I have high hopes for the science-fiction genre, more than just for fancy gadgets and galactic adventures. It’s the best genre to be writing in, and with its zoo of sub-genres there’s really nothing to hold us writers back from reaching for whatever we want—and then pumping it full of dynamite and blowing it straight into a higher dimension. BAM! Next level of gameplay, next level of awareness, next level of science-fiction!
That’s what I want to read, and that’s what I want to write. Hopefully I can manage my life-time like a pro and get that done before I feed the planet with my transient mass. So what I’d really love to see done more often, and strive to do myself, are the following major things:
1. Larger-than-life aliens
It’s usually the hero or villain that bask in the glory of being called larger-than-life, and that’s because they are, duh, the hero and villain of the story. They drive the plot machine and the reader invests a lot of energy in them (either positive or negative). If one of them is an alien, the unforgettable quality is still usually there because they are the hero or antagonist in the first place, not because they are fascinatingly, awe-inspiringly and unforgettably alien.
I want to see larger-than-life aliens, creatures that are remembered for their hair-raising and mind-boggling alien-ness. Characters that stick with us because they are so unique and unmatched that it’s completely irrelevant what their role in the plot is. We’ll remember them for the unmeasurable sense of wonder they awakened within us until we’re old and gray and blissfully senile.
2. Glitches and bugs
Not that kind of bugs, although I always love to see multi-legged multi-eyed creatures roam free and undiscriminated. What I mean are system glitches and software bugs, bad programming, usability catastrophes and crappy customer service.
I want to see space ship command consoles failing to boot up properly after an upgrade, not because it’s the inciting incident, but because shit happens. I want to see jobs being filled to take care of sucky functionalities and plain moronic implementation, because no, in the future programmers will not suddenly be perfect. And if we’ll have AIs churning out code for us, it’ll be a question of time before they run amok and feed us to the Matrix. And trust me, déjà-vu is not a serious system glitch. Neo waking up in front of agent Smith butt-naked and with a third nut dangling from his chin is a serious glitch.
3. Unlimited resources
I believe technology will eventually overcome any and all resource deficiencies, either by finding valid alternatives or by enabling us to easily get new supplies from wherever they are. The Universe is a huge place. It’s fucking enormous! If the action happens in the distant future and spans over several galaxies (or even just this one), then I want to see virtually unlimited resources.
If we can cross hundreds of light-years in a blip, we’ll no longer have fuel issues. Because one technological breakthrough never comes alone, it grows like a disease and infects all other technologies it comes in contact with. If we have fast space-travel, we’ll suddenly be within reach of anything and can take and use it, so we’ll develop technologies to do that quickly too, and then to distribute it quickly and efficiently as well, and then… you get the picture.
4. Different moral values
The moral values we have today are so new, even a century ago the world’s leading nations still held on to the belief that people of a different color were inferior, that women were to obey men unconditionally, and that birthright trumped personal merit. Half a millenium ago, people still burned witches on stakes.
The Modernization Theory says that as we humans become more efficient at satisfying our needs, our values shift upward on Maslow’s pyramid too. They are always changing, and do so on a global scale. Every major event, ever major discovery and every grand step on the ladder of evolution brings with it an according change in values.
So if a story is set three hundred years from now and stuff is different than today, so will our social values and expectations be, and most likely radically so. If you infuse contemporary American social values into some mixed-species colony on the other side of the galaxy, I’mma look you up and slap you over the head with your own book.
5. Bullet storms and bruises
Tiny high-speed cannon balls catapulted through pipes are far more energy efficient, easy to manufacture, and more difficult to ward off than laser beams and plasma shots and whatnot. An energy shield can probably save your hero from enemy ray-guns, but it most likely can’t stop a tiny rock heading straight for him at 3,600 mph. Neither can armor, not if the bullet’s heading for his face.
This reminds me, what happened to good old improvised weapons? Fights are dirty, unfair and often chaotic and desperate. Why’s everyone weaponized and prepared, perfectly trained and cool headed? No other genre is so averse to dirty fighting like science-fiction. I’m not talking about wars or battles, but one-on-ones. I want to see more realism and less idealism when it comes to hand-weapons and combat.
All in all, I long for more grit and spit and less polished silver throughout all science-fiction sub-genres, not just in dystopias. More hands-on action and more realistic circumstances, because five or twelvety centuries from now, even if humanity will be rooting for entirely different things than we do today, when shit gets serious, we’ll still essentially be crazy monkeys looking for the most efficient way to fling our… opinions at others.
And awesome aliens. Gimme awesome aliens to keep me awake at night.
So whattaya think? What would you love to see done?
It’s possible some or all of these have already been successfully tackled by other writers (or movie makers) and they just completely escaped my radar. If so, please let me know in the comments, make a suggestion or two—I’m always hungry for exquisite brain-fuel!