The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 080): Panel Discussion Near-Future Science Fiction

In episode 80 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks our irregulars to chat about Near-Future Science Fiction.


Last time, we looked at the future as created by Science Fiction authors – most of that was a look at far-future SF. What about near-future SF? FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling and Passage by Connie Willis, are all examples of near-future SF.

What are some of your favorite near-future SF stories?

Do near-future SF stories have broader appeal versus far-future or hard SF?

Like fantasy novels, are they more accessible to the general reader? (or just perceived to be more accessible?)

This week’s panel:

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7 thoughts on “The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 080): Panel Discussion Near-Future Science Fiction”

  1. The most commericially successful science fiction and fantasy properties of all time, in film, television and literature – Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Dune, Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, Discworld, Avatar – are all deep space, far future, secondary world, or high magic tales of adventure. Would suggest that the component of “a fun story” is more important in accessability than whether something is near or far future, heavy or light tech.

  2. Lou: So, all of them are dislocated heavily from “the now,” even the Harry Potter stuff with its essentially parallel world. Thus, temporal and situational proximity might be a significant factor in the whole formula of what is “fun” and accessible.

    Tam: As I now know in detail, having just finished Atwood’s IN OTHER WORLDS, she does not write SF and does not consider it to be so. It is “speculative” work that ostensibly maintains some attachment to the real.

  3. All of Lou’s examples are pretty accessible.  I guess books that require more ‘learning’ are less accessible, whether they take place in the near or far future.  I would put The Dervish House in the more challenging catagory, judging by the 44 pages I’ve read.

     

  4. Lou–

    I agree in most cases, with two exceptions:

    1. The original Star Trek incorporated a lot of contemporary issues with its — for that time groundbreaking — multicultural crew;
    2. The Discworld series incorporates so many references that are either ‘near-past’ or ‘near-future’ that the boundaries often blur: the computers and the ‘high-tech’ experiments of Ponders Stibbons c.s., the oncoming modern communication of the clack towers, the multicutural issues throughout the series but especially in the development of how the Night Watch incorporates all the different creatures throughout the Discworld, and highly successfully at that. There are so many contemporary issues in the Discworld series that at some point Terry Pratchett may have no other choice but to tackle the near future (if he doesn’t already);

    And even Avatar tackles some contemporary issues like environmentalism and cultural appropriation (while admittedly not on the level of the Discworld books).

     

    Just to say that you can have a fun story that does incorporate contemporary elements, and as such is often more near-future than is apparent at first sight.

     

    Anyway, IMHO, the reason that we don’t see much near-future SF is that most authors see it as too complicated (as it it so close to the highly complex now of which we see more and more through our increased accessibility through the internet and the better and cheaper access tools to it) and as too risky (and yes, many SF authors are afraid to ‘get it wrong': I speak from direct experience).

     

    In the meantime, a ‘near-future’ scientific magazine like New Scientist has more subscribers than Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF combined…

  5. Excellent podcast, gentlemen.

     

    I didn’t think this was my cup of tea (and one reason I didn’t ask to be on).

     

    Near future SF is tricky, since it gets outdated so quickly. And I do think that SF that “slums” as mainstream is much more accessible to general readers. Most readers watching Charly would have no conception of how it is Science Fiction…

     

     

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