Big questions over the future of humankind have traditionally given legitimacy to popular stories about science and technology. Science fiction has long been credited with the ability to anticipate how audiences are prone to interpret the promises of technological progress. The genre of science fiction and its relevance to popular culture can also be construed as an excellent tool for reading the challenges of the present. Under capitalism and socialism, the complex uses of science fiction raised big moral and political questions, while challenging notions of literary style and visual aesthetics. Two trends have long been prevalent in science fiction: the first, that of totalitarian dystopia, started with classic literature. Off and on-screen, dystopian stories reveal a Panopticon society, where the pervasiveness of technology removes any hope of individual life. The second trend is that of climate fiction: narratives that imagine a world dramatically changed by the climate breakdown show that our society can always be brought back to a pre-modern state by resource scarcity and overpopulation. Ever more, totalitarian dystopia and climate fiction prove that their readers are of particular interest nowadays: they have the onerous task of trying to make sense of a growing body of literature that now points to the difficulty of telling apart reality from simulation. Ultimately, science fiction helps audiences look into the way we like to think that humankind is facing an increasingly technological present; it does so by framing this moment in time as having been shaped by a possible future.
Roberto Paura & Onoriu Colăcel
Roberto Paura is co-founder of the Italian Institute for the Future, a non-profit think tank on futures studies, where he also serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Futuri. After a PhD in Science Communication at the University of Perugia, he collaborates as a science and cultural editor for several Italian magazines (Quaderni d’Altri Tempi, Esquire Italia, Delos Science Fiction, Il Tascabile, L’Indiscreto).
Onoriu Colăcel is Senior Lecturer in English at Ștefan cel Mare University of Suceava, Romania. He has written on the contemporary English novel and on the Romanian and Moldovan literary cultures and visual media. His authored books include Postcolonial Readings of Romanian Identity Narratives (2015) and The Romanian Cinema of Nationalism. Historical Films as Propaganda and Spectacle (2018).