How to measure the power of a science fiction story

image0Too often, we hear that a science fiction story has "succeeded" if it predicts the future accurately. But that's the wrong measure of success. The most powerful works of SF don't describe the future — they change it.

It's true that SF stories predicted things like satellites, smart phones, and gay marriage before they happened. To that I say: Who cares? Predicting a gadget or social change isn't a terribly enormous accomplishment, especially when you consider how many predictions that SF writers get wrong. But more to the point, it's not the job of storytellers to predict things. That's what we have futurists, investors, and probabilistic modelers for. Storytellers offer us narratives that help us make sense of our world, by providing a meaningful structure that expresses what Ralph Waldo Emerson once called our "latent conviction."