Regular readers will know that I have written about social commentary in scifi several time. The Guardian books section has this article about how science fiction’s visions of the future often reflect the time in which it was written (mobile link). I touched on the issues before, very briefly, in the first of my social commentary posts which dealt largely with bigger issues not necessarily limited to the time of writing.
It raises some good points, especially when discussing classic scifi. At present I don’t feel I have read enough contemporary scifi (such as Paolo Bacigalupi and China Mieville) to comment and I wasn’t interested enough in current events 10-15 years ago when I discovered Kim Stanley Robinson.
Looking at some of the themes, it is understandable that we might want to read about a future concerned with personal development and improvement of the world following the collapse of western capitalism. We have certainly seen the ugly side of our political philosophies in the last few years as the bitter realisation in some instances that reckless greed has cost many ordinary people so much and will affect us for generations. Through a more open form of media (the internet) corrupt actions of governments and corporate powerhouses cannot easily hide.
The last ten years has seen a critique of the dangers of religious extremism. In the 1980s we were flooded with books about disease which were considered metaphors for AIDS. I wonder what the next ten years will be? At the moment I’m thinking societies recovering from global problems and searching for a direction, expressing hope for a new golden age and a new way of doing things. If this is the case, then the theme for science fiction in the 2020s will be generally upbeat while being reminded of the problems of past recklessness. I’m not expecting a kind of fluffy Star Trek approach but I do expect the negatives of modern societies to be explored, maybe on levels that we have not yet come to realise.
I’m also wondering what impact anti-science lobbies of the present will have. Many of them are organised, well-funded and corporate despite claims to represent the average person. Assaults against the scientific method and the research communities are nothing new but only in this information age can climate change denialists, homeopathists, creationists and the anti-vaccine lobby appeal to a wide (ignorant) audience, stoke the flames of their prejudices and do severe damage in the public view and policy.
Anybody else have thoughts on the future of social commentary in science fiction?