The end of science fiction?

David Louis Edelman asks a big question over at the author group-blog Deep Genre – when will science fiction end? In his own words: “I’m not asking this from a commercial standpoint so much as from an epistemological standpoint. Will there always be new science fiction? Or will the genre just wither up at some point and go away?” What do you think? Are we so immunised to the exponential curve of technological change that fiction based in extrapolated futures will cease to have any effect on us other than, perhaps, nostalgia?

6 thoughts on “The end of science fiction?”

  1. Hm, tough one. It is a fact that I’m walking around with some sort of tricorder these days, called a smartphone. Perhaps the thrill, thinking of such weird technology, is gone a little because it’s all so normal now. Anything from this point on seems possible, technology is not just for geeks anymore but embedded in our lives. We’re pretty spoiled, and about every three years what we have is dated.

    Some science fiction, compared to the current day, is perhaps dated, because we’re further than that. Maybe science-fiction will die when space traveling becomes as normal as train travel. That will take a while, although commercial space faring has almost begun.

    Check out these first initiatives:

  2. We’ll no more have an end to science fiction than the patent office needed to close in the 1800’s. There turned out to be more to invent then, and I’m pretty sure there’s plenty still to imagine now and for the future.

  3. The thing about the future is that there are so many possibilities, yet we only actually get to see a few of them. There will never be a shortage of demand for stories about the possible futures that lie outside of our experience.

  4. Science Fiction will end when human imagination cannot keep up with technological change.

    It will be a *sad* thing when that happens while the technological change is driven by human creativity.

    It may be an *inevitable* thing if Artificial Intelligences drive the technological change (not discussing *if* that is possible, mind you: that’s a different discussion).

    In the latter case, there is the possibility that AIs may produce science fiction, but it will be sf that humans cannot — by definition — understand.

  5. Jetse, great points–but I’ll try to amplify one a bit for you:
    “Science fiction will end when human imagination cannot, refuses to, or is prevented from, keeping up with technological change.”

    The latter two are the most threatening. It seems that many science fiction readers, writers, and editors simply do not want to face a future where half a dozen cascading technological changes are presented in a believable and realistic manner–in fact, they reject it. Charles Stross riffs on this a bit in his blog, where he tries to imagine explaining inventive marketing by gold farmers in World of Warcraft to someone living just 30 years ago.

    Couple this with a seeming reluctance on the part of the SF community to actively participate in the technological changes going on around us (whether it is modern-day communication, social media, virtual worlds, or whatever), and you have a very scary scenario.

    AIs may end up imagining the future, but we may have our eyes closed to it.

  6. Well, Jason, I am assuming that *when* human imagination *can* stay ahead of the technological curve, that it *will* find a place to express that (*cough*Interzone*cough*).

    It may — and most probably will — not be the major SF magazines. I do agree that a great part of SF fandom is very conservative: the great imaginative leaps ahead in the Golden Age are OK, but similar creative jumps ahead nowadays are ‘implausible’, ‘unrealistic’, and what-have-you.

    (And I know that we’ve had this discussion in private several times, and that I’ve told you — in my editorial suit — that sometimes you go just a bit *too* far. But you know that in general I fully agree: (a large part of) SF has lost its balls, revels in misery.)

    I’ve made a call to arms in the BSFA’s Focus (some 6 months ago). I should probably put it up on my blog (next week, when finally my vacation begins, and I’ve finished the May slushpile).

    But it is indeed quite dispiriting to have people criticise optimistic scenarios as ‘unrealistic’, and hail all doomsday scenarios (that steadfastly refuse to come true) as ‘realistic’.

    Maybe we should hold a “PollyannaCom” with free beer and wine for eerybody who invests in forward-looking technologies and SF…;-)

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