Do Sci-Fi Writers Dream of a Corporate Payday?
Here's a new way to survive in science fiction.
Hopeful sci-fi novelists rejoice: it turns out, your speculative fiction might carry currency in the corporate realm, thanks to SciFutures. If you’re okay with selling out, you could stand to make some money with that creative writing degree after all.
SciFutures pays writers to envision the future through “sci-fi prototyping” as a predictive model for corporate clients including Visa, Ford, and PepsiCo. CEO Ari Popper told the New Yorker that the consulting firm deals in “corporate visioning,” which means that the stories they produce for clients aim to guide the companies in the right direction when it comes to innovation.
This collaboration might strike science fiction fans as odd, given the fact that the genre’s stance on corporations has, at times, been distinctly negative. Corporations are the driving force of conflict in some of sci-fi’s most prominent offerings, from Jurassic Park’s InGen to Alien’s Weyland-Yutani.
SciFutures also counts branches of another long-vilified entity amongst its clientele: West Point, the U.S. Navy, and NATO have all utilized the services of SciFutures’s writers’ panel.
According to The New Yorker, SciFutures editor Trina Phillips outlined some of the stories that she and other writers produced for NATO, with a range of scenarios that sound like Black Mirror episodes: soldiers dosed with pheromones that induce fear in enemies, a video game where the killing is real, and so forth.
One could also argue that science fiction is not the most accurate predictor of the future. Bladerunner is set in 2019, and unless some major shifts take place, modern robotics is nowhere close to producing androids that are as hot as Daryl Hannah.
It is difficult to predict the future when there is so much that is uncertain in the present. What is the nature of our modern dystopia? To some, the societal impulse towards instant gratification runs parallel to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, while the rise propaganda and, perhaps, fascist tendencies in the American government remind others of George Orwell’s 1984. Or maybe the present isn’t like either of the two books everyone had to read in high school because in this age of interconnectivity our worldview is more multifaceted and unpredictable than ever before.
But determinative nature of speculative fiction aside, it’s clear that companies with an eye towards technological innovation dominate the current corporate landscape. All five of the most valuable brands, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, deal in tech.
And if those tech companies are willing to pay writers to help “accelerate [their] innovation curve,” why not take advantage of the opportunity? A well-written proposal could even end up shaping the future, in some small way, in your image.
You can apply to be on SciFutures’s writers’ panel here.