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March 28, 2016

The Big “What If” --- Science Fiction and the Exploration of Possible Futures - Guest Post by Vicki L. Weavil

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Remember when you were a kid and you would come up with all sorts of "what if" scenarios and make a game out of it?  Well for old time's sake, let's do one more. Imagine having two choices: achieve your deepest-held dream or save the planet.  What would you do? Not an easy decision, huh? Fine, I'll let you sleep on it. This is precisely the decision 17-year-old Ann-Maria Solano is faced with in Vicki L. Weaver's FACSIMILE --- a science fiction adventure tinged with romance. In this blog post, Weaver discusses the genre of science fiction and what it means to her.

There’s a lot of talk in the speculative fiction community about what science fiction is, or should be. Some people feel that only books featuring hard science should represent the genre, while others think it’s okay to include books that are basically fantasy novels with scifi settings.

Personally, I think the genre can embrace a wide range of styles, themes and mixed-genre elements. To me, science fiction has always been based on two simple words --- “What if?” This
open-ended question allows authors to experiment with an infinite variety of futures, from the hard science of something like THE MARTIAN, to the space opera with fantasy elements seen in the Star Wars films and books.

The exploration of possible futures should not be limited, because none of us truly knows what the future holds. Of course, we can use science to extrapolate the impact of certain present-day events or issues, but even science projects differing outcomes based on the limitations of current knowledge, any bias in the research, individual interpretation and so on. Let’s face it --- there were many learned people in their day who said that humans would never create a flying machine, or travel into space, or cure certain illnesses, or any number of other things that have actually come to pass. So I think we should allow science fiction to include a wide range of books that present varied futures.

In my young adult scifi, FACSIMILE, I have created a future where the Earth is stratified into the “haves” and “have nots,” and multi-planetary corporations control much of the wealth and power. It is a future where some social injustices have been overcome, but --- because I sadly feel this is human nature --- racial and ethnic bigotry has been replaced by economic and social stratification. There is also discrimination against other groups, such as clones, androids and “cybers.” (Cybers are humans with over twenty percent replacement body parts – typically soldiers who have been seriously injured, rather than people who have chosen to implant cybernetic parts).  In FACSIMILE, planets like Eco, where my characters live, resemble frontier settlements in Earth’s past --- the people who have elected to live there are attempting to escape the economic and social “castes” that exist on Earth, in order to make a better life for themselves and their families.  

I based this concept of the future on my own studies in history and my observations of current society. But it is only one vision, and not necessarily any more “right” or “wrong” than any other. To me, that is the beauty of the big “what if?” We can explore a multitude of ideas and create a wide spectrum of possible futures.  So I celebrate all of the various types of books that are classified as science fiction.  Let’s not erect artificial barriers --- let’s open the door to even more ideas and new concepts from new and diverse authors!