After writing one of my last blog posts, “Sci-Fi As The Perfect Literature for the 21st Century”, I got to thinking….what, really, is the state of Sci-Fi NOW?
I surfed around the internet for a while (as I sometimes do at work when I want to be distracted) and did many searches: state of Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi book and movie sales, Millenials and Sci-Fi….I went to Google Trends and typed in “Science Fiction” to see how many google searches regarding this key phrase there have been recently and results came back as significantly declining since 2005….though it’s been plateauing more since around 2010. Needless to say I was disheartened, especially since I’m writing a Science Fiction novel.
I surfed around some more and came across statements such as Ridley Scott’s 2007 assertion that “Science Fiction Is Dead” (http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2014/02/-ridley-scott-science-fiction-is-dead-not-a-match-for-reality.html), as he thinks it is no match for current reality.
Another article I found, this one from National Geographic, had Lawrence Krauss, famed physicist and Star Trek expert (Trekkie?) saying Sci-Fi is fantasy and does not have a proper place compared to real science. You can see Mr. Krauss’s comments here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140224-flying-car-internet-science-fiction-space-travel-mars/
Hmmm. Interesting. I do see his point. Kinda. But Mr. Krauss does seem to neglect leaving out the whole generation of physicists and scientists raised on Star Trek and Star Wars who have publicly stated time and again that those Sci-Fi stories (and books by Heinlein, Dick, and others) had direct influence on them and practically made them want to go into the sciences in the first place.
The problem I have with people like Mr. Scott, who say dismissive things like “Sci-Fi is dead” (which doesn’t even make sense since he recently did Prometheus and has plans for Prometheus 2 and The Martian, so I guess he just retracted his statement by his actions), and Mr. Krauss, who states we should start accepting the reality that we may never as a species physically explore space and that it will forever remain in the realm of science-fantasy, is that all of these declarations just sounds a lot like giving up.
Unfortunately, these two public figures are not the only ones who say such things. Many, many people in everyday life dismiss Sci-Fi as a genre of ‘fantasy’. But the reality of the situation is that as the world changes, and the sciences and technologies of the present advance at exponential rates, what seems like impossibilities now will one day become realities. I’m sure scientists said going to the moon was impossible back when H. G. Wells wrote The First Men On The Moon, in 1901.
The truth is, the dreamers come first and the engineers and scientists come after…inspired by those dreams.
This is how Sci-Fi works. This is how Sci-Fi will continue to work. There are things called Genre Trends. Right now it seems that Sci-Fi (according to my half-assed research into Google searches and the high profile quotes from a handful of doubters) may be a little down right now. But as history shows, with such breakthrough novels like Frankenstein, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Time Machine, and countless others, and cultural movements like The Golden Age of Sci-Fi, the New Wave of Sci-Fi and Cyberpunk, and the current wave of YA dystopian SF novels and movies (of course these YA dystopian novels are debatable as true Sci-Fi, but they are close enough in my opinion), what we are seeing is that Sci-Fi is a sleeping giant, waiting for the next wave of writers, thinkers, filmmakers and philosophers to emerge and blow everyone’s minds again. I think it may already be happening with such big Sci-Fi movies starting to come out: Interstallar, Gravity, Ex Machina, Elysium, Oblivion,etc. I have an inclination that some truly great science fiction literature is being written right now as well, and will be coming out on the heels of these movies.
Sure, there will be unexpected discoveries that Sci-Fi content producers overlook, no one predicted the Internet or the rise of cell phones after all, but then again no one is claiming to be Nostradomus….at least no one who wants to be taken seriously.
Sci-Fi is about extrapolation of the present and speculation about the future. Sci-Fi helps us understand ourselves, and with every new gadget, every new medical/science/technological breakthrough that happens, we too have a breakthrough with ourselves….we are not the same people as those that lived 100 years ago. We think differently, we know more, we evolve and adapt. Sci-Fi helps us hold a mirror up to ourselves and acknowledge this.
So. The future is out there, it’s calling…there are billions, nay trillions, nay infinite stars and worlds that exist beyond our comprehension, waiting….Should we just say that we’ll never get to them? Should we simply say that our physical human bodies are not adaptable for space exploration and give up?
It comes down to every individual’s belief and hope in the future. Will you be a part of it? Will you join those explorers who ignore the skeptics and the cynics and continue to dare to go into the vast frontier before us?
Or will you stay in the cave and watch shadows dance across the walls, never daring to imagine what’s really out there?