It’s been a long ten years.
As the end of the year approached, I toyed with putting together some sort of “best of the decade” list, only to realize that that’s a nearly impossible task: stories are subjective at the best of times, and such a list simply comes down a reading list that most people will look at for affirmation that what they’ve read is good and correct. Plus, I don’t think I’m well-read enough to really do such a list justice.
Plus, I think that there’s a better way to look at the decade: how did science fiction and fantasy storytelling change in the last ten years? Why? After consulting with a number of authors, editors, and agents, it’s clear that the entertainment industry and SF/F have experienced major changes in the last ten years, from the introduction of streaming services, to Disney’s franchise domination, gender and politics within SF/F, self-publishing, and a growing acceptance of SF/F content within mainstream culture. This list is broken down into those categories, with a representative example or two from each section.
Here’s how the decade changed in 8 stories.
Disney’s Cinematic Universe Domination
Avengers: Endgame and The Rise of Skywalker
I remember exactly where I was when the news broke: a beige office cubical, clicking around on my usual rotation of news sites while I waited for the clock to run out on the workday. Then, my jaw dropped to the floor: Disney had purchased Lucasfilm, and it was going to launch the long-awaited third Star Wars trilogy (plus some others.)
While superhero films were a cinematic mainstay by 2010, the promise of a slew of new Star Wars films was something else entirely. The franchise had already died — twice, first in 1983, and again in 2005, always with the expectation that that was it: there would be no more stories, aside from the ones that we’d get as books and comics and video games. Now, we face the reality of an ever-expanding franchise.
In retrospect, it’s one of those big corporate moves that seems almost inevitable: Disney vacuuming up a major film franchise with the intent on adding to its massive content catalog. The company had already purchased Marvel Entertainment a couple of years before that, and had just gone all-in on its superhero franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers earlier that year. Since last year, it hoovered up 20th Century Fox and all of its holdings, which includes properties like X-Men, Alien, Avatar, Firefly, and others — all of which we are (or which I’m sure we’ll see) getting continuations or new versions of in the coming decade. I’m sure others will follow in the next decade. (I’m wondering when — not if — Disney will pick up a company Niantic, which owns Pokémon. Gotta own them all, right?)
Film franchises aren’t anything new, but Disney’s greatest contribution here is its “cinematic universe,” — essentially a bunch of inter-connected film series. You had trilogies for Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, pairs of films for Ant-Man, Spider-man (a third is on its way), the Guardians of the Galaxy, and plenty of crossovers where characters from one film franchise jumped from film to film.
This universal concept isn’t itself all that new: it’s something that Marvel and DC comics introduced throughout their histories, while Lucasfilm did something similar with its Star Wars Expanded Universe, crossing over novels, games, and comics. The jump to film is even harder, and Disney pulled it off spectacularly.
It’s also the only one that’s been able to really successfully do it on the big screen. WarnerMedia tried and partially succeeded with its DC holdings with its own DC Expanded Universe. It was more successful with its TV holdings, building out an impressive television franchise with its Arrowverse — comprised of a group of interconnected shows — which regularly cross over and allow The CW to easily launch new entries. WarnerBros had trouble expanding The Hobbit into a trilogy that rivaled the success of Lord of the Rings. Sony’s efforts to build out a Sinister 6 franchise based on the villains of Spider-man has fared … poorly.
A cinematic universe is a complicated, sprawling feat of storytelling, one that requires a massive scale and logistical resources to coordinate stories to figure out how to build the blockbusters that were Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. They required an intense knowledge and genuine passion from their creators for the subject matter, as well as the attention to the importance of characters and their journeys.
And for the most part, they worked. Avengers: Endgame, I feel, worked a bit better, because it had the benefit of being constructed from the ground up, with a decade’s worth of films slowly working their way towards that final film. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker was a bit more of a mess, because it inherited forty years worth of films and concepts that had to be wrapped up in a satisfactory way.
The Star Wars and Marvel franchises took different approaches to get where they ended up in 2019. Marvel’s 3-4 films a year approach worked consistently well for its audiences, while Lucasfilm’s film-a-year-strategy was a bit too much. But at their roots, they are similar: vast worlds with a huge number of characters and potential stories to play with. Neither are going anywhere anytime soon: Marvel Studios is planning to push out an impressive number of films and streaming TV shows in the coming years, while Lucasfilm has a number of original shows in its immediate future for Disney+ (as well as a new film of some sort in 2022, if rumors are true.)
The Cinematic Universe is here to stay: WarnerMedia abandoned its approach after its films didn’t do well, but it seems to be trying a new approach with films that stand a bit on their own, like Joker, Shazam, and Wonder Woman. But that isn’t the end of it. WarnerMedia is launching a new, two-part adaptation of Dune next year, along with a streaming TV series. If those projects go well, there is plenty of material to mine from Frank Herbert’s original novels, not to mention those that followed from his son and Kevin J. Anderson. A fourth Matrix is on its way in 2021 (if it does well, I’m sure more will follow.) HBO is spinning off Game of Thrones with a prequel series. Disney and Fox are readying 5 sequels to James Cameron’s Avatar, the first of which are scheduled to hit theaters in December 2021. Disney also holds the keys to franchises like Alien and Planet of the Apes.
What does this mean for cinema in general? Foot traffic at theaters has been trending down for a while now as they’ve faced competition from streaming services and video games. Blockbusters are becoming cultural events, things that average moviegoers simply don’t want to skip for fear of missing out. That has an impact on what makes it into theaters, and more than a couple of critics have worried about the viability of the smaller, intimate films that used to hit theaters. Directors like Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Cuarón ended up going through streaming services like Netflix to get their films, The Irishman and Roma made. What will this mean for younger filmmakers? Will their early efforts simply be warmups for graduation into a major franchise? Or will studios build out a talent pipeline with work on streaming shows or second-unit director positions within the framework of cinematic universes?
The greatest concern with any sort of cinematic universe is that of canon: how long can you run a series before you hit a creative brick wall, constrained by the events that have already been laid down in celluloid? Marvel and Lucasfilm keep a close eye on their continuity and holdings with groups like the Star Wars Story Group, staffed with knowledgeable individuals to help keep things straight. But those rules are inherently constricting for storytellers, and I’ve heard from more than one place that they’re wary of being able to play in such established universes, because of those constrictions. And, if studios put all of their efforts into cinematic universes, how do you create the next big Star Wars or Marvel franchise? I’m happy to see new entries in the franchises I love, but hopefully, we’ll get other new favorites to fall in love with in the decade to come.
Streaming Comes Into Its Own
Word percolated out slowly about a new, must-see show in the fall of 2016: one of the many originals shows from Netflix broke out of the pack and became a true viral hit. It captured the attention of viewers for its nostalgic throwback to favored stories from the 1980s, an excellent cast of characters, and a truly gripping storyline of a town facing an otherworldly threat. With its release, Stranger Things helped cement streaming video as a major source of entertainment outside of the traditional TV networks and movie theaters.
Streaming television itself had been around for years: streaming video came into its own with sites like YouTube in 2004, while Apple began selling TV episodes through iTunes in 2005. Netflix, which had been a go-to place for renting any movie or tv show you might ever want via mail, launched its own streaming video portal in 2007, while a bunch of TV studios pooled their resources to launch Hulu in 2008. Initially, those streaming services were great to catch up on the films or TV episodes you might have missed, and it wasn’t until 2012 that Netflix tried something new: it released all eight episodes of Lilyhammer, a series about a mobster trying to restart his life in Norway, as an original series. The streaming television arms race had begun.
In 2013, Netflix scored its first breakout hit: House of Cards, starring Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey, a cynical political drama that followed US Representative Frank and Claire Underwood as they steadily maneuvered their way to the White House. With those efforts, Netflix helped to establish a new medium for original television content, with which viewers could check out whenever they wanted, provided they plunked down money to subscribe. Netflix turned out a stream of hits: it formed a partnership with Marvel Television to produce a micro-MCU franchise, comprised of shows like Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Punisher, along with their own crossover series, The Defenders. It released The Queen, an epic drama about the life of Queen Elizabeth, crime drama Orange is the New Black, genre thrillers like The OA, Sense8, Altered Carbon, and many others.
Other streaming services and studios took notice. Hulu launched an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Stephen King’s 11.22.63 and Castle Rock, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and its own Marvel shows, like Marvel’s Runaways. Amazon Prime Video released show’s like of Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle, Transparent, Carnival Row, and picked up Alcon’s adaptation of James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse after SYFY canceled it after three seasons.
By the end of the decade, major entertainment conglomerates were waking up to the need to have their own skin in the game — a dedicated portal that will allow them to showcase their own offerings, as well as their own original content. Apple launched Apple TV+ with its own lineup of original shows, Disney launched Disney +, WarnerMedia announced HBO Max, NBCUniversal announced Peacock, while other, smaller services, like Shudder, ComicCon HQ, Stargate Command (since shut down), and DC Universe entered the marketplace for niche audiences. Streaming services, once a way to save some money by canceling your cable subscription, became a new way to discover new and original shows.
One of the knock-on effects of this has been a sort of arms race for original content, a reason for subscribers to sign up in the first place — why sign up for Netflix to watch Star Wars when Disney will host all of the films *and* The Mandalorian for cheaper? Netflix wants you to keep your subscription active with shows like Stranger Things and The Witcher. We’re in a golden age of adaptations of classic science fiction novels. Apple has lined up a series adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Amazon is banking on a Lord of the Rings prequel, an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series Wheel of Time, William Gibson’s The Peripheral, Simon Stalenhag’s Tales from the Loop, and Naomi Alderman’s The Power. HBO Max is adapting Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson’s Sisterhood of Dune, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Madeline Miller’s Circe. Legion M just picked up the rights to Brian Staveley’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series, while Netflix has been developing John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series for a film. On its face, it seems to be a boon for authors, who have a decent likelihood that someone will be a) interested in their book or series and b) have a *slightly* better change at seeing it made.
Streaming TV is here to stay, and at some point, the content arms race will likely pop as players exit the field, and as services figure out what works and what doesn’t. The marketplace doesn’t look as though it’s peaked, though, and as some of these streaming services gain traction, we’ll likely see more and more of these projects come through the pipeline as old and new works became available or more feasible to accomplish. It should be an exciting decade before us, even if we complain that there’s just too much to watch.
SF/F goes mainstream
Game of Thrones
For a long time, it was hard to be taken seriously if you carried around a thousand-page epic fantasy novel, dressed up in costume to attend a local convention, or admitted that you could be classified as a “nerd.” Genre fiction carried a certain stigma with it: it was too escapist, out there, or just dumb. Why would anyone like stories about dragons and space wizards?
That began to shift in the last ten years: science fiction and fantasy went mainstream in a big way, thanks to shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones, which became regular topics for discussion around water coolers (are those still a thing? I haven’t worked in an office in a while) or on social media. Suddenly, people who never would have touched a science fiction or fantasy novel in their lives were blowing through George R.R. Martin’s novels, lining up to wait for the next Star Wars/Marvel/DC/etc movie, or checking out their local comic-con.
This didn’t happen overnight, and the preceding decade of excellent genre TV, with shows like LOST and Battlestar Galactica, with their serious take on fantastical situations, good characters, and serialized plotting, helped regular viewers recognize that not all genre television was the gutter trash that they imagined. And mainstream sitcoms and comedies like The Big Bang Theory — for all of its major issues — and Community helped show off people with an earnest love for all things nerd. Suddenly, these stories which you might have liked as a kid, but had grown out of, were cool again.
A bit part of this shift in the last decade is access — success breeds a certain type of gravity, and with the dominance of the MCU, return of Star Wars, superheroes on every corner, and simply a lot of attention on genre stories, you’ll have more people taking part. But it’s those mega hits like Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, and Stranger Things that really help drive the mainstream nail home. Genre is no longer separate from regular pop culture in the way that it was.
But an even bigger part was that the content that studios were producing for HBO, Netflix, Hulu, and others was of a higher bar than what you’d normally see for television. They poured money into elaborate sets and costumes, got good actors and writers, and consistently produced some good television.
This isn’t limited to just films and television shows — comics and books have had their own moments, with authors like Katherine Arden, N.K. Jamison, Andy Weir, and Jeff VanderMeer attaining mainstream recognition and acclaims for their works.
What’s the cause of this? Certainly, excellent genre stories aren’t a new thing: there’s a long history of such fiction throughout the 20th century. But for much of that existence, science fiction and fantasy rarely peeked out from behind the genre curtain with works like Dune or The Lord of the Rings. There’s a familiar story of genre works being ignored by mainstream culture because it felt too hokey, too escapist, and too distant from the concerns of everyday life. Science fiction pulps and comics were things you read as a kid: they weren’t serious, and anyone who kept with them was infantile or childish.
Genre shows like Game of Thrones — as well as its cousins like The Handmaid’s Tale, Black Mirror, Westworld, and so many others do a couple of interesting things. They take their subject matter seriously, putting their characters and futures in a relatable context. This, in some ways, is helped by the explosion of network and streaming services — such serialization (rather than standalone episodes) allows for creators to tell tightly-plotted stories that audiences can easily follow along with in one sitting, or which play with tension so that one can’t help but talk about the show at length. Science fiction films, with their constraints on length and audience were something to be dreaded for fans — television has largely made that the opposite.
Shows like Game of Thrones demonstrated another thing: audiences aren’t dumb, and they’re willing to follow along with previously unadaptable stories like A Song of Ice and Fire. Prior adaptations of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter certainly helped here, as well. Screenwriters and show runners are no longer limited by what they can accomplish on the screen, and the result has translated into a wealth of material for a much wider audience to consume. As a result, the general public is waking up to what science fiction and fantasy fans have known for decades: these stories are important, exciting, and inspiring.
Want an example of how mainstream this has come? Drive along the highways in Vermont, and you’ll see signs saying “Winter is Coming” urging you to put on your snow tires.
A Tidal Shift in Publishing
The Martian and The Last Good Man
In the fall of 2009, my fellow booksellers of Walden Books Store Number 1834 got the news: our outlet in the Berlin Mall would be shut down in January. It wasn’t entirely unexpected news: its parent company Borders had been struggling for the last couple of years, and they were beginning to slim down. There were a range of issues: corporate mismanagement, and the increased competition from major online retailers like Amazon.com. Looking back, it’s clear that its line of Kindle ebook readers was a major factor.
Introduced in 2007, the Kindle cracked a long-sought after bookselling dream: an ebook reader that allowed people to carry hundreds of books in their pockets. The first device was clunky, but Amazon iterated on its design, form, and storefront. Readers could instantly buy any book that they wanted for a uniform low price: they didn’t have to rely on an individual bookstore’s stock or to wait for days for it to arrive. Moreover, Amazon carried everything, meaning that readers didn’t have to leave their home to pick up their latest read. It could just arrive at their doorstep.
The result has been catastrophic for the big box store retailers. Borders shut down completely in 2011, Barnes & Noble has faced its own major challenges, while others have faced their own issues. (Happily, independent booksellers seem to be weathering the storm better than their bigger counterparts).
A side effect of Amazon’s Kindle has been a hollowing out of the Mass Market book format — the tiny, cheap novel that you could throw in a purse or pocket, which booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders relied so heavily on. They were so disposable that booksellers didn’t bother to mail back their unsold copies: they just stripped the covers off of them and tossed them in the trash. The collapse of this format had a particularly hard effect on genre stories, which were often published as paper backs. Go to a bookstore now, and you’ll likely not find many mass markets on the shelves: you’re more likely to see trade paperbacks or hardcovers.
Mass markets were appealing because of one factor: they are cheap. They typically ranged from $5.99 to $7.99 for consumers, meaning that a publisher could buy a manuscript for relatively little, publish it as a mass market paperback, and make up the money in with a high volume of sales. Or, a hardcover book would later come out as a paperback a year after its initial publication, getting another round of sales.
Without that dominating format, publishers have shifted focus. Series-oriented military science fiction and space opera, romance, urban fantasy, and the like aren’t as salable as they used to be, while publishers have placed their attention on cross-market, prestige-ish authors with wider appeal. Look at the success of authors like N.K. Jemisin, Katherine Arden, Charlie Jane Anders, or Jeff VanderMeer, all of whom have been published in ways that stretch beyond the smaller grouping that is SF/F fandom.
At the same time, Amazon’s Kindle, its associated publishing programs, and the ease of self-publishing have created their own bookselling environment catering to those genres that were previously dominated by mass markets. Now, those low-cost, high-volume titles can be found on every bookselling website. Authors are great deal of control over what stories they’re telling — they can bypass the traditional publishing environment, explore new and interesting genres, and still find success by going directly to their readers. That comes with a range in quality and marketing tactics. Books range from poor to great, while some authors find ways to game booksellers algorithms to increase their visibility on their retail platforms.
One notable example of this is Linda Nagata’s novel The Last Good Man, which she published in 2017. It’s a book that would have difficulty in a traditional publisher: it’s a near-future thriller about mercenaries fighting around the world, and appealing to a fairly specific audience of readers invested in the near future of warfare. She ended up publishing the novel through her own imprint on a range of platforms and print formats.
In some cases, authors have the best of both worlds. When Andy Weir began writing about the adventures of a stranded astronaut on Mars, he serialized the story on his website, and made the jump over to Kindle when readers asked him to do so. His story, The Martian, became a major bestseller, to the point where a major publisher picked up the rights and sold it as a traditionally-published hardcover novel, which led to additional successes: Ridley Scott later adapted the book as a major blockbuster film in 2015. New Hampshire author Marko Kloos found similar success: he initially published his debut novel, Terms of Enlistment, as a self-published novel on Amazon, and its initial success attracted the attention of an agent and Amazon’s 47 North imprint. He’s since sold more than a million copies of his Frontlines series.
The shift away from mass market publishing and towards digital and print-on-demand publishing has opened up new frontiers and mediums as well. Initially launched in 2008, Tor Books’ Tor.com began as a promotional outlet for its own products, as well as a publication for short stories, for which it received considerable acclaim. With the growth and success of the site (I should note, I’m a regular news contributor there now), its parent company launched the site as a dedicated imprint for shorter-form novels, novellas, and novelettes.
That shift allowed Tor to hit a very different segment of the publishing market, somewhere that most publishers weren’t looking at. They’ve released a ton of fascinating shorter works, like Martha Wells’ Murderbot novellas, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy, War Cry by Brian McClellan, Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott, and JY Yang’s Tensorate series. Some of these play out like traditional novels, while others play with form in an interesting way: Murderbot and Tensorate sketch out much larger worlds through distinct installments. Other publishers have begun to follow in Tor’s footsteps, releasing shorter novellas (often at a lower price point) to entirely new formats altogether, like the digital, serialized storytelling being tried out by Serial Box, to other experiments like fictional podcasts and audio dramas.
The upshot of this is that there’s now a viable market for works that don’t necessarily fit into the hundred thousand word mark (the typical length of a novel), but which add to the genre in new and interesting ways. Those stories were often confined only to magazines and websites, which hit a much smaller audience. The result has been a boon for Tor.com: it’s works have received far wider acclaim (if you go by award ballots) and reach than you’d get in places like Asimov’s or Analog.
The Shifting Face of SF/F
Ancillary Justice and The Fifth Season
Earlier this fall, World Science Fiction Convention members awarded fantasy author Jeannette Ng the 2018 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In her acceptance speech, she decried the legacy of the awards’ namesake, labeling him as a fascist and that “he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonizers, settlers, and industrialists.”
Her speech set off a firestorm within the genre, and ultimately resulted in a change in the award: it’ll now be called the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Ng’s words are the latest in a series of high-profile pushbacks against pillars of the genre community, the result of a widening racial and gender diversity within the field, and a realization that an inclusive community will tell new and important stories moving forward.
With that in mind, there has been a concerted effort to push for more diversity within the SF/F/H horror fields over the course of the last decade. Authors and readers point out that despite being part of the field since its inception, women are woefully under-represented — and authors of color were worse off.
In the lead up to this decade, that started to change: voters placed more women and authors of color onto nominating ballots and selected them as winners. A turning point came in 2013: Hugo voters selected John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts for best novel, enraging a select group of fans that detested him, and sparking a popular conspiracy theory that the awards were somehow rigged. The next year, those conspiracies only deepened: debut novelist Ann Leckie won with her novel Ancillary Justice. Those fans were once again enraged, believing that her novel won only because of gender politics (one detail in her future was that the Radch Empire didn’t use gender pronouns — Leckie uses she/her for people).
The result was a full-blown right wing / anti-progressive / anti-diversity movement launched by author Larry Correa called the Sad Puppies (with a further right version called Rabid Puppies). Members of this group successfully gamed the Hugo Awards nominating system, pooling votes for a dedicated slate of works that they deemed worthy of nomination. Their ostensible goal was to promote books that were “fun” and free of what they saw as overly political works. For a couple of years, they were able to force their nominees onto the ballots for the Hugo Awards, only to be hit with a “No Award” in almost every instance as the larger body of Fandom pushed back against their efforts. The imagined “silent fans” who were having their genre ruined by upstarts never materialized.
Looking back, its clear that the Sad/Rabid puppies movement is a reaction to the changing face of science fiction and fantasy publishing, brought on by a diversifying readership and body of creators. While they claimed that they simply wanted fun science fiction (which happened to be written and published almost exclusively by white men) to get its due, they ignored or flat-out didn’t recognize that all fiction is political to some extent, and that even their fantasy of a golden age of SF was not free of political leanings.
There were other scandals as well. The whole Requires Hate / WinterFox thing dominated LiveJournal and Twitter in the early years of the decade, SFWA dealt with systematic sexism within its publications and ranks, a variety of editors and authors outed as sexual predators, trolls like Vox Day and Jon Del Arroz threw a slew of temper tantrums, while the YA / SF/F-adjacent fields dealt with a number of scandals concerning depictions of race and gender. Those movements and internet superstorms felt all-consuming as they happened, but tapered out with a broader understanding that pushed the genre forward in a couple of ways. It feels like it’s been a trial by fire in some ways, as we reckon with advances in technology that change how we publish, how we communicate, and how we comprehend the future ahead of us.
This drama is inseparable from the content that the field produces, and each little tempest in a teapot helps to enact some small bit of change on a number of fronts. All of this has translated down into the stories that we tell. Ancillary Justice’s use of female pronouns felt novel at the time — an experiment that changed how we conceived of gender. Now, it’s not uncommon to see a wider range of gender pronouns and identities utilized within genre stories. Stories like Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars rely extensively on “women’s issues” like pregnancy, and which likely wouldn’t have found their way to publication a decade ago. There are real benchmarks for progress, too: N.K. Jemisin earned an unprecedented three Hugo Awards in a row for Best Novel for her brilliant Broken Earth trilogy. Cixin Liu / Ken Liu’s The Three-Body Problem earned a rave review from the likes of the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Then, there are the smaller wins. There are more authors of color joining the field with new novels and characters that enhance our visions of the future. Authors regularly tackle topics like wealth inequality, climate change, racial injustice, the history of colonization, and globalization in their works. Books like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, Cadwell Turnbull’s The Lesson, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, and others have broadened my own way of looking at the world, introducing me (and other readers) to new bold new worlds and voices.
After looking back a decade, what will the future bring? I imagine that most of these trends will continue to some extent: cinematic universes and streaming services aren’t going anywhere, the field will continue to diversify, and publishers will continue to figure out how to tell stories in new and different formats and mediums. Along the way, there’ll be more dramas and crises, problematic individuals, exciting new authors and works, and more that will hit bookstores, bookshelves, to-watch queues, apps, and some unimaginable formats that will undoubtably come soon.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what stories the future will bring.