The latest edition of Interzone plopped through the letterbox – well actually more like crashed with an big bang against the wooden floor, but it doesn’t do to exaggerate does it? One of the things that caught my eye was the 1983 quote by Robert Silverberg:
‘But I wonder: are we heading for an era, a decade or two hence, when science fiction, our soaring and mind-expanding literature, is a musty and ritualised entertainment consumed only by elderly Baby Boomers, hearkening back nostalgically to the good old days of their twenties, while etc illiterate young ‘uni divert themselves with the electronic hardware that science fiction predicted?’
So what has happened since then?
Well the immediate answer to Robert Silverberg came in 1984 with William Gibson’s Neuromancer. If the ‘young ‘uns’ were going to be playing on electronic gadgets, why not write interesting observations about the whole way of living? It would certainly get them interested in the written stories.
Then the 1990s saw Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars (1992), Green Mars (1993) and Blue Mars (1996) series burst onto the science fiction. It was a kind of back to the future, the possible real future that is, that caught the zeitgeist. Realisation had arrived back in science fiction. It was continued by Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series (Revelation Space 2000, Chasm City 2001, Redemption Ark 2002 and Absolution Gap 2003) and as a nod to space opera, (Leviathan Wakes 2011, Caliban’s War 2012, Abandon’s Gate 2013, Cibola Burn 2014, Nemesis Games 2015, Babylon’s Ashes 2016, Persepolis Rising, 2017 and Tiamat’s Wrath (to be published 2018)). The stream of realistic swear future science fiction in space seems here to stay.
Back on Earth, we have had the cli fi movement noughties welcomed cli fi as a science fiction sub-genre, in order to try to explore how to deal with the increasing danger of climate change. Although this as a sub-genre can trace its origins all the way back to Jules Verne, it seemed to have gained a new lease of life, mainly I suspect there were a lot of tech ideas coming out of the real science and technology labs.
So what of this century’s teens? What push in subject does it have? Artificial Intelligence from the viewpoint of that AI is the theme that is becoming stronger at the moment. People are looking for answers as to how to deal with the deluge of new technology, its vagaries, its nuances, its idiocies. No wonder it seems to have taken on a life of its own.
So what’s next for the twenties? Well, I’ve said elsewhere that the impact of new things done on the micro-scale that will change our lives will be an ‘in-thing’. It’s not easy to explain without going into a fictional story (and this is where I really do wish my C.A.T. novel had been published because I can point to the relevant section that describes very well what I’m getting at). The end results will be on the surface oxymoronic i.e. kind of self-contradictory. (I told you this was hard to explain.) For instance, there will be more individualism / uniqueness and uniformity at the same time. This theme lends itself to literary writing techniques, which is I suspect why we are having so many literary writers trying to enter science fiction at the moment. They are following their instincts without understanding really why they are doing what they are doing.
So to summarise the stand-out subject themes since 1983:
- 1980s – Cyberpunk
- 1990s – Near future realistic space opera
- 2000s – Cli fi
- 2010s – Artificial Intelligence point of view
- 2020s – effects of micro-tech improvements
Obviously the last subject needs a clarifying explanation – it’s far more than mere quantum mechanics, for which there have been various failed science fiction attempts in the recent past – justifiably so because it’s been said before. (Having said that, I know there is an author for whom I’m beta-reading at the moment that is making a good go of innovative quantum mechanics, which actually uses the kind of new micro-tech theme I’m on about. It’s a step in the right direction. He has already got a publisher lined up! – I’ll let you know when the novel will be published, but in publishing terms, it’ll be sooner rather than later.)
But I’ll save that explanation for another blog… for those critics who read my blog – you know who you are – keep a look out and when the time comes read that novel I just mentioned. You won’t regret it!
In the meantime I need to rewrite a certain story – yes you’ve guessed it – I was without realising ahead of my time by about 12 years… note to self – must stop doing this!
I’ll leave you with a link to my C.A.T. short story…