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Thread by @_pmarino: "The sense of wonder went the way of our disillusionment with the present and broader cultural despair Sci-Fi explores our questions about th […]"

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The sense of wonder went the way of our disillusionment with the present and broader cultural despair

Sci-Fi explores our questions about the present, concerns about our relationship to technologies, and the order of society

Right now, we're apprehensive, and it's reflected
We can't meaningfully and usefully express a sense of wonderment and unbridled enthusiasm for the technological future and the society it will shape and inhabit until such time as we arrive at that sense of optimism in lived society, and come to terms with our apprehensions
While I would agree that a lot of "edgy" and "dark" science fiction at the moment often pursues that edginess and darkness to places a bit over-the-top and even to the point of self-parody, (looking at you, Black Mirror), it's still an honest reflection of broader worries
What would science fiction pervaded by a sense of wonder and enthusiasm look like in 2018?

First, you'd have to address the question of setting. Is it in the current world, the present with an alternate history, some future date (with intervening history), or alien worlds?
If it's in the current, real world, you'd have to address the question of why there is this enthusiasm about technology, space travel and the future, given the constraints of setting it in the real world.

This is fine, but then the story becomes about exploring that question
...and if so, the story really ends up more addressing why it is that the present world, within the reality we inhabit, just *isn't* in the right place to be optimistic about it
If it's at the current date, but with some alternate history, you have to set the break point (Sep 11? Financial Crisis? Earlier), and insert the intervening plausible history that explains why we didn't lose the spark of enthusiasm and wonderment
And then, again, a lot of the story then depends on that explanation, and the author's notion of what made us take this dark, despondent, inward-looking turn.
Again, this could be a great story, and an important one, but ends of being less about the wonderment itself, and more about the author's argument about how we lost it and why we are fallen
It could also point to how to get it back, but the sense of "what isn't" will be a dominant one for the audience - the sense of what might have been
If it's a future real world building from the real present, the intervening history would instead explain how we "got our mojo back" when it came to wonderment at science and technology and society, and what we are then doing with it
And once again, the story then becomes to some extent about how we escaped from, or redeemed, or otherwise concluded our current period of despondency, which still is in many ways a story about the present - a diagnosis of the ills that beset us, and how we might lift them
In a fully alien setting, the characteristics could be created from whole cloth, but the societies being examined must have some point of comparison to ours, or there is no dramatic purpose in exploring them
In any of these cases, if you're examining the idea of a Sense of Wonder at the possibilities of the Universe and Human Ingenuity, the fundamental question is always, "Why don't we feel this sense so strongly now?"

It is still mostly a question about the present
Because that sense of wonderment isn't so widespread, or uncritically held, or enthusiastically shared
Now, all that said, I think actually the genre that could more effectively be deputized to explore the idea of the Value of a sense of Wonderment at the Universe in the current moment would be Children's Fantasy
Because, in this genre, the author is freed from the obligation to explain what connection the fantasy world has to the real one. A child can explore the entirety of the cosmos with his or her crew of friends from the comfort of a home, in any age or era
In this situation, it would be possible to set such a story in the present, with no alterations to true history, and examine the idea through the fantastical adventures of a child who wishes to see more wonderment about science, technology, space and all the rest
I don't think these genre conventions are pedantic or silly. The ways they allow us to frame and explore questions are important and help the audience set its expectations for what is going to be argued and examined
And what is more, by reflecting on which genres are more appropriate for the exploration of particular questions at particular times, we learn something about how we frame those questions and their attendant problems to ourselves today
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