In contrast with some of his fellow speculative fiction authors, NASA physicist Les Johnson is hopeful about the future of humanity. “In terms of the quality of life of human beings on planet Earth, this is the best time in human history to be alive,” he says.

He does worry that one major threat—climate change—has the potential to wreak havoc, causing food shortages, property destruction, human-driven extinctions, and population displacement. But he’s taking the long view.

“We tend to myopically focus on little problems and not look at the big picture,” Johnson says. “I have to be optimistic. I have to look at it and say, ‘Yeah, these are problems we’ve got to overcome, but the trend is in the right direction.’ ”

Johnson’s Mission to Methone (Baen, Feb. 2018) speculates that technology being developed today will make for a rosier future in 2065: solar sails allow journeys deeper into space, asteroid mining operations revolutionize industry, and artificial intelligence offers benevolent guidance.

Sam J. Miller offers a darker scenario in Blackfish City (Ecco, Apr. 2018)—one in which the world has been completely reshaped by climate change. The gloomy vision includes millions of refugees, a deadly disease, and political inequality, but Ecco Books executive editor Zachary Wagman thinks the novel “can absolutely give us hope.” Amid its many tribulations in this flooded future, humanity is able to harness the power of geothermal energy and nanotechnology.

Wagman looks to speculative fiction for these kinds of solutions, because science fiction writers, he says, “can so clearly visualize a future that illustrates possible answers.” Here, a look at forthcoming titles that explore how our lives might change for the better—or for much, much worse.

Above the Timberline
Gregory Manchess (Saga, Oct.)
Manchess has painted scores of book covers, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln for his presidential library, and a Mark Twain stamp. Now, the illustrator delivers his first novel (with more than 100 pages of artwork) set in a future in which climate change produced a global snowstorm that lasted for 1,500 years. In this devastated world, Wes Singleton is searching for his father, an explorer lost during an expedition to find a city buried beneath the snowfall.

Andy Weir (Crown, Nov.)
Weir follows up his 2014 blockbuster The Martian with another story of the near future. Jazz Bashara, a smuggler living in Artemis, Earth’s only city on the moon, joins a heist plot and becomes enmeshed in a conspiracy that could determine the lunar city’s fate. PW’s starred review said the novel’s “sophisticated worldbuilding incorporates politics and economics, as well as scientifically plausible ways for a small city to function on the lunar surface,” adding that “the independent, wisecracking lead could easily sustain a series.”

Blackfish City
Sam J. Miller (Ecco, Apr. 2018)
Rising sea levels and climate change have led to a series of disasters: the U.S. government has fallen, water wars ravage Asia, and the internet has been destroyed by a wave of computer viruses. Some refugees have settled in Qaanaaq, a city built at the heart of the melted Arctic Circle and now plagued by crime, corruption, and civil unrest. Four people at the fringes of society find their lives changed when a mysterious woman named Masaaraq arrives.

Mission to Methone
Les Johnson (Baen, Feb. 2018)
In 2065, a researcher scouting locations for a space mining operation discovers that a spaceship containing an alien artificial intelligence has been orbiting our solar system for many years. The ship serves as an advance scout in an intergalactic war, and sends Earth an urgent message to head to Methone, a tiny moon near Saturn.

The One
John Marrs (Hanover Square, Feb. 2018)
Marrs takes the ubiquity of dating apps, adds the science of genetics, and conjures a near future in which a DNA test can locate one’s soul mate. The book follows five characters who have each taken the test, among them Ellie, a high-powered London businesswoman who discovers her soul mate is an average-sounding man living in a provincial town, and Christopher, a calculating serial killer who believes in true love.

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