“Science Fiction as the Reflection of a Dystopic Present”
A common perception of science fiction is that it functions as a cautionary tale of dystopic futures. For instance, if we are too reliant on computers, they will take over and use us as batteries, or if we continue to tamper with biotechnology a plague will be released on the world. A closer look at major shifts in plots and themes, however, indicates something else: Science fiction dystopias are less reflective of the future and more relevant to current dangers. For example, when Philip K. Dick writes The Simulacra, he’s reflecting the current trend towards time-shared computing, the miniaturization of technology, and the apparently disembodied quality of communication over ARPAnet. In the 1980s, William Gibson writes Neuromancer at the same time Apple and Microsoft ship the Macintosh and Windows, and personal networking allows computers to go virtual. These authors aren’t portraying a dystopic, distant future, they’re writing about the present, presenting a dystopic mirror to the promise of new technology.
This paper will use the work of Niklas Luhmann, Maturana and Varela, Katherine Hayles and others to show how cultural resonance influences technological inventions at the same time it inspires science fiction authors. It is not coincidence that major and influential works of science fiction occur at the same time as these technological advances. Science fiction novels are a reflection of our fears, not of the dystopic future, but the dystopic present, technology, and how it impacts our humanity.