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Sci-fi once predicted the future. Has it become stale?
Future
For a genre that predicted the existence of some technologies that are now staples to daily life, some are saying science fiction has become too predictable or driven by digital effects. - photo by istockphoto.com

It’s easy to anyone who watches the original “Star Trek” series of the 1960s to see similarities between Capt. Kirk’s handheld communicator and a cellphone.

Up until the 1990s, when cellphones became a staple in American households, the device that enabled Kirk to talk to the bridge of the Enterprise was considered a distant fantasy for the average consumer. Since then, tech companies have created many real-life versions of technology once reserved for Starfleet.

The problem is that while technology has caught up with fantasy in some instances, science-fiction as a predictor of future technology has slowed considerably. Some, like Slate’s Ed Finn, say that science-fiction has officially become stale.

“Why are all our narratives about the future 50 years old? We seem to be recycling big ideas as if we live in an inspiration drought,” Finn wrote. “We’ve retooled ‘Star Trek so many times, it’s starting to look like one of those 1957 Chevrolets still cruising the streets of Havana.”

But it’s not just a lack of gadgets sci-fi fans are faced with, but a surplus of doomed dystopian world view. Going back to “Star Trek,” Starfleet acts as an intergalactic peacekeeping force in the universe, as both war and disease have been eradicated on Earth.

Yet as Lee Konstantinou wrote for Slate this week, the days where science-fiction painted a picture of both technological and social advancement seem to be gone entirely.

“All of these movies and books -- from The Hunger Games to Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy -- are good at alerting us to the problematic nature of inequality, but terrible at envisioning solutions to what is likely to become the defining problem of the 21st century,” Konstantinou wrote, referencing income inequality.

And perhaps movie adaptations are part of the problem with the alleged slowdown of cutting-edge science-fiction. As Movie Pilot pointed out in July, Hollywood and audiences that are preoccupied with the latest and greatest digital effects sometimes pay more attention to explosions than storyline. Movie Pilot’s Michael Barone urged Hollywood to use more practical effects circa the original, untouched-by-digital “Star Wars” trilogy to avoid the genre becoming “boring.”

When audiences buy into sci-fi subject matter more for the special effects than the story, the genre as a whole suffers, Konstantinou said.

“We come for the evocative allegory, but stay for the gory action and expensive CGI explosions,” Konstantinou wrote. “As imagined worlds, such stories are more or less incoherent. As allegories, they’re muddled, to be kind.”

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com, Twitter: ChandraMJohnson