Coming back to an earlier post, I want to take a moment to discuss why I don’t write about dystopian scifi. As a genre, it’s endlessly popular and has a massive audience always on the lookout for fresh stories. Why wouldn’t I chase that opportunity?
The decision is based on something I said a few years ago: the future shouldn’t suck. Yet, the future we dreamed of in the Eighties and Nineties does suck. Authors told dystopian stories for decades, but we didn’t learn the lessons. As a result, we’re living in those cold, harsh realities now. Humankind passed the threshold of dystopic civilization. To pretend otherwise is to project a false narrative.
It could be damaging to continue to write about dystopia as a fictional topic. How? Easy. If we as scifi authors keep calling out dystopia as a future state, we aren’t helping people understand how bad things are right now. They won’t understand that our current events are a boring dystopia unto themselves.
If we keep describing dystopia as an entertaining place, something to look forward to, are we showing that we care about our readers? Honestly, who would dystopian scifi authors be at that point, other than the Judas Goat who keeps the cows calm as they walk into the slaughterhouse?
I’m not comfortable with any of those possibilities. Science fiction as a genre can illuminate, instruct, and guide but only as much as we’re willing to make it so. What is scifi’s responsibility at a point like this?
I think back to the lessons learned by Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek. He imagined a place where the future we want just is. In a world where war, injustice, and greed drowned out optimism and confidence, Roddenberry committed the ultimate subversive act: he hoped.
As a result, Gene Roddenberry and other scifi authors like him inspired generations of young people to seek out new life and new civilizations. In their search, they created those new civilizations on their own, inventing the technology scifi dreamed of. I see the echo of historical events in what we’re seeing now. It seems clear that my responsibility is to hope, and to help others do the same. Therefore, I cannot write a story about the world failing.
So yes, this is why I don’t write dystopian scifi. I write about a world where the future is possible, create-able, achievable. I want technology to be fun, not scary. I want stories where kids are wise and hopeful, not cunning and cynical.
The future can be a cool place if we want it.