[To understand science fiction,] you have to be able to make the two images that are coming at you from science fiction cohere into a single image like 3D glasses.

So, on the one hand, science fiction is stories set in the future. It’s as simple as that. You set a story in the day after tomorrow and it’s science fiction; if you set it 5 million years from now it’s science fiction even though those are two very different story spaces. And therefore science fiction is related to prophecy, a very very ancient power. A lot of the books of the Old Testament are saying “Look this is what’s coming because of the way you people are.” It’s a little admonitory and a little Thoreauvian scolding of one’s fellow citizens for not being good enough. And this power of prophecy that’s so ancient is not to be denied. Some of my fellow science fiction writers will say, “Oh, science fiction is not really about the future.” Why would you say that? It’s a great powerful thing to have, saying, “Science fiction is about the future.” It’s a serious attempt to portray a possible future and one that could happen given what we know right now. You even run out a timeline often. And it’s not that this will happen; it’s not prediction. Because the future cannot be predicted. It’s too multi-variant, and too unpredictable. But it could happen this way, and so you’re running a scenario or a modeling exercise. . .

The second lens is indeed that science fiction is about right now; it is a metaphor for right now. Nobody can ever talk about anything but their own time, and when you look at older science fictions you see that very clearly. It’s hilarious, they didn’t get it right, it’s nothing like what came to pass, but if you want to know about 1954 when you were in 1954, you need to read the science fiction of 1954 to get that this is what they felt was in potention in their own time.

Kim Stanley Robinson