A new hope? Another call for positive science fiction

Paul Raven @ 24-09-2008

As an antidote to the previous doom-flavoured post, here’s recent Clarion alumni Damien G Walter suggesting that it’s time science fiction started taking a more hopeful and positive look at the future:

But there are no end of reasons to have hope for tomorrow. Biotechnology and genetic research offer fantastic advances in medicine, yet their portrayal in science fiction is typified by the gloom of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. The internet is already democratising many new areas of society, but our political future is still most commonly depicted as one flavour of Big Brother dystopia or another. Environmental or economic collapse might plunge us all headlong into the apocalypic future of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, or we might respond to them with intelligence and ingenuity and take the opportunity to find better ways of living. To look at the infinite possibilities of the future and see only darkness is a failure of imagination.

Here, Walter echoes similar calls from Jason Stoddard and Jetse de Vries, and doubtless some others I’ve not noticed (or, just as likely, forgotten about); it definitely appears to be a theme with some of the young turks of science fiction writing. Are we witnessing the first stirrings of a new movement?

And what about the readers? OK, so the writers are bored of dystopic futures, but how many of us would like a little more optimism in our escapism?

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7 Responses to “A new hope? Another call for positive science fiction”

  1. Liviu says:

    The only thing I would say is that the original author of the post does not read current sf since there are tons of – tempered – optimistic books, series out there. Some darker than others but all assuming technological progress, expansion to the stars and so on. It’s not the goody-goody feeling that tech will save humanity of earlier works, and corruption, wars, nasty governments and so on are still with us, but there is progress too.

    Check all the modern masters of space opera like Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Neal Asher for example but I can come with lots more authors. Even Richard Morgan’s dark Takeshi Kovacs series, future is still based on extra solar colonies, advances in tech – of course the bad corporations are badder than ever but I would not call that a collapse in civilization…

    Just read current sf first before talking about it without having that much of a clue…

  2. Paul Raven says:

    I see the point you’re making, Liviu, but I think in this respect space opera has to be considered slightly differently, in that the genre is predicated on humans (or similar species) achieving dominion beyond their home planet. It’s an assumption rather than a speculation, if you see what I mean. I think Walter is trying to say that the more ‘mundane’ works and near-future stories tend to be pretty bleak and dystopic… and looking at the world around us, it’s easy to see why writers might be pessimistic about our fate. The question is whether that pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.

  3. GLP says:

    I’ve just added my own two cents to this discussion over at: http://www.garethlpowell.com – where I argue that what we really need is a *balance* between dystopias and utopias…

  4. Jetse says:

    Excellent question, Paul. Are the readers (and I’m including *all* readers here, not just the SF aficionados) ready for this?

    Well, apart from asking them, there is another way to find out. Watch this space.

  5. jon says:

    I’m still wondering, was Brave New World dystopic or utopic?

  6. jon says:

    Likewise, Logan’s Run.

  7. Travis Parsons says:

    Only the weakness of man kind gives into to darkness. Hold darkness as your friend and your cover. Mankind has a defect in their attention span. We are suprised too often by things that are right under our noses. Those serving darkness have defeated themselves and have issues with not being someone else, or able to control others. Relax, and kick back.. Stay away from those struggling. Cool!?