Books

Future Tense Fiction

"A good science fiction story can help re-sensitize us" to the peril and promise of the new.

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Science fiction that imagines today's miracles as the predecessors of tomorrow's nightmares is the norm. Future Tense Fiction is a nuanced collection of speculative fiction stories.

Initially published in serial form as part of Future Tense—an editorial collaboration between Slate, the New America Foundation, and the University of Arizona—the stories in Future Tense Fiction yoke strange technologies to daily life. While policy organizations and media outlets both tend to imagine the worst when they look to the future, Future Tense Fiction imagines the worst, the best, and the so-so.

"Living with technology is profoundly weird," the editors write in their introduction. What's new today is so integral to tomorrow that we can't help but take it for granted. "A good science fiction story can help re-sensitize us" to the peril and promise of the new.

In "When We Were Patched," for example, author Deji Bryce Olukotun imagines a future in which tennis matches are refereed by both regular humans and "Augmented Assistants," yet subtle questions of sportsmanship and fairness persist.

Nnedi Okorafor's "Mother of Invention" depicts a socially ostracized Nigerian woman carrying an unfaithful man's unborn child. We tend to worry our smart homes are servants of the surveillance state, but in Okorafor's story, the protagonist's home is a friend and protector. (The story has a twist, but it doesn't involve the sentient house suddenly being evil.)

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