Near-future sf is not impossible, says Gareth L Powell

Gareth L Powell has decided to refute Charlie Stross’s recent claim that near-future science fiction is impossible to write. As a quick recap, Charlie said:

We are living in interesting times; in fact, they’re so interesting that it is not currently possible to write near-future SF.

Gareth sees that as shrinking away from the challenge:

I don’t see SF as a dry, intellectual game of prediction. I don’t feel the need to be proven right by posterity. If the immediate economic future looks a little uncertain, I’ll fudge a little. I’ll make my best guess and hope for the best. I’ll write a story about people.

After all, this kind of uncertainty is hardly new. Science fiction writers in the 1980s had to consider the fact that the futuristic stories they were writing could be rendered obsolete at any moment by a full-scale global nuclear war – but they kept on writing. They made some basic assumptions and they went for it.

For instance, William Gibson wrote Neuromancer in the early Eighties, at the height of the Cold War, when the superpowers were on the brink of a holocaust, and as far as he knew, he could have been vapourised before finishing the novel, but he finished it anyway.

I’m going to side with Gareth on this one – after all, we publish near-future stories here at Futurismic, and no other type!

But what about you lot? Do you find the plausibility of the predictions in a piece of near-future science fiction as important as the plot and the characters?

2 thoughts on “Near-future sf is not impossible, says Gareth L Powell”

  1. Stross’s assertion lends itself to the opposite conclusion: the interaction between humans and our technology in the world today provides ample fodder for the creation of near-term science fiction. That’s as true today as it was 140 years ago, when Jules Verne published much of his work, or at any point before or since. The uncertainty of the future, and the expansion of our technological capabilities, fuels our human longing to know the unknowable. Because of this, the ability to extrapolate the future and life within it will ever be a rich source of literature.

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