We continue our discussion of novels about future societies.
I enjoy novels about futuristic societies in part because I’m hoping to read about things they’ve done better — so there’s hope we might improve — as well as, inevitably, things WE do better (or the unexpected dark side to what would seem like obvious improvements we could make now). That helps me to better appreciate what our current society has gotten right.
I’ve also lived long enough to hear past predictions about the future that have been wrong, wrong, wrong — from the impracticality of personal computers to the end of paper as we know it – so I also get a big kick out of other sorts of predictions of all kinds. It’s fun to assess how likely I think any of the authors’ social or technical “predictions” may be.
The “cool” aspect is a big one for me–as in, this setting is cool! I like the innovations authors come up with, the weird rules, the strange ways of doing things. I’m also amused by the way characters interpret “artifacts” from our own era–I’m thinking about how the characters in Mortal Engines figured Disney characters were ancient animal-headed gods.
I find it easier to think about flaws in our own society by seeing them pushed to the extreme in a future society. Certainly we tend to watch too much TV and spend too much time engrossed in empty entertainment, but we don’t take it quite to the dangerous levels you find in Fahrenheit 451. Still, Bradbury’s novel shows the importannce of novels and poetry and scripture, and the detriment of living room walls that serve as enormous TV screens.
But it’s not all about dystopias. Some great science fiction novels show future societies as places I would like to be. I’m intrigued by the meritocracy in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in which a person’s captial increases as he gains more respect and popularity. And the free energy source discovered at the end of Asimov’s The Gods Themselves would mean easy wealth for the entire world. I wish more YA and MG novels explored positive future societies.
We’d like to hear from you–why do you read novels about future societies? What are some of your favorites?