What does gardening have to do with science fiction? Perhaps not much on the surface. Human beings have been gardening for more than 10,000 years. It’s as old fashioned a pass-time as there gets. Right up there with cave painting and throwing rocks at our enemies. (Please don’t do the latter.)
I have become increasingly interested in the future of gardening, though. Science Fiction is ripe with possibilities for both near and far-distant futures on Earth and elsewhere in the universe. It’s got me thinking, are there ideas to harvest here?
Writers are known for deriving inspiration from unexpected places. Here, I give you 10 quotes about gardening that might just sow an idea or two for your next fiction project.
There is something hopeful about growing a garden, isn’t there? In order to plant something today, one must believe they will be around tomorrow. This proverb makes me wonder about future human settlements–recovering from a natural disaster, maybe, or trying to survive on a new planet entirely. What are their hopes for the future? What challenges will the this new life bring?
9. Garden Teachings
The garden as teacher; it is a wonderful metaphor. Viewed through a science fictional lens, however, this quote takes on a potentially sinister tone. Imagine a world falling apart, where the lessons from the garden are lessons in survival. Patience, watchfulness, industry, thrift, and (mis)trust may become the only thing that stands between our protagonist and death.
We all know weeds grow far better in all conditions than the plants we actually try to cultivate. Is your protagonist a delicate flower, tended and cared for and placed just where society wants her? Or is she a weed, defying all attempts to control and eradicate her? Weeds are what every dystopian fiction needs to kick-start an adventure.
7. Future Generations
Perhaps this is true. But what happens when past generations have seeded something more sinister than shade-giving trees? There are many beliefs and practices that come back from the past to haunt the present. What seems like a great idea today might end up a burden on our children. Can you think of any gifts from the past which could spoil the future of your characters?
No one lives forever. Yet. It’s no secret that science is working its way closer and closer to this ideal. What will happen to the world when our lifespans grow longer and longer? How will it change our use of land for food and habitation? Humans do not have to be the only gardeners, either. Perhaps gardening is a task entrusted to an immortal artificial intelligence system, too important to be left to our foolish, self-destructive species. What becomes of the immortal gardener? What challenges does it face in keeping us humans from destroying ourselves and everything around us?
It’s true. There is something incredible about the vision of the future required to design a beautiful garden. Emperors may been seen as gardeners themselves, of a kind. Where the green-thumbed herbalist cultivates plants to feed, heal, and inspire so, too, does the Emperor shape his empire. How might the garden inspire great leaders? Will we garden on spaceships hurtling towards an uncertain future on another planet?
4. Back to Nature
Can you envision a future in which human beings embrace Mother Nature and follow Her lead? It is possible that we will learn from past mistakes. Rather than trying to control nature and assert our dominance over the planet, humanity may decide upon a cooperative future with this planet (or the next). Solarpunk has shown us that the future doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. How might humanity redeem themselves?
3. Planning and Execution
No, your characters don’t have to execute anyone. Or do they? We must be the change we wish to see in the world. If you want a garden, you have to plant it. And if you want to turn a corrupt society on its head or overthrow an oppressive government, you have to join the revolution. This quote is a reminder that no matter what kind of world your characters live in, good or bad, the most important thing is that they act!
Once again, I think of the Immortal Gardener. Perhaps human beings are the cultivar gone wrong. Are we weeds, invasive species taking over the planet? Are we an experiment gone wrong? Maybe you are dreaming of a world in which humanity discovers a cure for one of our many ills but this experiment takes a dark turn. In stories, as in real life, there are no true mistakes if only we learn from them.
No matter how bleak a world you are writing in, there must be the occasional flower. There must be a reason for living, those little flashes of hope and optimism that keep your characters on their path. Is your character the kind of person who finds flowers in every crack in the sidewalk? Or do they have to have a bouquet shoved under their nose before they stop to smell the roses? Maybe your flower is a bio-luminescent fungi growing in and underground tunnel, like in my Timekeepers’ War trilogy. There are lots of ways to use this metaphor in your own work!
What do you think? Do any of these quotes make you think of a favourite book or movie? Does anything here pique your interest for a future book or an addition to your current Work in Progress? Let me know in the comments!