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History of the Future. 11: The Recent Future. Star Wars Changes Everything. More fairly tale than science fiction Far future, mythic past – same thing Myth for a whole generation Mechanizing blitz Toys Collectables Comic books Novels Computer games Return to space opera

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history of the future

History of the Future

11: The Recent Future

star wars changes everything
Star Wars Changes Everything
  • More fairly tale than science fiction
    • Far future, mythic past – same thing
  • Myth for a whole generation
  • Mechanizing blitz
    • Toys
    • Collectables
    • Comic books
    • Novels
    • Computer games
  • Return to space opera
    • Many ideas from 1930s pulp
boom in films
Boom in Films
  • Immediate Star Wars rip-offs
    • Battlestar Galactica, etc. – few succeed
  • Sci-Fi and Horror dominate 80s box office
    • ET, Close Encounters join Star Wars trilogy
  • Futuristic action films very popular
    • Terminator
    • Aliens
sci fi
  • Really a genre of its own
    • TV (with its own channel)
    • Films (mostly action)
    • Tie-in books
  • Much more popular than “classic” SF
    • let alone literary approaches
  • Enjoyable but formulaic
    • Appeal is predictability; not innovation
nostalgia for the future
Nostalgia for the Future
  • Sci-Fi takes place in “alternate future”
    • Props, concepts from 30s, 40s and 50s
  • Props of genre have a life of their own
    • Rocket ships and Space combat
    • Aliens and Mutants
    • Overpopulation or drab future
    • Time Travel and Parallel Worlds
  • As with props of mysteries or westerns
reworking of older forms
Reworking of Older Forms
  • Often done in playful or revisionist way
  • Recent revival of space opera
    • Ian Banks – baroque, sometimes serious
    • Colin Greenland, Paul J. McAuley
  • Gene Wolfe
    • Literary transformation of SF and fantasy archetypes
  • Recycling of popular worlds
    • Started with Star Trek, Star Wars
    • Written under firm direction, low royalties
  • Sequels written to many old books
    • Asimov’s Foundation series
    • many Clarke books
    • New Dune sequels
  • “Shared world” anthologies
    • Many writers contribute to single series
boom in high fantasy
Boom in “High Fantasy”
  • Lord of the Rings spawns new genre
  • Terry Brooks is first best-selling imitator
    • 1977 – The Sword of Shannara (7 follow)
  • Many other epic trilogies follow
    • Donaldson (Thomas Covenant – 2 trilogies)
    • Eddings (The Belgariad – 2 series, 10 books)
    • Tad Williams (Memory, Thorn & Sorrow)
  • Most are crude and derivative
  • SF readers and writers with
    • Horror (Steven King, Dan Simmons)
    • Fantasy (Card, John Crowley, Gene Wolfe, Greg Bear)
  • All involve creation of imaginary worlds
    • Fantasy seems to be gaining upper hand
    • Harry Potter won the Hugo in 2001
  • Escapist thrills separating from scientific and social extrapolation
    • As they mostly were before 1940s
many sub genres
Many Sub Genres
  • “Hard” science fiction
    • Scientific focus, retains some appeal
    • Greg Bear, Greg Egan
  • Militaristic science fiction
  • “Literary” science fiction (dwindling)
    • Gene Wolfe
  • Space Opera (reviving)
    • Mostly with Scots, for some reason
  • Alternate History (booms recently)
the future
The Future
  • Social extrapolations seems to have faded
    • In futurology as well as SF
    • Idea of straightforward progression faded
  • Interest in science also fading
    • Especially physics
  • Dominated recently by computer technology
    • Internet viewed as transforming social force
    • Also viewed as business revolution
consumer electronics
Consumer Electronics
  • “The Dreams our Stuff is Made Of”
    • (title of Thomas M. Disch book)
  • Ideas of futuristic technology shape real things
    • Engineers, designers grow up reading
    • May inspire some products (videophone!)
  • Futuristic styling is popular
    • Imagery is inescapable in films
    • Influences look of devices, electronics
  • Futuristic thrill of using?
future in business late 90s
Future in Business – late 90s
  • Predictions of enormous tech growth
    • Business plans to sell shares
    • Market research and analysis
    • Computer commentators (Negroponte, etc.)
    • Futurists like Toffler
  • Everyone is a “visionary”
  • Rush to try out new things
    • Communications technologies
    • Business models
  • Hundreds of billions of dollars invested
    • On basis of science fiction?
a paradox
A Paradox?
  • SF genre booms from 1930s to 1960s
    • Interest in future extrapolation now fading
    • genre boundaries breaking down
  • But since 1970s
    • Sci-fi ideas of future become ubiquitous
    • Influence SDI, technology stocks boom, etc.
    • We have a feeling of own world as futuristic
  • Has business replaced science fiction?
rosy possibilities for future
Rosy Possibilities for Future
  • Mostly dull, business oriented
  • Growing world prosperity
    • Globalization of business
    • Forward thinking, caring corporations
    • Establishment of democracy
  • Ideological divides fade
  • Technology transforms world
    • Internet
    • Nanotechnology
    • Better jobs, more productivity
dark possibilities for future
Dark Possibilities for Future
  • More exciting!
  • Killer diseases
    • AIDS is huge world problem
  • Asteroid impacts
  • Terrorism
    • Biological weapons?
  • Nuclear war
  • Technological threats
    • Nanotechnology
    • Genetic Engineering
  • Environmental catastrophe
what does this tell us
What Does This Tell Us?
  • Are recent futures less revealing?
    • The early stuff seemed much clearer
  • Or are we just too close to it?
    • Do our own futures always seem natural?
    • What will people think in 50 years time
  • Does science fiction have anything to do with the future?