Here we are, Themecraft Thursday! As stated in a previous entry, I meant to start this last week, but work life got in the way.
As authors of genre writing, we tend to find ourselves facing similar themes as our predecessors. Each genre is different but not entirely able to stand on its own, given the amount of crossover that happens, but there are no doubts each genre has a theme many writers tend to follow. For Romance, it’s Characters A and B struggling to stay together. For crime thrillers, there’s usually a crime involved, either theft or murder (mainly).
For fantasy, it’s often some kind of threat that will bring down death and destruction upon the inhabitants of said world, an imitation of war in real life. There’s also the epic quest aspect to either obtain or be rid of some mystical artifact.
For science-fiction, the biggest catalyst for what the future could be like is World War III. Star Trek used it, Star Ocean has used, and I have used it (Arc of Fantasy is set in a distant future with World War III and IV having been fought long before the main characters were born). These are only a few examples of speculative fiction where World War III has taken place and brought about a much brighter future. If I recall Star Trek: First Contact correctly, the Earth didn’t sustain a lot of environmental damage during the War – if it did, my apologies. It’s been years since I’ve watched the movie – but, in Star Ocean, the damage to Earth’s environment was quite extensive. A lack of resources, humans living in cities deep underground, and serious damage to the land, air, and oceans. Arc of Fantasy follows a very similar vein in that respect.
So what is it about World War III that science-fiction authors find fascinating? I once saw a meme that said speculative fiction writers aren’t always trying to predict the future. We’re trying to prevent it, and there’s something inherently terrifying about World War III. It’s the one World War in which the powers that be have access to nuclear weapons. World War II prompted their invention and their usage but on a smaller scale. We know firsthand what the first atom bombs did to cities like Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan.
And those bombs were nothing compared to what’s been created in the years since. They’re stronger. They’re more powerful, more concentrated. We know their negative effects from the testing done in Arizona and from power plants going critical in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Chernobyl, even twenty-some years later, is still inhabitable for humans.
It’s the idea that loss of life on a massive scale and the destruction of the very land we need to survive is in the hands of people drunk on their own power and, sometimes, with no regards to the lives of others. Yes, in the United States, there are checks and balances put into place to keep such a thing from happening, but that wouldn’t stop an enemy from initiating such a war.
Now, personally, I feel quite certain that weapons of mass desctruction would only be used as a last resort if/when World War III takes place. It all depends on who is in power and where.
There’s also another aspect to this, one I think that tends to enamor science-fiction authors more than anything else.
After each event of World War III, the advancement of technology just explodes. The Earth is often in a dire enough situation that sitting back and relaxing just isn’t an option. Space flight would not only be resumed, but space exploration would be hot on the heels of man heading back into space.
That’s what truly enamors us the most. Space exploration and what other planets will look like when we visit them. What kind of life will we encounter? It’s the idea that, in the aftermath of World War III, we will encounter aliens and be ready to accept them, that we’re going to be able to accept ourselves and others for the differences that reside amongst us but be able to celebrate and acknowledge those diversities. It’s my personal belief that, when we speculate on the aftermath of World War III, we’re hoping for a better future than what we currently have for our real lives, where it’s going to be okay and accepted to be a woman, to be a person of color, and to be gay or transgender. We hope that we’re no longer going to be ruled by politics and greed.
This is just the hopeful aspect of World War III, the distant and shining future we dream about, though we never truly touch upon the immediate aftermath of the fallout of World War III. (Expect bumpy roads and a toss back in time, quite honestly.)
And not all science-fiction writers use World War III as a catalyst for technological advances. It isn’t the only vehicle used when writing speculative fiction. There are no doubts, however, that it is an interesting once.