When I think of writers of future fiction, I think of the admonitions of almost every good manager I ever hand. “Don’t tell me problems,” they would say, “bring me solutions.”
Fiction writers could keep that advice in mind, and in particular, authors of future fiction or so-called speculative fiction. It is not particularly speculative to grow a view of the future that is seeded in the past. To be sure, I would guess your Fine Arts instructors told you to keep it real and imbue your writing with a sense of reality. They are wrong, however.
Let me say this aloud, or at least as aloud as a blog can be: if those people knew everything about writing there was to know, they’d be supporting themselves via books and not teaching. No one does. No one can. The act of writing, just as the act of reading, is interpretive and subjective. What is “real” to your instructor is simply short-sighted and pessimistic to me.
I am reading a short (so-called speculative) fiction collection at the moment, one that I will review when I chug through it to the end. As you can probably guess from the proceeding sentence, I am not enjoying it. The author can write. Her details are well balanced. She is imaginative. In a few of the stories, she’s created lead characters I could get behind in a longer work–perhaps even fall in love with. And, looking to the alternate future or near futures in which these stories are set, the problems that have been will always be.
Her Black People do Black People things, deal with Black People problems, and feel some Black People kind of way about them. They talk about, whisper about, think about, or be about White People and their White People ways. And I do not want to read this nouveau-racist bullshit.
I lived through the 60s, 70s, 80s, saw things improve in the 90s, thrived in the 00s, and watched us backslide in the 10s. I have no interest in reading about a future wherein the writer speculates that what has gone wrong will go wrong, or just as bad, that what other writers say will go wrong will absolutely do so. Speculation requires imagination.
Y’all don’t hear me.
I’ma say it again, so Stephen A doesn’t get more upset. Speculation requires imagination. Stop writing whiny, broken, unimaginative, falsely dark and legitimately pessimistic stories. Instead, think about what a solution would require and then build me a world where it happens. Show the struggles involved, the opposition thereto, and maybe even give yourself permission to imagine that it can be done.
Here’s a master-level tip: not all happy endings are completely happy. There’s room for laughter and tears, even together.
Future fiction writers lead by example, irrespective of whether they want to or not. The very first use of the word robot was within a sci-fi play detailing how artificial, forced-labor workers revolted and rose up to kill their creators. A century later, engineers worry about the same problem. Know why? Nobody bothered to write about the solutions.
Whether you pen a tome that takes place in the next millennium or next week, don’t just sit on your whiny ass bemoaning the problems in the universe. Fix them, in your head at least.
Bring me no problems. I don’t fucking want to read them. Write me some solutions. Those, we can all use.