Neal Stephenson wants science fiction writers to stop being pessimistic. Apparently he’s just reading the wrong books. There is still a lot of positive, hopeful science fiction. What is needed is more optimistic sci-fi in the movies and on TV where more kids will see it and be inspired. And we need more gadget driven science fiction. Writers do not predict the future; they say to the young audience, “This is what we need you to invent when you grow up.” Right now practically everyone is telling kids that the future is going to be bad, bad, bad. What are kids going to grow up to be if they have nothing hopeful to fuel their dreams?
One thing I have a problem with is the “no hyperspace” rule. I don’t think science fiction necessarily needs to be 100 percent plausible. Was Star Trek 100 percent plausible? Hardly. But it inspired a generation to support space exploration and invent things like cell phones. FTL ships are vehicles for the imagination and it saddens me that many writers have abandoned them and consider themselves smarter for doing so. To me that’s just another brand of pessimism.
But there is hope in print out there. For example, Neal Asher. His Polity books are violent, bloody and often gross but they also have intelligent machines, cool gadgets, weird body modification, and fascinating aliens and as long as you stayed out of the central action in the stories it would be a great universe in which to live. And there’s Iain M. Banks’ Culture – an entire society living exclusively in space. Someone needs to make blockbuster movies of those or even TV series. Yes, I would rather everyone would just read the books but everyone is not going to. Seeing the impossible come to life on the screen is what is most likely to inspire people, especially the young.
Is the world today really more scary and gloomy than it was in the 60′s when we watched scenes from the Vietnam war and race riots on the news every night and we all feared that a nuclear war with the Soviet Union could happen at any time? And yet, in that environment we managed to find hope that the future would be better. That hope, as well as a few of the gadgets we actually use today, were inspired by a silly little TV show called Star Trek.