Kim Stanley Robinson Says Science Fiction is the Realism of the 21st Century
"I think I do science fiction because I feel like if you're going to write realism about our time, science fiction is simply the best genre to do it in."
That's what Science Fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson had to say about the genre he has graced for over almost 40 years, and when you think about it, he's got a point. Speaking with The Guardian, Robinson went into detail about how, in this modern world, science fiction writing is the closest thing to realism you'll get in the fiction world. While we haven't yet set foot on another planet as is the case in books like Robinson's 'Mars' series and '2312', the current technological uptick being experienced right now means that many science fiction stories can often feel almost completely plausible.
Robinson's new book, Aurora, is set in the year 2545, but despite the 5 century time difference between its setting and real life, the book features technology that wouldn't feel out of place in the very near future, such as 3-D printers to provide space adventurers with all the tools they need to survive. In fact, in Aurora's timeline, humans are only just embarking on their first journey outside of the solar system. But Robinson says this slower than expected upward trend in technology is actually a better reflection of reality.
"We might be in a very steep moment of technological and historical change, but that doesn't mean that it will stay that steep or even accelerate. What I'm assuming is that there are some fundamental issues that are going to keep us from doing things much more spectacularly than we are now."
So, while NASA may have achieved 3-D printing in space, and has already sent a spacecraft into interstellar space, that's not to say that the giant leap in technological advancement we are currently witnessing is going to continue forever.
Equally, a logistcal curve in future technological advancement does not mean that humanity's time on Earth will soon be reduced to rubble and ashes. There's no denying that Dystopias are hugely popular right now, but science fiction used to be a genre filled with optimism and hope. As Asimov once said "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."That might seem like a bleak sentiment, but it's actually about as hopeful as it gets, suggesting that the ideas we explore in this genre are the ones that could go on to save us all. And while stories such as Aurora are hopeful and positive, they manage to fill the void between the bleak dystopian view of the future and those science fiction yarns that could be considered overly-optimistic.
But there's another void that Robinson believes is most critical to fill. The void between the two terms that give this genre its name.
'Science' implies the world of fact and what we all agree on seems to be true in the natural world. 'Fiction' implies values and meanings, the stories we tell to make sense of things....and yet here is a genre that claims to be a kind of 'fact-values' reconciliation, a bridge between the two"
And when you look at it like that, it's hard to argue that Science Fiction isn't the truest form of realism that exists today.
Aurora is available in to buy now, and you can read more insights from other science fiction authors over at The Guardian