Science Fiction Themes of the Future?

22 11 2013
A View of Earth from Saturn

A View of Earth from Saturn (Photo credit: alpoma)

I have basically three novels on the go and at various stages of ‘resting’ or drafting. But what struck me was their underlying science fictional themes were all rather modern… let me explain a bit more…

Back in the golden age of science fiction we themes like:

  • space exploration and colonisation
  • time travel
  • robots in various forms and guises
  • first contacts
  • biological later genetic manipulation
  • annihilation or almost annihilation of the human race through ghastly forms of warfare
  • manipulation of the masses through various brainwashing techniques and the like
  • Earth-bustung disasters like asteroid collisions, huge volcano eruptions, solar flares swiping our atmosphere and deadly infections

I can’t put a date on when many of these themes began, but they were all well explored and mature by the time the first episode of Dr Who was aired on 23rd November 1963.

What themes have developed since?

Well, the New Wave developed in the 1960s, which is where literary styles and ‘soft’ sciences dominated at the expense of hard science in science fiction.

After that the next new genre was cyberpunk courtesy of the William Gibson’s Neuromancer published in 1984. This has spread into all sorts of computery type stories, including more recently posthuman i.e. when humans download themselves into computers or have their brains enhanced with embedded computers.

After that somewhen in the 1990s came quantum science fiction – i.e. science fiction based on quantum physics. I think while the experiments have been interesting, nobody’s yet got to the heart of what this sub-genre could become (this is a personal opinion based on some recent scientific discoveries that I’ve pointed out elsewhere on this blog – and my short story Return does touch on this, but far from what I’d like to see).

Climate change themes have been on the go since the 1960s, which certainly developed strongly out of the New Wave – think John Brunner‘s Stand on Zanzibar as an instance. As far as I can make out the climate change novels have all dealt with the impact of it on humans or how humans may reverse it.

So what are the modern themes I’m on about for my novels…

  1. Climate wars (where one country tries to manipulate the weather to their advantage at the expense of another). I’ve already touched very briefly on this in my published short story¬†Ripple Effect.
  2. Post-computer (the computer equivalent of posthuman) (yes I know that authors like Heinlein had computers convert into humans, but I’m talking talking something different from computers, humans and posthumans)
  3. Science-led Society – we have had science as a helper, a servant, a friend even, but not as a leader of society

Have I got your mind a-boggling by now? Or do you think I’m off my rocker? Well, if you want to decide for yourself, read¬†Ripple Effect – the only background idea to the above that has been published of late.

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2 responses

23 11 2013
tomburkhalter

Hmm, interesting. Re your point No. 3 above; what about H.G. Wells, Things to Come? And when you say “leader of society” what exactly do you mean? How would science lead society? Heinlein had a comment on this in Starship Troopers, something about the ‘Revolt of the Scientists:’ “let the well-educated elite run things and you’ll have Paradise. Fell flat on it’s silly face, of course.” (Of course, much as I love RAH, I still think that particular book is quasi-fascist.) And I really like your point no. 2; real science fiction in that question because it simply begs and invites an outpouring of imagination!

24 11 2013
rosieoliver

Hello Tom – I must admit that although I’ve heard about H G Wells’ Things to Come I haven’t read it – so can’t really comment on it. Regarding Starship Troopers, I think Heinlein was trying to make the point that if people give more to society, they should receive more say in how that society is run. Caused an absolute row at the time so I’m told. However, the comment you refer to is based on someone defining what is best for society – they are not necessarily right, which is why I agree with it.

Answering your question succinctly would be difficult. Science comes with a certain mindset or way of doing business, and it is this way of doing business I’m referring to. This does not include one way being better than another, because diversity in nature / universe has distinct merits, especially when it comes to survivability. Hope this helps.

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