Near-future SF has always struck me as the most precarious kind of SF, because of its sell-by date.
Kritzer’s author’s note at the end is well worth reading, both in its own right and as context for the book’s truncation. “One of the interesting things about near-future science fiction is that sometimes you catch up to the future while you’re still writing it,” she says, before addressing the reality of revising a book in the Twin Cities while Minneapolis was on fire during mass protests and a pandemic. The overall slowness of publishing means that several of the books in this roundup include afterwords that try to bridge the gap between composition before 2020’s upheavals and revision or production throughout them, offering a surreal glimpse into the limits of fiction.
Near-future SF has always struck me as the most precarious kind of SF, because of its sell-by date. It also strikes me that the best way to avoid such issues is not to be in the business of predicting anything, but rather just tracing implications. Phil K. Dick's Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said was clearly written during the time of student unrest throughout the United States, but it hasn't dated much, if at all. It's more about the conundrum of identity and the problem of being true to yourself in a world where people don't want that from you, and those things are timeless.
A kooky example of science fiction from Hong Kong, a cinematic world that has relatively little SF to begin with.
Most "science fiction movies" have historically been action films with some SF elements thrown in for spice. The exceptions stand out both for their de-emphasis on action and their uncommon intelligence generally: Arrival, Primer, Upstream Color, Stalker, Solaris, Pi. Sometimes you had fusions of science fiction and action that worked: The Terminator, Blade Runner (and 2049), the high parts of the Alien franchise. But for the most part SF in the movies exists as a leavener, not as a base.
I Love Maria hails from Hong Kong, whose film industry isn't known for having much SF at all in any form. In that sense it's more typical of a Western science-fiction movie; actually, it's closest in spirit to a mainstream Hollywood comedy with SF sprinkles. But it stands out from the few other Hong Kong SF productions for actually putting SF elements onscreen, even if on the cheap, instead of leaving it at the level of a modern-day technology-based thriller (Bitcoin Heist). It also uses the kind of shameless, slapstick humor I find myself laughing at even when I know it's Naked Gun dumb.
Twenty years later, the Wachowskis' digital fable still stands tall, outliving the slickness of the moment and attempts to misappropriate it
Most work we consider maverick and radical comes from the margins. The Matrix bundled genuinely radical concepts into the last place one would expect them: a slick, effects-laden action-movie framework. Its studio, Warner Brothers, promoted it like any other blockbuster project, but cleverly avoided giving away any of its biggest secrets in its trailers or ads. It all worked: not only did the movie rake in hundreds of millions and spawn two (ill-conceived, I feel) sequels, it made itself felt in pop-culture consciousness like little since Star Wars. If that isn't a piece of subversive cultural engineering, I don't know what is.
"A mythology for the information age" was the label I came up with for The Matrix not long after seeing it. Twenty-plus years later, the label continues to stick. The information age is now the disinformation age, and our world has become virtual unreality — not because it was strong-armed onto us, but because we cheerfully gave ourselves over to it thinking it was a good idea. Against all this, the Wachowskis' digital fable still stands tall, outliving the slickness of the moment and resisting attempts to misappropriate it.