Enough With Dystopias: It's Time For Sci-Fi Writers To Start Imagining Better Futures

October 2, 2014 1:15 PM

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Here in the 21st century, science fiction is still a literature of ideas, but as science and technology have become more complicated, it has become harder to project what might happen. Twenty years ago, Vernor Vinge proposed that within 30 years' time we might be approaching the "Singularity," the point at which the rate of change in our lives goes up exponentially, a time when super intelligent machines take over and the world will change in ways that are impossible to predict or understand. While some writers such as Charles Stross have had a lot of fun in the past two decades trying to fathom the unfathomable future in such novels as Singularity Sky, we find ourselves not yet caught up in the rapture of the nerds, but rather in a world experiencing somewhat more mundane, and more predictable catastrophes, many of which are failures of infrastructure: Bridges when not maintained fall down. Nuclear powers plants not built to withstand a tsunami don't withstand them. Planes crash; sometimes planes crash into things that fall down. Levees fail. Oil tankers run into things and leak.

As our world became more complicated and our shiny futuristic infrastructure began to age and fail, dystopias emerged as a subgenre of science fiction. Some of these stories, such as "Pump Six" by Paolo Baciagalupi and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow are cautionary tales. But many, zombie plague nov...

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