I had one of those crazy moments of inspiration today – science fiction is being starved of BIG new ideas, and unless something isn’t done about it soon, it will wither and eventually die as a genre.
Before you good people all decide I’m talking a load of tosh, let’s look at things in the cold light of day, shall we?
First of all, just what are the main themes of science fiction? Well, for scientifically based (as opposed to fantasy or truly wishful thinking such as faster than light travel that doesn’t cost very much) science fiction there’s
- space travel, exploration and colonisation,
- the impact of climate change,
- how to avoid other natural disasters such as Earth being hit by an asteroid, the emergence of a deadly very infectious virus and eruptions of super volcanoes
- dystopias of one form or another (the how to survive manual as I call it),
- cyberpunk, robotics with computers
- impact of minor technical inventions (though this is a small proportion)
- military with all their super-horrible weapons etc
- dealing with realistic aliens in all their forms and guises
- …and what else?
Whilst I’m sure you can think of some odd stories that don’t fit into any of these categories, I bet you they are far and few between.
There is one very big omission – and I do mean BIG! It’s one of those pervasive themes that like the above themes can strike in many different ways. There have been stories edging around it, as a kind of side-thought, but never really getting into the meat if it.
You know what… I think we are frightened to explore such a subject. Stories may have been written about, but publishers would be reluctant to publish for fear of losing their readers. Can you blame them? They are, after all, in the business of making money, which means having readers buy their stories. But there could be another reason why it’s not come out of hiding so to speak. It is actually very difficult to write clearly about it, without giving a heavy mislead. [Well, you don’t think I wouldn’t have tried, do you?]
But if science fiction as a genre doesn’t go there, we will be left with variations and combinations of variations on the old themes. Yes, they will be entertaining in their own ways, but they’ll be lacking the super-wow factor…
So is it time to boldly go where no man (or woman for that matter) has gone before? Into the unknowns of what could become science fiction?