#youareascifiwriterBook Arsenal


Curatorial project on fantastic literature

Curated by Alyona Savinova, Oleh Silin

The problem of the future arises almost in all branches of scientific knowledge. In humanities, this discourse is also present, and it can acquire horrible forms, create a crisis outlook and speculation in the human’s search for a meaning of life. Studies of the future in fiction are increasingly reduced to cognitive distortions dictated both by a simple human attachment to a certain ideology and strange social expectations.

The term “sci-fi writer” can be perceived not only as the definition of a writer who works in the realm of unrealistic, but as a synonym for an escapist, a dreamer who is away from reality, unable to adequately resist its challenges. At the same time, people who were not fixed only on reality moved the world forward. Albert Einstein advised to read a lot of tales to children for them to be smarter. Elon Mask was inspired by the works of Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams whose book was sent to space during the launch of Falcon Heavy. The Chinese leaders officially approved the organization of science fiction and fantasy festival because they realized that the country almost ceased to think up new things, and they would thus encourage the new generation to dream.

But there is a certain trap. Science fiction is often understood only as a type of literature that tells about the future and predicts new technical inventions. The official doctrine of the Soviet era insisted on a similar ultra-narrow sense, covering itself with the good names of Jules Verne and Herbert Wells. However, science fiction can affect the vision of the future not only through its description, but also in several ways that are not always vivid. Right there occurs the temptation to define a sci-fi writer only as a futurologist who will make a certain prediction for a happy and successful future. And even better, if this prediction is to solve certain socio-cultural issues.

The importance of science fiction, its ability to create images of the future is usually beyond doubt. There is a lot of debates about the fine line between science fiction and futurology, but the real problems begin when artworks are referred to as a certain scientific foresight, appealing to the works of Lem and Clark, although these authors were not only writers, but also futurologists and scientists. But if futurology uses the exclusively scientific method while constructing models of the future, then science fiction writers most often create descriptions of the future, entertaining the readers, cautioning them or helping to soften the shock and fear of the future.

Many of the first works with a fantastic element described trips to unusual islands or the Moon, in which the focus was not so much on extraordinary adventure, but on the social system. It could have been a developed and fair community as represented by Thomas More and a number of authors, or it could have been a devastating satire on contemporaries, which is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels series. What’s most important is what these writers and many other fantasy authors did — they showed us ourselves, from the unexpected side, from another mental and even moral position. It’s important to look at yourself in a science fiction mirror, in order not to reproduce the paths that are steadily established, which our brain is inclined to.

Fantasy literature lets you touch the future in a different way. The simplest  way is when a strange world emerges right from our present day. However, the finest examples of fantasy establish a deep link between the world of myths and beliefs, they appeal to the collective monomyth and allow folk characters, allegories and allusions to see our world, to find not only answers to the questions that concern us now, but also to determine the questions, which will appear to humanity in a few years or decades.

“I enjoy history and think that science fiction is a way of popularizing history: you take what you consider to be important, and you place this situation in the future, on other planets, no matter where. And that’s all, people can’t stop reading,” says James Cameron, and his words can be attributed to science fiction, to fantasy, and to alternative history, which can also shape our future. The works of this direction let us learn more about ourselves, to ask what was really happening at that time, and to understand what the future might be on the next round of the historic spiral. However, alternative history can be a terrible poison, when all together the authors begin to dream of revenging certain forces, and society picks up such visions as a virus, and begins to build dystopia, considering it to be a utopia.

Reflection on the present and dreams of the future are inherent not only to the creators of the novels. A series of short stories by Ray Bradbury was enough to make millions of people dream of a trip to Mars. Many science fiction writers are remembered as masters of short prose: Lovecraft, Dick, Sheckley, Zelazny, Stern, Savchenko… In times of great changes, a sci-fi story becomes more weighty, because science fiction writer can create a sketch of the future that will capture an imagination or point out possible difficulties of the new way of development. Bradbury said that science fiction is our reality brought to the point of absurdity and sometimes the science fiction writer should sharpen all the contradictions in order to find the right path.

The sci-fi writer is not a prophet and not a savior, but it is the person who makes people change. Neil Gaiman sees the extraordinary benefit to society: “Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. . Dissatisfaction is a good thing. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

Let’s be sci-fi writers who improve the world. There is no need to give ready-made solutions, what’s more important is that a person asks the correct questions after reading fiction, so let’s leave the models of the future and predictions to professional researchers.