Do science fiction novels still make an impact?
Mike Lynch (a fellow writer on LinkedIn) asks: When was the last time a sci-fi novel made the best seller list or captured the imagination of the the country? Is this genre on the wane? As a sci-fi writer myself, I wonder if readers' tastes have changed. My answer: Honestly, you have to ask what do you mean when you ask 'does science fiction still have an impact on society'? If you mean: Can it make money? Then the answer is an unqualified yes, as long as you understand the more science, the less money. It is the rare speculative fiction film that is filled with scientific ideas, which draws the imagination, inspires creativity and creates lasting change in society. Few film companies are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the realistic depiction of science in movie form. Gravity is a fine exception to this rule. If you mean: Is speculative fiction, particularly when properly genre-fied i.e. space opera, dystopian futures; still able to create and inspire members of civilization to find solutions to problems? Certainly, Star Trek is the perfect proof that a space opera can have scientific elements as well as completely fantastic elements and still bring a generation of viewers into the realms of science and alter the society we know, hopefully for the better. Star Wars while fueling imaginations everywhere has less to show for its potential contributions to scientific endeavor but we can't rule it out. If you mean: Can science fiction improve the state of the world with prognostications made by writers inspiring future developments and ultimately making the world a better place? Maybe. Science fiction writers for the last thirty years or so are having a tougher time writing speculative fiction which hasn't been quickly outstripped by the pace of REAL SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS. Unless you are awesomely imaginative, scientifically aware, and willing to put yourself out there with your (what may appear to be crazed speculation) of a not so distant or even distant future, most writers have opted to take the path of least resistance and STOP the forward pace of technology through the discussion of utopias, dystopias, alien invasions, revolutions, or failures of our technological progress. This isn't a bad thing, but it does remove speculative fiction writers from the forefront of envisioning the future to just describing our potential worst futures. Think of this as a multiversal tree where only the branches with the least development of scientific ideas are being farmed by writers. Big businesses reinforce this behavior by paying only for the ideas they believe they can sell. Those branches on the multiversal tree which could bear scientific fruit are not exploited for fear of them not selling so they go unseen and thus uninspiring for humanity. Truth be told, it is difficult to imagine a positive future from where we are currently standing. So much of our society is co-opted by people in power with limited perspectives, even if they possess fantastic wealth. It's almost as if the two are mutually reinforcing. The more wealth you have the more likely it is you will be doing everything in your power to retard progress to make yourself wealthier. I can understand why writers have chosen to remix, rehash, appropriate memes from previous eras and mix them into the speculative fiction pot. Romance, westerns, vampires all moving into the speculative fiction mix in order to deal with the horrifying truth: Predicting the future is now harder than ever and writing predictive speculative fiction is becoming one of the most challenging aspects of writing. It is not a wonder that so many speculative fiction writers have settled on the REMIX aspect of writing. It has proven to be fantastically lucrative with relatively minimal effort on the part of the writer. With the continued lessening of scientific interest and acumen in most modern cultures, mythology and fantasy are all that are left to work with. Personally, I ply my trade in all aspects of speculative fiction, from predictive works to fabulously elaborate space operas, sprinkling real science liberally in the hopes we can still inspire someone to imagine a future where Humanity gets it right. #science #sciencefiction #writing