Because what would you rather read about: a swashbuckling starship captain? Or a being as incomprehensible to us as we are to an amoeba? To be fair, science fiction novels have been written about a future in which this transformation has occurred. And I could write one of these, as well. The problem is that for the most part, people like reading about other people. People who are like them. People who act and think like, you know . . . people. Even if we imagine a future society of omniscient beings, we wouldn’t have much of a story without conflict. Without passions and frailties and fear of death. And what kind of a story could an amoeba write about a man, anyway? I believe that after a few hundred years of riding up this hockey-stick of explosive technological growth, humanity can forge a utopian society whose citizens are nearly-omniscient and nearly-immortal. Governed by pure reason rather than petty human emotions. A society in which unrecognizable beings live in harmony, not driven by current human limitations and motivations. Wow. A novel about beings we can’t possibly relate to, residing on an intellectual plane of existence incomprehensible to us, without conflict or malice. I think I may have just described the most boring novel ever written. Despite what I believe to be true about the future, however, I have to admit something: I still can’t help myself. I love space opera. When the next Star Trek movie comes out, I’ll be the first one in line. Even though I’ll still believe that if our technology advances enough for starships, it will have advanced enough for us to have utterly transformed ourselves, as well. With apologies to Captain Kirk and his crew, Star Trek technology would never coexist with a humanity we can hope to understand, much as dinosaurs and people really didn’t roam the earth at the same time. But all of this being said, as a reader and viewer, I find it easy to suspend disbelief. Because I really, really love this stuff. As a writer, though, it is more difficult for me to turn a blind eye to what I believe will be the truth. But, hey, I’m only human. A current human. With all kinds of flaws. So maybe I can rationalize ignoring my beliefs long enough to write a rip-roaring science fiction adventure. I mean, it is fiction, right? And maybe dinosaurs and mankind did coexist. The Flintstones wouldn’t lie, would they? So while the mind-blowing pace of scientific progress has ruined far-future science fiction for me, at least when it comes to the writing of it, I may not be able to help myself. I may love old-school science fiction too much to limit myself to near-future thrillers. One day, I may break down, fall off the wagon, and do what I vowed during my last Futurists Anonymous meeting never to do again: write far-future science fiction. And if that day ever comes, all I ask is that you not judge me too harshly.
Douglas E. Richards (Oracle)