Author Topic: Why did society lose interest in space and sci fi in the early 2010s?  (Read 1888 times)

Offline CmdrShepN7

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I was just a young idealistic college student back then.

During the Summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college in 2014 a friend showed me a video game called "Mass Effect" and I was blown away by the universe, story, and characters that was created in this video game. As a "Cod bro type gamer" I also never seen a video game quite like it before. Role playing combined with cinematic storytelling. That blew me away as well. They were also playing the movie "The Fifth Element" on TV a lot during this time as well.

Another game that blew me away was this cute little indie game called "To The Moon".

Before space and sci fi had absolutely no appeal to me. Mass Effect gave me a sense of wonder of what might be out there in space. I also find out about an astrophysicist becoming more famous named "Neil Degrasse Tyson" and he only added fuel to that fire. Maybe "To The Moon" contributed to igniting this interest as well.

For some strange reason I associate space exploration and sci fi with the optimism of the 90s. Could nostalgia play a factor?

I end up finding out that Mass Effect was inspired by sci fi like "Babylon 5", Battlestar Galactica", "Firefly", "Farscape", and "Star Trek". I end up binge watching those. I then find out about all the space opera novels. I devoured space opera novels like James S.A. Corey's "The Expanse" and "The Culture" by Iain M. Banks.

I remember watching a video with a speech by Neil Degrasse Tyson where he lamented that society has not just lost interest in space but lost interest in dreaming of a better future.

I also get into games like "Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager" and "Kerbal Space Program".

2014 was really a cosmic year for me. That combined with "Cosmos" and movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy", "Interstellar", and "Big Hero 6".

I also remember the early 2010s as a vapid time.  Most students as well as wider society seemed more interested in reality shows, materialism, and partying.

Sadly I lost interest in space around 2016. During the quarantine I check out this show on Apple TV out of boredom and curiosity and it ends up reigniting my interest in NASA and space exploration.

Why did young people feel more of a need to conform during the early 2010s? Why not be athletic, fun loving, and yet smart like these badass people called astronauts?

« Last Edit: 09/26/2021 08:50 am by CmdrShepN7 »

Offline su27k

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I'm not sure society is that interested in space before 2010.

Which is OK, we don't need society to be interested in something for that something to make tremendous progress, like society is not interested in semiconductor either, but it has been following an exponential growth curve for decades. The key is commercialization, find commercial use cases.

Offline Blackstar

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I'm not sure I agree with the premise. It's very difficult to characterize "society" in any precise way. We're talking generalities. But one thing you could do would be to look at movie box office:

For 2011, two of the top domestic grossing movies were sci-fi: Transformers-Dark of the Moon and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I'd put five of the rest in the fantasy category (including Captain America: The First Avenger).

For 2012, it gets a bit harder, and I'd only put The Hunger Games in the sci-fi category:

For 2013, I'd put three of those top 10 movies in the sci-fi category:

But what you start to see there, and which could prove your point, is that comic book movies/fantasy really start to take over. Almost every year over the past decade, at least 2-5 of the top-grossing domestic box office movies in the US have been comic book movies, usually some part of the Marvel Comic Universe:

2015 had The Martian and one of those Star Warsy movies, as well as Jurassic World in the top ten. All can count as sci-fi:

I would argue, however, that the Star Wars franchise is really more fantasy than science fiction. There's two more of those in 2016 and one each in 2017, 2018, and 2019 (and Rise of Skywalker even made it into the top 10 for 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020 to make box office numbers go screwy).

Comic book movies and franchises simply dominate the box office for over a decade. But that does not mean that sci-fi is dead, only that Hollywood shifted and public interest shifted as well. However, there remain a number of big-budget sci-fi movies and television shows in production or currently airing/streaming.

Offline spacenut

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Most of the public is not interested in space or spending money "in space". 

Offline KelvinZero

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I tried to find someone who had attempted to quantify interest in SF.. this one looked interesting.. though not very rigorous:

On the other hand:

Science Fiction And Fantasy Book Sales Have Doubled Since 2010

Science fiction has exploded since the year 2000 and particularly in the last ten years. According to, 11 of the 20 top domestic grossing movies of the 2010s were science fiction, with a sci-fi movie being the top grossing film four out of the last five years. And in the past two decades, there have been 21 top-grossing sci-fi movies, compared with 24 from every other decade combined.

(but I think the above includes superhero movies as SF.. which I guess they are, sort of.. plus magic and Spider Ham. )

Googling "science fiction popularity by year" or "SF popularity graph"and looking at the image tabs also found some graphs that might be meaningful
« Last Edit: 09/27/2021 08:07 am by KelvinZero »

Offline libra

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When I red this thread premises  it amused me - I thought "try the 1970's, post-Apollo slump for public opinion definitively NOT interested in space."
Big backlash back then
"Apollo's too expensive"
"Too much of a Cold War byproduct"
"Technocracy, technology and bureaucracy suck, and NASA is a glaring example of all three of them"

Late 1969 NASA had a huge "outreach" meeting to try and promote their "Mars by 1982" tentative plan. They had a lavish dinner / cocktail inside - and outside were protesters. One of them managed to haul a cardboard sign up to a window, which red exactly this (pardon the rude word)



Fast forward to the 90's when I grew up. Shuttle and Freedom / Alpha / Fred / ISS had bad press: boring. I clearly remember being rather frustrated for Gagarin's flight +40 years, in April 2001.


As far as 2013-2014 went, I felt like a spoiled child. Imagine: Gravity, The Martian and Interstellar hitting theaters only weeks apart. I loved all three of them. But Interstellar had an edge, and The Martian was a book before a movie - and this left Gravity as a distant third. Plus I  can't stand the carnage in that movie: Shuttle down, Hubble screwed, ISS down, Tiangong screwed, Clooney down, Soyuz screwed... it is a space nerd nightmare, although the movie is nonetheless well worth watching.

1- Interstellar (by far !)

2- The Martian (because it's fun)

3- Gravity
« Last Edit: 09/27/2021 10:09 am by libra »

Offline tea monster

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When I red this thread premises  it amused me - I thought "try the 1970's, post-Apollo slump for public opinion definitively NOT interested in space."

I remember this quite clearly. Even by the time Apollo 13 flew, some newscasters were caught on the hop when the explosion happened as people flying to the moon was already 'old news'. People got bored very quickly. "Why are we sending people to the moon when we have so many social problems here?" was the constant refrain.

We are having some of the same reaction now after Bezos and Branson's flights with multiple memes and commenters knocking "Billionaire Space Tourists" for "wasting money" while we have so many problems on this planet. There are many answers to this, of course, but after so long, I'm getting rather snarky, and my reaction tends to be:  "Honey, you've had 50 years to make it right, how's it going for you?"

Online daedalus1

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'cos Dr. Who went PC.

Offline su27k

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On the other hand:

Science Fiction And Fantasy Book Sales Have Doubled Since 2010

As the article says, the growth comes from self-published ebooks, which I find are of questionable quality in most cases.


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