Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Death of Science Fiction?

I read an article in New Scientist recently called Is Science Fiction Dying by Marcus Chown. His premise is that science and technology is changing at such an accelerated rate that nobody can predict the future anymore so no one can write credible sci-fi, and that science turns up weirder ideas than science fiction ever does.
Well I'd have to agree with him on his reasonings why, but I doubt it's the end of the genre, if it ever will have an end.
I don't think science fiction's role in society is to tell us what is coming, but rather to reflect our society as it is today (and again, Chown says this). The best sci-fi, the most enduring works out there, are about society (Frank Herbert's Dune or William Gibson's Neuromancer), or they are about people (anything by Philip K. Dick), rather than just the ideas. In fact if you look at the science fiction titles still selling from dead authors, they are Asimov, Dick, Adams, Herbert, Wells, all writers who wrote about society, who still have pogient messages to share.
When I started my career as a writer I seriously considered taking up political thriller writing, about spies and so on, but in the end opted for science fiction because of the scope the genre could give me. If I wrote a political thriller about Africa, I'd be restrained by what is happening in Africa today. If I wrote a science fiction political thriller about Africa, then my scope was unlimited, I could extrapolate in any direction I want. The present is about what is happening, the future is about anything that can happen.
Science fiction (and to similar degrees fantasy) I believe is the genre that offer the most to writers, and readers, because there are so many places to explore, the tapestry is so big. Science fiction dead? I don't think so, it's just evolving, going new places as the world fills its infobanks with more and more ideas to build our stories upon.
Again, Chown agrees with me, or more to the point, I agree with him. It's a good article, and worth a read.