2016 – What will it bring for SF?


I just checked what my predictions were for 2015 (see here). Well, I got the science bit dead on right – we did have a whole load of new science and technology being announced, led by the pictures of the Pluto from the New Horizons probe.


The probe will continue to send information well into 2016. We can expect more news and pictures to come out of NASA, but they won’t have as much by the way of the surprise element as those first pictures. There will be announcements on progress towards to nuclear fusion – I think the oil producing states realise their income timespan is now limited, which is why we’re seeing lower oil prices at the moment. Other areas to watch out for are genetics editing, progress in beating cancers, more antibiotics news and look-alikes, progress on implementing technology using graphene and nano-tubes, and in the UK at least, better understanding of natural water flows. The last is as a result of all the horrendous floods we’ve since 2007 (the Severn Valley, Hull, Somerset Levels, Tyneside, Cumbria).

People are still working away at computer programmes and applications, but what of artificial intelligence? My guess is that it’s going to tread water for a few years – we’ve seen the goals e.g. driverless cars, but what will the legals make of it? Who will be accredited with the responsibility when the programmes go wrong? Until this question is answered fully, the entrepreneurs will be wary of investing their time and money in this area.

What I got wrong in the 2015 predictions is the speed at which science fiction would take up the new science. Have you seen any stories about our new understanding of Pluto?

We are now starting to develop a backlog of science and what its implications are for human society for science fiction.

Backlogs like this develop a pressure of their own. There will come a point when that pressure will force what appears to be a breakthrough, much like a dam burst. Predicting when that will happen is an art form all of its own, when many factors have to be taken into account. So I won’t even try at this stage, except to say it will happen sometime in the near-ish (up to 30 years hence) future.

The thing that concerns me most is the lack of opportunities to publish progressive science fiction (hard SF where society has developed in a positive way). Analog, the flagship for hard SF, is not what it used to be. Nature Futures does to some extent fill the gap, but only a little way.

To me the SF film industry may be pointing to why such a problem exists. 2016 will see the release of the third Star Trek film, Beyond. [At this point I’d like to add that my MA Creative Writing novel was originally called Beyond, because it was going beyond the universe as we know it… sorry I know… puns shouldn’t be allowed in serious articles, but resistance was futile.] It purports to go beyond the Star Trek’s known Universe, whatever that means. This points to the entertainment industry always stretching the limits beyond the extremes of what it has done before in place and technological widgets. [Another note: when I was looking for synonyms for beyond, I found none at all. I’ll leave the implications of this to you.] What it does not do is extend character by adapting it to the natural conditions it finds itself in or limitations imposed by science.

So one prediction I do feel safe in making is that 2016 will see more by way of steps towards a magazine that majors in progressive science fiction. This may not mean publishing, but it will certainly reach the planning stages.

As for my personal plans in science fiction for 2016… it’s going to be one of heads down and write. I’ve done the first serious draft of over a third of the C.A.T. novel in the Neptune Universe. So this will take the majority of my writing time. [The fact that I’ve had three previous attempts at writing this novel is neither here nor there, but this version feels satisfying, very satisfying.] And then there’s the problematic Uranus Universe…

As noted in previous posts, one of my long term aims has been to have a story published about each planet in the Solar System. I’ve done six to them:

  • Mercury – Displaced
  • Neptune – Life Sentence
  • Earth – Cold Pressure
  • Jupiter – Agents of Repair
  • Mars – A Fate of Dust
  • Venus – Flex and Flux

That leaves Saturn and Uranus. Both these stories belong to the Uranus Universe – that problematic one… well, looks like I’m going to have to do something very serious about that, doesn’t it?

There is one final point I need to make. Mars is still the jinx of space exploration. They’ve postponed the latest probe to Mars, which means a delay of two years. The evidence of water on Mars is being questioned by French scientists, saying that the rills could also be made by carbon dioxide ice. And to add to that there is the discovery that there are higher concentrations of silica on Mars than expected. The debate is on to explain why.  What it does mean is that my short story A Fate of Dust could be even closer to the reality than I had originally imagined. See the story here.

I hope you all have a science fictionally happy and prosperous 2016!

One thought on “2016 – What will it bring for SF?

  1. I wonder if Earth-bound and progressive (as you might say) SF will attract more reading eyeballs?

    Stories that explore how AGW, natural resource and population pressures compel Earthlings to learn how to collectively survive and ‘prosper’ on terra firma into the 22nd Century.

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