Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

The purpose of science fiction

by Rob - November 16th, 2010.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

I agreed some time ago to give a general science and science fiction talk. The organizer sent me this proposed description for my talk today:

The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be

What did science fiction writers get right … and wrong … about “the future?”
But that didn’t work for me. I wrote back to say:
I’m actually not keen on the topic you’ve suggested. It implies that the job of science fiction is to predict THE future, and it isn’t; the job is to suggest a smorgasbord of possible futures, so that society may choose the one it wants. The scorecard approach — oh, look, science fiction suggested flying cars; aren’t those SF writers so silly! — does a disservice to the genre, and misrepresents its purpose.

Instead, I’d like to propose:

They Synergy Between Science Fiction and Science Fact

Science-fiction writers are able to speculate about future directions for scientific research and explore possible ethical ramifications in ways that working scientists, who are at the mercy of funding bodies, simply can’t: whereas controversy is good for fiction, it’s bad for continuing to get research grants, and yet the public has a right to know where new developments might lead. Join Hugo Award-winning Canadian science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer for an exploration of the ways in which science fiction helps set the research agenda for working scientists, and how the genre helps prepare us for the real social impact that scientific breakthroughs will have.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

6 Responses to The purpose of science fiction

  1. Hi,
    Similar to what I like Isaac Asimov said in a foreward once how science fiction was a way to explore comments on society (or societies) in an method which is easily accepted. (paraphrasing)

  2. The first topic sounds mildly interesting. I might drop in if I happened to be in the neighbourhood. The second topic makes me want to buy a plane ticket.

    Please let us know when the talk is coming up and if it’s open to the public. I probably can’t afford the plane ticket. But, I sure want to go after reading that.

  3. Wayne, the talk will be in Calgary on Tuesday evening, February 22, 2011. :)

  4. Bravo! My absolute favourite approach on how to view SF… as you well know… :)

  5. I’ve run into this misconception many times in the film world. I’ve had to explain to producers and writers alike how science fiction (speculative fiction, more specifically in my case) is not even about the future. It’s about possibility, in any time, past, present, or future. Most people are so used to seeing science fiction in the future (because that’s what producers perceive as the easiest to sell — and because usually the “future” requires ridiculous special effects, for it’s own sake). So, this seems to be what they are trained to believe about the genre. Just my two cents.

    Thanks for writing books about possibility, exploration, and human beings.

  6. You, Romeo Dallaire and Yogi Berra…all hitting that same first note about the future, Rob.

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