Cory Doctorow has an excellent article today on fiction, specifically science fiction, and the need for less cynical scenarios of the future and more hopeful stories about what people do in times of crisis.
This is something that I’d started to think about with my own reading and writing. Do I really want to put more cynical dystopian things into my life and out in the world? Things are already bad enough out there. We are already living with the most cynical political situation of my lifetime.
Here is the quote from Doctorow that really drew me in:
This is the thought experiment of a thousand sci-fi stories: When the chips are down, will your neighbors be your enemies or your saviors? When the ship sinks, should you take the lifeboat and row and row and row, because if you stop to fill the empty seats, someone’s gonna put a gun to your head, throw you in the sea, and give your seat to their pals? I’ve committed this sin myself. Right at the start of the first novel in my Little Brother series, a character gets stabbed in a crowded subway by someone who is apparently just knifing people at random in a crowd. That’s never explained, and no one has ever asked me about it. It’s just people being awful.
But according to Denning, this isn’t just fiction—it is the stuff we’ve fueled our intuition pumps with. The problem is, it’s wrong. It makes for good stories, but those stories don’t reflect the truth of the world as I see it. Humanity is, on balance, good. We have done remarkable things. The fact that we remain here today, after so many disasters in our species’ history, is a reminder that we are a species of self-rescuing princesses—characters who save one another in crisis, rather than turning on ourselves.
I really recommend you all read this article. I really do believe we could benefit as a society with new and different stories. Well written ones that give us some hope and a different way to look at our neighbors.
Sci-fi doesn’t just imagine the future, it imagines human nature. We need to take that responsibility seriously.
Source: Cory Doctorow on the danger of cynical science fiction.