Roundtable: SF vs. The Future

Welcome to our second Locus Roundtable discussion. I started off the panel with the following question:

Now that we’re a few weeks into the new decade, I was wondering if anyone would like to take a crack at talking about the decade just past. It was the decade that had Arthur C. Clarke’s iconic science fictional years: 2001 and 2010. But instead of commercial transport to the Moon and adventures in the Jovian satellites, we had a major space program cancellation. Mundane SF encouraged us to keep our concerns closer to home, and Steampunk looked back to a past where we could imagine a cooler future than this one. Even William Gibson’s work has been merging with the present day. Is sf struggling to catch up with the future we’ve found ourselves in?

In deference to those who hate scrolling, I’ve broken this post into separate pages for each response. Click here to see all the response links. However, I strongly recommend that you choose the ‘View All’ option from the menu to get a better feel for the give-and-take flow of the discussion.

4 thoughts on “Roundtable: SF vs. The Future

  • January 26, 2011 at 3:35 am

    As Ceclia Holland says, “Whatever happens next, it won’t be anything we’re prepared for.” The future is unpredictable by definition. If science fiction can be said to be predictive surely it is the broken-clock-showing-the-right-time sort of blind luck. Being predictive is a story we tell ourselves about science fiction after the one of the blind luck ideas becomes real.

    The future arrives in fits and starts, one halting step at a time, and when we glance backward we see that “the past is another country” and that we are transformed. The science fiction community goes through periods where it narrows its view of tomorrow and is susceptible to groupthink, before eventually breaking out in new directions. Always, writers need to shrug off yesterday’s tomorrows and find their own way. Never mind prediction. Offer a vision of a possibility and readers will gather like moths to a flame.

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  • January 27, 2011 at 10:42 am

    With regards to the previous comments as to the future being unpredictable (which is true in the science sense) it is possible to make assumptions about trends etc. (And so for example we have the UN global population forcast for the 21st century.) Meanwhile SF is a bit like a blunderbus that sometimes points at a target called the future but with many shots missing but a few hitting the target.

    As a bit of fun we (a team of mainly scientists and engineers who run a website) make some predictions for the near and medium term future at the beginning of every other year. We have done this for the best part of a decade. Our latest New Year prediction snippet is here (and we do seem to have quite a few hits).


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