Using Future History in Storytelling

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M. Hempsell (2017), JBIS, 70, pp.430-441

Refcode: 2017.70.430
Keywords: Science fiction, Story world creation, Back story, Future history

Abstract:
A future history is a fictional work incorporating a complete projected history substantively linked to the world situation at the time of writing; `substantively' meaning the story is affected by this link to the real world. It is one of several options available to the creators of science fiction stories as the back history, which itself is part of the process of creating the story's world. The world in which a story is set is often an unappreciated underpinning of a story's success, and if the story leads to a multistory franchise it can become the most important item of intellectual property. The story's world sets the rules by which the protagonists operate and a rich interesting world can be the key component of a rich interesting story. Using a future history as the back story can powerfully link a story to specific aspects of human society, whereas using disconnected or disjointed histories creates a more fantasy aesthetic and thus becomes a more general consideration of the human condition. However, a future history has the danger of appearing as prophecy, and prophecy can rapidly appear silly and thus destroy the story's original power and appeal. The author discusses some ideas as to how a future history can be used to establish the link to the real world and give focus and specificity, while retaining its original aesthetic as time passes and any predictions it makes are inevitably proved wrong.

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