L et me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a future. It was a funny sort of a thing, really. Sometimes it had fleets of metal engines blown to bits in outer space. Sometimes it had weird little quirks blow out of all proportion. Sometimes it went to different planets and discovered all sorts of peculiar things. Sometimes it stayed home, and still discovered all sorts of peculiar things.
But everything gets old and tired, and nothing gets old faster than the future. Alas for the bellbottoms of James T. Kirk, the hairdos of Space 1999! Do we still fear that the Bomb will give us Planet of the Apes? Not really. Do we still hope to go to the stars and evolve by 2001? I don't think so. Do we expect to meet strange new lifeforms and boldy go etc etc?
We think the aliens are among us. Haven't you noticed the way your neighbour always eats steak and eggs while he smokes? We think the government wants to round us up and put us into cages. Kick the bums out of office. We think electronic media are turning us into slaves. Go buy that Sega Saturn anyway. Frankly, we've fucked the planet so what's the point? A few years back, something broke. People got real excited when the Berlin Wall came down. The planet had become the Free World (well, except for China and Cuba and a couple of other places but it's just a matter of time, boys).
It was, to quote Francis Fukuyama, the end of history. Which also meant the future was on its last legs. From here on in, sure, you got plenty of options. You got seventeen different video game players, 57 channels, more operating systems for your deck than you know what to do with. You got your Bud, Bud Light, Ice Bud, Bud in a can, Bud in a bottle, Bud in a toothpaste tube. Consumer capitalism will give you everything you need. And now in extra microbrewed flavours! And we got a science fiction we deserved, a science fiction that's running scared. And we got a future we deserved, a labyrinth of dead ends. Balls to that.
Once upon a time, people thought that they could make things up as they went along. They created options for themselves, for their communities, for their planet. There were experiments in communal living, lifestyles were traded in like used records and reality was up for grabs.
I think it still is. I think the purpose of SF is not to dip its head into the sands of escapism. SF is there to retool the imagination, to invent possibilities, to build new worlds from scratch, even.
At this end of the 20th century, we're all cyborgs. You can't live in even Singapore and not have online access. You can't live in even Bhopal without being gassed by Union Carbide. Like it or not - and there are plenty of dissenters like Kirkpatrick Sale - technology is an inescapable backdrop to your existence. What are you going to do about it?
Call it Science Fiction and Fantasy, call it Avant Pop, call it Slipstream, call it late for dinner if you like. We've made a hell of a job of this planet. We've got problems we haven't even come to grips with. As for how to run our lives, we've got a serious writer's block. So let me begin to tell you another story, a science fiction story.
We're here to bring the Future back from the dead.
-- Paul McEnery
Text and Illustrations © 1996 the individual creators.