With the great advancements of science and technology in the last century, some even reflecting the almost predictive work of past science fiction authors, how has new science fiction adapted to new ideas? Is the genre still just for entertainment, or do science fiction writers have an obligation to connect science with the public and teach new ideas?
A project to directly collaborate scientists with writers has produced the anthology 'When It Changed', but how well did this work? Did it change the way authors thought about their Science Fiction work? That is what the panel of collaborative authors and scientists at 'When it Changed: New Science Fiction' tried to address. Author Michael Arditti explained how it could be tough as when sending work out to scientists, they would often send it back saying "it's rubbish, that will never happen". But is this simply because fiction and science are so different?
Ideas in science fiction have become difficult to navigate. They can either be completely unbelievable or when writers "invent new science" for a storyline, science fiction writer Geoff Ryman feels "This can be very satisfying but has become clichéd". On the other hand a lot of science fiction ideas have stagnated with the suggestion that science fiction has "Gone from a genre of wonder to a genre of comfort".
It's possible this is to do with the modern complexities of science, "it has moved beyond the knowledge of the public" proposes Michael, or even that ideas cannot compete as the "abstract-ness of new science has more imagination".
However Geoff suggests science fiction has become more important in discussing the ethics of current science, "fleshing out a science idea, showing the consequences". "Science proves we can do something, but society decides whether we should", author Sara Matiland adds.
Sara however enjoyed "learning stuff" with her collaborator Dr Jennifer Rowntree (particularly the word 'totipotent'). The access to a scientist allowed her to learn not only the facts but also how to ask questions about the science; And after all, isn't this what is most important to both scientists and writers? The imagination to question the unknown.