Future Story-Worlds

City at dusk

Near Futures

In his book, Writing Popular Fiction, Dean Koontz offers writers useful advice on a number of aspects that go into writing a well-crafted novel. In this post, I want to look at one aspect of the writer’s toolkit à la Koontz—the construction of near-future worlds (as opposed to words set in the far-distant future.)

Thirty or Forty Years Hence

Writing about our world, as opposed to writing about a completely alien planet, is more difficult because not everything can be made up; our crystal gazing has to ring true, even if it is cast years hence. It has to contain enough extrapolated but recognisable elements to convince us of the verisimilitude of such a world. This requires the ability to project and predict the outcome of trends and defining issues, or, at least, the ability to sound convincing. It requires knowledge and maturity.

But what are the signposts a writer ought to identify in seeking to create such an authentic future? Koontz offers us the following:

The Future of Moral Codes

What is considered acceptable today, wasn’t mildly acceptable, even in the West, a few decades ago. One only has to look at the issue of gay rights to realise the extent of the shifts currently underway.

Domestic Politics

Will current political systems still be defined by polarities as seen in countries such as the Untied States (Democratic/Republican), Australia (Labour/Liberal)?

World Politics

Will the U.S. still exist? Will Russia or China? Or, will a new power have risen to prominence. Brazil perhaps?

Religion

Will the U.S. remain predominantly Christian, or will another religion rise to displace it? Perhaps science will eventually weaken religion to such an extent that it becomes irrelevant? Or perhaps the reverse is true: the resurgence of monolithic religion?

Personal Lives

This is, perhaps, the most important and detailed category.

How will our homes change? Our clothes, music, transportation? What types of food will we eat? Will marriage still exist as an institution? Will the number of children be limited by the sate? Will the smoking of cannabis be legalised? Will the moon and Mars harbour human colonies? Will space travel be made accessible to the common man or woman? Will cancer, madness, disease in general, be cured or will new diseases arise?

These are some of the categories, which, Koontz suggests, are useful in helping the writer to sketch in the background of a world that is both familiar and strange—a world that allows one’s characters to live and breathe in the imagination of the reader.

Summary

In thinking about possible futures, it is useful to concentrate our mental journey around key markers that define us as a society. This post explores Koontz’s ideas of what some of those markers might be.

Invitation

If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.

4 thoughts on “Future Story-Worlds

  1. Amelia Chamberlain

    Is there a reason why your posts are getting shorter every time? Or is it just my imagination? Anyhow, no offense intended, but as far as near-future world building goes, your post barely scratches the surface. Yes, there are some good questions, but you should have given examples. A post like this needs illustrative examples of what the near future could hold. What do you think the world will look like in twenty years? And what if the US goes all-out Muslim/Whatever else, what will happen then? Look at the riots, and at the current Russia-US situation, is it telling you something? How long until our next war, and what will happen in it?
    There’s a lot more questions than you have considered, and I think you ought to be more specific with all those topics you have in your original post.

    That being said, how about you talk a bit about the second turning point next week? Or did you do that already, if so, I can’t find it!

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Thanks for the comment Amelia. No, I don’t think the posts are getting signifiantly shorter. As to the depth of examination, sometimes I look at a single aspect, and concentrate on that, while at other times I give more of an overal sweep, a taster if you will, which involves less detail. This post, drawn from Koontz, is merely intended to get one thinking about the sort of categories to be explored in more detail by the author. In my actual classes, I do of course, go into the details. As to the second turning point, I’ve written a few posts covering it. Thanks again for your view.

      Reply
  2. Stavros Halvatzis

    Thanks for the comment Russ. Remember that I’m writing about Koontz’s views on the topic. But I do agree with him that an “alien” or far-future world weakens the test of verisimilitude (and therefore the normal standards of authenticity), which, in turn, allows the writer more freedom for unfettered invention than is otherwise the case. What I would say is that alien worlds are more labour-intensive, since much more has to be imagined from scratch, but the process might be somewhat less critical on conventional standards of authenticity, and hense, less difficult, in that sense.

    Reply
  3. Russ Welsh

    I have to disagree with you, Stavros. Not on the whole post but on the idea that alien worlds are easier to write. I find alien worlds decidedly more difficult. At least with future human worlds there is a grounding of sorts. You can never truly predict the future but you can research what has come before to make a more educated guess. History often repeats itself. With this in mind, you can study the psychological and sociological patterns in human history. What has happened recently has happened before. But what came next? Figure that out, you have a safe bet that could be what’s happening now. What came later is what could happen in the future. As I said, human nature. Fantastical worlds come entirely from the imagination and need to be thoroughly designed and explained. Otherwise it runs the risk of being trite or unbelievable.

    Reply

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