Where Can Minds Wander When The World Gets Small?
An Information Age Dilemma Faces Sci Fi.
For those of us raised on the epic space operas of Asimov, today's sci fi seems plagued by the smallness of reality. Back when the space race was only a pipe dream, rockets to Mars were a vivid landscape for our imaginations to fill with stories. However, now that technology has put us mere milliseconds away from every place on Earth, sci fi has had a harder time choosing the next best background.
Cyberpunk took the lead in the 80's, trading the cramped real world for the infinite expanse of the datasphere. Steampunk, fantasy, and apocalypse fiction have all taken turns carrying the sci fi flag, but each new leader seems to tire quicker. Now with the explosion of books on the digital market, sci fi has splintered into endless niche markets, with no real overall direction.
So where does it all go from here?
As space exploration becomes commercialized and more common place, space will surely regain traction as a popular setting. The digital world is also here to stay, with augmented and virtual reality being the newest incarnations.
Science fiction has always had a special place in my heart. It allows people to better understand the present day world by imagining alternate or future versions of it.
Perhaps it's just that in the Information Age, we've been overwhelmed with too much reality. In a world which changes faster than it takes to write a novel about it, maybe it should be the changing itself that takes center stage.
Rather than focusing on genres, sci fi authors should take fresh looks at how new mediums can better connect them with their readers and the strange world around them. Consider flash fiction, short reads, the rebirth of serials, interactive fiction, multimedia fiction, and augmented reality as the future.
There will always be a role for science fiction, as long as authors are daring enough to tackle the challenges of their world. Let's hope we get our own Asimov of the Information Age to help us make sense of it all!
Have any suggestions or tips on new sci fi on the cutting edge? We all want to hear from you!