Today I’m happy to share a guest post by author and futurist Brenda Cooper! Her novels include the books in the Silver Ship series (The Silver Ship and the Sea, Reading the Wind, Wings of Creation) and Ruby’s Song (The Creative Fire, The Diamond Deep). Edge of Dark, the first Glittering Edge book, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and is her most recent published novel—until tomorrow, which marks the release of the sequel Spear of Light!

Spear of Light by Brenda Cooper

By Brenda Cooper

So I was asked if I would write a guest blog about being both a writer and a futurist. I’m a technology manager, a working futurist, and a science fiction writer (and you guessed it–I don’t get enough sleep!). The future is always in my head, and science fiction, of course, is really a conversation about the future. One of the things I think about the most is the balance between technology and nature.

We are already surrounded by, dependent on, entertained by, and frustrated with technology. For most of us, all of those states happen every single day, and our future is going to be even more full of machines. It’s going to be replete with robots and smart objects, webbed with connectivity, and full of energy. This brings me pleasure. I’m an early adopter, and often fascinated with new things–for example, I was a Google Glass Explorer and I’m already wearing Fitbit’s Blaze, their newest fitness watch.

In spite of my fascination with technology, I love sitting on my back porch and listening to the aspens rustle in the breeze or the owls calling across our ridge in deep and profound conversation. Sometimes I just need the connection to reality that I feel when digging my hands into the soil, when grit is running up under my fingernails and the rich scents of decay and growth surround me in the garden. Maybe that’s not in spite of technology, but because of technology.

Our future depends on both of these states.

We need technology to manage an increasingly complex world. There will be over 8 billion people by 2025. Our lives will depend on technology to grow, inspect, and distribute food, to create clean water, and to provide medical care and medical advances. Technology will tell us about storms, diseases, innovations, and ideas. We will depend on technology to help us save the natural world. Drones will monitor elephants to protect them from poachers, sensors will identify toxins in the sea and track predators like wolves and tigers, and multi-layered real-time mapping will describe the effects of climate change on plants and animals. Technology will help us re-wild and detoxify the planet. With it, we will be better able to manage the boundaries between wild places and the fabulous cities of the future.

Helping to protect wild places may be technology’s most important job for the next fifty years. If we fail, we will probably lose many of our most important species, including icons like elephants and also less visible but more important parts of the food chain such as bees. We need wild places to grow and pollinate our food, to create our oxygen, and to purify our water. Even more, we need the wild to feed our soul. Study after study has linked time in nature to how good we feel and how healthy we are.

So these are the things that live in my head and that show up in my stories and articles. Linkages between machines and people, sensors and nature, and the present and the future.

As a writer, I want these stories to help people think about the critical complexities of the future. As a futurist, I want to encourage conversations about what we are creating. The future doesn’t happen. We make it as we talk about it, worry about it, and tell stories about it. I’m not alone, and there are other working SF writers who are also futurists. The most famous are almost certainly David Brin, Vernor Vinge, and Greg Bear. Others include Ramez Naam, Madeline Ashby, Tobias Buckell, and Karl Schroeder. I hope that we future-obsessed science fiction writers are creating fiction that entertains and starts conversations.

Brenda Cooper
Photo Credit: Tim Reha
Brenda Cooper is the author of Edge of Dark, Book One of The Glittering Edge series; The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, Books One and Two of Ruby’s Song; and the The Silver Ship series. She is the author of Mayan December and has collaborated with Larry Niven (Building Harlequin’s Moon). Cooper is a working futurist and a technology professional with a passionate interest in the environment.