Science fiction will always have something new to say because science and technology will always progress or we will be using engineering to explore new places and change old places. Most people would accept this statement as true.
And yet, you have to ask what are we seeing that is new by way of science fiction, whether it be inventions or style or debating about issues or whatever. Um… what about the quantum mechanics based novels… or the posthuman ideas… or… did I hear someone say something about Arthur C Clarke’s The Sentinel or multi-verses as in Heinlein’s Number of the Beast?
So what we are really looking at are variations on a theme or slight adjustments to an invention or a mix and match of different themes in a new way.
Is this why science fiction has gone down the nostalgia road with the new Star Trek movies and finally the coming of the Star Wars sequels? A kind of variation on a theme business?
Yes but if you write a novel that is noticeably different, but in many senses has the same background as one of the franchises, you’ll find that the publishers and readers will ask, why isn’t this in the franchise? It is like being forced into a certain groove.
Until we get rid of this groove-evil, we will always end up looking back on previous science fiction as it being the best and what we have now is but a pale imitation of that great stuff.
What is the solution?
Writing really new science fiction is difficult to do, because a lot of the themes have already been written – certainly all the ‘easy’ story-lines and inventions have been picked off. It is possible, but it is hard work. But even if you do, you’ll face the severe reluctance of the publishers to publish your work, because they want to guarantee their returns. This kind of opposition to the new will put prospective writers off writing…. which of course leads to the inevitable spiral of decay and atrophy.
Self-publishing? But how do you get the potential readers interested? It takes time and effort to do a advertising campaign. And you’re battling against all the others who are also trying to attract the readers’ attention.
Some sort of background selling point might help (like being a famous personality), but very few of us have that!
What’s left? Not a lot, at least as far as I can see. That’ why I’ve come to the conclusion that science fiction writing is more about doing publicity than good ideas and good writing.