Friday, 13 July 2012

'Acme Ion Trips' or 'Imprecations'? A continued need for both bright and dark visions of the future

As I try to be attentive to the blogs and articles from the deep core of the hive mind of science fiction, several threads have emerged recently that suggest that there are too many dark visions about.  It is ironic that some of this well-considered criticism is coming from some of the science fiction minds that have given us some of the most intriguing dark visions of the future.  Tie-in blog posts and similar articles have appeared in the Smithsonian, Slate, and on other author's forums.  One recently featured guest post on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website by Guy Stewart, particularly inspired me to write this post/rant. He suggests that the word 'apocalypse' is becoming synonymous with 'science fiction', especially amongst the young that he instructs.

I would suggest that more sinister flavours of sci-fi are popular right now because people of all ages are genuinely concerned with the state of the world in which we live, and are increasingly willing to be forthcoming about their belief that our future isn't looking terribly bright. The abundance of overt negativity in the world naturally inspires their reading and viewing habits.

Apparently, concerns regarding a preponderance of dark visions have given rise to some good creative efforts aimed at presenting brighter and more inspirational visions of the future, especially for the next generation of young minds.  In my opinion, creating any new vision of the future specifically geared for the young is a very laudable endeavour.  But young adults are more than just a literary herd of prize cattle to be milked dry, as they are also our future citizens, lawmakers, scientists, and critical thinkers. What if they were exposed to nothing but bright and optimistic visions of what could come to be?  Should we also bind them from reading Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hemingway, or Salinger, for fear of what their dark visions might yet inspire?

In specific regard to young adults, what should science fiction authors and writers do? Should we pull the wool over their collective eyes and proclaim to them that it is wrong to compare and contrast a dystopic future critically with the times in which they live? Should we tell them that regardless of the pain and dysfunction that they are very capable of witnessing on the nightly news, that they should presume that “everything's gonna be alright somehow”? Should we force feed our children with positivity, mouths agape and eyes sealed shut, until their tiny livers explode? The young are not blind, nor can we treat them as captive geese.

To be fair, my first major work, Primae Noctis, is not intended for consumption by the young.  But I would have a difficult time producing a story for anyone that was following some unnatural, external directive to “inspire”, “motivate”, or “brainwash” any segment of the reading population.  I like the idea that readers at any age can come to their own conclusions regarding the content that they wish to read.  For whatever reason that they choose to read.

Inspiration to "do better" and "produce better things" can evolve from many types of sources, even pessimistic or gloomy ones.  I hope that the science fiction community continues to produce both bright and dark visions, as a perfect future is evidently not in our immediate future.  To ignore the imperfections of any possible reality is to embrace its possible inevitably.

If dystopic and apocalyptic visions are what is needed for a 'revolution of the mind' to occur so that readers, both young and old, will become more active in civic participation and concerned about the likelihood of a dark future, then I hope that we see plenty more darkness from the people that are tasked with the mission of delivering us the future ahead of schedule.

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