In our penultimate AtoZchallenge post, I’m talking about yesterday versus tomorrow. And what do I mean by that?
Well, yesterday versus tomorrow is a perpetual theme in sci-fi – the past, that we travel back to (ala Endgame, perhaps? I haven’t seen it yet!) and the future we’re building. But I think there’s more than that in contrasting yesterday and tomorrow.
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of the tropes we touch on in our stories. It’s quite common to see stories based on the best, and worst of our history. DC’s ArrowVerse (most commonly Supergirl) tends to touch on Nazi tropes. I think that it’s common to see the tropes to do with subjugation and more really come to the fore, because it’s still being echoed, in some ways, in our lives now. It’s hard to see how we’ll get away from those themes though, given the current environment, which is why I think the tropes that we’re seeing from history, and from now, come up in many books, and creates the trends that inform dystopic future novels.
And that’s why I think yesterday is important to the novels of tomorrow. We talk about dystopia in terms of the lessons we’re learning. And it’s really important to talk about the lessons we learn from history in our novels IMO.
I think too though, that the more believable sci-fi novels have roots and extended information from the present, and maybe the past too. Using those ties, no matter how far forward into the future we go, it’s important, because it gives people a point of reference, to relate to.
The past of a fandom
I think the final element of Yesterday versus tomorrow comes from the rich canon built in fandoms. The one that sticks with me most is from DS9, where Sisko is thrown back in time and becomes a famous rebel that changed the course of history. Past Tense was a two parter that touched on the less than brilliant world that came before the Federation – and possibly set the scene for it too. Apparently, it was based on the African Prison Riots.
Another one, also from DS9 was a story of a sci-fi writer who ‘went mad’ imagining the world that actually existed in DS9, again, touching on discrimination, race, and the dangers of the past. Far Beyond the Stars is actually my second favorite episode from DS9, as it’s true that we dream the future before we get there, so from the perspective of those 1950s characters, the future didn’t yet exist, and the story was plausible, moving and actually quite touching. And finally, another ‘time travel’ (ish) story, still within the canon, and my favorite DS9 episode, ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’. Mining your own canon and fandom can work, if handled right. And Star Trek has strict rules about time-travel, which, funnily enough, they almost always manage to break. The only one that wasn’t a time travel story, explicitly, was ‘Far beyond the Stars’.
I think the eponymous Yesterday versus tomorrow game has to be the Assassin’s Creed universe. I’ll talk more about that later, I think, but it’s brilliant that their scans are helping with the Notre Dame tragedy. With art an essential part of our past, present and future too, I think that this is a fitting way to link up everything we creatives do, and it makes me proud to enjoy games (and they’ve donated to the fund to rebuild too!).
And as we touched on a little in Westworld, the past and present of a world can trigger a future no one expects…
What do you think?