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Imaginations of the Future: Part Three — Social Futures


These books show us a future where new social orders can emerge, grow, change, die, be replaced by something new. The limit is really only our imagination. Read the second blog in a three-part series by Nirica that brings you books with different imaginations of the future.

Rebellion in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire / Lionsgate

Part Three: Social Futures 

Science fiction has always been a space within which to imagine radical, new possibilities. Stories of the future illuminate how we live today, but also remind us of the strength to dream beyond existing power structures. There’s a two-way road of influences within science fiction – stories that reflect our world, and real-world reflections of stories. Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest, for example, is a science fiction novel that takes place on another planet, features alien characters, but was written partly as a response to the Vietnam War. The rebellious three-finger salute in The Hunger Games, a sign of rebellion and dissent, was adopted by protestors in Thailand in 2014 (more on that very fascinating instance here!). These books show us a future where new social orders can emerge, grow, change, die, be replaced by something new. The limit is really only our imagination.

Beyond the apocalypse: Post-apocalyptic worlds don’t have to be dire, as these books remind us. In Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, there’s a profound sense of hope that transcends the apocalypse. It asks us, what do we want to protect at the end of the world? Characters celebrate art, forge connections, and continue with the hard work of living. SB Divya’s short stories in Contingency Plans For The Apocalypse And Other Possible Situations offer multiple visions of what the future could look like, and the people who continue to find their way through it.

Beyond the wall: In these future worlds, living takes place within the walls of a society cut off from the rest of the world. Within the wall, hierarchies rule. Who holds the people in? What’s beyond the boundary? In Gautam Bhatia’s The Wall, young characters rebel against controlling groups in a search for the truth. In Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, a young woman grows up in a closed-off gated community in post-apocalyptic California, and dreams of an alternate world.

Beyond the planet: In these gentle books, the future is out there. Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary is the story of a stranded astronaut, who forms an unlikely connection across barriers of language, species, even worlds. Becky Chambers’ To be Taught If Fortunate is a story of curiosity and exploration, as four scientists travel across the galaxy and encounter new worlds and new life. Its title comes from the Voyager record, a greeting to alien lifeforms: “We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate.”

The world we live in is far from a utopia, and there are narratives from real-world communities that are important to hear, and to amplify. Real-world rebellions are performed every day, and lives are lived at the margin of a society that invisibilises them. We recommend reading Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a graphic memoir of Satrapi’s childhood and the story of her homeland, Iran; Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s The Trauma of Caste, a powerful work of Dalit writing that draws from liberatory movements across time and region; The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan, a book of essays engaging with difficult questions of sex, feminism, and liberation; and Footprints of a Queer History: Life-Stories from Gujarat by Maya Sharma, a collection of ordinary stories of queer lives, complicating a single story of existence and bringing the personal into the political.

Cross-culture connections in Arrival / Paramount

We are rich with visions, stories, imaginations of what the future will look like. But what will it look like? We’ll just have to wait and see.


Nirica Srinivasan enjoys reading anything that could be called "weird lit". At any point in time, she is reading at least six books. 

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