Monday, 14 October 2013

Social Change

"To change" is intransitive or transitive. Thus, society changes and some people try to change it. They try to make society different not only from what it was before their intervention but also from what it would have been without their intervention.

Any science fiction future history must show social change. Some also show attempted reforms or revolutions. In the first two British future histories, by Wells and Stapledon, science is used to change society for the better although CS Lewis replies in the Ransom Trilogy, Volume III, that any such attempt would be literally diabolical.

In the first American future history, by Heinlein, and in Poul Anderson's first future history, modeled on Heinlein's, a science of society is applied to society with beneficial albeit temporary results although, in both cases, a mature civilization develops later.

A British future history is a fictitious historical text in a single volume whereas an American future history is a series of stories and novels set in successive periods of a fictitious time chart. Heinlein's Future History and Anderson's derivative Psychotechnic History each fill five volumes. The Ransom Trilogy and unfinished Ransom novel are not a future history but are a systematic reply to Wells and Stapledon on space travel, time travel, interplanetary invasion and future society.

Wells, Stapledon, Lewis, Heinlein and Anderson each envisage a plausible near future social crisis whereas Asimov's Foundation Trilogy instead presents the Fall of an implausible far future Galactic Empire. The seventeen (?) Foundation prequels by Asimov and his successors show the Rise before the Fall. The two sequels show the rise of a new, also implausible, interstellar civilization.

James Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy shows the Spenglerian Fall of the West, followed by the rise and fall of an interstellar civilization. Volumes I and II of Blish's After Such Knowledge (ASK) Trilogy are post- Volumes II and III of Ransom. Again, ASK is not a future history but, even more ambitiously, spans past, present and future in three genres: historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.

Anderson's seventeen volume Technic Civilization Future History shows the rise and fall of two interstellar civilizations and the rise of a third.

That summarizes social change in seven future histories with two detours 
into theological fiction, Ransom and ASK. We have alluded to:

2 single volumes (Wells, Stapledon);
3 trilogies (Asimov, Lewis, Blish);
1 tetralogy (Blish);
1 longer series incorporating Foundation (Asimov, his successors);
3 other multiple volume future histories (Heinlein, Anderson, Anderson);
61 volumes in total.

The 3 multiple volume future histories mentioned form a triad. Thus:

Heinlein created the model;
Anderson copied the model;
Anderson generated an unplanned future history by linking 2 previously unconnected series.

The unplanned history addresses social change by asking how the capitalist expansion of van Rijn's period comes to be followed by the imperial decline of Flandry's period. Anderson's other future histories ask:

How might civilization recover from a nuclear exchange?
How might the asteroids or an extrasolar planet be colonized?
How might people adjust to lives spent crossing interstellar space, either STL (Kith) or FTL (Nomads)?
How might human beings and AI interact?
How might post-human AI act?

Anderson's remaining future histories add perhaps 13 volumes to those already mentioned.

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