A hat-tip to Adrian for pointing me in the direction of this interesting article at the New Scientist website.

In a nutshell the concept of the article is this: What place is there for science fiction when the world we live in is already more futuristic than that imagined? It’s an interesting article, particularly as it gets opinions from some leaders in the field. I was particularly interested in William Gibson and Ursula K Le Guin’s bits. Also, Kim Stanley Robinson said that “Science fiction is now simply realism, the definition of our time. You could imagine the genre therefore melting into everything else and disappearing. But stories will always be set in the future, it being such an interesting space, and there is a publishing category devoted to them. So there is a future for science fiction.”

I agree. Regardless of how advanced we become, there is always the further frontier. To put it very simply, if we colonise the moon, Mars colony stories are still going to be sci-fi; if we colonise Mars, beyond the Solar System yarns are going to be de rigeur again. And that’s not including the really cool style of sci-fi from people like Iain M Banks that goes way beyond the usual boundaries. To consider that we’re now living in a sci-fi future is very limited thinking. Sure, my mobile phone does way more than Captain Kirk’s communicator ever did, but I’ve yet to travel through a wormhole to the Delta quadrant. We are a long way from the places sci-fi authors have imagined. And, as Kim Stanley Robinson said, stories will always be set in the future.

The article also ran a poll asking for sci-fi favourites. I was very pleased to see that Blade Runner came in as the number one favourite sci-fi movie (and deservedly so, being the best film ever made). Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey came in second with Joss Whedon’s excellent Serenity taking third. Forbidden Planet and The Matrix take fourth and fifth. It would appear that these particular pollsters have impeccable taste.

As for the books poll, we have Frank Herbert’s Dune in at number one with Asimov’s Foundation series coming second. Then it’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (I really must read this some time – it comes up again and again) and Dan Simmon’s Hyperion series rounding out the top five. Another damn fine list.

When you look at the variety in those poll results and the quality of both books and films listed I think it’s fairly clear that sci-fi has a pretty robust future.