Science fiction used to be the literature of the bright cheerful future, with the flying cars and the intrepid heroes and stuff. But that can-do, yes-sir spirit has gotten dented recently, with more science fiction books that accentuate the negative. A new article in the Guardian blames those hippie New Wavers and those Cyberpunk kids, with their loud music that doesn't have any violins. Get off my lawn! I'm not actually sure what the Guardian op-ed, by Damien G. Walter, is suggesting. He bemoans the fact that science fiction got edgy and dark thanks to writers like Usula LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. And he admits things aren't looking particularly peachy right now, what with the economy and the icecaps both melting, not to mention the prospect of never-ending war against everyone. But then he says that instead of merely reflecting our dire reality, science fiction should show us the way to a better tomorrow:
[T]here are no end of reasons to have hope for tomorrow. Biotechnology and genetic research offer fantastic advances in medicine, yet their portrayal in science fiction is typified by the gloom of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. The internet is already democratising many new areas of society, but our political future is still most commonly depicted as one flavour of Big Brother dystopia or another. Environmental or economic collapse might plunge us all headlong into the apocalypic future of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, or we might respond to them with intelligence and ingenuity and take the opportunity to find better ways of living. To look at the infinite possibilities of the future and see only darkness is a failure of imagination.
The op-ed slams to a halt just before Walter is faced with the necessity of suggesting ways in which science fiction could present a more optimistic view of the future, other than vague hand-waving about how the internet is making everything more democratic. (Obama is on Facebook!) Oh, and we're making advances in medicine. Yay! To be fair, now that Walter has pointed out the problem, it's up to the legion of well-scrubbed, optimistic science fiction writers with good dental hygiene to roll up their sleeves and find a solution. Okay then. Here are a few ideas.