Progressive Science Fiction – Interim Look Back

As you good people will realise I’ve been rather overwhelmed with other very good things this week. So I haven’t had chance to put together a more erudite blog for this week. So below, paltry as it is, is all I can offer for now.

In order to understand why progressive science fiction is going to come to the fore, we need to understand how and why science fiction got to the place it did. I’ve drawn a little diagram, based mainly on the accepted understanding of how science developed, but it is still my own interpretation in places.


Note the time scale is not uniform.

When you look at the drivers for each science fiction period and align them to the times they were dominant, you quickly come to realise that a lot of it is in reaction to current issues. Science made massive strides during World War 2. So science fiction grabbed at it to try to work out the implications. Equally the sociology dominant 1950s was at a time when people were getting to used to the fact that the old world order of a class-riven society was gone and were trying to get their heads around the ‘what now?’ issue.

What I call the ‘first great floundering’ around in science fiction began with the New Wave, when science fiction ideas had slowed up enough for the talented writers of the day to search for something new to write about. Literary techniques came to hand. It is from this time onwards that straight forward story telling tended to be replaced by literacised works.

The brief flourish of military science fiction was due in part to the reaction to the Cold War and at the time, its apparent impasse. Needless to say this led on to the US Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) of the mid-1980s.

Cyberpunk was in reaction to the impending computer access by the man in the street. So it was a natural thing to do in science fiction.

But then things kind of slowed again and we now have the ‘second great floundering’. This time science fiction started to go into partnership with its sister genres of fantasy and horror (yuck – horror always sends a shiver down my spine).

So all in all, this diagram shows to me science fiction is, in general, a running commentary on the issues of the day.

Of course, the big question is ‘WHAT NEXT?”

What are the answers to questions like:

  • what is the next big technology that is going impact the ordinary person in the street?
  • how is society changing in reaction to the situation we find ourselves in?
  • where are we going to explore next and what will it be like?



2 thoughts on “Progressive Science Fiction – Interim Look Back

  1. Maybe science fiction should examine issues of religion. The religious divide here in the United States is quite pronounced, and religion is behind many of the conflicts we’re seeing around the world.

    Another possibility are issues associated with gender identity. Many traditional gender roles (man works, woman cook and cleans) are already quaintly outdated. Now gay marriage is legal in most states, and the LGBT community is becoming much more mainstream.

    A third possibility is the prevalence of gaming. Video games are no longer just for children, and they have a growing impact on our society. Something about blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality could be interesting (although it occurs to me now that that’s what The Matrix was about).

    1. Hello James,

      Interesting topics for consideration… writing about religion is fine, providing you do not disrespect it, thereby giving offence to the believers. Publishers are wary of accepting anything with religion just in case they without realising do give offence in the published offering.

      The LGBT community have made great strides in getting accepted – but there is still some way to go. So those that can write with knowledge about the subject are making headway. But more needs to be done.

      There’s different ways of blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality and I think we have a very long long way to go to describe all the major variants. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a certain novel that I know is coming out in December 2015 (I haven’t read, but I know enough about the contents to realise it is very interesting.) Don’t worry, when it does come out, I’ll be commenting on it on this blog.

      So where do they fit in in my diagram? Well LGBT is definitely a social issue – and social issues were dominant in the 1950s. Doesn’t stop them becoming dominant again.

      VR – yes, I think it will be part of the next revolution, but only a part. But I’ve been know to be off the mark in predicting where science fiction is going before now. Only time will tell.

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