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Epilogue: A New Default Future?

Part of the Science and Fiction book series (SCIFICT)

Abstract

For reasons I explained in the Introduction, the SF explored in this book was all published prior to 1985. Of course, the ten core themes I’ve been discussing continued to fascinate SF authors long after my self-imposed cut-off date. Asimov continued writing about robots1 until his death in 1992; the SF community never lost interest in the possibilities of alien life2; and time travel stories3 are popular to this day. Stories about antigravity4 did lose some of their allure, but tales of immortality5 and invisibility6 appeared with pretty much the same frequency after 1985 as they did before, while topics such as transportation7 and the threat of the mad scientist8 remained obvious targets for the SF writer. Stories examining the nature of reality9 are even more popular now than they were when Phil Dick was writing: computing advances have made immersive VR a possibility while physicists have improved their understanding of the fundamentals of quantum theory—developments to which the antennae of SF writers are attuned. The situation with that other theme, space travel, is more nuanced: many SF stories continued to be set in space,10 but authors also began facing up to the realization that space travel is hard. Nevertheless, although these ten core themes remain part of the field’s DNA it’s clear that the ‘feel’ conjured up by Golden Age science fiction—the default future generated through the visionary work of writers such as Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke—has not (yet) come to pass. The world in which we now live is not the world that SF envisaged. Why? The failure of SF to accurately foresee our world was, I believe, in large part due to the difficulty of identifying technologies that scale—and in understanding what happens when technology does scale.

Keywords

  • Virtual Reality
  • Time Travel
  • Science Fiction
  • Core Theme
  • Space Travel

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

The future starts today, not tomorrow.

Pope John Paul II

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Webb, S. (2017). Epilogue: A New Default Future?. In: All the Wonder that Would Be. Science and Fiction. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51759-9_12

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