Have you seen the film ‘Looper’? I did recently, and rather enjoyed it, although it is fairly gory. It could have been much gorier, so I’m glad that they kept the violence to only the non-gratuituious (if that is a word?).
Discussing it later with a friend, I mentioned that it painted a rather dark view of the future, and he said:
But isn’t that what science fiction is for? If it doesn’t show a dark future, how will we know what to avoid?
Now, I grant you that quite a bit of science fiction is indeed rather dystopian, my own novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ included. There are those who would say that it needs to be to create the conflict necessary to a story. But is this true?
Reviewing my bookshelf, it seems that in interesting trend appears. The more serious works: those which truly do try to look into the crystal ball of the future, do indeed paint rather a dark picture. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic stories, and ones where science or society has gone badly wrong in various ways, destroying either the environment, or any kind of positive social structure, or both.
To be honest, if you pay too much attention to the news, it can be hard to see any future but a dark one. Happy headlines just don’t seem to happen.
However, the notable exceptions on the bookshelf are those which take a more light-hearted view: I’m thinking now of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, and ‘The Road to Mars’ by Eric Idle. ‘Red Dwarf’ even. Are these books less valid versions of science fiction, just because they are frivolous? Are they any less likely to be accurate predictions the future? Not necessarily. ‘Hitchhiker’s’, as I’ve said before, is in many ways rather philosophical, and has an innate understanding of human nature, which is not at its core uniformly evil.
I’m wondering if it is maybe the easier road for science fiction to take, to explore a dystopian world, than to try to provide an invigorating story within a world which is a great improvement on our own? Does the fantasy genre do a better job of dealing with utopias than sci-fi?
What are your thoughts? Love to hear from you. 🙂