Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hopeful Futures

Kameron Hurley's column for the April issue of LOCUS explains how her writing has recently shifted from a pessimistic to an optimistic view of human possibilities. She decided "being grim and nihilistic is boring" rather than "exciting or edgy." Instead, in a world that seems increasingly darker, she finds her writing "to be a perfect outlet for exploring how people can still make good decisions in bad situations."

The Future Is Intrinsically Hopeful

This message resonates with me. As argued by Steven Pinker in THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, we are living in the best of times, not the worst of times (although, admittedly, with considerable room for improvement).

A few striking quotes from Hurley's essay on why she believes in the future:

"Humanity didn’t survive this long because of its worst impulses. We survived this long because, despite all of that, we learned how to work together."

"What a time to be a creator, when believing humanity has a future that is not just a series of dystopic post-apocalypse nightmares is the most radical position one can have."

"What if what we are presenting to our audiences, as artists, is 'This is how the world could be really different. Have you thought about how to get there?'"

"Increasingly, I find that writing any type of work at all is hopeful....It is profoundly optimistic to assume there is a generation after ours that will create a society one hundred years from now that is recognizable to us at all."

The last two quotes seem to me to encapsulate a major theme and purpose of science fiction. Dystopian futures serve the important function of warning us and potentially motivating us to change our course: "If this goes on...." The other classic SF question, "What if...?" is equally or more important, however. One reason the original STAR TREK became so beloved was surely its optimism about human destiny. At the height of the civil rights movement, the Enterprise crew portrays men and women (even if female characters didn't fully come into their own until later iterations of the ST universe) of many races and cultures working together to discover new worlds. In the middle of the Cold War, STAR TREK envisions Russian, Americans, and Asians exploring space as a team. And many of those "predictions" have come true! THE ORVILLE, as a drama-comedy homage to ST, further develops that hopefulness about mutual tolerance and cooperation and the joy of discovery in the context of 21st-century sociopolitical concerns.

Writing as if we "believe in the future" can infuse readers with hope and perhaps inspire them to create that kind of future.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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