Reasons to dive into science fiction

Science fiction is the democratic tool we need. To prove it to you, I have a statement that may be counterintuitive: science fiction is perfectly anchored in the present. She tells us: “Stop, we stop for two minutes, we take a step back and we look at the world that we are creating”. It is a refusal of the inevitable. In SF, the future is no longer straight-line progress of which we are passive passengers. And that is very political: by allowing us to access otherness, elsewhere, otherwise, this imagination is also a leading tool against hatred and withdrawal.

This role of SF works in all its media, also for series. Let's take one of the big successes of the year, the Netflix series The Three-Body Problem. It features a virtual reality headset with an incomprehensible workings and an alien species that we never see. Like the book from which it is adapted, it pushes us to our limits—as science fiction loves to do—by confronting us with the unknown.


The Three-Body Problem. // Source: Netflix
Saul will definitely be back in season 2 of 3 Body Problem. // Source: Netflix

SF is a road trip, a journey. Let's take the work of a French writer, Émilie Querbalec. Her novel The Songs of Nuying begins with a discovery: sounds emanating from another planet, which strangely resemble whale songs. A space expedition is launched and we are thinking of going to explore this planet. But, no, Émilie Querbalec mainly tells us about the journey within this ship where tech is omnipresent: like the SF genre, it is a beautiful and profound humanist quest towards oneself and towards others.

Utopia or dystopia?

When we say that we are fed up with dystopias, it does not mean that we should no longer write them or that they are invalid. On the contrary, it is a rather healthy observation: it is fortunate that we are fed up with dystopias. That is what they are there for. Sure, they depress us a little, but they also help us to refuse. Let's take the trilogy on digital transparency, by Benjamin Fogel. Volume 2, Silence according to Manon, shows us a future where digital omnipresence has transformed online hatred into an institution. But the author constantly counterbalances with our humanity. In this narrative tension, there is a spark that pushes for mobilization, a powerful outcry against masculinism and cyberharassment.

Of course, in recent production we find more and more the notion of hope. Becky Chambers is the spearhead of this positive, optimistic SF, based on living together and respect for nature.

This cohabitation between enviable and unenviable futures is necessary. When we want to talk about new technologies, we should always talk in terms of possible futures. There are many of them and they depend largely on us. Even with a smartphone in your hand, you have a choice. This is one of the best lessons of science fiction.


To listen to Brave New World

How to inform and transmit to understand the challenges of digital technology in 2024? »: that was the subject of this show, to listen to or listen to again on the France Culture website. François Saltiel received:

  • Marie Turcan, journalist
  • Dominique Boullier, sociologist, professor at Sciences-Po Paris and specialist in cognitive technologies and propagation.
  • Félix Tréguer, sociologist, member of Quadrature du Net, author of The Fallen Utopia, a Counter-History of the Internet (Fayard, 2019);
  • Maryse Broustail, history and geography teacher, trainer for CLEMI