From The Literary Hub:
The problem with setting fiction in the near future is that it keeps coming closer—and usually about twice as fast as one expects. By mid-century, will we still stare at our phones? Or will we instead use bionic contacts (already in development) that project images of our incoming texts? Will we even call those brief messages “texts”?
Speculative fiction pioneer William Gibson likes to inform interviewers that the true point of sci-fi is not to prognosticate. (His classic Neuromancer, written in 1984 and set in about 2035, failed to predict mobile phones, as did the movie Blade Runner, in which clunky, stationary videophones predominate.) And yet: a would-be speculative novelist winces imagining their invented world becoming obsolete only years after a book appears. Worse still, one doesn’t want to include details that are passé even prior to publication. In our fast-moving world—Amazon’s Alexa made her debut in late 2014 and starred in a Super Bowl ad that counted on pop-culture familiarity only three years later—the chances of getting the near-future wrong are greater than ever. Yet more and more novelists, intent on penning semi-realistic sci-fi hybrids, seem to be taking the chance.
When I first imagined a novel set in 2049 about a much older woman and the robot delivered to care for her, threatening the livelihood of an immigrant nurse, the world was a different place. The iPhone was a year old. I wasn’t even using a dumbphone yet. iPads, Fitbits, and voice assistants like Siri weren’t on the market. I’d never downloaded an app, making me an unlikely novelist to guess what the world might look like a few years hence. Just the fact that I’d use a word like “hence” probably undermines my reputation as an aspiring futurist.
. . . .
My favorite speculative fiction, just like my favorite historical fiction, is neither escapist nor distant; in fact, it is sneakily but urgently reflective of problems bearing down on us today. Sometimes, this type of fiction does its most powerful work addressing the issues that we, both collectively and individually, aren’t culturally or emotionally ready to face. Where journalism hits the door of denial, fiction can worm under the sill and through the cracks, showing rather than telling: This can happen. Or even more powerfully: This is already happening.
Link to the rest at The Literary Hub