In this piece for SF Signal, debut novelist Lory Kaufman discusses writing science fiction and fantasy and the role the genres can play in our society. Lory’s first novel, The Lens and the Looker is a futuristic adventure novel geared to young adults and will be available on March 16th, 2011 in paperback and ebook form.
The vast majority of fiction writings are set in contemporary or past times. I think it’s safe to say, then, that its main job is to act as a mirror to our society, reflecting what is happening currently and what has happened in the past. Most science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, takes place in the future. This gives the writer the unique opportunity to be part of a discussion on how a better world could look like. Yes, I realize there’s lots of schlock out there, where the aim of the writers and publishers is to write something that looks like something else, but that stuff doesn’t count in this discussion.
You see, I’m a guy who takes his futurism seriously. I believe that every generation is responsible for the world that comes after them, so we must learn from the past and do things during our time on this little, blue sphere to leave the place in a better state than when we found it. I write so I can be part of that discussion.
“But Lory,” you might say, “I’ve seen the list of what type of futuristic writing you like. Most if it is dystopian. How’s talking about the world all messed up make the world a better place?”
Yes, I can see how one could think that. But we must remember that most dystopian fiction is a response to the exploding of the atomic bombs at the end of World War Two. Books like 1984, Brave New World and Lord of the Flies, to name the earliest and best examples to come out after that event. You see, they’re cautionary tales by visionary writers to warn the rest of humanity. But at the end of most of these stories, sometimes buried deep within, there is always a ray of hope for the future. And so many of our contemporary dystopian novels are direct descendants of these books, including Suzanne Collins wonderful recent trilogy, The Hunger Games.
But I too was very confused about this when I was working on the last drafts of what would become The Lens and the Looker. For years I was under the impression that I was writing a dystopian story. But during its final drafts I began to see how it didn’t quite fit the current definition. You see, the characters in my new series are born in a future time when the world has already gone through its dystopian era and the population has finally created a civilization that can last for tens of thousands of years. The action in the story comes from the kids being sent back in time to the 14th century, where they were abandoned and having to adapt to the harsh medieval ways. The idea is the kids have to learn to appreciate all that humanity has gone through before they achieved their perfected civilization.
After much soul searching, I finally decided on a new definition to describe this new type of science fiction/fantasy. Since it’s what happens after the world comes out of its dystopian period, I came up with the label “Post-dystopian”. It seems to be catching on.