Why fiction? Glad you asked. We live in uncertain times. One of this publication’s most important jobs is to see the big trends, spot important business models, and chronicle landmark innovations that show us where we’re going. But right now, that is hard to do. In this rapidly changing, aggressively agitated moment, it’s very difficult to discern what the future holds.
So we decided to consider things a little more obliquely. Sometimes to get a clearer sense of reality, you have to take some time to dream.
To this end, we reached out to a number of our favorite fiction authors and gave them a simple mission: Pick a plausible innovation or change in the world and spin out a near-term scenario. Don’t stick to the current moment. See where your mind goes. Imagine. Have fun.
That’s not to say the stories themselves are all about fun. Many are quite dystopic. N. K. Jemisin–whose novel The Fifth Season won the 2016 Hugo award–spins a cautionary tale about resource depletion and interplanetary relations. The duo that goes by the pen name James S. A. Corey, creators of The Expanse, imagines a world with a universal basic income–and what we are left wanting. Charles Yu, who writes for HBO’s Westworld, examines what life will be like when machines can read our thoughts. Etgar Keret, the celebrated Israeli fiction author, writes about … well, just read it. And in his refreshing “review,” Glen David Gold, the author of Carter Beats the Devil, shows us what we will have to endure in the movie theater someday in the future.
Science fiction has a robust history of inspiring real innovation. Submarines, robots, and cell phones were all envisioned first in novels, plays, and movies. Thinking up all sorts of different futures, embracing our fears and our dreams, is part of the process of building a better tomorrow.
Ultimately, the goal of this first edition of 2017–our first-ever issue dedicated entirely to fiction–is to give you, the reader, something that helps you let your own mind wander. Think about what is possible, what is plausible, what is terrifying, what is hopeful. That said, we still want you to have fun. Because after 2016? Well, you deserve it.
This article appears in the January 2017 issue. Subscribe now.
Tales From an Uncertain Future