These days science can be stranger and even more advanced than science fiction. While it is true that many ideas and dreams from classic sci-fi have been fulfilled, or even surpassed, sci-fi has rarely been about the prediction of an exact future; it’s always been about the dreams and anxieties of the present. H.G. Well’s 1895 Time Machine, was not a prediction of the year 802,701 A.D., rather a sorrowful contemplation on the implications of class, industrialisation and war. With this in mind, what does the future hold for printed sci-fi?
Considering the current trends, somewhat ironically, sci-fi has been looking to the past lately. It seems that nostalgia sells best, with many readers preferring movie tie-in novels, sequels and familiar series. The Atlantic tells us that nostalgia is so paramount that even minor tweaks become grounds for think-pieces and canon questioning. We only need look at spinoffs and reboots of forty and fifty-year-old franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek to see what appeals to the mainstream sci-fi community. Dozens of books by various authors have created new microcosms within these franchises.
While it can be argued that relying on franchises to sell novels limits the reach of original work, injecting new life into popular old stories does introduce them to a new generation, while providing the necessary dose of nostalgia to the older fans. Many books that are based on famous science-fiction franchises have been able to expand and explore in-depth, elements of the stories that fans want to know more about. Star Wars is a prime example of how fiction expanded the George Lucas universe. The famous Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope is a good example of this, as characters from the bar have been featured in the short story collection Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. The famous bar’s status in pop culture is so established, that PartyPoker even list it in their top fictional pubs to play poker in. No wonder fans wanted a book based around it. It is due to these continued stories that franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek will never die.
The days of printed sci-fi are not over, as the past few years of Hugo award winners will attest. Science fiction continues to be a dominant genre in literature with new and exciting stories emerging every year. Many are, or have already been, adapted for the screen with mixed success. William Gibson’s sci-fi classic Neuromancer is getting a film adaptation with director Tim Miller at the helm.
As mentioned above, literature can help expand a cinematic universe. However films based on sci-fi novels and short stories also do the science fiction genre a service by exposing new fans to the original works. Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s loose 1981 adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, has achieved cult status along with the latest iteration, Blade Runner 2049. While 2049 may have had abysmal box-office numbers it still provided an outlet for fans to go back to Philip K. Dick’s original novel, and perhaps encourage them to read more of his work.
Sci-fi these days is increasingly futuristic and speculative. It is a genre that explores possibilities and has the potential to expand our horizons. On our page Books & Other Published Work it is put that the reason to write is to order, to entertain, inform and involve readers in invented worlds. This is what defines science fiction. While the mainstream may prefer their sci-fi in the form of on screen entertainment, many still pine for the classic sci-fi of Asimov, Heinlein or Bradbury. The future of science fiction books will always be strong, as fans look to explore new worlds and expand on known universes.