It is New Year¹s weekend as I write, and therefore only technically a couple of weeks into winter. It has been a mild weekend, but a cold and stormy season since early December. And the next time I write an editorial it will be nearly spring. I anticipate missing much of the worst winter weather because of weeks spent in Australia, and then Seattle, and I am glad. The seas may be rising and the summers may be a degree or two hotter, but the real effect of global warming on me so far has been storms: snowstorms, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Turbulent weather is noticeably on the increase in my neighborhood. On the one hand, I rather like exciting weather, but it is destructive and costly and time-consuming. I have a feeling we are all going to like this aspect of the twenty-first century less and less as the years go by. It is probably time to visit Venice. It may not be there when you are older.
As the year begins, I wonder about the future of science fiction. There has been a lot of talk about the missing "middle future" in contemporary sf in the last year. There¹s a lot of sf set in the very near future, and a lot set in the relatively or very distant future, but extremely little of the classic hundred-years-hence fiction (okay, sometimes it was fifty years, or five hundred, but you recognize the mode, from Looking Backward to 1984 to The Dispossessed to The Handmaid¹s Tale to Islands in the Net). And it is that segment of sf that most characteristically deals with politics, political satire, political speculation, utopian thinking, and dystopian warnings. It is curious that in a time when political valence is so overt in so much sf, political speculation is so comparatively scarce.
Some people say that it is the deadening effect on near-future sf of Vernor Vinge¹s speculation about The Singularity that, if accurate, renders the future unknowable past fifty years hence and removes the grounds for speculation beyond the end of history and the beginning of the posthuman future. I think it is the deadening effect of the politicization of science and technology in the real world. For many of the emerging technologies of the present, there are political positions already attached, pro and con. This is a new thing in recent years in the US, if not in Europe, where technological pessimism is historically stronger.
My own feeling is that we need a lot more carefully crafted, humane, and even literary positive speculation about possible good scientific and technological outcomes in sf, in the face of the dire politics of the right and the left at present. And indeed in opposition to the realistically nasty things that seem to be facing the human race in the next hundred years and more. Or perhaps we just need more and more visionary writers, more sf. And certainly more technological optimists.