I love science fiction. I love everything about it. I love that the stories are always socially ahead of their time, and I love that they are exciting and adventurous to read. Occasionally I will even supplement my science fiction intake with some nonfiction, and that has become more common the older I’ve gotten. Some of this is forced; you can only wriggle science fiction books into your master’s program so many times before one of the professors catches wind. But I’ve seen some really interesting crossovers between what I found in the realms of nonfiction, and the realms of science fiction. While this article won’t cover all those crossovers now, their predictive nature is truly impressive.
There are some stories that try to make a truly accurate vision of the future that is both compelling, and more importantly realistic. Stories like Robert Heinlein’s The Roads Must Roll are meant to be that prophetic vision that could actually happen.
Heinlein is famous for his experimentation in alternative social structure and government. From Starship Troopers (which fortunately had very little to do with the movie adaptation of the same name. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the movie, but it’s a completely different thing) to the concept of a benevolent dictatorship in Time Enough for Love, the science fiction that really resonates in this vein gives us a solid, logically consistent internal social structure and system of government. And don’t get me wrong here; some things Heinlein got wrong. The undertone of misogyny in many of his works is quite real, if not unique to authors of the time.
There are also stories on the other side of the spectrum, stories that are so far in the future that they are beyond what we could say will or will not happen. That doesn’t make them any less entertaining and compelling. The towering triumph of Brian Aldriss’ Hothouse is a fantastic example of peering into the deep future. The rise of the vegetable kingdom as the dominant life on Earth seems crazy to us; but his band of plucky humans, existing in a jungle full of teeth and death, connect us to what humanity might be in that distant blurry possibility. These stories are about grand, sweeping concepts and we can suspend a little of our disbelief simple because of the scale on which they operate.
Occasionally though you’ll get a really interesting prediction by somebody who wrote a book long enough ago that that prediction may have come true! Even when they’re not exactly spot on, witnessing what people thought the future would be like when you’re living in it is always exciting. I highly recommend reading what the newest authors are writing, but taking a swing through the classics can be a lot of fun! As always, let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you’d like to see some specific content I’m always looking for ideas!