Cover to Cover #304B: Technology, Science and Fiction

Tim Low wonders which science fiction writers out there are the visionaries we should be reading now that Arthur C. Clarke has passed. That's a tougher question than it looks, because science and technology are advancing faster now than 40-50 years ago, and sometimes a technology that's proposed in a story may become real or become disproved faster than in decades past.

Is writing about the social and societal impacts of science and technology the next wave, or is there a niche out there still for advanced vision in fiction that's scientifically based? What's ready to be imagined that we haven't seen yet?

Submitting Listener comments: If you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know!

Listener Review: Web Genii has a review of Breath and Bone by Carol Berg, the sequel to Flesh and Spirit. SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN!

The Library: Tales Before Narnia edited by Douglas A. Anderson; Witness by Bill Blais; Deluge by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and Anne McCaffrey; The Gift of the Unmage and Spellspam by Alma Alexander; The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott; The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia; The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton; Small Favor by Jim Butcher.

Don't forget, you can also comment on books listed in The Library... look through the listings and feel free to post your thoughts and comments there.


  1. I have to agree that Greg Bear will stand out as a visionary when we come to look at his work retrospectively. When I read his book Eon god-knows-how-many years ago it certainly opened my eyes to the potential of future technology. As far as I know none of us are yet living inside Tardis-like asteroids, uploading foreign languages into our brains, augmenting our verbal communication with mind-powered projected images or generating power from singularities.

    While I agree that SF will always have much to say about society I disagree strongly that all the great ideas have been used up and that the pace of real-world technological advances makes it near impossible to write hard-SF stories that don't date within a few years. I understand that such stories can no longer be based on general scienctific ideas though because leading-edge science is now conducted in specialist fields.

    As a professional computer programmer, in such a specialist field, I have many stories ideas based on computers that I know we won't see become reality for many years to come, if ever. I think the challenge for any hard-SF authour today is in bringing such specialist knowledge to a wider audience in a way that is accessible.

  2. I have to say that I've fallen out of the hard sci fi genre as a reader. I quit reading it some time after college--it ceased to appeal. Partially, I think the reason is that in my experience, the characters get overwhelmed by the technology. I like stories about real individuals rather than things. Hard sci fi may have problems dealing with constantly changing and advancing technology in the real world, but there will always be the ethical considerations, as well as the loss of identity and privacy that technology can bring. There are lots of stories there, in my opinion, as long as writers are willing to focus on the characters and not the technology.

    However, is there something new to be imagined as far as technology? Well, in real life, we still haven't completely realized manned space travel. We still haven't cracked true artificial intelligence. We're still driving cars that roll on the ground. We still, much to our dismay, use non-renewable fuels for energy. We still haven't cured cancer. I think no matter how far we progress, there will always be ways to dream of different futures.