Note — Jul 28, 2019

Can Sci-Fi Writers Prepare Us for an Uncertain Future?

Rose Eveleth on the difference between scifi writers producing futures scenarios for clients, and professional futurists / forecasters doing “the same.” Good overview and includes quotes from some smart people with hybrid profiles.

But true Futurism is often pretty unsexy. It involves sifting through a lot of data and research and models and spreadsheets. Nobody is going to write a profile of your company or your government project based on a dry series of models outlining carefully caveated possibilities. On the other hand, worldbuilding—the process of imagining a universe in which your fictional stories can exist—is fun. People want stories, and science fiction writers can provide them.

More: Eveleth also mentions in passing a piece by Doctorow, Fake News Is an Oracle, which includes this quote on scifi as ouija board.

In the same way, science fiction responds to our societal ideomotor responses. First, the authors write the stories about the futures they fear and rel­ish. These futures are not drawn from a wide-open field; rather, they make use of the writer’s (and audience’s) existing vocabulary of futuristic ideas: robots, internets and AIs, spaceships and surveil­lance devices. Writers can only get away with so much exposition in their fiction (though I’ve been known to push the limits) and so the imaginative leaps of a work of fiction are constrained by the base knowledge the writer feels safe in assuming their readers share.

Also: This is the Muslim tradition of sci-fi and speculative fiction.