Past or future? Which draws you?

Almost everyone has a preference. 

Science fiction tends to appeal to future-oriented people, as does speculative fiction in general. Other genres tend to be dominated by stories of the past or present. There are always exceptions. Alternative history, time-travel, steampunk, and fantasy often mix time-frames in interesting ways.

Some of us are drawn to the past, some to the future. Our records of the past provide glimpses into the experiences of others, valuable if we learn from them. Our speculations about the future provide goals and warnings, valuable if we heed them.

History is always recorded from a particular perspective. The history we know is a tiny sliver of what has actually gone before, a very incomplete picture. Even our own memories are notoriously unreliable. On a personal scale, the past is as imaginary as the future.

The future is a blank slate. We may assume that current trends will continue, but based on past experience, this is unlikely. Recorded history is essentially the record of events that disrupted the expected flow. Yet we live and plan our lives as if we know what’s going to happen. The future is truly unknowable.


There is nothing we can do about the past, but we can influence the future. The future is a rich playground for imagination, which is why it attracts speculative fiction writers. We can extrapolate from what we know into plausible futures. We can create stories that encourage us to think twice about where we are going, to hopefully plot a safer and more productive course.

The future is where our hopes and fears all reside. Forewarned is forearmed. Progress requires a goal. Let’s look ahead.

When you look to the future, what do you see that doesn’t get enough attention in fiction?