers on our desks.”
“Sure dad,” I said. “Whatever you say.”
This morning, as I ready to dump electronic mail from my communicator—er, cell phone—I will not be saying “Kirk to Enterprise,” but I will be dumping the unwanted batch via voice command.
What new frontiers will be left for our science fiction to explore?
Dune. Arrakis. Desert Planet. Melange. Harry Seldon. Foundation.
Grand Moff Tarkin and his Death Star? Han Solo and his Millenium Falcon? Okay, Flash Gordon and his rocketship.
And so on. Each of the above-referenced classics were products of their time. Future environmental concerns and class-status, ruling empires, and all of the invention therein.
Where will our tech be 50 years from now? What of the main concerns of our stories? Resonance is evergreen. The above tales are evergreen. They will never lose their importance to educate and inspire as neither the real-life disquiet nor archetypes they exploit will change.
Because we’re human, certain explorations reach deeper than others.
Star Trek: The Next Generation holodecks are an emerging technology, as is particle beaming.
Remote control we take for granted today, but consider exactly the science behind pointing the device at your television screen. Speaking of...
Once upon a time, Marconi harnessed radio waves. Wells and Verne are responsible for inspiring readers to realize their technology.
Is there anything here that you don’t know?
We’re spoiled. Today’s children learn from computer tablets. Encyclopedias (as us old-timers knew them) are lost to history. The internet, for now, remains the internet of everything.
So let’s talk. Let’s return to our original question.
Where do we go from here? Really. What horizons are left to conquer? What new horizons will come for us to conquer? Will science fiction remain resonant?
Politics, it appears, remains a concept ripe for the picking. A Clockwork Orange took place in near-future Great Britain, but there were no futuristic gadgets involved. Violence and death are always fair game, and when conjoined with political affairs potentially makes a statement that, when intelligently put together, resonates despite the generation in which it was introduced. Sex, insurance, taxes, and other social concepts. Same thing. Brave New World and 1984 could almost be considered biographies today.
Dystopian visions became hugely popular in YA (Young Adult) novels and films at the dawn of the millennium, and continue to this day. In the 1950s, radioactive giant monsters addressed in fairy stories our concerns over the Cold War.
Mirrors for our fears, one and all.
If North Korea launches a nuclear weapon tomorrow, what then? If we launch a nuke from the US, how would that change the narrative? What about biological warfare? Donald Trump in office and the chaotic redefinition of our politics. Are we living in The Twilight Zone?
Every decade has had its share. The 70s had Watergate. A president was assassinated in the 60s. World Wars happened prior.
My takeaway: Science fiction will be most relevant in the immediate future by continuing to adapt to today’s social issues as metaphor. Futuristic tech will always have its place, though I believe we’ve become a bit cynical about it all.
What is the last true science fiction classic you’ve read? Sure, there’s magnificence out there. Hugo's controversies aside, along with the Nebulas and other awards, they do recognize works of excellence. But how many of those works will survive with reputations akin to the aforementioned classics?
Science fiction will never die, but like any genre if it becomes staid—and I believe it has to a degree—it may be time to pivot and morph into something that more bluntly confronts concerns that shake the soul.
Human concerns that even the greatest tech will be unable to settle.