The SF blogosphere is having a minor kerfuffle (I'm not sure it has any other kind) over the attitude of SF literature. Jetse de Vries, the editor of an upcoming anthology of "positive SF," posted a castigation of SF writers for predicting doom while failing to provide solutions. That would be environmental doom, natural-disaster doom, medical doom, economic doom, and political doom. Jason Sanford's blog, in a convoluted post, agreed with de Vries, saying that much SF lacks the attitude that "humanity is always able to find a solution to the problems we create...I would argue that this positive outlook is what is missing from SF these days, and also explains why the literary SF genre is in such trouble. SF found in video games and on the big screen generally keeps to the classic positive attitude."
This is an interesting argument. Not the first part, because if "humanity is always able to find a solution to the problems we create," obviously we wouldn't now have the problems. Fiction that always solved everything would not mirror life. But the larger issue -- that SF accentuates the negative aspects of technology and science -- is probably true. And there are at least two good reasons for this.
First, Sf writers do not have the solutions to the environment, natural disasters, medical issues, etc. If I knew how to halt global warming, cure cancer, and prevent recessions, I would publish monographs, join think tanks, and/or consult at a zillion dollars an hour. When my stories do propose "answers" to these things in the form of future tech, the tech is often the weakest part of the story because it's so vague. How do you genetically engineer people to not sleep? Damned if I know.
Second, writers use negative scenarios because it makes a better story. Jetse specifically mentions Paolo Bacigalupi as an example of an author creating brutal and negative futures. Well, he does. And he's so good at it that you read breathlessly to see how his characters will cope with the next negative thing thrown at them. That's what fiction does. And since good writers are trying to create art that comments on reality, the outcome is not always pretty. Read the newspaper lately?
The function of art is not cheer-leading, not formulating policy initiatives, not providing a moment of bland daily sunshine. The function of art is to say something about life. Something profound or amusing or interesting or insightful or cautionary. But basically something true, and truth simply is not always positive. This alone goes far to explaining why the big-screen SF that Sanford praises is so often just stupid (see many previous "Cranky at the Movies" posts.)
However, I will end on a positive note right now: Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah or Joyous Kwanzaa to you all.