From Andy Cline’s Ready Player One to Judge Dread to Black Mirror and Pacific Rim, near future works are endless.
Close anticipation is not a genre, it is an approach.
Common point of the corpus: the stories must take place in the near future. Something to get excited about and also often fuel the nightmare machine.
What is sience-fiction?
Science fiction is inextricably linked with anticipation. It is about imagining possible developments in science and technology in order to explore possible future possibilities. In their time, the forerunners of Mary Shelley (Frenkenstein), HG WELLS (The Time Machine) and Jules Vernes (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) marveled at the advances of their time to build wonderful philosophical stories. or terrifying. These, among others, invented speculative fiction. Imagining the future, even on the basis of facts and cutting-edge documentation, is still science fiction. SF is written in the conditional, not in the future, and always feeds on the context in which it is born. And too bad if its projections fall short of reality or become obsolete, sometimes in just a few years. Because even when they claim to talk about something else, the works are full of the mindset, values and knowledge of their time, and of their author. It always speaks of the present, and has effects in the present.
The case of near future.
The genres of the imagination, including fantasy and SF, are therefore always situated in relation to the real, and the works of near future undoubtedly hide this even less than the others: their plots are close to their context and time. of creation – and close to us who receive them. For the British writer J.G. Ballard, the near future would be a means of talking about the “true future”, the one that we “see approaching”, as opposed to hypothetical elsewhere, in eras and galaxies far, very distant. On the contrary, from space opera or mythical fantasy, the near future does not open the door to escape, it immediately announces “in not very long” and implies “right here”. Ballard himself was adapted (Crash by David Cronenberg).
In the continuity of Ballard, many works – novels, films, comic series, games – have placed their plots in a futuristic universe, without necessarily exploring a supposed immediate future. Problem: all fiction implies a distancing from reality. Near future works consciously break this convention with the help of a distorting mirror. Everything is familiar and so different.
But why are these works often so terrifying?
Seeing the future negatively, is it for ease? Where has the reassuring cocoon of our daily comfort gone? Do we no longer have the right to dream, to imagine? This is a crucial question. Most of the near-anticipation works outbid the existing, adding a small dose of dark futurism, freewheeling technology, eerie androids, triumphant capitalism, and permanent cops. Just what it takes to smash the glass in our comfort zone. The reassuring daily life becomes deadly, your intelligent vacuum cleaner seeks to kill you, a spaceship is planning its worrying shadow over the city, even it is absolutely necessary to chip or get vaccinated so as not to fall on the cost of law and order. . (get vaccinated guys, this is important)
In the preface to his full short stories, Ballard cautioned against this trend:
“The future […] is a dangerous, heavily mined area that tends to turn around to bite your ankles when you take a step forward. “
Too late the damage is done.
Many works anchored in the near future stage an imperceptible and perpetual shift where each technology, each authoritarian drift, each change in lifestyle or degree of global warming, testifies to the fact that nothing will ever be the same again. Rather than the completely reconfigured worlds of the post-apocalypse, where everything was destroyed and then recast, this is about the cycles of life and death of civilizations. The collapse is not imminent, it is immanent. History is on the move. It happens continuously.
In the fluctuations of a pandemic, the British series Years and Years, or through the words of Chuck in Fight Club:
«This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time”
Paradoxically, it is also this perpetual end of the known world that allows all hopes and allows utopias to flourish, however diffuse they may be. Dark futures fuel the emergence of new horizons, new battles to be waged and new hopes to be nourished. Suddenly utopias exist mainly to legitimize the fights waged against them. In reality, the great battle of imaginations, ideas and values is fought deep inside each of us. The fight is brutal, merciless, it spares none of our received ideas, our intuitions and our usual thinking patterns. And test what we think we know as the disgust, fear or revolt that arises over fiction becomes able to inspire us and spur us to action. For example, the treatment of aliens in District 9 strikes us as despicable, because it inevitably reminds us of the plight of refugees around the world. What is terrifying about this distorting mirror is less the distortion it conjures up than the fact that we recognize ourselves in it.