I don’t think I’ve mentioned before, but science fiction is my favourite genre (also thrillers, and particularly techno-thrillers), so this caught my attention.
In short, the article asserts that SF has gone from the optimism and big science of the Golden Age to a darker, more skeptical, dystopian tone, and that this mirrors a change in the general public’s view of science, which in turn has led to a decline in actual technological development. Engineers are going to work for web start-ups or investment firms instead of building space colonies and such. On the other hand, science is now far ahead of what is being written about in SF, rather than SF leading science.
It’s an interesting hypothesis. I can see SF inspiring (or not) young people to go into science and technology fields to a certain extent. But it’s no doubt a complex issue. Some great points were also made in the comments of that article, such as the trend toward trying to make everyone feel appreciated and special rather than teaching them to work hard and accomplish things. Not that it’s a bad thing for kids to develop a healthy level of self-esteem, but it has to be kept in balance.
This seems to go beyond just SF, though. This post on The Write Practice encourages us to add humour to our writing, and makes the observation that the submissions to his contests and practices, as well as his own writing and the books he reads, are all very serious and dark.
I think it’s also part of an overall trend in our society toward pessimistic views of the future. Many of us grew up on a steady diet of increasingly dire warnings about the state of the environment. Economic conditions for most people have been getting worse, not better. Disasters, both natural and man-made, have been getting worse and occurring more frequently (some people claim this is just a nostalgic view of the past, but the statistics prove otherwise; for example, check out these graphs from the International Disaster Database). I believe this has coloured our view of the future, making most of us more pessimistic than people used to be.
In fact, I have a pet theory that this rise in pessimism is at least partly behind the rise in extreme sports (widespread Affluenza probably also plays a part, with so many young people having already experienced so much, they don’t have a lot of new experiences to which to look forward)—they don’t see much of a future, so no reason not to risk their lives now for a thrill.
What do you think about these issues?