Future fiction

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#1
Is future fiction just fantasy? William Gibson's novel Neuromancer famously 'foresaw' (some say invented) cyberspace and virtual reality worlds years before they occurred in real life. Other writers have 'speculated' on the future and got it uncannily right. Does imagining the future, and reading potent visions about it, have any effect on what really happens?
 

iansales

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#2
Science fiction is not about predicting the future, and never really has been. Nor is it fantasy since it's written in a realist mode. Any futurology undertaken by a sf writer is purely for the purposes of making the setting of their work of fiction appear plausible. And even then they fail as often as they succeed.

The term "cyberspace" was taken from Neuromancer, but the "reality" of it has never existed and is now considered outdate. The concept of virtual reality has arguably been around since the late 1960s.
 
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#3
I deliberately used the term 'future fiction', not 'science fiction' because there are such strictures about what SF is and isn't and what SF writers do and don't do. But to make sweeping generalisations about what writers think and mean to do with their fiction is impossible! As a writer, and reader, of speculative fiction I don't relate at all to the idea that I only set stories in the future 'purely for the purposes of making the setting of (a) work of fiction appear plausible.' Thankfully, it's much more complex, intangible and fascinating than that!

Yes, many writers' visions of the future are 'wrong'. But it doesn't matter that the detail of, say, Gibson's cyberspace is out of date or 'wrong' or where exacly it was seeded. What's far more interesting is that the whole world uses words and concepts invented in works of fiction; that a writer's vision can colour the real world. I suspect thee is a very dynamic, intricate relationship between reality and what we imagine. Fiction is far more subtle and potent than your cut and dried vision of it suggests!
 

iansales

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#4
Not sure what you mean by "future fiction" then. Is it just fiction set some period after the book was written? Like Clive Cussler's early Dirk Pitt novels (written in the 1970s, set in the 1990s); or perhaps even Orwell's 1984, or Anthony Burgess' 1985?

By "any futurology undertaken by a sf writer is purely for the purposes of making the setting of their work of fiction appear plausible", I didn't mean that the setting was used to make the story plausible. I meant the setting itself should be plausible. Some writers try to predict what the future will be like in order to do that.

That relationship between fictional concepts and the real world is hardly specific to "future fiction". Expressions such as "bee's knees" and "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" come from novels. As, in fact, does the whole idea of Friday 13th being unlucky...
 

scalem X

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#5
I believe that she just means fictive novels set in the future, without using an actual scientific approach. Say you say: Boom the world explodes, only 5 survivers, and then describe their lives (from their point of view). You can't call it scifi if they don't do anything really scientific. (Despite you maybe trying to regain scientific knowledge, they may decide to go and live like primitive societies)
Anyway I think it indeed is fantasy, but depending on the impact of a novel it might give people ideas. Then again in general I don't believe novels can weigh more on the future than say the stupid decisions of an American president.

I think the relation might be the other way around. We all know of global warming and don't do enough effort to stop it. Then the next step is writing novels where the world is nearly extincted because of global warming. You can't hold the books for foresight, right? I feel like scifi and future happenings are based on the same knowledge, that of the present. That is why they give the impression of being something coherent.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#6
It's an old argument whether SF is a subset of fantasy or not. I've always believed that it is. And Ian, I'm not sure what you mean by a "realist mode." As I understand it, realist novels are largely concerned with contemporary culture and pyschological characterization -- neither of which applies to a large proportion of the SF I've read. Perhaps you could explain how you are using the word here.
 

iansales

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#7
Realist novels depict things "as they are", rather than romanticised or in a fantastic mode. And while sf novels usually don't feature contemporary settings, what is presented is done as "realistically" as possible. It's this insistence on plausibility within the confines chosen by the author (laws of physics, biology, etc.) that separates sf from fantasy.

At least that's what I think. :)

(The origins of the genre tend to confirm it. The fantastic has been around since Sumerian times, but Gernsback stressed the scientific credibility of the fiction he published when he founded Amazing Stories.)

As for Julie's posts, I must have misinterpreted them. Unfortunately, I saw them first as "science fiction sucks as predictive literature" (it isn't meant to be predictive), and then as "science fiction written by a mainstream writer but it's not science fiction oh no it isn't I would n't dare sully myself with that". Two old, old arguments, guaranteed to get most sf fans frothing at the mouth :)
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#8
It's this insistence on plausibility within the confines chosen by the author (laws of physics, biology, etc.) that separates sf from fantasy.
Well, as long as you leave out the FTL drive, and the enormous number of humanoid aliens populating the galaxy, and mystical powers like the Force, and ...

And one could easily argue that well-written fantasy insists on plausibility within the confines chosen by the author.

As for the origins of the genre ... the fact that SF came along later could simply mean that SF was a comparatively new subset in fantasy.

(Oh, and welcome aboard, Julie.)
 
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#9
Ian, chill out... The thread was not an attack meant to have sf fans frothing! Simply trying to open up a discussion that might engage the horde of young adults from my website talk forum (which was overwhelmed by spam and now disbanded, like Kevin Brooks). You'll frighten them off! And me : )
 
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#10
Cheers, Teresa.

That's interesting that you see sf as a subset of fantasy. One interesting feature of YA fiction, for a writer, is that a lot of it falls between stools or bridges genres.
 

iansales

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#11
Well, no one ever said Star Wars was good science fiction :)

And I still think fantasy and sf are too different to be the same genre (other than in marketing terms).

Julie, I'm usually quite calm :) But certain subjects get me twitching... Must remember to cut down on the coffee...
 

scalem X

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#12
So we are talking about "what could be reality novels" like the following example:
While the other parts of the world have moved from oil to natural sources and partially nuclear power still, for energy, the US has kept relying on oil. Upon the depletion of oil reserves, the US is having huge energy problems. They quickly have to change from oil based energy supplies to Nuclear power, but the building of new power plants requires energy too, the building goes too slow and safety measures are skipped. So there explodes/leaks a nuclear plant. This leads to mass histeria. The main character should be a human from the future writing a history report for school on 'the downfal of the United States.' So you get the constant switch from far future to beyond far future.
Does imagining the future, and reading potent visions about it, have any effect on what really happens?
Will it become a truth? I think it not likely, but there is a posibillity. I also don't think it likely that this even when anyone should turn this idea into a novel, would affect the way things will be done.

About the scifi/fantasy debate: it all depends on definitions. I personally would prefer for fantasy to be defined more in the way of high fantasy. Then you would have the difference with science fiction sorted as in how much the story is connected to the world. Along with the 'science' in science fiction of course.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#13
I personally would prefer for fantasy to be defined more in the way of high fantasy.
But then, scalem, you would be including out some of the best fantasy ever written, and still be left with the question of what to call all of the other books with fantasy elements that aren't high fantasy -- a blurry designation to begin with. You'd be orphaning a great number of books.
 

scalem X

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#14
Mmm I know, but I am a fan of strict cathegories rather than loose ones.;)
How about some sort of code? Something like this:
A=alien life forms included
P=parallel world
S=Sciense involved
M=world set in time around middle ages
M=magic involved
Then you could have a MMP-novel for example.
Anyway, that might take it too far, but if you don't use a system like this, you'll always have trouble with definitions, same goes for music genres for example.
 

iansales

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#15
But then, scalem, you would be including out some of the best fantasy ever written, and still be left with the question of what to call all of the other books with fantasy elements that aren't high fantasy -- a blurry designation to begin with. You'd be orphaning a great number of books.
I'm with you on this. Books with magic, dragons, elves, cod-mediaeval worlds, etc., are a subset of fantasy. Sometimes called high fantasy. If we only called Robert Jordan, Tolkien, Steve Erikson and the like fantasy, then what do we call Borges, Carroll, Crowley, Angela Carter...?
 

scalem X

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#17
Now that might be future fiction that could hold some truth.:p
No I'm a student of course! (Asian studies: mainly Japanese)
What I mean is that I fear that nowadays a lot of writing suddenly seems to be fantasy. If you would consider the connection with art for example, I think it is easier to defend my point of view. Would you call an Escher drawing a fantasy drawing? Is everything beyond being possible fantasy? Then, I come back to the point: Does old science fiction become fantasy, now that it has become impossible to be true?
 

chrispenycate

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#18
And I thought "future fiction" was the books I hadn't yet written.
So, we're into sub-sub sub-categories, are we? How about a letter for any book which contains a character or event which is historically correct combined with elements that are fictional? Or one where some non-human species (biological, magical, spiritual or electronic) is capable of comprehensible communication? Give me an hour or two and I can get as many letters printed on the spine of the book (with recommended reading age, and the time and location atwhich it is most likely to be appreciated( as the author has managed to get onto the pages.
And if, despite having described some gadgets accurately enough that they now exist, science fiction has been slightly less accurate in predicting social trends, I still like to think that "Brave new world,"A jagged orbit" or "Level seven" have done a tiny little bit to warn people, to prevent the state they describe ever coming to be.
Still. I might just be an optimist.
 
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#20
This old thread raises a basic question regarding the classification of literature, especially fantasy fiction and science fiction. Even in realist fiction, the lines are often blurred. No one considers One Hundred Years of Solitude to be SF or SFF, despite its magic realism elements. Strict exercises in categorization of literature, as in all categorical schemes, break down in the lines drawn between categories.

But here's the good news: Being a writer means you don't have to worry about the classification. That's the critics' job. And literature isn't written to criticism, that would be the tail wagging the dog. Isn't it enough that writers now have to do the publishers' job without also having to do the critics'?
 
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