Some might label my new book Death of Heaven, as a massive big Horror / Sci Fi novel, but I suppose technology doesn't play that big a role in it; not a lot of science is involved, really. Though it does span the entire history of the Earth and goes far into deep space. So that makes it more speculative fiction, but it does kind of walk the line. It does however step outside of our comfortable understanding of history both natural and social and redefine the entire history of our world, how we understand who we are and where we came from.
One of the most important things that the old Sci Fi stories did for me as a youth, was to open my mind to new ways of thinking. They redefined how I viewed the universe. As examples of those books I read, see the Foundation books, the Dune series of books, even Ender's Game, and Gibson's books.
The Sci Fi of the early years that I grew up with from the 50s and 60s (I started reading them in the mid 1960s but I read back to the 1920s), were very tech savvy and space heavy. Well, we're there now. So why would it now hold the same fascination for us as it did then? What has become our next fascination, as that would be our new "Sci Fi"?
Possibly, "magic"? Defining "magic" as a technology so far ahead of us that we can't see it's source or mechanism, we do see a big upsurge in fantasy tales recently which current films of the superhero stories certainly fall under. I'd even include in those, Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter franchise of films and books. Though those do fall more under entertainment than Science Fiction, they do something that Star Trek did for us in the 60s, they can examine things outside of our daily lives, because obviously those people on the screen cannot be us. For instance, Star Trek could point out race issues, something very difficult to talk about back then, by showing us how foolish aliens acted over their race issues.
We want total fascination. Immersion. Escapism, surely. But also to look forward as a hope to something better, some better possible future, perhaps one that we will one day see. Tech just isn't so fascinating for us as it once was, as we're all more educated now and it's really just every day life for us. We basically have Star Trek communicators (cell phones). We're not beaming around... yet. But we are very close to having a true "tricorder", a device with multiple sensors and a conglomerate readout.
I actually have a "Tricorder" app on my phone utilizing the capabilities of my Droid and it's really pretty cool for what it can do; certainly from the perspective of someone who was once fascinated by the original Star Trek TV show when that was all we had.
So, why should it still be as fascinating as it once was? We have more recently seen the Steampunk genre on the scene, a hybrid of tech and old societal nuances which I find interesting to some degree and rather charming. So much so actually, that I included a pair of demon hunting Steampunk subculture women in my screenplay, "HearthTales" (currently out on MovieBytes.com and Inktip.com). They are Steampunk for a very good reason in the story and not just for fake, aesthetic purposes.
All that being said, we do still need Sci Fi and Spec. Fiction, as much now as ever. We're just not as fascinated by it all because of having it all around us, of being immersed in it on a daily basis. It has indeed made us a bit jaded and inured to it. But also through all of my life, and I've seen this happen in my own interests: there seems to be a trending cycle, both personal and societal of going from Sci Fi, to Fantasy, to Science, and then it starts all over. It could be that we're just in the non Sci Fi part of that cycle right now. Not to mention Science now a days has replaced Sci Fi in many cases as it is simply reality for us in many ways and no longer Fantasy or Fiction. Turn on the Science channel, and you are watching "Sci Fi", but for real and not for Fiction.
Sci Fi and Speculative Fiction allow us to step outside of ourselves and view the world around us and where we are heading in a way that is far less threatening, as well as entertaining, if it is done well. It is almost imperative that we do this now in a world that is changing faster than we can keep up with. One of the most powerful tools we have in life is awareness, anticipating what is coming and being prepared for it. Politics doesn't do this for us, it seems to fail time after time in this arena. And so we have to turn to the Arts, specifically Films and books and now, even computer games. Games which even become books and films now.
Paramount in this kind of consideration should always be History. But along with that also, Science and Speculative or Science Fiction.
In the end I would say that yes, big Sci Fi is necessary for us now a days. The bigger the better. And as much as ever if not more. It's just that it only seems less necessary than in previous times.
But don't let that fool you.