I’ve been thinking lately about the need for a new way to describe a certain sub-genre I enjoy. Usually these books are classified as Science Fiction because they involve a post-apocalyptic future. But I think we need some way to separate them from versions that revolve heavily around space, robotics, aliens, genetics, etc.
Station Eleven really brought this need home (though I’ve also been thinking about a better way to describe Hugh Howey’s Wool to the non-sci-fi fan). While a future apocalypse is central to some of the story lines in Station Eleven, it’s only peripherally a meditation on technology. Instead, it reads much more like historical fiction: the particular setting is important to the plot but still ancillary to the other themes. In fact – and I’m really giving away nothing here – one of the main characters is dead before the apocalypse begins.
To enjoy what I’m going to call Future Fiction, there’s really no need to be interested in alternative realities. In Station Eleven, the strongest elements are the relationships and slow meditation of the unpredictable consequences of seemingly small choices. In Wool, I would say the story is really about risk and reward, the tradeoff between security and the freedom of the unknown.
So, if you love captivating novels but you’re not a science fiction fan, do yourself a favor and pick up some good Future Fiction. There’s a reason that Station Eleven made so many “best of” lists this year.