Near Future Fiction

By Isaac H.

The arrival of the new year always brings a call to reflection for me. Depending on how the year has been, this reflecting is usually on how swiftly another year has whisked by.  Alternative, it can also be a reflection on how the year seemed to drag on forever and never seemed to end. Time can be weird like that. Regardless of how the year has gone, a glimpse into the potential future always helps to give perspective to the present by taking your mind off the past.

One of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction is near future fiction. I’ve always loved engrossing myself in different authors vision’s of potential futures. The more that vision stands as a reflection of the present, the more of an appeal it has. In these stories, the familiar settings and haunting backgrounds are almost characters in their own right.

Splinterlands by John Feffer

I’ve always been a nerd for geography and political science. They can be somewhat dry topics for many, but I’ve always found interest in how international intrigue shapes the lives of the people and governments of the world. In that sense, Splinterlands felt like it was written as a perfect fusion of those two genres. The first story in John Feffer’s series of the same name, it offers a glimpse of what the world could look like in the latter half of the 21st century. All from the perspective of someone born to the millennial generation. A person born in a time when hope, prosperity, unity and advancement were somewhat universal international endeavors explores a new world of isolation, nationalism and conflict with despair.

 

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Seasonal wildfires and drought are familiar things to those of us who have lived or live in the western North America. Every summer the denizens of the vast area of the continent brace for what is often a more harsh season than the last. Imagine the sporadic droughts becoming an permanent, decades long environmental nightmare for residents of the region.

This is the stage for the noir thriller The Water Knife. Water rights contracts for dwindling waterways become more valuable than gold, and states collapse after their waters dry. The author Paolo Bacigalupi is known for his multiple science fiction stories on environmental collapse. His stories tell of individuals surviving in inhospitable landscapes transformed by humanity.

 

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

As much as I want to avoid double dipping with authors, there is no way I could write about the genre without talking about The Windup Girl, a harrowing tale that blends environmental collapse , corporate mismanagement and survival trauma. I’m not one to get ‘the feels’ when reading a sad novel. I like to think that I can make it past even the saddest stories with grim, vulcan-like stoicism, but somehow this story managed to tug on my heartstrings. It takes place in a near future where corporate warfare, environmental mismanagement and invasive species have irreversibly altered the world’s landscape. Natural flora, fauna, food crops and even pets are irreversibly changed by warring corporations seeking to monopolize the markets with their patents.

There is a lot going on in this novel. Engineered humans, mass famine, mistreatment of migrants after geopolitical uprisings. My fellow feline owners will immediately notice a novelty breed of highly invasive cats that out compete all other carnivores around the world. The existence of this amazing animal serves as an allusion to the harms of environmental mismanagement through introduction of invasive species. There is even a supernatural element to the story. This story entirely takes place in a non-western nation and has an extremely diverse list of characters.

 

Analog: A Cyber Dystopian Noir by Gerry Duggan

In the heady days of dial-up Internet, CD-ROM drives and the golden reign of the Windows 95 operating system, I recall enjoying a certain movie about the Internet. The movie may or may not have aged well depending on the eye of the beholder, but one of the arguments made by the protagonists stuck out to me. It revolved around the concept of free access of to all digital information. In the early days of the Internet this idea seemed like a noble and benevolent thing. “Free sharing of all digital information? Yes please!” Flash forward to now, after the proliferation of the Internet in most parts of our daily lives, and that concept seems like the stuff of nightmares. The graphic novel Analog: A Cyber-Dystopian Noir is a story that explores that nightmare. Set in in the very near future of 2020, this story is set in the world after all private, passworded and otherwise secured information online was leaked to the public. As trust in online security wanes, the world begins to return to offline methods of securing important information.

 

Do you have any favorite near future stories? Share them below.

 

If you are looking for more, peer into potential futures with some of the books on this list.

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