Is Science Fiction Out of Ideas?

Vivienne Raper is working on a science fiction novel with the help of the Kingston MFA.

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‘THE OVERWHELMING SENSE ONE GETS, working through so many stories that are presented as the very best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer, is exhaustion… In the main, there is no sense that the writers have any real conviction about what they are doing. Rather, the genre has become a set of tropes to be repeated and repeated until all meaning has been drained from them.’

So begins British science fiction critic Paul Kincaid’s 2012 review of The Year’s Best Science Fiction in the Los Angeles Review of Books. He argued today’s short science fiction ‘unadventurously’ rehashes robot and spaceship stories seventy years old, historical tales on Mars, or fairy stories where technology replaces magic. He concludes that science fiction authors have lost faith in the future.

Amazing Stories

          His review sparked debate, including a fascinating – although incoherent – essay by freelance critic Jonathan McCalmont. Entitled ‘Cowardice, Laziness and Irony: How Science Fiction Lost the Future’. In it, McCalmont argues that speculative fiction authors are evading their responsibility to tackle political subjects.

But are Kincaid and McCalmont right? I’d argue not. The crisis in science fiction is not exhaustion or pessimism, but overload. At least four different technologies are advancing simultaneously. Their lockstep development over the next fifty years could reshape humans, nature and society in exhilarating and terrifying ways.  More

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