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Why science fiction dates so horribly, sometimes

April 19, 2018

My biggest problem is also with time. Maybe it’s not as important as I first thought.

Matthew Wright

One of my pet irritations with some science fiction is the way authors often succumb to the ‘recency effect’ when inserting the ‘science’ part into their stories.

The Sun’s corona. Public domain, CC0 license, via

What usually happens is that a recent discovery, looming large and appearing to transform understanding, becomes a raison d’etre or story pivot – except, not long afterwards, that discovery is either discredited or put in proper place. That dates the story instantly.

The best science fiction doesn’t fall for that one; and for good reason. Ultimately, the science is part of the setting – but what counts is story, character and, often underlying commentary. Ultimately, science fiction isn’t about the future. It’s about us, now, and the best sci-fi stories are really social commentary on current trend.

When that’s done right, the story becomes timeless – because the author has nailed the fundaments of…

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