Yesterday I finished reading Heinlein’s Space Cadet. Oddly enough, a science fiction fan as myself, had not read that one yet. So when I saw it at my local library I snatched it up to have a read.
As of late, I have been reading a lot of newer fiction by both new and established authors. I also read tons of science fiction shorts both in published magazines and in my own submission pile. But after reading Space Cadet, I realized there is something about older fiction that I enjoy. Of course the science in most older fiction novels doesn’t stand up to what we know today. But the great authors tell a story that can stand up to the fact that the science is out dated. Heinlein is one of those authors.
But it wasn’t the old science that brought back the nostalgia of the classic science fiction, it was the hopeful future. Sure there are a lot of classic novels in this genre that portrayed doom and gloom. Or even a dystopian landscape. But the classic SF of its day looked to the stars with a lot a hope and wonder. They saw the possibility of life on other planets, humans spreading throughout the stars, and the survival of the human race long after Earth was no longer a safe home.
There is a lot of fiction out there today that portrays the doom of the human race. We are oppressed, wiped off the Earth, a victim to our own technology, or just plain fucking everything up. Where has the hopeful future gone?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some outstanding stories that explore the darker side of our future. I certainly appreciate their message, story, and even the self reflection on what our society is. But is there no good in the world anymore? Is there really no hope for our future? I can’t imagine that, even being the pessimist that I am. It is one of the reasons even my post-apocalyptic novel, Broken Trust, focuses more on the rebuilding of society than simply surviving the end. This pessimist wants to see things work out eventually.
Of course, here in America the overall excitement of space travel and exploration is somewhat muted. Compare the shares of Kim Kardashian’s ass with a champagne glass to the news of a successful mission to land a probe on a comet. A mission that was launched over 10 years ago! It is disgusting to see what we think of as a priority in the news, let alone in science.
Science seems to have been suddenly forgotten. Where is the next space race and why is our government not hyping it? Where is the possibility of the human race traveling the stars? When was the last time man traveled outside of a low Earth Orbit? This sudden lack of interest in spending money for manned exploration of space is part of the reason our genre has seen a decline in space epics that are positive.
We get our news from a thousand outlets around the world, all with their own spin on it. And damn it if the news isn’t depressing. And why is that? Because people would rather tune in to multiple homicide report than one about the newest scientific break through.
The point is this, the trends right now both in fiction and reality is the doom of the human race. The “what is this world coming to” story. And this is where I think we, as fiction writers, are failing to perform our duty.
Of course when writing a story you want to sell it, so naturally we tend to follow the trends. Furthermore, you want to entertain readers with a great story. But a really excellent piece of fiction doesn’t just tell a story, it shapes the person who reads it. It encourages the reader to think, to explore their own minds, and to see a future that just might happen.
So why are we writing stories that show the end is coming? We need to get to our keyboards and tell stories of rebirth, space travel, hope, and success. It is time science fiction went back to tackling the hard questions about our future. It is time we shaped the next generation of readers into thinking that the world can be changed, and that there is so much more about our universe that we have yet to tap into.
And, I am going to put my money where my mouth is on this one. A couple months ago, my editorial staff and I at Plasma Frequency talked about doing a theme issue. Molly Moss and Alexis Hunter, two of my reading editors, had this idea. They wanted to do an “anti-apocalypse” themed issue. I absolutely loved the idea. Like I said before, there are a lot of great stories exploring the darkness in humanity, the end it coming or has come, but I wanted to see hope. Naturally since Molly and Alexis came up with the idea, I gave them editorial control over this future issue.
There is a special call going to this issue, you can find it here.
Let me stress that I am fully aware there are still stories of hope out there. And I know that. But you can’t deny the trend towards the oppression of humans and/or the apocalypse. So as you get ready to write that next novel or short story, how about you reignite the passion of the people. Bring back the Hopeful Future.