Miércoles 19 de Noviembre de 2008, Ip nº 255

Sci-fi special: Kim Stanley Robinson
Science fiction is now simply realism, the definition of our time. You could imagine the genre therefore melting into everything else and disappearing. But stories will always be set in the future, it being such an interesting space, and there is a publishing category devoted to them. So there is a future for science fiction.

It will get harder to do, though, because it needs to spring from the realities of the time, not from some past decade's ideas. These days rapid technological change, volatile global politics and inevitable climate change all combine with contingency to make imagining our real future impossible. Something will happen, but we can't know what.

One solution is to jump past the next century to the familiar comforts of space fiction. If we survive we'll get out there, and it's a great story zone. Without the next century included, though, the imagined historical connection between now and then will be broken, and space fiction will become a kind of fantasy. We need to imagine the whole thing.

So we have to do the impossible and imagine the next century. The default probability is bad - not just dystopia but catastrophe, a mass extinction event that we will have caused and then suffered ourselves. That's a story we should tell, repeatedly, but it's only half the probability zone. It is also within our powers to create a sustainable permaculture in a healthy biosphere.

The future is thus a kind of attenuating peninsula, running forward with steep drops to both sides. There isn't any possibility of muddling through with some good and some bad; we either solve the problems or fail disastrously. It's either utopia or catastrophe. Science fiction is good at both these modes. Will it be fun too? Fun, entertaining, provocative. Yes.

  12/11/2008. New Scientist Magazine.