State of Science Fiction Today

I have been saying for some time now that publishers are publishing what they know has sold well in the past and therefore likely to sell well in the future. Damien Walter has taken this analysis a step further. See here. Basically what he is saying that in the fantasy sector the multi-volume series has dominated the market place to the detriment of single standalone novels. He’s calling them mega novels, a good description me thinks. The consequence? Well we get the same universe and main characters. We always hear about people writing trilogies, some of which extend into a longer series. There are less new ideas coming to market. It’s worse than the reader having less choice. The reader will not see the fantasy genre progress in interesting ways. There is a spillover into science fiction. Ann Leckie’s novels, for instance, are part of a trilogy. Alastair Reynolds has just written a trilogy. And so it goes on. But science fiction is the genre of ideas, isn’t it? Alastair Reynolds has recently written an essay about space travel being limited to below the speed of light. See here. What he says is science-wise spot-on for the current thinking. Only my mind goes but, But, BUT… We know that Scholz’s star passed through our Solar System 70,000 years ago (and this was only discovered in the last year or so). At the other extreme of size, the Andromeda galaxy is due to collide with our own galaxy in 4 billion years time.

1436_binarysystem_940x400-620x264

So why can’t we hop from Solar System to another that is passing close by? Admittedly this requires a certain amount of luck to have something glide by that has a suitable planet or moon to live on. We could start doing the calculations now to find those passers by and concentrate our efforts on those in terms of finding the new planets. And this is only a start for an interesting line of stories, which could see humans eventually populate the stars. See what I’ve done here? I’ve taken the current wisdom, applied to a problem and looked for a situation where that problem could be overcome without relying on the the science. I’m sure other science fiction writers have thought of the same scenario. But are there any stories or novels featuring this? Not that I know of. This is an example of a theme of what could have been published, were it not for the pressure on publishers to make profits. There are other examples – it would become a long and, for many readers, tedious post if I listed them and their backgrounds. So I’ll leave this interesting exercise to the reader. This does point to the need for a shake up in the science fiction industry if it is to be a vibrant genre. I’m not sure how it can be done. All I know is the science fiction industry cannot continue as it is – leaning towards fantasy, taking on other styles such as literary or going all nostalgic. P.S. Just hours after I published, io9 comes up with an interesting article about recent discoveries concerning the collision between our galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. See here.

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7 thoughts on “State of Science Fiction Today

  1. Excellent points!

    It feels like space opera, in particular, has gotten into a kind of rut, focusing too much on a consensus fantasy view of the future where space travel works like sea travel, and FTL is only an engineering breakthrough away. Reynolds is one of the few space opera authors who attempt to break out of that mode.

    Stories that extend into the far future are rare. Many consider the far future thousands of years from now. But the actual far future is millions or even billions of years down the road. Writing plausibly on those time scales seems to require imagination that few are willing to engage in.

    1. Welcome SelfAwarePatterns,

      Totally agree with what you said… some of older generation of science fiction writers did write about how to get round the FTL limitation by generation ships and hibernation ships.

      In fact I wrote a short story that dealt with another feasible way of getting to the stars – Life Sentence – it’s available from http://jupitersf.co.uk/back.htm.

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