The Guardian’s roundup of the best recent science fiction and fantasy novels has been published today. (See here.) I’m pleased to see 3 out of the 5 novels are science fiction. Yay!
What I found interesting was the SF novels look like they act as a commentary on current political issues. Sorrowland is about racial inequality, Dark Lullaby about women’s rights and responsibilities, and We are the Satellites about the imbalance created by personal enhancements, in this case the implants that improve brain power. Thus makes these novels very relevant to the here and now.
Science Fiction has a long history of political narratives that goes at least as far back as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, published in 1895. Some have acted as warnings about the future by exaggerating what might happen to bring the message home. Others have been making the world simpler so we can see the issue more clearly that is going on today. What I also find interesting is that The Guardian’s choices have avoided the two biggest problems of today, the pandemic and climate change.
Both are current global work in progress, where the situation is changing comparatively rapidly. Certainly the pandemic has shown us that the reality was not quite as science fiction predicted it might be, even if UK’s Health Minister, Matt Hancock, did take on board lessons portrayed by a science fiction film on the subject. Could it be these rapid updates in reality have stopped novels being published on these subjects?
I know from experience how quickly technology can catch up or overturn near future science fiction. It was not how the technology extrapolated into the future that went wrong, but its timing and how technologies come together to form a new technology its own right.
What really worries me is how many new technologies from combing existing ones we science fiction writers are missing. A good example is the air system I invented for the Martian Chasms that I wrote about The Martian Wind
A variation of it can be found in Slivers of Hope in Space Force, Building the Legacy. Of course there is much more I can do with this combined technology, but haven’t got round to writing about yet.
It only takes one rich combo to upturn the world building big time. And I’m sure there are quick a few such combos I haven’t yet stumbled on.
It is therefore not surprising that review columns like those in The Guardian tend to steer away from technology-led science fiction novels. They fear those novels will become out of date very quickly and therefore lose the interest of the readership.
There is a BIG BUT! There is a tsunami of new combo tech on its way. We’ve already seen a similar revolution with the Internet of Things, and look how that drastically changed our lives.
If the science fiction publishing industry cannot start to comment on them… do I need today more?