The Disconnect of Interconnected Futures
When studying the three variations of the narratives of the future that are the subjects of this course, I was immediately drawn to the parallels and similarities present in these narrative structures. Despite their distinctions, the narratives of the future are all remarkably compatible, a sentiment reflected in Nikki Jones’ 2016 essay “The Three Narratives: Hand-in-Hand”. Through defining and exploring the individual narrative, Jones asserts that despite often predominantly falling into a single category, aspects and elements of each narrative can be found all across the texts covered throughout the semester, and that despite the distinctions present in the narrative styles they all share some inherent value by simply being narratives of the future, an idea I explored in my own essay. Jones writes “These three genres may sound like they are completely separate concepts, and they very well can be written as such; however, more often than not readers will find that the concepts for these genres overlap and mesh together within their stories. Also, many symbols or themes that are common to one subgenre can easily be utilized in another. Examples of these storylines and symbol exchanges can be found in some of the future presentations we have seen, but mainly they lie in the required class texts we have read so far.” I completely agree with this observation, as it is an observation I myself made independently of my knowledge of Jones’ essay.
As much as I enjoyed and agreed with Jones’ essay, I found myself far less enthusiastic about a number of the other submissions and models. I have performed a similar exercise in another of Professor White’s courses, and I found there that I almost universally agreed with the arguments and contentions of past students. That was not the case for this exercise, but I think that this degree of subjectivity highlights the importance of literature of the future and the discourse that surrounds it. The future is a highly subjective and highly speculative topic, and so it makes sense that there is such a varied and seemingly contradictory index of responses.
In reviewing the sample essays of past semesters, I was rather surprised to find a selection which I very strongly disagreed with. Liz Davis’s essay “Three Tales of Fear” contends that “People always wonder why science fiction is so popular. The nerds love to read it, the general population loves to watch it and scientists love to imitate it. It has a strong influence on society but why? It is because as a race we are scared of the future and the things it can hold.” Davis’s preoccupation with the idea of a fear of the future being one of the predominant themes in the literature of the future ultimately weakens her argument, and the purpose of literature of the future as a whole. Yes, fear does play a large role in conception of literature of the future, and is one of the driving forces of exploration and discovery, but to simply say that “Evolution is a scary thing” grossly undermines the discourse of the evolutionary narrative. Evolution can certainly be construed as a frightening force which often seems beyond the realm of comprehension, but to discuss it in such terms discredits the marvel of its process.
Another essay that I found to be problematic was Melissa Holesovsky’s “Could it Happen?” Holesovsky’s essay opens “While the genre of science fiction has always been unappealing to me, save Star Wars, I have returned to the same question again and again: Could it happen?”, and immediately presents a misunderstanding of the genre of science fiction and the narratives of the future. Star Wars is not, in any sense or fashion, science fiction. It is a spaghetti western space opera that takes place “a long, long time ago” with absolutely no scientific basis or explanation. It is purely fantasy, and has no place being discussed in this course. Holesovsky’s question of “Could it Happen?” has tremendous value when applied to the texts actually assigned in the course and the larger themes of the course, but the value of this question is greatly diminished by the presence of Star Wars in her discussion and the pettiness in completing this assignment.
Putting that pettiness aside, this exercise is demonstrative and the subjectivity of the contents of the course and the tremendous value which can be extracted from not only studying the texts but also studying other students’ responses to the texts and course.