Predictions: Writing The Future (reprise)

As a science fiction writer one of things I have to be careful about is making my future worlds believable to my readers. This is particularly true when writing about the near future, as with the Faded Skies series, though even galaxy-spanning tales of the far future need to have a certain ring of truth about them in order to maintain an appropriate degree of suspension of disbelief. This doesn’t just mean getting the technology and science right, but also relies on making believably accurate claims about changes to the political and social landscape of the story’s setting.

As I discussed on my old blog a few years ago, in working on Faded Skies I’ve found myself doing a lot of research in order to improve my ‘predictions’ of what the world will be like in fifty years. I’ve followed countless science and tech blogs to keep up with developments in those fields, and I’ve devoured every article I could find that even remotely touched on the topic of what the future might hold, but it doesn’t end there. I’ve also had to spend a lot of time with my nose stuck deeply in history books, trying to distill predictions of the future from accounts of the past. To say that it’s been a little educational would be an understatement of epic proportions.

The problem is that no amount of reading and research can give you the power to predict the future with any real level of success. Sure, it’s possible to make gross predictions, such as suggesting that there will probably be further civil and religious unrest somewhere in the Middle East, or that China’s economic growth will eventually slow down, but being able to say with absolute certainty what the political climate in Zimbabwe will be in fifty years (for example) is more akin to playing a guessing game than true prediction. The best I can hope for is to make my guesses more educated by learning more facts and by improving my understanding of those facts and how they apply to the world.

My hope is that the more information I absorb, the more data I assimilate, the more accurate my guesses will become. That said, I’m under no illusions and realise that I’ll be lucky if even one of my ‘predictions’ will turn out to be true. At the end of the day I’m not trying to be a soothsayer, I’m just trying to tell an interesting and entertaining story. As long as the reader can believe that the future I paint is plausible, so what if hindsight later proves it to be nothing more than a flight of fancy?

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