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Dystopian Trend of Modern Speculative Fiction

April 8, 2012

The post-modern view of the future has taken over the world of science fiction, and it portrays our destiny as one of death, destruction, and chaos.  When I compare this to the science fiction of the past, I see a disturbing trend.  The speculative authors of my youth wrote stories of hard science that gave us a picture of a future filled with the benefits of our own intellect.  While cautions surrounded the innovations that resulted from the scientific advances that were at the heart of science fiction, the overall message was one of exploration, adventure, and the betterment of mankind.  Disturbingly magnificent stories such as Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream were the exception to the rule.

The advances written by authors such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke spurred future scientists to develop beneficial technologies such as geo-stationary satellites and labor-saving robots, and Robert A. Heinlein depicted political and religious change designed to move mankind forward in its societal evolution. Innovations in the space race came about as a direct result of the fantastic stories written by future-thinking authors, and the moon landing was driven by more than a desire to overshadow the ideals of Communism. The Apollo landing was a direct result of inspiration derived from speculative fiction.  In its heyday, science fiction became a self-fulfilling prophecy that drove the work of scientists and gave them never-before imagined goals.

If we accept the post-apocalyptic dystopian world of tomorrow that plagues modern fiction, we set up a very disturbing sort of prophecy that we can only hope will not see fulfillment.  I have no desire to live out my remaining years in a world ravaged by apocalyptic events.  I prefer to imagine a future where scientific advancements lead to a better life free of many of the mundane labors that take time away from the joy of living.

My own personal tastes in speculative fiction run toward stories about characters who overcome hardships and grow into the knowledge of their own importance in the world and the universe.  I am still drawn to the tale of a farm boy who aspires to explore other planets.  While Star Wars takes a bad rap from its space-opera naysayers, it lives out the story of the hero in all of us.  Even Star Trek feeds the desire for a better future with its oversimplified views on tolerance and acceptance.  Written fiction needs to regain that sense of awe and respect for the heroes’ tale, and as writers, we should strive to offer stories that inspire greatness in the simplest individual.

Not everything we write needs to be glowing and good, but there is a tremendous drought of hope and vision in today’s books and short stories.  Among the dystopian landscape should exist a ray of sunshine, and the writer of science fiction is in a unique position to foster a movement toward a future that is ripe with the benefits of our intellectual prowess.  If all we can offer is a world filled with sexy vampires, flesh-eating zombies, and dictatorial computers, then we push the world into a future that holds no hope for the good things that man is capable of creating.

I am ready to read and write forward-thinking stories with a vision – tales of exploration and growth.  It’s time for writers of science fiction to speculate about a brighter future where the results of scientific advancements build a better world.  Maybe it’s time to adopt Syfy’s catch-phrase and “imagine greater,” because I am ready for my personal robot, please.

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