Miércoles 19 de Noviembre de 2008, Ip nº 255

Sci-fi special: Nick Sagan
For a genre that's about looking to the future, science fiction has sure been looking backwards lately. Nostalgia is what sells best, with readers spending their money on movie tie-in novels and sequels to long-running series. Yes, there have been trailblazing new sci-fi books (as a look at the past few years of Hugo winners will attest), but more readers seem to prefer established universes like Star Wars and Dune. Even the writers who have broken through have benefited from a sense of nostalgia - John Scalzi's magnificent Old Man's War series is unapologetically Heinleinian, a touchstone to the glory days of sci-fi. We're snacking on comfort food. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as some of it is excellent. But it does raise the question of where science fiction is going.

British and Canadian sci-fi strikes me as more forward-looking than its American counterpart, as evidenced by the success of Iain M. Banks, Charlie Stross, Robert Charles Wilson and Cory Doctorow. American sci-fi has fallen into the doldrums in part because of the anti-science sentiment that's so prevalent in our culture lately.

We've been pushed to care more about aesthetic engineering than the wonder of science ("How cool is the new iPod Touch?"). We have not been asking the serious questions about the future of our species, questions sci-fi regularly explores by showing us the best and worst of what could be. When the world is inspired by a bold new scientific initiative on the scale of an Apollo programme, say, renewable energy to protect our planet from climate change, or a crewed mission to Mars where we actually set foot on another world - then a sweeping resurgence in science fiction will usher in a fresh generation of readers, and the genre will move in exciting, unexpected new directions.


  12/11/2008. New Scientist Magazine.