Some of us are living in the future. By this I mean that we have an ear to the ground—we read, we pay attention, we observe and see the cycles and patterns and can predict the course of things, while the rest, generally living five to thirty years in the past, are concerned with the day-to-day, and are fed information that many of us have been privy to for years.
Among the two distinct groups, you can also find another division: those living in the past are the doomy-gloomies, while those living in the future are the optimists. Doomy-gloomies cannot see forward, so have no idea of the potential waiting out there. Their work often focuses on failures of the human race, rather than achievement. The optimists on the other hand, see forward, we’re living in the future, and can warn, convince, offer hope, and direct the path of things to come.
I can remember the first time I heard the word bio-engineered or nano, a time that far outdates its current, mainstream usage. Life Magazine ran an ad in 1960 about banking by telephone, a mode of operation that didn’t come into the mainstream until the 1990s, and is now outdated, though still used. In the 1980s, Disney’s World of Tomorrow showed a future where hydroponic planting was the norm, something that eventually took hold and used in some capacity today. Technology, scientists, and the common person all play a part in precipitating what will become, and it is generally in a wave five or more years ahead of when the public will encounter it. Unless you listen and pay attention.
Doomy-gloomies would have us believe that the potential of human knowledge and achievement will end with environmental disintegration, infertility, unrest and anarchy and leadership left to a handful of rogues with a gun—and let’s not forget the viruses that will plague humanity into a state of Undead. This isn’t forward thinking. These are the scenarios of those living in the past—far behind those already in the future—who have essentially created a world where science fiction has ceased to exist.
For many decades, this has been the case. The optimist is often channeling the future from the sidelines, often unable to get into the publishing mix because the work is not recognizable—and won’t be for several years, until the doomy-gloomies catch up. A great example of this can be found in the nuclear age that began in 1945 and ended sometime around 1990. During this period many writers presented forward-thinking stories representing the human condition and battle to find another outcome besides human annihilation. In 1965, Philip K. Dick wrote Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along After the Bomb, a book ahead of its time. It contained a warning and blueprint for the future, one that was missed by the doomy-gloomies’ radar for close to two decades—enough so that in the 1980s the public was forced to still endure films and books about nuclear destruction, like The Day After. Dick was in the future—yet twenty years later writers recycling his ideas were hailed as geniuses, weathercasters of the future. For me, they were simply catching up to where the optimists had already been.
Today, we have a similar scenario happening. The doomy-gloomies can only see one future, one version, where pollution, pestilence, war, and the rest, knock humanity into an electro-free society where trust is as valuable as water. Doomy-gloomies would have us believe human intelligence cannot find a way around this—but those living ahead of the rest know already what the future holds. We’re writing about it, though finding it hard to reach publishers willing to change course toward solutions, in order to break the hold of the doomy-gloomies, and divert the mindset to a future of potential.
Science fiction can do this and used to. But for many years it’s been replaced with the near-sighted scenarios of a few imitators, scared by what the media pumps in on overload to sell more bread and eggs and fallout shelters. Science fiction began as a genre of possibilities. It served to show one possible way, one of renewal and human ingenuity.
For those living in the future, we know what the doomy-gloomies can’t know yet: we recognize the existence of intelligence, technology, know-how, and stamina in our world to create utopia upon utopia. But some would lead us into a parallel Earth where corporate control over resources and intel keep the totality of humanity in a state of stagnant slavery. If there is oppression, it is not an entity doing it, but another human being—not aliens or vampires, or corporations, but other people. Everyone gets to decide where they stand, for or against the human race advancing.
Looking back, the doomy-gloomies of the Industrial Age saw machines as the robots of destruction, but they simply made everyday tasks easier and more efficient. Whether it was the stone wheel that became the gristmill, or the outdoor fire that became an indoor oven—invention attempted to simplify in order to allow more time for something else. Mary Shelley in her novel The Modern Prometheus wasn’t warning against the coming age of scientific discovery, she was warning about human responsibility in using its inventions.
Today, the legacy that has come down to us since Shelley has essentially given up on science and science fiction to take us into a ready World of Tomorrow that isn’t bleak. We’ve abandoned human capability in order to sell books that look like the one on the next shelf. We’ve stopped teleporting to the future to bring back the threads of what could be and replaced it with what is sure to happen.
Science fiction writers aren’t dreamers. We don’t dream up fantastical worlds. We see it calculated from what was and what will be, plus or minus human interaction and focus. For those living in the future we see a new generation coming that won’t be ignorant of the stars and constellations, and go to lengths to preserve the dark in order to see it; they will have more than a passing understanding of the planets in our solar system, and know an equal amount about neighboring universes, quantum physics, the evolution of the Theory of Relativity, and more. We see a rise and interest in science and technology and in human responsibility in being accountable for the way things are. Blame will go away. A golden age of possibility will encroach on the doomy-gloomies. And most importantly, as we’re already seeing, people (publishers/readers) will step up to promote this new science fiction.
Within the walls of this new science fiction also comes a specific kind of writer that presents scenarios for the readers to decide and ponder, as opposed to one definitive way—like breadcrumbs that add up like perfect numerals to equal a sum of something—the something is for the reader to calculate and design: the writer’s job is to show the evidence, the facts, the possibilities of different outcomes. The reader is the active participant and essentially decides the course of things. How many will miss their important role in championing a future of possibility? If they are only reading the works of the doomy-gloomies, then they are seeing only one scenario, no threads to ponder, a decided future without a backdoor, all active choosing and participation is holed up and tucked away.
I have seen the future and it is a far cry from what is being touted around for the purposes of entertainment and money. Those who have tried to hold firm, often cow to producing imitative work, but deep down they know they have vision, and will, in time, splinter off from the pack and go it alone if they have to. There is always a period of time when the two factions coexist (doomy-gloomies and optimists), sometimes one appears stronger or greater than the other, but through the cycles, the genius inventors will again step forward to put their work out there, and change the course of things to come.
It reminds me of the pyramid builders who created architectural marvels, and yet the average ancient person living in the vicinity lived in squalor, despite the know-how to have better. Are there people among us who still believe the pyramids were the work of extraterrestrials? That is how many optimists living in the future feel, that the ingenuity is there, only many still live in mental squalor.
I call upon the optimists to step forward and lead us into a future that demonstrates human capability. And let the doomy-gloomies step aside and learn something about human achievement as we take it out of the ashes of doom and restore it to its proper place of hope and possibility.