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I’d say bleak and dystopian futures are overrepresented in sci-fi, even when they’re “clean” looking as opposed to grungy cyberpunk.

I’m commenting on visual, narrative, sci-fi despite that being slightly off the author’s topic, because I don’t know what the “futurism industry” is. Is there such a thing? I know there’s a bunch of people famous for techno-prognostication, and a smaller bunch for whom it’s their full time gig, but is it an industry?

> because I don’t know what the “futurism industry” is. Is there such a thing?

Yep there is. I found this post from last year to be worth a read:


We sort of lost the ability to imagine a better world, at least in fiction stories. It’s very difficult to find some sort of invented technology that is mindblowingly good in sci-fi these days (like Star Trek replicator, for instance). They are all terrible and oppressive, even if they look good (like amazing VR), it will be played for bad (now everything in the VR is scary!)

I think this is actually not great. Sure, sci-fi should talk about the dangers of technology, but it should also talk about great ideas and fictional inventions that inspire scientists and engineers. There’s not much of that these days...

This may be a reflection of the pessimism of the younger generations. Their parents and grandparents witnessed great progress with few, relatively manageable side effects--or so they thought. It was natural and easy to be optimistic

Now with micro-plastic pollution, mercury accumulation, CO2 filling the skies, and the prospect of ever fewer raw resources I can imagine why younger folks can relate to darker stories.

In my social circle the idea that we're already living in a cyberpunk dystopia is becoming increasingly popular.

> I’d say bleak and dystopian futures are overrepresented in sci-fi

When I was young, I read scifi because it was fun or adventurous and stimulated your imagination. (say for example, Rendezvous with Rama)

I've been wondering if the balance shifted to dystopian over the years, or did I just tap out all the good scifi?

(Or possibly was I unaware of the dystopian nature of things when younger?)

I don't know how old you are now, but Neuromancer was published in 1984, Blade Runner hit the cinemas 1982, and later the GITS movie in 1995 (manga published 1989), which inspired the Matrix movies and so on. Don't forget about Akira.

Dystopian futures aren't really anything new.

I agree with both this & the parent comment. I think the tone & aesthetic of those have been more dominant -- at lot from those in particular setting the tone -- in that span.

There are some more uplifting things like The Martian (great) or Interstellar (admirable ambition but falls short) . . . but I think space movies have to be slightly discounted as cultural products because they're something of a subgenre that leans more towards escapism (by definition) than futurism. (Less so with books since there's a lot more room to build out the world vs. squeezing a standard plot (problem-solving drama, Frankenstein story, everyman vs. even-more-powerful-and-evil elite) amongst cool FX shots)

Also: 1984, Stand on Zanzibar, A Clockwork Orange, On the Beach, Earth Abides, Brave New World, The Time Machine, Frankenstein's Monster....

David Brin keeps trying to claim dystopia is some new trend. It absolutely is not.

One of the earliest science fiction movies dealt with the question of, "if aliens were to land, how might we greet them?" Answer: "we'd shoot first, ask questions later." (The Day the Earth Stood Still) Sunny outlook on that one, eh?

Right, that was my original reaction to the headline.

Hell no. Try typing "sci fi" or "utopia" in Netflix and look at the results. It's all dark and grimy dystopias. If anything, people thinking about the future need to come up with things that are far LESS "real" if we want people to keep a modicum of hope.

The article itself seems to boil down to: "technology should be sustainable", which is certainly an important goal, but the point could have been made more concisely.

I’d say bleak and dystopian futures are overrepresented in sci-fi...

That's a common trait in literature since forever. In greek tragedies even the prompter died. Or look at news headlines. Fear sells.

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