Science fiction has often laid the groundwork for the future of technology, shaping lives and experiences decades after their conceptions. We can see these visionary authors’ work in the world around us. Eighty years ago, George Orwell predicted the onset of mass surveillance in 1984, heralding something akin to the intrusive age of information we find ourselves in today. Aldous Huxley presented a society constantly under the influence of heavy drug usage 88 years ago, reflecting the massive pharmaceutical industry that plays such a large role in our society. And most notably, William Gibson presented us with the world wide web in Neuromancer, something that plays a massive role in our modern world.
Neuromancer tells the story of Case, a hacker who betrayed the wrong employers, and is now dying alone. With one last call to adventure, Case has to re-enter The Matrix, a sprawling network of information accessed anywhere, anytime, described as “…constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”
Gibson’s vision is staggeringly close to where we are today. The internet is everywhere. With just a click, incomprehensible amounts of data lie at our fingertips, ready for access. We are living the future of these prophetic writers.
Even though there may be creativity, that is only the foundation of good literary fiction. Part of what makes these novels extraordinary is simply craft – a piece cannot exist solely on the basis of a concept, but has to have depth. Characters, with motivations and dreams. Worlds, with history and purpose. Plot. Literary science fiction is what we look and strive for, and these elements are what elevate a story to the next level.
And so what is the role of a writer? To predict? To inform? To give the makers of tomorrow the ideas that may shape who we become? At the end of the day, writers are here to make us think, and science fiction can do that effectively. Through the concepts of the past, dreaming of worlds unimaginable, we can re-examine our present with a new perspective. It gives us new light in whisking us off to a faraway land, and it provides room to step back and reflect on the world we live in today.
Samuel Nelson, Prose Editor