Today, most science fiction writers, concerned with possibilities rather than probabilities, begin with some plausible premise about the future and create a logical, internally consistent story around it, self-contained and exhaustive. It is a kind of intellectual game, and when played fairly and well it can be marvelously stimulating.
It can also be a useful game, for writers of science fiction show, typically, not one future but many. By doing so, they serve the valuable purpose of conditioning us against “future shock.” As Isaac Asimov pointed out a long time ago:
(see link at end) …A totally connected world is a totally dependentworld. Will F. Jenkins, writing back there just a few months after the end of World War II, saw the whole thing coming.The rest of us, though, are rarely so lucky. We don’t expect tobe. We are concerned with possibilities rather than probabilities;we begin with a premise about the future that has a certain logicalplausibility and extend it to its farthest consequences, primarily to see what the consequences of such a premise would be. As Isaac Asimov wrote in his 1953 essay on social science fiction, “Its authors, as a matter of course, present their readers with new societies, with possible futures and consequences. It is a social experi-mentation on paper; social guesses plucked out of air. And thisis the great service of science fiction. To accustom the reader tothe possibility of change, to have him think along various lines—perhaps very daring lines.” Read More:http://www.scribd.com/doc/89367946/Visions-of-Tomorrow
Contemporary science fiction often accomplishes this by taking a metaphorical and symbolic approach to the future. Asimov’s own far-flung galactic empires turn our eyes to the stars with a new receptivity; ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950) inspires awe and respect for what is alien and fragile. The point is perhaps best made in the greatest of all visionary novels, Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men (1930).
In a calm historical reverie Stapledon’s narrator traces the evolution of humanity through the next two billion years- a period in which the earth is destroyed and mankind takes refuge first on Venus, then on Neptune. Several times the human race is reduced to a few dozen individuals; always they begin again, reconstructing civilization and reshaping their own physical forms. Species succeeds species: the Fourth Men are giant brains, the Fifth Men superb, titanic creatures, the Seventh amiable, birdlike beings. Stapledon does not mean for us to take these fanciful inventions literally; he is saying that the future will bring unimaginable change, yet the human spirit will endure all transformations- even unto the time of the Eighteenth Men.
it is these Eighteenth Men who must submit to the final catastrophe of cosmic explosion, and one of them pronounces the epitaph for humanity: “It is very good to have been man…We shall make after all a fair conclusion to this brief music…”