the trouble with Science Fiction…

The trouble with Science Fiction, especially near-to-medium future SF, is that it frequently seems… dated.

Consider the following two books (both of which I enjoyed tremendously, btw):

Greg Bear’s Eon, written in 1985, features two groups of space explorers: the Americans and Soviet Russians as per pre-Berlin Wall communism. Oops.

Stephen Baxter’s Titan, published in 1998, features the Space Shuttle Columbia. Oops.

Do you think a fantasy book, or even a literary book written in either of those years would feel so out-of-date?

Now if I were either of these two authors, I’d have been bashing my head against the wall after the historic events that screwed up my fiction had taken place. You know, Science Fiction is meant to be futuristic and all that and how dare one little event date my book so much? You do all the work to make your book as realistic as possible, and then real life turns around and provides some dramatic change from an angle you hadn’t considered and renders your work dated.

Of all the time periods writers can write about, the future dates most quickly.

So what do you do? Writing Historic Fiction is one option, but not one I find attractive.

I can’t say I have a clear-cut answer, but:

– I’d try to avoid being too specific about things like politics, countries and companies (although you may try giving the voodoo kiss-of-death to big-name companies everyone loves to hate by featuring them clearly in a novel, and hope that this will ensure they go out of business).
– I’d assume the world will change dramatically, and portray a dramatically changed world-political landscape. The only thing we know is that the world will change, so no change isn’t a believable option. To this end, one of my future worlds has no US, the philosophy being that no empire lasts forever.
– I might just shrug and recognise that my fiction is a product of the year it was written, but realistically, I’d like my fiction to remain fresh for longer than a few years.

Alternatively, many writers of space-based SF excise Earth from their fiction altogether. In those books, Earth was a planet where people once came from, but it is either too far away to matter, it has been destroyed or lost or just doesn’t feature at all in the story.

You have any ideas on how to make realistic SF date-proof?