Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The present of the future

I like the idea that literature is a vehicle for exploring (and exploiting) our anxieties, both personal and cultural. I tend to agree with Cory Doctorow that science fiction has always been more about the present than the future. What do you all think?



  1. This is true. Science fiction in the fifties was largely about mind control. People were terrified that the world would slip and slide into communism and the state would be able to control us and manipulate our minds. Nano technology, biotechnology and cloning will generate a lot of 21st century science fiction.

  2. I'd agree. Society and technology changes as time goes by, but being human stays the same. Seeing ourselves out of our usual context and comfort zones shows us ourselves more clearly, I think. It's something like how we don't notice we're 30 pounds overweight until we see a photograph of ourselves (sigh).

    And yes, as Mary suggests, I think science fiction often reflects our current hopes and fears.

  3. Oh, definitely. There are countless examples of books, movies, and TV shows where popular concerns of the time were examined in a grander or more exaggerated setting. Look at all the things from the last decade that have reflected our fears about terrorism and climate change: books like THE MIRRORED HEAVENS, TV shows like the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica and V, and movies like the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Note particularly how those last three, whether they did it well or not, updated the major threat to humanity to reflect our present time, rather than the trends at the time of the originals. Fifty years ago, all the stories were Cold War metaphors.

  4. It seems like the driving force of sci fi's painting of the future is a reflection of our concerns and hopes of the present. Also, when you mentioned literature as a vehicle for exploring our anxieties, which is completely true, I couldn't help but think of the classic "pain of my past" Oprah-style memoir that has become the bane of us all, when not done well.