Why I don’t write optimistic science fiction (yet?)

There have been quite a few people calling for writers to take a break from dystopian science fiction. Where is the optimism about scientific advancement? they ask. Where are the inventive minds that dream up new inventions?

I’ve seen some theories trotted out that attempt to answer these vexing questions. I stumbled on Redstone Science Fiction’s “Show us a better way” competition, which follows on the heels of those calling for more optimism in sci fi. Down I sat, to dream up some future where some new technology has created a better world for us all.

And I couldn’t think of one.

I am a pessimist, a cynic, and in the peak oil circles I would be known as a “doomer”. I don’t hold much hope for the human species. I have three children and some days I feel incredibly guilty for plopping them down in this world that rich white men have sullied and will eventually destroy. Science is cool, yes, but I think that naive innocence of thinking “if only we can invent xyz then we will eradicate suffering” is dead. We know that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. It just doesn’t happen, because money. There are technologies and medicines that exist to fix injuries and cure many diseases but people still die from them because… money. Science is cool but scientific advancements are patented and guarded because… yeah, you know what I’m saying.


It will take a shift in human attitude to make the world a better place. Science alone cannot save us or the world. Just sitting on the scary rollercoaster that is the QLD government juggernaut right now is enough to make any doomer nod sagely and say “yep, I was right, we’re screwed.”

I could write about a technology that causes a shift in attitude, but then we move into a free will dystopian tales like A Clockwork Orange and Firefly. No matter which way I wriggle, I see gloomy predictions. Anything cheery and optimistic that I attempt to write will ring false. I don’t know HOW to write naive optimism.

I can only see the saving of the world through human actions and revolution. I admit to a failing of the imagination. I’m trying to not just write what I know. I’m trying to stretch myself. But I want to be convincing, when I do that. I want to commit and I just keep poking dystopian holes in every story idea I come up with.

If you’re a more optimistic person than me, go forth and submit to Redstone’s contest. 5000 words, submissions close August 15. Good luck! I’m cheering for you and your crazy optimism ;).


2 thoughts on “Why I don’t write optimistic science fiction (yet?)

  1. I just finished writing a story for this, and I have to agree, I was SCRAPING for ideas. I definitely didn’t pen a utopia through innovation either. I think you’re right in that we’ve grown jaded seeing economics ruin technology’s best foot forward. I also think dark and dystopic fiction is prevalent because it’s easier to write. You have oppression, depression, people struggling with an adverse world… you know, CONFLICT, big and brazen and believable. I racked my brain trying to come up with conflict gripping enough to have a story set in a better world and it felt like a happy ending from the starting gate. Nothing more to see as the happy family speeds off in their non-polluting flying car that’s fueled by love… nuclear power courtesy of the nuclear family.

    I’m sure my creativity couldn’t get past my inner cynic screaming doom and gloom. Glad to see I’m not alone here.

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