“I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.” ─ Philip K. Dick
One of the thing we love about science fiction is that it allows us to see the future. Do you think someone who read Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea could imagine being aboard a submarine? Or flying into space and landing on the moon after reading 2001: A Space Odyssey? The future can always be found in the pages or science fiction novels.
Books like Brave New World, 1984, Stranger in a Strange Land, and I, Robot are just a few of the 20th Century novels that accurately predicted the future; but it’s not just authors who can be hailed as prophets. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek accurately portrayed digital music, hand-held computers, ebooks and so much more.
Isaac Asimov said, “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”
It strange how right, and sometimes how wrong, science fiction has been. I remember watching Lost in Space on TV as a kid. The Jupiter 2 mission was supposed to have taken place in 1984. Granted, that prophetic vision didn’t come true, but it was something that stuck in the memory of an impressionable child.
I think that’s why a genre like steampunk is so popular today. It combines the past, present and future together, as if people are living within the world of science fiction. It also explains the popularity of movies like Star Wars, Blade Runner, Star Trek and Jurassic Park. They show all that is good and all that is wrong with the future.
I know there are a lot of dystopian future novels like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and others out there, and they do espouse a new future, but I really don’t consider them prophets. Their future doesn’t look ahead to better things but rather show us a world after war, famine, or pestilence through the eyes of our children. These novels were meant to be a warning, not a prophecy.
Science fiction writers can be prophets but they also act as harbingers, as it were, of those things that could doom the human race. Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 made us look at how knowledge and education that comes from books can be abused and even lost. He said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading.”
That’s the crux of science fiction prophets. They are establishing what direction we take toward the future. We can work hard to created a new world on another planet, like The Martian Chronicles, or start a new life under the ocean like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or maybe a new world within cyberspace like Neuromancer.
“Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead, little by little, to the truth.” ─ Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Science fiction writers go beyond stories about aliens, other worlds, and future tech. They are explorers of what could be and what will be. We should embrace the future and, as writers, look ahead to those many possibilities. You don’t have to be a scientist to write science fiction, just someone who can see beyond the horizon and imagine more.
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.
6 thoughts on “Prophecy has been an essential part of science fiction writers”
Is prophecy even the right term? Does that exist in some non-religious sense? I would hazard to guess “potential” futures is a key idea instead. And of course, coincidentally, something pans out. The aura of “prophecy” might be a literary technique SF authors employ, but more often then not they are trying to tell a good story in a cool future world rather than “prophesize.”
I think it is the right term, in a none religious sense. These wonderful sci-fi authors saw the future through their words. In writing Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry wrote about technology and devices we use today. The same with Jules Verne and others. Ot was through their visions that many great onventors took inspiration and developed the various technologies we use today. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and others have pointed to these sci-fi novels and TV series as motivation for them to create and explore. I would call that prophetic.
Yes, it’s all a veneer — to tell a good story. Nothing in Star Trek other than some vague suggestion is remotely scientific… It’s pretend science. It’s conjured tricks to give some sheen of reality. It’s for telling a story!
Of course people are inspired by things that exist or could exist, but they want to tell adventures, in cool worlds, or morality tales (Star Trek)…. coincidentally some elements play out or are more plausible than others.
And no, they are not “[seeing] the future.” They are imagining a future extrapolated from their moment in time, their contemporary knowledge. There is not actual “seeing” or “foretelling.”
And as for providing “motivation” — that’s an entirely different idea than prophecy!