What do you think is the future of science fiction?
I’m tempted to say something completely frivolous like: chickens.
My son will tell you that “chickens” is, in fact, my default answer to a lot of questions, including, “What shall we chat about tonight, Ima?” But I don’t actually think there will be chickens in the future, and there are very, very few fowl of any sort represented in science fiction.
So what will the future of science fiction be? I guess it depends on what we’re talking about. Predictive trends? The hot new thing? In that case, I really, really wish I knew because I’d sit down and write it immediately. Steampunk must be running its course, so what comes after that? More superheroes? Vampires in space? Werewolves on the moon?
I have no idea.
One thing I can predict with absolute certainty is that some literary writer somewhere will write a story or a novel or an epic poem that involves one of our long-standing tropes, like, say, a post-apocalyptic landscape or time-travel or dragons or mermaids and become a run-away bestseller lauded for their ‘mind-blowing originality’ much to the chagrin of science fiction writers everywhere. Margaret Atwood will also deny she writes science fiction. I can predict that with some accuracy.
But, if you mean what will the future of science fiction be in terms of how it will be consumed, I think I have some inkling about that: fan fiction. I predict that the next generation of fans will discover favorite science fiction/fantasy books by reading their fanfic first. Actually, I don’t have to predict that. It’s already happening. Recently, after being one of the guests of honor at CONvergence, one of the largest science conventions in my hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I made several twenty-something friends, whom I started following on Twitter and hanging out with socially. These young fans told me time and time again: “Oh X? I read the slash fic first and decided it sounded cool, so I went back and read canon,” i.e., the Manga/comicbook/book/TV show/movie/etc. that spawned the fan work.
So, I predict that in the future, not too long from now, authors will be required to build their own community of fans FIRST. Things like this are already happening on Twitter and other social media and on what us old people call ‘the web.’ Think about John Scalzi’s rise to fame. For all intents and purposes, he made a cult following for himself first. Therefore, I predict that in the future, authors will be bought and sold based on their Klout rating.
But, I think, too, having free, available fan work of some kind will be critical to future writers’ success. Even if it’s a collection of images or fan art on Tumblr, I think that part of what writers of the future will present to editors and agents of the future is their ‘fan package.’ They will make pitches that sound like this: “I come with cute cosplay! My fans have written five hundred thousand words of fic! Have you seen the hot slash pairing pics on [fill-in future smerp for deviantart]?! I’m so big, there are already a half-dozen backlash memes!”
That’s what the future of science fiction will look like.
Oh, and e-books. I’m thinking that’s a big thing.
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