What is the defining characteristic of science fiction? The obvious answer is science and technology, but that is wrong.
Science fiction is about the future.
SF stories project into the future because it is unknown. It is a blank canvass in which the author and audience are free to explore their imaginations. Unfortunately, many come up short and resort to the old standby – cautionary tales. In such stories the future of the human race is always threatened by:
- alien robots
- extrememly tall women
Putting the survival of the human race at the forefront is an easy, dare I say cheap way to develop conflict in a story. It can be done well, but it’s not the sort of science fiction I’m most attracted to. Scary tales of doom belong in the past, in cheesy but brilliant radio plays like Dimension X. Listen to a few episodes, it’s worth it for the frenzied theremin introduction alone.
Cautionary SF is defeatist. It is written by authors obsessed with the future, by progressive minds yearning for change and advancement; yet they paint such bleak pictures. Rather than focusing on the problems that science could bring about, I prefer it when authors focus on the effects it has on the characters, or the positive benefits it can have on society as a whole. I want a novel where ignorance is the enemy and science is used to defeat it.
Stay tuned for The Future part 2: Why Star Trek is good and not shit like you think.