During COVID19 complete lockdown in Spain, I started collaborating with Monika Bielskyte on a couple of protopian science fiction scenes and here is the result. Our aim was to depict a more inclusive future world, far from the worn-out western scenario and eschewing the oppressive patriarchal western culture lens, where BIPOC people representative of diverse cultural backgrounds and gender expressions have a central role. One of our main goals was to challenge ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and the resulting erasure's in Sci Fi concept design. Hence, our characters are strong, powerful women and non-binary people, and our depictions focus on care, radical tenderness and celebration of life rather than violence, conflict and isolation like traditional Sci Fi.
A key thing was to show that bleeding edge technology can also be used for purposes other than warfare and surveillance, but rather as a form of self-expression, art or to help both humans and the planet we inhabit. Instead, we wanted to encourage people to connect technology with tattoos, fashion, music, parades and dances. Prosthetics that are not militarised but rather enhancing our human and artistic abilities, and drones that are not meant to surveil citizens but to interact both with humans and genetically modified and improved bioluminescent plant life in the city. The bodies of our characters are adorned with animated tattoos and wearable devices that do not encode workings of a police state but are the extensions of their selfhood, cultural and gender expressions.
I would also like to share this article by Martin Mitchell from Scenario Magazine where Monika talks about her work and we explain a bit of how we came to design these visuals.
And of course, if you don't know Monika or her work, please find the time to watch this amazing talk she did about how can we design and prototype futures that are more inclusive for all of us.
So I'd love to start a conversation revolving the many issues that traditional science fiction has. Despite being always the same boring and predictable stories of white, cis, straight men saving the world, we never get to see kindness, joy, celebration of life, rituals and spirituality, music, fun and games. Where are other genders, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, ages...? Where are plants, animals and other living beings (from this world, I mean)? Why are all the science fiction stories that come up to our minds stories of the end of the world, of catastrophic events?
Can we please imagine future worlds that are desirable and not just scary? Can we design worlds and stories that are based on collaboration and peace, common goals and kindness instead of aggressive competition, war and suffering? Can we even imagine societies that are not based on exploitative capitalism or repressive fascism and communism?
In the previous talk, Monika states that she believes that "those who control the fantasy control the future" and I'm sure she's right. And that's why I'd love this thread to become not only a place to question and come up with different issues that need to be addressed, but also and most importantly a place to share the work of artists, writers, thinkers, designers and so on that are radically opposite to traditional western science fiction. It would be amazing to create a place of inspiration for alternative and more inclusive future scenarios together.
So what Sci Fi movies, songs, videogames, comics, visuals etc you know that are inspiring and protopian?
A great discussion topic, thank you.
"Predestination" comes to mind—anything that shows diversity without making it about diversity.
It's crazy how much the 'norm' impacts us creators, too. Even though I'm a gay man, I made my first sci-fi novel about a heterosexual romance and leaned heavily on Blade Runner-esque sexist tropes—it's just what I knew about sci-fi from growing up in the 80's. So when I wrote a second book, I ensured the main character was gay, but not about 'being gay'—because that's what I want to read about, people of all diversity doing stuff that isn't about their so-called 'differences'.
Your suggestions for how tech and spirituality could combine also fascinates me, really inspiring. I'm always intrigued by how these two could mix. I did explore this in a near-future story where people displaced by rising seas share a 'vision ritual' with an AR-addicted city to inspire a kinder and more inclusive AR. But I only touched on this at the end. Your article makes me want to re-explore this future world after it has been affected by the ritual, and how AR—and all tech—could be used in more close relationship with nature, expression, and spirituality.
We get so distracted by the hype of how tech can 'enhance' our lives when it is often designed to keep us trapped in self-focused ways. But I'm sensing from discussions like this that more people are becoming 'hyped' by the way technology can be used to improve real issues, and that gives me hope. This from the article you shared is beautiful—"I honestly think that glorification of mechanical technology is a hang-up of the 20th century. Life as technology is where the cutting edge is: new organic materials rather than fossil fuel-based ones, biomimicry, genetic engineering, quantum biology. Nature is so much more potent than we are yet giving it credit for."
Great. Thank you!!
Hi Mario, Nice images. I'm giving visibility to this initiative (Stories from 2050) in my blog / newsletter, and I would like to use one of these pictures to link back here (this post). In case you do not agree, please let me know. Thanks
love this part here: "...depictions focus on care, radical tenderness and celebration of life rather than violence, conflict and isolation like traditional Sci-Fi".