The best science fiction is set in the future but is really about the time we live in today; it uses its future setting as a kind of reductio ad absurdum. My favourite film of the moment is Wall-E; everything about this film is perfect, but I won’t go on about it right now. However it is clearly showing a possible future extrapolated from caricatured aspects of contemporary life (waste, pollution, selfishness, self-absorption) and uses science fiction trappings to tell a moving story (robots reminding humans how to live and love). In my opinion Wall-E is successful as animation, sound art, drama, literature and science fiction. It also, like Red Dwarf, has no aliens and a massive ship drifting in space but I digress.
Ideas are formulating and have been for some time, and they are just starting to bear fruit (genetically modified future fruit). Two of my favourite non-science fiction books are slave narratives written by freed or escaped American slaves. These wonderful, awful books are Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. The format provides me with a historical template to use in my slowly forming sf universe. One of slavery, oppression, suppression, trade, genocide, abolition, Universal Declaration of Rights, and continued modern slavery under different forms, names and in faraway lands... in space. It gives me the scope to address vitally important issues such as communities recovering from past enslavement, child soldiers in Africa, enslaved women in the Islamic world, debt slaves in Asia and human trafficking (especially into the West where slavery is supposed to have been eradicated). The wide range of subjects also allows a framework to build a wide setting of space and time in which events happen. If treated sensitively, and if I am successful in writing a story of the quality I think I can manage, I may even do some good for the world (raise a bit of money for charity...). Also the sf setting means I can let my imagination run away and keep the story entertaining instead of preachy. And if I feel like it I could forge ahead into a future utopia free from slavery.
Meanwhile a running theme returns: I’m too tired to do write anymore. I literally have forgotten the start of a sentence by the time I am half way through. That last paragraph about science fiction and slavery was probably an embarrassingly illiterate babble, but even if I haven’t communicated it properly the idea is solid. I have written what could either be a stand-alone prologue, or the start of an opening chapter. It’s been redrafted, pored over and read multiple times (all by me), and the verdict is in: the idea holds promise and what I have written so far is excellent. The odd sentence needs a tweak, but all in all it is fluid prose, mature, establishes a literary style, and provides a hook.
Pass me Foundation by Isaac Asimov, or my notebook, and I’ll get reading or writing as sleep draws in. Stop.