Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing Sci-Fi

I've read a couple of things recently that suggested that science fiction writers can never be truly accurate about the future because our minds simply cannot fathom the changes that will come. While I'm not suggesting this is completely off base, I do think it misses an important point.

I'm currently working on a story set very far in the future. The truth is that when I imagine how the future will be at that point, you wouldn't believe just how bizarre that future would seem to the average person today. So will I write the story the way that I envision it? Of course not!

When we write a story, we are writing it for an audience of today. If I wrote about some of the crazy things I think are likely to be true in the far future, very few people would read my book, because they wouldn't be able to relate on any level. I have to scale back the changes and force the story to be relatable to today's audiences. That doesn't mean there won't be any strange elements in the story--of course there will be--but it is restrained in a way to allow a modern audience to still relate to the characters and to their surroundings.

I see it as being similar to the issue of portraying sci-fi in movies. Directors cannot be accurate in presenting the future, because our audiences wouldn't 'get' it. For example, I see future cyborgs or robots evolving technologically to a point where you couldn't tell the difference between them and a true human, at least not unless we build in something to purposely make them stand out. Yet in movies they always have to depict cyborgs or robots as being very obviously different from humans.

And if they wish to depict futuristic mind-data interfaces (such as I use in my first novel), they do so in films only with obvious mechanical items like goggles or other visible tech melded with the human body, when the reality is that such technology would most likely evolve to not be visible in any way. (That doesn't mean that humans of the future will look just like us. Evolution never stops, so humans will look quite different in the future, and even break into differing species at some point, should we begin to colonize different areas of space)

I'm not complaining about these differences between portrayal and the probable realities of the future. I understand why stories must be tailored for their intended audiences. But I do disagree with the idea that I am unable to comprehend the possible future. Of course no one can actually get all details of the future correct, but some of us have pretty wicked imaginations. If only you could see some of the things I think up!


  1. We can't be accurate about the future because it's the future, folks. We don't have time machines and no one can truly predict the future.
    You're right about readers must relate to the story. Go too far out, and people think it's just too weird. That's why when we write stories set in other universes (like Star Wars) the aliens are still usually humanoid.

    1. Yeah, imagine meeting gaseous aliens or ones that changed from liquid to gas depending on the temperature! Or aliens who communicate solely through sense of smell. Hard to relate!