As the Sci-Fi channel moves even further away from the genre it sought to bring to the cable-watching masses* by introducing the shockingly stupid “Syfy” brand, I find myself introspective about the state of science-fiction today.
Fortunately, I’m saved the heavy lifting by this article in NewScientist. They talked to a half-dozen of the biggest names in SF literature, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Baxter, William Gibson, Ursula K Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Nick Sagan, and asked their opinions what the future of science-fiction holds.
All were optimistic, but, in the end, I think the article’s author, Marcus Chown, sums it up best:
Science fiction is the literature of change. It is no coincidence that it emerged as a recognisable genre with writers such as Jules Verne in the late 19th century, an era when, for the first time in history, children could expect to grow up in a world radically different from that of their parents. As change accelerated in the 20th century, science fiction mushroomed. As long as change is an integral part of our lives, science fiction is likely to survive.
And it’s unlikely that our world will stop changing anytime soon. In fact, it’s changing faster than ever.
The speed of change, highlighted by Sagan, has simply raised the bar for the imagination of the current generation of writers. There is no reason to believe that they will not rise to the challenge.
So the problem facing the science-fiction genre isn’t that it’s dying. It’s that it’s getting harder to write, a plight which will only lead to better science-fiction in the long run.
*I never liked the Sci-Fi channel. I don’t think there’ll ever be enough good genre material out there to sustain such an entity. I didn’t like the vast majority of their programming or their original series. And while I had experienced a glimmer of hope that a new era was beginning with the very enjoyable Battlestar Galactica series, the decision to go even more mainstream with SyFi puts that hope to bed.