Living in the Future: The Fate of Science Fiction

Click HERE for the Audio Edition!

 

Plenty of genres will remain relevant in the future:

Horror, because we still like to be scared.
Fantasy, because magic retains its fascination since it can’t materialize in the real world.
Romance, because we still love, long for, and lose.
Humor, because we need to laugh.
Historical Fiction, because we want to experience other times and places.

But what about Science Fiction? During its Golden Age, this genre presented the perfect opportunity to extrapolate on emerging technologies and speculate where they might take us in the future. Some of those postulated futures turned out to be eerily prescient. But now we live in an age where automated cars and soft AI are becoming reality. Where we carry powerful miniature computers in our pockets that connect us to virtually any person on the planet. Where 3-D printers create entire houses in a matter of days and drones deliver packages directly to your home. Everything keeps getting (or seems to be getting) faster, sleeker, and more efficient, changing the social and economic landscape at an astonishing rate.

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#BlogHop – Favorite Genre

This is the fourth installment of the #BlogHop for #Writers hosted by Ruth Snyder!  This week’s topic is “My Favorite Genre.”

I posted about my favorite genre way back in 2011, and honestly, not much has changed.  Fantasy remains my favorite, hands down.  I do read science fiction, nonfiction, some YA and realistic fiction, but fantasy is my realm. I’m not especially picky about which subset of fantasy it is either.  Urban, swords-and-sorcery, traditional epic, dark, paranormal romance, remade fairy tales, or any combination of the above…I enjoy them all.

The first book I remember reading was D’Aulair’s Book of Greek Myths when I was four.  I also remember my Dad reading books of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, most of which are rather dark fare for children.  But with fairy tales, no matter how gruesome things get, the hero (or heroine) always beats the odds.  Evil-doers are punished and the good are rewarded.  There is a direct relationship between ones actions and the consequences that appeals to my sense of justice, and tends to carry over into the rest of fantasy.

Modern fantasy has gotten much darker, perhaps even too dark at times.  But the stories and authors that I love the most never lost that sense of fair play and wonder that captivated me as a child.  Mercedes Lackey, C.S. Friedman, Barbara Hambly, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Elizabeth Haydon, and R.A. Salvatore all explore different aspects and takes on traditional fantasy mores that help enrich the genre.  Some find fantasy too repetitive or stifling (I’ve certainly found a lot of teen paranormal romances to be that way), but I enjoy the comfort of what is familiar and delight in seeing how authors will take that familiarity and stand it on its head.  For example, you can find dragons in many different fantasy novels.  But being a dragon is about the only thing that they have in common:

In The Halfblood Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton, dragons are a fully sentient race capable of shapeshifting and molding rock, but have emotions, desires, and speech very similar to their human counterparts.  They think, feel, love, and hate much like we do.

In The Winterlands Quartet by Barbara Hambly, dragons are deeply alien beings, tied to the music of their names, unique in coloring with thought processes very unlike our own.  Their love of gold is not from the perceived monetary value, but from the music inherent in its essence that soothes them.

In The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon, dragons are one of the Firstborn Races, born of the Earth, immortal and elemental.  There are relatively few of them and they usually remain hiding deep within the earth.  One did change into the form of a human and gave birth to half-human, half-dragon children before returning to her own form and her own lair.  They are not as human as Lackey’s dragons but not as alien as Hambly’s.

The dragons of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels aren’t actually natural creatures at all, but genetically engineered from an indigenous species known as fire-lizards to help combat the deadly parasitic Thread that falls from a nearby planet every few decades.  They are more intelligent than horses or dogs, but are dependent on the psychic link with their riders.  The origin of the dragons and the lack of magic makes Pern more part of science fiction than fantasy…but it still has dragons and shows another way that the traditionally magical beasts can be used.

Just with these few examples, you can see the wonderful ideas that can spring out of what appears to be an old stereotype on the surface.  And I think that’s part of why I love fantasy so much and have continued favoring it for over two decades:  it offers a fresh new way of looking at the familiar and finding the wonder within.