Amazing Stories

A World Without Science Fiction

600px-Waning_crescent_earth_seen_from_the_moonSome 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1960 about banking by telephone, a mode of operation that didn’t come into the mainstream until the 1990s, and is now outdated, though still used.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.

7 thoughts on "A World Without Science Fiction"

  1. TImF says:

    There are many ways to pay attention, countless different sources to read, myriad unique modes of observation in which to engage and innumerable cycles and patterns to see. And from all of them, a whole host of potential (and often contradictory) predictions are capable of being made . . . and made real (with highly variable spans of viability). To acknowledge only two points of view (the so-called optimists and the so-called doomy-gloomies) and then to claim validity for only one (the optimists — who might, more precisely, be called the technotopians) overlooks this fact, to say nothing of the way it succumbs to the exact singularity of vision of which the author accuses the doomy-gloomies.
    Contrary to the author’s claim that the doomy-gloomies live only in the past, the doomy-gloomies actually adhere to a much more far-reaching and inclusive extrapolation of long-term trends (in climate, biological and cultural diversity, ocean chemistry etc.) than do the technotopians whose anthropocentric, materialistic, utopian techno-faith (in nano and bioengineering for instance) is largely rooted in a one-time, two-and-a-half-century binge on cheap abundant energy and the meteoric exploitation of a planets-worth of ‘resources’ without consideration for the immediate victims or the long-term costs.
    The doomy-gloomies earn their reputation largely because they are the ones who do consider the victims and factor in the costs, and, as a consequence, arrive at very different (and much more sobering) conclusions about the present and future states of planet Earth than do the technotopians; the doomy-gloomies see the exponential degradation with which the technotopian’s exponential ‘advancement’ is inextricably entwined; they see how the one, in fact, cannot exist without the other. And the desire of the doomy-gloomies to end the degradation supersedes the desire to continue the technological chain-reaction that is devouring the world in order to provide a shrinking percentage of the strictly-human population with ‘benefits’ that simply don’t balance out once all the externalities have been factored in. The doomy-gloomies also see this situation for the progress trap that it is, with everyone locked inside (see Ronald Wright’s book, “A Short History of Progress,” for more on this idea). As a result, the doomy-gloomies’ view of the world tends to lead them toward misanthropic, dystopian visions, which overlook the potential adaptability, integrity, maturity and wisdom of which humans are capable and might apply to escaping the trap.
    And so, we can see how the views of both the technotopians and the doomy-gloomies suffer from significant biases and oversights. This suggests that what actually lies ahead will be quite different from what either group imagines. And therein exists a wealth of opportunities for some amazing stories indeed, genuinely optimistic stories rooted neither in magically positive nor apocalyptically negative interpretations of a continuing exponential reality, but rather, stories rooted in a potentially long-lasting reality that is not exponential at all. Stories of this kind could even give rise to a whole new branch of science fiction (we might call it restorative science fiction), a profoundly grounded branch that embraces, rather than rejects, the power of dreams and offers imaginative means of practicing self-restraint and living within limits for the sake of long-term viability instead of trying to get around limits for the sake of short-term advancement (i.e. the continued entrapment in the snare of technological self-amplification). Such a branch would enjoy an unprecedented degree of relevance not only in the future, but in the present, which is, after all, where every one of us actually lives. Together.

  2. Pingback: Sunday Starlinks
  3. I know only few authors who have treated of the information society and knoledge society. The french novelist Roland C Wagner in his series “les futurs mystères de Paris” have constructed a society deeply modified by information society and technology with an optimist flavour. But it is in the 90’s.
    Recently i have no heard of authors able to speak about. The only interesting initiative i’ve heard is the anthology Shine directed by Jetse de Vires.

  4. Michael Webb says:

    That’s an interesting viewpoint. I’m pretty sure it’s optimism that will destroy the world actually, but I’m sure your view will sell more books then mine until it does.

    1. Sylvia Lin says:

      Optimism brings us so many wonderful things, like cancer research and Star Trek! ^,^

  5. Daniel Salvo says:

    Fabulous article. I rediscovered how the science, the knowledge and the OPTIMISM could change the world. Thanks for write it.

Leave a Reply