Science fiction does not predict

Gearing up for the British Library’s exciting looking exhibition on science fiction which opens in May, and some associated events, been thinking about what SF delivers. Not prediction, of course – you knew that. As Ursula Le Guin said long ago:

The weather bureau will tell you what next Tuesday will be like, and the Rand Corporation will tell you what the twenty-first century will be like.  I don’t recommend that you turn to the writers of fiction for such information.

The comment comes from her introduction to possibly my favourite science fiction novel ever, The Left Hand of Darkness.

The rest of that intro, here, still stands as a pretty good statement of what science fiction can do, I think.

It is worth reading in full. (Everything by Ursula LeGuin is worth reading in full). But I can’t resist pulling out another quote.

All fiction is metaphor.  Science fiction is metaphor.  What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life — science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them. Space travel is one of these metaphors; so is an alternative society, an alternative biology; the future is another. The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.

A metaphor for what? That, as she implies, is for readers to decide…


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