The sci-fi genre has always been a little too nerdy for the mainstream. But that ship is changing its course.
Sometime last year, a co-worker was telling me about a first date she went on.
“He was nice enough. But then he told me he’s a software developer and started talking about how fascinating coding was. I was like ‘laaame.'”
I remember thinking how absurdly out-of-touch she sounded. Forget about the fact that it’s one of the most sought-after skills in our job market. Forget about it being a very well-compensated profession. Her dismissal of this guy’s nerdy occupation has no place in our society anymore. Everyone’s a nerd now.
Fortunately, I had the satisfaction of responding with “My wife is a software developer.”
For the past 15 years or so, the rise in technology has awoken in our society’s inner nerd. Our culture has fully embraced the fantasy genre. We’re almost sick of zombies at this point (almost). But as far as sci-fi is concerned, mainstream culture has only so much as tested the waters.
Erik, you’re a jackass because Star Wars, you say.
Ignoring your rather immature insult, yes, obviously Star Wars is extremely popular and has been since before a lot of us were born. But unless you’re eating up the lore and debating the quantum physics of space travel, you’re like most fans who prefer not to. Star Wars wouldn’t be what it is if the creators didn’t serve it to the public in easy, bite-sized chunks of sci-fi goodness.
But all of that is about to change.
With outer space colonization becoming more of a reality, more media inspired by space exploration is emerging. And it’s ensnaring our culture’s attention more than ever before. There are huge titles across various mediums of entertainment that are piquing our interest. Here are some of the biggest titles currently changing the game:
The fantasy genre had its peak with Game of Thrones. The Walking Dead stole the hearts of horror fans and non-horror fans alike. But for a gritty, realistic portrayal of the sci-fi genre, look no further than The Expanse.
Based on the series of novels by James S.A. Corey (pen name for two authors, one of which is no less than the personal assistant of George R.R. Martin), The Expanse has a complex political world rivaling that of Game of Thrones. Couple that with the zealous attention to the human struggle in outer space, and you have yourself the most ambitious TV show that SyFy network has ever taken on.
Having just finished watching the first season and reading the 3rd book in the series, I highly recommend it.
TV shows not immersive enough for you? You might find yourself wishing it was already hundreds of years from now so you can get straight to having your own spaceship. Elite: Dangerous will feed your nerdy little heart. It’s an online multiplayer space simulator that sends you on your own adventures in space combat and trading.
The game world is huge, boasting a 1:1 ratio realistic rendition of the Milky Way galaxy. That’s not even the best part: Elite: Dangerous provides support for one of the biggest virtual reality contenders, the HTC Vive.
Finally, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for an EVE Online subscription to be a part of a huge MMO sci-fi universe.
Taking place in an alternate-present day reality, around 1% of the population were born in the ’80s with superhuman abilities. Well, not superpowers so much as hyper-cognitive awareness. These people are called ‘brilliants.’
Being able to outperform the rest of the human population has caused brilliants to become the target of public scrutiny. Society has become very concerned about the threat brilliants pose. One brilliant himself is tasked with hunting them down and killing them. The rest of the brilliants fear persecution and begin resisting.
If you ever wished the X-Men universe was a little grittier, this might be right up your alley.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve been waiting for this game to be released for a while now. With a focus on space exploration, players are given a spaceship and a massive procedurally-generated universe to delve into. And yes, you can land and walk around on different planets.
It does have a multiplayer component. However, Hello Games founder Sean Murray has bragged that the galaxy is so huge, you might spend over 100 hours in-game without finding any of your friends. Nobody explains it better than Sean Murray himself, when he decided to improvise a gameplay demo for E3 last year:
Hello Games has finally announced a release window for No Man’s Sky, June 2016.
AMC hopes Humans at least somewhat fills Breaking Bad‘s shoes. And seeing as it’s already won a couple awards, things are looking up.
This show takes place in an alternate-present day in which androids are a common household appliance. The show explores how that impacts real human life. And specifically, what happens when some of these androids become sentient.
It’s been renewed for a second season, probably to air this July.
While the Red Rising trilogy leans more toward the young-adult novel side, it’s not without its hard sci-fi elements.
Taking place 700 years in the future, this book series follows Darrow, a young miner who works to help terraform Mars. He doesn’t stay a miner for long, though; a shadowy organization augments his abilities for the sake of bringing down an oppressive ruling class.
The final book in this trilogy, Morning Star, has actually been published as of the day of this writing. There’s also a film adaptation in the works.
This upcoming video game is as ambitious as it is mysterious. CD Projekt Red, creators of The Witcher video games, announced Cyberpunk 2077 back in 2012. Since then, they haven’t fed the hungry press or fan-base with much more than a teaser trailer.
What we do know about the game is that it promises to blend an open-world environment with deep and complex tabletop RPG elements. The press continues to hound CD Projekt Red especially since a couple of months ago, when they announced they’re shifting focus to Cyberpunk 2077. Now that the bulk of Witcher 3 has been taken care of, they hope for a late 2016 launch.
In short, if it’s like anything we’re used to from CD Projekt Red, it’s bound to completely dominate the gaming community’s attention.
What about you? Is there any sci-fi you’re enjoying that I missed? Let me know in the comments. And if you enjoyed this piece, please subscribe!