Sunday, 1 May 2011

Science-Fiction After Space?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the United States space program is coming to an end. Well, not the whole thing, technically. However, with the economic situation as it is, the end of the shuttle program essentially means the end of the dream for a lot of people.

I see this first-hand everyday, living on Florida's Space Coast. NASA, and the shuttles are so much a part of the local identity, and fuels a great deal of the local economy. Tourists come in to see the launches, or visit the Kennedy Space Center. With the shuttles down, and other NASA programs getting cut right and left to work down that deficit the culture of science and exploration that allowed science fiction to flourish is expiring.

While often lumped together, sci-fi is not like fantasy. It's not just about escapism, but about real dreams that we -believe- we can achieve, whether they're truly possible or not. Exploring distant planets, meeting new species, discovering technologies to improve our own lives here. This is all with-in the realm of what seems plausible, however far off.

So what happens to science fiction when the fiction of the past is the reality of today, and the final frontier is considered far off and irrelevant? Sure we'll hitch rides with Russians, and there's a few people with commercial space ventures, but that's all off to the side. It's not headline news.

I pose this question: where does science fiction go now that science fact is grounded?


  1. Speaking as a long-time sci-fi fan, there are plenty of options that don't involve space travel. There's still plenty of opportunities for futuristic storylines that don't involve space travel. Science fiction abounds with tales of apocalypse and post-apocalypse, futuristic utopias and dystopias, virtual reality, deep-sea exploration, and so much more, all of it centered on our very own Planet Earth. So don't lose heart. There's plenty more where that came from.

  2. Perhaps the change will fuel an increase in cynicism, as if there wasn't enough of that. Perhaps dystopian and post-apocalyptic subgenres will become even more popular. However, many other subgenres focus on hope for the future, often centering around improved technology or social mores (or both, like Star Trek). Additionally, much of science fiction is placed so far in the future as to not be affected, or even placed in universes that are not explicitly our own.

    I think the biggest affect will be that many books that assume that the USA will be a major player in future space travel will become dated. I've read some very interesting scifi that refers to the cold war and is similarly dated. I suspect the largest impact will be in little details like these, but that the scope and popularity of science fiction will not be much changed.