For the first time in something like thirty years, ever since the Thatcher-led tory government destroyed the underpinning infrastructure, I feel the hope of scientific research and development has once more awoken in the UK. People are actually taking a serious interest and want to know more.
…and when there’s an interest in science, it is sure to lead to an interest in science fiction, because people want to know the possibilities, anticipate what is coming next so they can make the right investments, whether it be in a new transport system or in a gadget for the home, and above all, they want hope for the future.
The last has been helped by the worldwide climate change agreement that has been reached. It won’t solve the problems, but it is a start, which is better than nothing. Because it gives that all important hope for the future.
So how will all this spin off into science fiction?
For a start the dystopian sub-genre, already tired from too long a run in popularity, will take a backseat. Instead we will see the more of what science-can-lead-to in science fiction. And it’s not what we have seen in the past. Let me repeat this idea in a different way: THERE WILL BE NEW SCIENCE IDEAS IN SCIENCE FICTION.
I can say this with some confidence – I finished drafting a short story yesterday. Yes, I used a lot of ideas I have worked up in other stories in the past, but there was something rather new as well. That new bit also changed the plot rather significantly. It was as if a door had opened up on a world I had never seen before.
There has also been a slew of new discoveries and developments recently – see my last post for a few examples. Those technical developments are changing the universe-scape. There will be more such coming in 2015, ranging from discoveries in genetics to help fight diseases, to discoveries in fundamentals of physics.
Which all means we have to look at ourselves and our future in a very different light. And one of the jobs of science fiction is to help people understand what that view is.
Like the example of my short story, the old ideas will not go away. What will change is their impact on society in the light of the new science and technology.
With all this new knowledge / material coming on-line, I expect science fiction writers to be busy writing next year.
Short stories will lead the way, because they can be completed and published faster than other prose projects. Some of those stories will see ‘print’ later on in the year. But they are snapshots of certain issues, not the panorama of what it would be like to live when all those ideas come to fruition. That’s the remit of the novel, which takes longer to write, and even longer to get published.
These things are likely to happen to the novel:
- The publication process will, really has to, speed up. I don’t know how, but the readership will turn round to demand the extra speed. The publication houses will know more about this than I do.
- Short stories will form the basis of novels. This is nothing new. Anne McCaffrey did it for The Rowan way back in 1990, which was based on the short story The Lady in the Tower, published in 1959 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. More recently Andy Weir’s The Martian followed a similar trajectory (excuse the pun). But it does lead to quicker publication, and it gives the big publishers more confidence to publish certain novels.
- Over the next few years, there will be less of the traditional write a novel with variations of current worlds as we know them today. The publishers will want the new big ideas from science and science fiction short stories to come through. Which means the current novel writers are going to have to change what they write about or not get their novels selling as well, which could lead to publication contracts not being given out to them in the longer term.
It all sounds rather dramatic, doesn’t it? But it won’t be one day the old ways, next day the new science additions. It will be the usual the new science additions stories will grow in popularity while the old variations on a theme stuff will wither and trickle along in the background for the diehards amongst the readership. The main difference is that this sub-genre change will happen faster than previous science fiction sub-genre revolutions. Why? Because the science and technology revolution is happening faster, with more impact, than previous science and technology revolutions.
On a personal note, with the short story I mentioned above, I have now finished drafting my series of short stories, one for each planet. It’s been a long haul for me – life got seriously in the way – but all eight are now done, with five published, one about to be published and two now looking for publication. Once all eight are out, I hope to produce an anthology (depending on publication contracts), but I suspect that is some years away.
Happy New Year Everyone!