Why can’t sci-fi writers predict the future any more?

Arthur C Clarke, HG Wells and Aldous Huxley were so good at gazing into the crystal ball... so has the future already been written or do current authors lack the edge in a rapidly innovating world, asks Steven Cutts

Wednesday 10 February 2021 21:30
<p>‘Metropolis’ (1927) shows the visual side of things ages much faster than the concepts</p>

‘Metropolis’ (1927) shows the visual side of things ages much faster than the concepts

For a lot of people, science fiction is about a lot more than hi-tech adventure. It is a conscious attempt at foresight, a way to anticipate the risks and joys of the life that awaits us. Aside from the quality of their writing and pace of tier narratives, it’s possible to judge a sci-fi writer by their ability to foresee the things that are yet to come, and at least some of them were really very good at it.

As far as prediction goes, there are two types of sci-fi writers. Those who are really good at it and those who aren’t very good at it at all, but are good at copying. Quite a few of the first group were British, with HG Wells being a credible candidate for the best of them all. In the early years of the 20th century, Wells managed to knock out so many groundbreaking novels that seems to have defined about half of the major science fiction concepts yet plundered by the movies.

Last year saw the release of another televised version of Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece, Brave New World. Exactly how faithful to the actual novel this new and entirely American production has been is a matter of opinion, but if you find yourself baulking at the sheer ambition of the series, try to remember this: the source document was written in 1931. Brave New World predates not only the publication of 1984 but the whole of the Second World War. In fact, if we look at any attempts that have been made to televise Brave New World, the thing that hits you the hardest is that there is simply nothing the actors, art directors and modern day screenwriters can do that competes with the original concept.

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