A Problem for Science Fiction?

Science fiction is potentially facing a big problem.  Much of sci-fi is predicated on exploring the possibilities of science and technology…but technology has recently been giving us diminishing emotional returns.

For example, when most people think of the airport, they think of long lines, the annoyance of the TSA, the possibility that a passenger will be sick, and other inconveniences.  The fact that they would have had to risk life and limb to transverse the same distance not that long ago never inters their mind.

Or the internet.  Is it a vehicle for right-wing hate speech?  Is it building a mob mentality in our politics?  Is porn a health crisis (yes, it is)?  Would we be better without social media in our lives?  These are the questions people ask.  The fact that science can produce faster now that people all over the globe can communicate with each other sometimes falls by the wayside.  Sometimes we forget how lucky we are that we can share photos with loved ones several states away. laptop_computer_woman_stress_apple

The first smart phone was a breakthrough.  This years model…is just another in a long line of upgrades.  Sadly, the wonder is dropping off.

For all technology gives us, we are incredibly ungrateful.  This doesn’t mean technology doesn’t have its problems.  What it does mean known is that the visions of new technology that sci-fi offers are going to be perceived in a very different light than they were several years ago.

It’s also worth noting that certain technological limits are being run into.  No one expects hoverboards soon.  And space travel of the sort imagined by Star Trek or other sci-fi entries might be fundamentally impossible.

So what is a sci-fi writer to do?  One path is the route of dystopia, taking all the problems we see tech creating and inventing a nightmare.  A perfectly legitimate path, and, as I have discussed earlier, the willingness of sci-fi to imagine dark realities is one if its strengths.

That being said with the possible exception of horror, no genre should plan on being all dark all the time.  Stories should warn us…but they should also elevate us.

What sci-fi may need is a brand of science fiction more close to home (no teleportation or warp speed) that imagines how human beings might be able to make our now commonplace tech meaningful again.

Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed. -G. K Chesterton (kinda)

What applies to Fairy Tales can apply to sci-fi if we try.  And as our home planet starts warming up, we need to double down and fight for a better world.  The world has lots of problems, and tech is involved in a lot of them.  But that is why overindulging in pessimistic stories is a luxury we cannot afford.

Potential Writing Prompts:

  • What does a society that has solved global warming look like?  Who loves it?  Who challenges the new world order?
  • A scientific finding is unpopular, but the fate of a world (Earth or otherwise) depends on people accepting it.  How does your character bring people to the truth?
  • What does social media look like 200 years from now?  How do people keep it from being a vehicle for hate?

For all the problems our current world may have…its amazing what we have accomplished.  Sometimes we just need to pause and remember that.  If we do, we can build a better world.

I write Sci-Fi at MartianMuckraker.com



Above Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Image of Woman with computer by Victoria Heath on Unsplash


You’ll Need to Save the Planet to Secure the Boarder

Too often climate change is seen as a nebulous intellectual theory that may or may not bring some sort of apocalyptic doom in a far-fetched future that never seems to come.  The fact is that climate change is having a real impact right now.  We are seeing it at our border.

This is worth reflecting on because today, June 30th, has been declared a National Day of Action Against Family Separation by a movement called Family’s Belong Together.  The event was called to criticize Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” which led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents.

What does climate change have to do with this?  According to Lauren Markham writing in the New York Times, rising temperatures are making it harder for Guatemalan farmer’s to make ends meet.  This exacerbates already dangerous conditions in the country and can make the highly risky and undignified journey north seem more attractive.

In fact 22.5 million people have been displaced by climate and weather related causes, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Center and the UN.  As climate change continues to accelerate, we may see more and more immigrants seeking asylum.

It would do well for the leader of the free world who has said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” to consider that it is perfectly natural for the hungry and desperate to move toward food.  And given that the USA is a major polluter on the world stage, we should do more minimize our impact to these people’s plight before we demonize them and rip their children away.

Trump’s immigration policies have led to international outcry and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights rebuked the policy saying, “The American Association of Pediatrics has called this cruel practice “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm,” with “lifelong consequences.”  Trump currently seeks to continue a zero-tolerance policy and detain families together.

This is not to say climate change is the only cause of our current immigration crisis, but it is a cause that can’t be ignored.  Climate change deniers seek to make so much noise that no decisive action will be taken.  Time has officially run out.  We needed to get serious about this issue a long time ago.  To many people have already paid for our failure to act.

I highly recommend Lauren Markham’s article.  In addition to conditions in Guatemala, she discusses other examples from El Salvador and around the world.