You can draw a distinction between the Core, Fringe, and Middle in the modern world:

Core: Wall Street, D.C., Hollywood, politics in developed countries, upper-level military in developed countries, cutting edge companies, Harvard.

Middle: Suburbs, Middle America, the working and middle class in the developed countries, everyday occupations.

Fringe: Developing countries, military expeditions to developing countries, survivalism and rustic living, black and grey markets, impoverished areas of developed countries, political ideologies and cultural traditions not popular with developed country elites, autocratic developing country politics, Antarctica.

In science fiction’s vision of the future, you can draw a similar Core/Fringe distinction:

Core: Ecumenopolis, interactions with highly intelligent AIs, high-level government and politics on the most developed and powerful planets, galaxy-spanning corporations, Earth as the Galaxy’s capital.

Fringe: Newly terraformed planets, underdeveloped planets, aliens resistant to the technology and culture of more powerful species, autocratic alien species, interactions with robots as menial laborers, expeditions to poorly-known parts of the Galaxy, war on distant planets.

Science fiction seems to have a bias towards the Fringe in its storytelling. Often the work starts with the character in the Core being “bored” with the Core and seeking out adventure in the Fringe, where the remainder of the story takes place. Or it starts with a character in the Fringe and features a chapter or two in the Core, where the Fringe-originating character feels uncomfortable and is happy to escape.

Imagine that many facets of industrial society were correctly predicted by pre-modern writers, but that they focused mostly on the Fringe. A book would start in suburban America with the main protagonist being bored and seeking adventure in the Fringe, it not occurring to him to seek adventure in Hollywood or Wall Street. Corporations would often be seen but usually as an external force oppressing the protagonist, rarely would the protagonist be inside the corporation itself. Migration from the Core to the Fringe would be more common than the other way around. Portrayal of the hellish(to a pre-modern observer) density of modern Manhattan would occur, but rarely as a permanent setting, with most of the action taking place relatively close to nature. It would make sense to portray the Fringe more often than the Core, because pre-modern readers would be able to better identify with the Fringe than the Core. But this very thing makes the Fringe less interesting than the Core.

What are some works of science fiction that portray a far future taking place mainly in the Core? The Age of Em(not a work of science fiction obviously) does a good job of staying firmly in the Core, speaking mostly to the experience of ems,(who will dominate the world) and not to the experience of humans,(who will be on the Fringe of the world) yet this very fact was the subject of complaints that it should have focused more on humans and less on ems, who readers were less able to identify with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s