Futuribles Journal n° 413

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

The Invention of the Future: Foresight and Science Fiction


As the main French journal devoted to foresight studies and to reflection on the future of the contemporary world, Futuribles has always been careful to distinguish foresight studies, based on more or less rigorous methods and on data, from other future-related works more akin to fiction. And yet, if only through its “Futures of Yesteryear” feature, it also makes room for thought and work of a more literary nature —utopian or science fiction writings— comparing these, in some cases —a certain time after their publication— with reality as it actually transpired. To take this exercise a stage further, we have decided to initiate an extended series on science fiction’s relations with —and contributions to— foresight studies, in order to determine whether —and to what extent— science fiction authors have influenced foresight thinking and the collective imaginary.

It is Gérard Klein, one of the most widely acknowledged French experts in the field of science fiction, who opens the first strand in this series with an article that aims to give a general overview of the contributions of science fiction to thinking on the future from roughly the 19th century onwards. In this “Invention of the Future”, Klein shows how many futuristic and science fiction works there have been, the wealth of themes covered, and the contribution made by these writings to works involving projection into a more or less near future, whether they be utopias, dystopias, counterfactual histories or instances of historical “foresight” properly so-called. He also stresses the difficulty and ambiguity involved in attempting to discern, within these old works of science fiction, projections of a future that will assume meaning only decades later (the realization of which the authors and their contemporaries could not, therefore, really anticipate). Even going so far, at the end of his article, as to venture a predictive study of science fiction, Klein offers a rich analysis of the works of science fiction, compared with the realities which actually ensued in various areas of life —areas which will be examined in more specific articles (on political, social, environmental, technical aspects etc.) later in this series.

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