Science Fiction Predicts The Present

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“Science fiction writers don’t predict the future (except accidentally), but if they’re very good, they may manage to predict the present.

Mary Shelley wasn’t worried about reanimated corpses stalking Europe, but by casting a technological innovation in the starring role of Frankenstein, she was able to tap into present-day fears about technology overpowering its masters and the hubris of the inventor.

Orwell didn’t worry about a future dominated by the view-screens from 1984, he worried about a present in which technology was changing the balance of power, creating opportunities for the state to enforce its power over individuals at ever-more-granular levels.”

At The Tin House Book Blog, Cory Doctorow speculates on the successes and pitfalls of speculative sci-fi writing.

Myself, I’m a fan of science fiction writing but I tend to read the more marginalized authors, like Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany and Thomas Disch.

In my skewed opinion, I will say that Delany’s Dhalgren and Disch’s 334, both of which are dystopian magical realist evocations of a heinously screwed-up America, are sterling examples of Doctorow’s “radical presentism.”

That being said, 334 might be the most depressing novel ever written and Dhalgren might be one of the strangest novels ever written. Both of which are great reasons to read them.


Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →