• Hi Simone,

    Many thanks for introducing this book; it looks very worthwhile. Can you elaborate on your point about ‘science-based fiction’ and the contrast with Huxley and Orwell? Weren’t Huxley’s and Orwell’s dystopias intended as extrapolations of real developments as well?

    I’d say the case of 1984 illustrates that history usually goes differently from what both the optimists and the pessimists foresee, and that futurologies are usually more a comment upon the present than a genuine prediction of the future. Would you say this book dfifers from other dystopias in the certainty of its predictions?

    • Simone Schleper

      Hi Jeroen,

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

      I agree, both 1984 and CoWC are inherently presentist in their objectives. However, I don’t think whether Oreske’s and Conway’s predictions are more certain than those made by Orwell or Huxley is the crucial point. The aim of my post was certainly not to discredit past authors. Yet, 1984 and BNW have probably passed the stage in which we would count them future scenarios. I think it would be wrong to shelf CoWC next to what now has become classic (science) fiction. Not only were 1984 and BNW written in a different time and context (the loss of individual freedom in totalitarian or mass societies vs. an individualist form of capitalism that threatens the continued existence of societies). But such an equalization with fictional classics might also mitigate the perceived urgency of today’s climate issue.

      … But I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this.

      • Hi Simone,

        Thanks for your reply. It seems our disagreement on this point is semantic/classificatory. Indeed, I don’t think that we should classify works of fiction based on the likelihood of the possible future they paint. We seem to agree on that, but then again, you do seem to think that the fact that 1984 and Brave New World turned out not to happen does matter in this respect, and I don’t really see why.

        There are a lot of predictions made in fiction and non-fiction alike; most of them turn out to be inaccurate. 1984, BNW and CoWC seem to portary fictional futures intended as being very near to actually likely futures, which are extrapolations of a selection of real trends and developments as perceived by the authors. In that they seem to be alike. Your conviction that climate catastrophe is currently more likely than hedonistic or totalitarian dystopias shouldn’t matter too much, I think; nor should the consideration that putting these books next to each other might give audiences the wrong ideas about the likelihood of climate catastrophe. I don’t like “Based on a true story” signs on the covers of novels, and I don’t think it turns them into a different genre; and I feel the same way, perhaps stronger, about “Based on a currently probable future”.

        But I shouldn’t assume too much about the book itself until I actually read it; perhaps it just feels different than 1984 or BNW, and the label ‘science-based fiction’ to some extent covers that difference. I hope to find out soon. 😉