The Frozen Past and Malleable Future
If this “Real World” is all a Virtual Reality game, it is missing one major feature.
The reset button.
Really, think about what life would be like if you could “Oops!” and back up 24 hours and do it over.
Unfortunately, unless every one but you is a NPC—Non Player Character, for the non-gamers—it would be chaos. You’re trying to reset your nasty rude comeback that caused your boyfriend to dump you, while some one else is resetting to avoid a speeding ticket and someone else is “fixing” their child’s broken wrist, traffic accidents, heart attacks . . .
And if there was a big reset? Whoo! Would I ever cruise through University if I knew then what I know now. Just start the scenario over, knowing what I know, understanding things and people. Having developed a serious work ethic. Except . . . would I ever meet my husband? Have the identical kids? Nope. When I hit that reset, that future, or rather, more recent past, ceased to exist.
Yeah, so forget the reset button.
The best you can do is apologize, take a drivers ed class for ticket dismissal, get your kid a cool cast, and . . . deal with real life now and work for the future.
If we dare not change the past, what can we do about the future?
And that’s where fiction comes in.
And yes, message fiction. In your world building you consciously or subconsciously put in your hopes or your fears. And usually both. But you need to do it right. This all basic stuff that we should all know, but I’ll beat on this poor deceased equine a bit more.
I think (hope!) we are seeing the last gasp of the communism/socialism/one world government pushers. Mind you, as a writer of science fiction, I find the concept of a single planetary government amazingly useful. I have enough trouble with multi-planet Empires at war or threatening to go to war. If I had to deal with three hundred nations on every planet, I’d spend so much time trying to organize the universe that I’d never write. In fact, that could explain my lack of published hard SF.
But if I wanted a single government on Earth, my background for stories might have the benevolent government of the world. Or the violent chaos of multiple governments failing to deal with the crisis my heroes will take on. And vice-versa if I hated the whole idea.
I think we’re closing in on the end of race based prejudices, despite the efforts of the current politicians. I know too many people of mixed heritage and/or in mixed marriages for that to not happen. That’s not to say we’ll be free of prejudice. I just think America currently, most of the West to follow soon, and perhaps the rest of the world (China and Japan last!) eventually, will stop pre-judging people based on skin pigmentation and a few other external features.
So my stories have a mix of races and a lot of people with the characteristics of several races. And pretty much everyone indifferent to it. A dark complexion is of no more note than the hair color. Someone else might design a world where the races are distinct but equal under the law. Or very much not equal. But definitely race would be an instantly noticed and pigeon-holed attribute of a person.
Medical advances . . . it would be nice to cure a whole slew of diseases, and extend the expected lifespan (again!) with some age defeating drugs. Especially that last. If all you wind up extending is old age full of infirmities, forget it. Rewind the metabolism to where it was twenty or thirty years ago, and I’m all for it. And knees. I want my thirty year old knees back . . .
The main medical advances of the past, the ones that truly changed the human race are vaccinations, antibiotics, and birth control pills. They turned pneumonia from “half of all children die before the age of five” into miss a few days of school. Cuts and injuries , no problem. They changed the expectation of having many babies, hoping to not bury all of them, into having one or two children and never considering they could die.
And they made not having babies so easy that sex and reproduction are nearly unconnected in some people’s minds.
Hard to get more SF than that!
And the development of an artificial womb will increase the separation.
I shall have to add a culture where this has been taken to extremes. Imagine the shock when the system breaks down . . . not that it hasn’t been done before, but I will have fun with it, in my own way.
But if I had a different opinion of the matter I might write about a Utopia of sexual and reproductive freedom. Peace and Love and Unicorns. The Bad Guy (no doubt a white male, leader of a pseudo Christian cult) would be keeping sex slaves, forcing them to conceive and give birth the old fashioned way.
There are dozens—more probably hundreds—of ways to show your readers the potentials and hazards of theoretical future reproduction and sex. Good and bad.
That’s the power of a writer. To pull the reader into a world, to try to make them like it, or not, as we wish. But the writer needs to remember that it is _just_ the world. Your message is not the story, it is the stage setting, possibly a very important prop. But. It. Is. Not. A. Story.
First and foremost you must have a good story. You must have characters the readers will bond with, to experience the story viscerally. Because if they don’t like your Main Character, they won’t give a whoop about your dream—or nightmare—about the future.
They’ll go play a game, and wish for really good virtual reality gaming systems. Even the ones who think they’re already living in a game.
And now for the inevitable bit of self-promotion:
The latest, greatest, and an inflection point in my Wine of the Gods Universe:
And in case I have failed to recently mention my YA under the pen name Zoey Ivers . . . Brace yourself for weirdness: