Two weeks ago I wrote a post, Visions of the Future, in which I worried that humanity is too stuck in the dystopian mode of thinking about the future and that we need to change our mode into a more positive, optimistic future for humanity. My idea is not new. Jetse de Vries has been trying to promulgate this worldview for years. In 2010 he put his money where his mouth is and published Shine: An Anthology of Near-Future Optimistic Science Fiction. While it didn’t garner huge attention or sales or start a new wave, it did plant a seed that has been slowly growing within the SF world. Jetse commented on my recent post, saying:

Great post, Matt, and obviously I agree with most of it. Now, would you mind telling me which stories that *you* have written so far do indeed portray an optimistic vision of the future? I’m not being snarky here: I really wish to know so I can read them.

The only problem was his comment went into my spam folder, and I didn’t see the comment until this weekend.

On Twitter, Jetse called me out for my inaction. He tweeted the following this past weekend:


There are more tweets, but you get the jist. Jetse is saying, “Stop complaining, start writing!”

First, I want to point out that I wasn’t ignoring Jetse. His comment went into my spam folder and it was only by chance that I noticed his comment when I logged into my blog. (I’ve since adjusted my spam filter.) So the delay was my fault, but it was not intentional. Second, I want to point out that I have, in fact, written several Optimistic Science Fiction stories, depending on your definition of such. They are (*note there are story spoilers below):

  • “The Last Probe” – published Sept 2013 in the Launchpad anthology, edited by Michael Brotherton and Jody Lynn Nye, about a space probe that overshoots its mark by many thousands of light years. Though this is a partial spoiler, the surprises it finds when it wakes up is part of the optimism.
  • “The Sounds of Old Earth” – published Jan 2013 in Lightspeed, about a man who must say goodbye to his ancestral home and move to a newly fabricated Earth. While elements of this story might seem dystopian to some, I do believe that the story (again, spoilers), ends on a note of optimism, and it shows a grand version of humanity that has completely rebuilt itself from ashes.
  • “Lullaby of the Ages” – published Sept 2008 in Reflections Edge, is about two aliens who gently coerce humanity, over centuries, to use a specific frequency of radio for their interstellar communications, in order that this frequency repel a predator species that eats entire galaxies. Again, while not overtly optimistic, it does posit a grand, galactic future for humanity, post-scarcity.
  • “Marie and the Mathematicians” – published Nov 2006, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #26, about a savant-like waitress at a university coffee shop whose world-changing ideas are stolen by a professor. The world they create together is ultimately a positive one (though their relationship is not).

And depending on how you read my other stories, I do have more optimistic ones. While I do tend toward the dark in my fiction, and while I like to write about things beyond or post-humanity, this does not mean that I do not share Jetse’s vision for a grand human future. But he is right in that I, like him, need to put my money where my mouth is. I need to write more Optimistic SF.

He pointed out a perfect opportunity for writers of SF, like me, to do so: Plasma Frequency magazine is now reading submissions for a special anti-apocalypse issue, and it seems a perfect place to send our Optimistic SF stories. While the pay rate is not great (1 cent per word), perhaps if more markets like these begin publishing Optimistic SF works, we will see some of the larger, professional markets like Lightspeed, Asimov, F&SF, and others taking notice. Of course the story still has to be good, and good stories will get noticed.

With the glut of dystopian fiction in the available today, the shift away from such bleak futures into alternatives is partially market driven, partially societal. But the shift does afford an opportunity for writers to introduce the Optimistic SF meme to a larger audience, since the market is now receptive to new ideas. I sense a collective shift in what people are looking for. Perhaps as a sign, just yesterday I came across this fantastic short video, an utterly optimistic view of the future if there ever was one:


Wanderers – a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.