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Classifying fiction illuminates the future. The technique for imagining the future presented in this paper using a rapid, low-resource approach for the classification of fiction represents a “field expedient” method for categorizing works of fiction according to Fergnani & Song’s (2020) Six Science Fiction Archetypes Framework. This technique enabled the classification of 36 near-future science fiction novels in just a few hours (See Table 1). A step-by-step process is described along with a link to a TEMPLATE for Rapid Fiction Analysis for researchers who wish to examine the subject in greater detail.
Imagining the Future
Imagining the Future: The rapid classification of fiction
Timothy X. Merritt
Classifying fiction illuminates the future. The technique for imagining the future
presented in this paper using a rapid, low-resource approach for the classification of
fiction represents a “field expedient” method for categorizing works of fiction
according to Fergnani & Song’s (2020) Six Science Fiction Archetypes Framework.
This technique enabled the classification of 36 near-future science fiction novels in just
a few hours (See Table 1). A step-by-step process is described along with a link to a
TEMPLATE for Rapid Fiction Analysis for researchers who wish to examine the
subject in greater detail.
In 1979, Jim Dator, the Director of the University of Hawaii’s Foresight program,
published a model of social change proposing that all of our narratives regarding
social change could be distilled into one of four archetypal images of the future. He
labeled these four images: Continuation, Limits and Discipline, Decline and
Collapse, and Transformation (Dator, 2019, p. 42). In 2020, building on Dator's
earlier work, Alessandro Fergnani and Zhaoli Song extracted images of the future
from a set of 140 science fiction films using a grounded theory analytical procedure.
In view of their research, Fergnani & Song (2020) proposed a more nuanced series
of six archetypal images of the future that represent critical stress-point conditions
in the external environment. These six new archetypes were named: Growth &
Decay, Threats & New Hopes, Wasteworlds, The Powers that Be, Disarray, and
Inversion, according to their underlying themes.
Table 1.
While the researchers document several attempts to analyze science fiction
through the use of survey instruments, Fergnani & Song (2020) conclude that "Most
Imagining the Future
importantly, no attempt has been made so far to systematically extract archetypal
scenarios from science fiction" (p. 4). To address this, the researchers employed a
multi-state grounded theory analytical process following Charmaz’s (2014) data
analysis guidelines. Their analytical procedure consisted of two steps: film
transcription and identification of archetypal images of the future. The two
steps were undertaken in an iterative, rather than sequential fashion:
The process employed by Fergnani & Song (2020) was both innovative
and thorough. For the science fiction novelist, the insights gained from the Six
Scenario Archetypes Framework may prove immensely valuable for identifying
gaps in the existing literature and demonstrating a more comprehensive market
analysis of competitors to literary agents and publishers. However, the process as
described is too time consuming and resource intensive to be readily available for
someone working outside of an academic or corporate environment to replicate
The implication is that only professional futurists working in an academic
or corporate environment would have access to, and the benefit of, valuable
information regarding the relative distribution of fiction archetypes across a given
spectrum of films, television, or books. Fergnani & Song’s research raises the
question; is there a method for the individual researcher, entrepreneur, or content
creator to benefit from the Six Archetypes Framework?
Imagining the Future
Can I Imagine the Future?
Multiple possible futures cannot be imagined simultaneously. A science fiction
novelist or content creator is unable to apprehend the future in a manner that is
consistent with foresight principles. Foresight professionals are taught to consider
multiple different futures as existing simultaneously. In contrast, during the process
of crafting a fictional story, the content creator is forced to choose (typically just
one) storyline. And by doing so, simultaneously rejects a nearly infinite number of
possible alternate futures to explore.
This argument may appear counter-intuitive at first. Surely storytelling, in
all its various formats throughout history, has imagined, and in many instances,
even influenced the future? Humanity relies on the construction of fiction to
anticipate and prepare for the future.
The Prevalence of Author Bias when Creating Works of Fiction
So how does an author create a work of fiction about the future? There is no single
technique, yet all approaches share some combination of trend analysis and
speculation. Fiction authors are renowned for their wide range of innovative
approaches. They may use deductive, inductive, or abductive reasoning regarding
the times and circumstances in which their characters find themselves. Authors may
create stories through the use of intuition. They may "sense" or "feel" something
they then craft to form a singular vision.
Whichever technique, or combination of techniques, they use, all fiction
storytellers must ultimately choose from among the competing images of the future.
These choices are always determined by the conscious or unconscious bias inherent
in the content creator. Some authors imagine a future society rife with immense
opportunities (and threats) achieved through a highly networked artificial
intelligence like Pandora’s Brain by Calum Chace. Other authors see the future
emerging an apocalyptic ecological catastrophe as in Altered Seasons:
Moonsoonrise by Paul Briggs. These radically different visions of the future are
products of the individual author's personal bias. Bias is the essential tool of fiction
authors who must use to choose between multiple competing futures.
Overcoming Individual and Collective Bias to Identify Trends and Gaps
If the author’s personal bias is the engine that drives the process, then the public
reception of those images of the future is the fuel that keeps the process alive.
Countless thousands of fictional works are produced every year, yet only a tiny
percentage of them ever garner enough attention to be commercially viable. It is as
if a legion of struggling content creators exists in the background of society’s
collective id, waiting for the focus of the collective social consciousness to breathe
life onto the ember of their ideas and (in some cases) ignite a maelstrom of social
change. Examples include Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which envisioned Chicago
union workers wresting control from corporate power brokers, and Isaac Asimov’s I
Robot, which explores the psychological ramifications of the development of
artificial intelligence.
Imagining the Future
A Rapid, Low-Resource Approach to the Classification of Fiction
Foresight and Futures professionals take a much different approach to Science
Fiction World Building as contrasted to science fiction novelists. In the Knowledge
Base of Future Studies, Johnson (2020) published an Updated Practitioner’s Guide
to Science Fiction Profiling in which he listed five steps along with a total of forty-
five prompts designed to offer “a simple architecture to examine and reexamine
both the future and the impacts it will have” (p. 194). After I dutifully wrote forty-
five short essays that answered each of Johnson's (2020) prompts, I combined the
essays into a single science fiction manuscript.
Next, I submitted my science fiction manuscript to a commercial editor. At
that point, I was informed that I had written a story without a plot. Unfortunately, it
turns out that the commercial editors and publishers are much more concerned about
a story’s structure than the number of different dimensions of the future the author
considers. The plot can be briefly described in terms of; the Hook, the Inciting
Incident, the First Plot Point, the Midpoint, the Second Plot Point, and the
Climax. In addition to the plot, there are many other aspects of the storyteller's art
that are not typically of concern to Foresight and Futures professionals.
However, one element of commercial fiction may be of great interest to
Foresight and Futures professionals interested in the rapid classification of works of
fiction into the Six Archetypes Framework. Experienced fiction writers have
developed a shorthand method for determining a novel's theme. This is significant
because Fergnani & Song (2020) state that “We find six archetypes, which we
rename Growth & Decay, Threats & New Hopes, Wasteworlds, The Powers that Be,
Disarray, and Inversion, according to their underlying themes” (p. 124 emphasis
added). Therefore, a literary technique that allows for the rapid identification of the
theme of a work of fiction could substantially reduce the time and resources
required to categorize those works according to the Six Archetypes Framework.
Imagining the Future
How to Imagine the Future
Imagine the future in eight steps. In his proprietary lecture series, Bell (2021)
illustrates several instances where the theme of a work of fiction can be rapidly
deduced by comparing statements made by the lead character at the end of the work
to statements made by the lead character at the beginning of the work. New
understandings of the future emerge when many themes of fiction are compared
James Scott Bell is the #1 bestselling author of Plot & Structure and award-
winning thrillers like Final Witness. He won the Christy Award for Excellence in
inspirational fiction and is currently a fiction columnist for Writer's Digest
magazine. To explain his technique for determining the theme, he uses the example
of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, who repeatedly states that "There is no place
like home." This statement is compared to the Song she sang early in the movie
"Somewhere over the Rainbow." These two statements show a transformation in
the girl who first wants to find happiness “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and
eventually discovers that true happiness was always within her reach, "There is no
place like home." This transformational lesson, combined with the setting in the
magical Kingdom of Oz, forms the story's theme.
Bell (2021) argues that either through intention or accident, the vast majority
of fictional works follow this thematic formula. What’s more, successful writers,
editors, and publishers also understand this popular thematic formula, and they
display this information prominently in the form of sales copy or back-cover book
copy. Therefore, the thematic elements of a novel are not only rapidly deciphered,
but they are also readily available to researchers interested in using this data source
to classify fiction according to the Six Archetypes Framework.
Step 1: Select a Data Set from Works of Fiction set in the Future.
The first step in imaging the future is to select a data set of works of fiction. These
could be films, novels, television shows, or nearly any other form of storytelling.
Fergnani & Song (2020) specify that they selected "science fiction artifacts
presenting enough information about the future of mankind so that they could be
categorized under archetypal images of the future" (p. 5). Therefore, any sample
must be limited to works of science fiction that take place in the future.
Fortunately, many easily accessible data sets are readily available through
commercial fiction sources. For my research, I picked a website by
titled Best Near-Future Science Fiction because it was convenient. While not an
exhaustive list of every possible near-future fiction novel, the selection was large
enough to provide a reasonable reflective sample of the genre. There are great
advantages to relying on commercially produced lists because they often represent
public impact in the form of sales data and are thus independent of any potential
researcher bias. The search criterion employed by is reflected below
in Table 2.
Imagining the Future
Table 2.
Step 2: Prepare a Simple Spreadsheet to Extrapolate the Theme
To perform the next step, a simple spreadsheet is required to extrapolate the theme
using a hybrid version of the literary technique described by Bell (2021). The
spreadsheet should consist of five parts:
The first column lists the name of the work.
The second column of the spreadsheet will present the work's setting with
the implicit understanding that it encapsulates the "Mirror Moment"
found in the middle of the story.
The third column provides a general understanding of how the characters
will overcome the challenges they will face and achieve the essential
transformation found at the end of the story.
The fourth column expresses a "Counter-Argument" against the
transformation. This represents the initial context of the character at the
beginning of the story.
Finally, the fifth column requires the researcher to review the gathered
evidence and make a subjective decision, choosing which category of the
Six Archetype Framework best represents the story's theme.
Imagining the Future
An example of the spreadsheet that I used for analyzing the Goodreads list
of Near-Future Science Fiction Futures can be viewed here: Analysis of Goodread's
List of Near-Future Science Fiction.
A blank template that researchers can use to conduct their own analysis is
available for download here: TEMPLATE for Rapid Fiction Analysis.
Step 3: Follow the Links to the Back-cover Copy
For my research, I selected the data set from titled "Best Near-
Future Science Fiction." In addition to the list, the website also provided links to the
Back-cover copy for each novel. The initial list had 38 titles; however, one was a
duplicate, and one was discarded because the setting did not take place in the future.
The remaining 36 titles and their back-cover links appear in Table 3.
Table 3.
Step 4: Select the Setting that contains the “Mirror Moment”
Back-cover copy is a rich source of high-quality information about novels. Designed
to communicate value to potential readers, the easiest thing to learn about the novel
is the setting where the story takes place.
Imagining the Future
Bell (2014) asserts that great stories tend to have a major moment located
around the center of the story in which you find the story’s “heart.” It is not always
possible to detect this “Mirror Moment” from a novel’s back-cover copy. However,
for rapid categorization into the Six Archetype Framework, it is assumed that a
Mirror Moment occurs somewhere within the novel's setting.
Fergnani & Song (2020) also looked at the setting and the characters to
capture the complexities of the futures portrayed. Therefore, the second column of
the spreadsheet will present the setting with the implicit understanding that it
encapsulates the mirror moment found in the middle of the story:
Step 5: Select the Summarized Transformation (Found at End of the Story)
The character transformation that takes place in a story is not difficult to identify.
For obvious reasons, authors and publishers don't want to give the end of the story
away. However, the purpose of back-cover copy is to give readers a sense of the
benefit they will receive from the story. Therefore, the authors and publishers tend
to do an excellent job of conveying the problems a character will face and (while
they may tease the ending) a general understanding of how the characters will
overcome the challenges (and succeed in the transformation.)
The theme is always carried by characters (Bell, 2014). The inevitable
transformation, which occurs near the end of the story, typically illustrates how the
character(s) tackle the challenges they face to ultimately become better or stronger
people. This transformation could also work in reverse (i.e., a story about a good
person transforming into a bad person). Back-cover copy will never give away the
ending, but the reader can ascertain the general direction of the transformation:
Imagining the Future
Step 6: Select the Argument Against Transformation (Found at Beginning)
With an understanding of the setting and an idea of the final transformation, the
final step to determining a story's theme is to locate the argument against
transformation that will be found in the very first opening scenes. Look for
statements that describe the character(s) psychology before the main story begins.
What moral flaw is there to overcome? Once the overall context of the story is
understood, the initial reluctance of the hero to engage in the quest becomes evident:
Step 7: Select the best fit from the Six Scenario Archetypes Framework
For a rapid, low-resource assessment of fiction into one of the categories of the Six
Archetype Framework, this step requires the researcher to make a subjective
selection based on the setting, the final transformation, and the initial argument
against transformation. To make this assessment, a review of Fergnani & Song's
(2020) Archetypes and Archetype Descriptions is required (Table 4):
Table 4.
Imagining the Future
With the archetype descriptions in mind, and the elements of each story's
theme displayed, it becomes a fairly simple procedure to categorize many novels in a
very short period of time. Using this technique, I categorized all 36 novels into the Six
Archetype Framework categories in a single afternoon without the need for research
assistants, transcript preparation, grounded theory processes, or staff meetings. While
clearly not as rigorous as Fergnani & Song's (2020) iterative process requiring
multiple rounds of validation and revision, the method produced a large amount of
valuable information in a short amount of time. The following three examples will
illustrate the efficacy of the technique described:
Imagining the Future
Step 8: Display the Data Graphically
The last step in the process is to display the data graphically. A few simple formulas
embedded in the spreadsheet will quickly generate a bar chart that will illustrate the
relative representation of the Six Archetype Framework categories in the selected
sample. Table 5 graphically represents the rapid, low-resource categorization of 36
near-future science fiction novels:
Table 5.
In the blank template provided here for researchers, the bar chart feature is already built
and will populate automatically: TEMPLATE for Rapid Fiction Analysis
Imagining the Future
Fiction Archetypes in Literature
Six Science Fiction Archetypes are described in Fergnani & Song’s (2020)
framework. The technique for imagining the future presented in this paper using a
rapid, low-resource approach to classify fiction represents a "field expedient"
method for categorizing.
For those in the science fiction industry, categorizing works of fiction into
the Six Archetype Framework reveals important trends that illustrate competing
visions of the future. Understanding popular trends is of great importance to both
publishers and film producers. However, it may be just as important to understand
the gaps that represent future possibilities that have not been explored sufficiently.
This is significant because creating new content for saturated markets is an
exercise in diminishing value. (Do we really need another superhero movie?) By
categorizing works of fiction according to the Six Archetype Framework, decision-
makers can gain a perspective of both the trends and the gaps in coverage that will
enable them to overcome the psychological traps created by individual and
collective bias. These calculations help answer a critical question: If money and
resources are invested in this project, will there be a return on investment?
How Can Future Studies Benefit from this Method?
A map of alternate futures radically streamlines the forecasting process and
provides stakeholders with valuable insights they can use in the planning process to
reach preferred future states. From a foresight perspective, the process is the same,
but the critical questions are vastly different.
If the works of fiction were all future-oriented (as the films were in
Fergnani & Son's research), then each fictional story represents a plausible possible
future. Categorizing fiction according to the Six Archetypes Framework builds a
map of alternative futures. This hearkens back to Dator’s (1979) original conception
of the future as a spectrum of possible future events, rather than a single thread
running from the past, to today, and into the future.
The technique described in this paper could conceivably be applied to
political messaging, public policy, or any future-oriented document. Analysis of the
possible ramifications of competing ideologies could be explored with the
assistance of established science fiction writers or even paid freelance content
creators. As trends and gaps are discovered, categorizing future-oriented works of
fiction will enable stakeholders to imagine (and plan for) previously unthinkable
Imagining the Future
Visions of the Future: Implications for practice and research
Classifying fiction illuminates the future. The discussions and conclusions of the
rapid classification of fiction archetypes using the Six Archetypes Framework
revolve around four topics; the democratization of foresight techniques, the
method's contribution, the method's limitations, and recommendations for additional
The Democratization of Foresight Techniques
The method for classifying works of fiction described in this paper builds on the
theoretical work of Dator (2019), the grounded theory analysis of Fergnani and
Song (2020), and combines them with a theme analysis technique adapted from Bell
(2014). The result is a "field expedient" streamlined technique for rapidly
classifying works of fiction. The symbiotic interaction of academic theory and
nonacademic practical applications demonstrates the principle of the
"democratization" of foresight tools.
In a video discussing an ongoing debate between “democratizing” the tools
of foresight versus professionalizing, or “colonizing,” the disciplines of Futures &
Foresight, Fergnani (2020) examines both sides of the discussion using a thought
experiment illustrated in Table 6.
Table 6.
After analyzing arguments from both camps, Fergnani (2020) concludes that
many who are interested in using the tools and techniques of foresight are not
willing to engage at the level of detail necessary to develop those tools and
techniques. Therefore, academic institutions should employ scholars to do research
on foresight and to ensure that good theory is taught.
Imagining the Future
In Fergnani's (2020) view, both a professional class of scholars and a
global population of practitioners are required to achieve the goal of
"democratizing" the future. The two viewpoints are complementary, not mutually
exclusive. And the tension between them is healthy and productive.
The method presented in this paper for the rapid classification of fiction
into categories described by the Six Archetypes Framework is an example of the
successful democratization of foresight techniques. As a science fiction novelist, I
am a practitioner or end-user of foresight techniques. I would have been unable to
devote the time or resources necessary to develop a theory using Fergnani & Song’s
(2020) multi-state grounded theory analytical process. However, by building on
their academic work, a global audience can now take advantage of the valuable
insights gained from the theory they developed.
Method’s Contributions
The primary contribution of the method described in this paper is to use insights
gleaned from literary professionals to quickly and easily identify the theme of a
story and combine them with a novel foresight theory. Using this streamlined
technique, I categorized 36 near-term science fiction novels in a single afternoon.
The simplified classification process and this step-by-step description of
the process are captured in the foresight tool, TEMPLATE for Rapid Fiction
Analysis, which is broadly available.
Method’s Limitations
A streamlined technique for classifying fiction ultimately requires a subjective
choice by the person conducting the classification. In view of the setting, the
character transformation, and the argument against transformation, the person doing
the cataloging must make their best guess about which of the six archetypes the
work falls under based on the perceived theme of the work.
It is reasonable to assume that different people would look at the same list
of book themes and sort them into dissimilar categories. What is unknown is the
degree to which separate cataloguers would sort the various works of fiction. Would
the results match with only a slight variation, or would lists generated by separate
people vary so wildly as to make this technique impractical?
The technique described by Bell (2014) to quickly identify a novel’s theme
was never intended to sort novels into the Six Archetype Framework’s categories.
Instead, Bell’s (2014) method was adapted for use with the framework. In addition,
Fergnani & Song’s (2020) twelve-dimension framework for the transcription of 140
films did not account for a “mirror moment” in the middle of the story, nor did it
really account for the transformation of the central character(s) in the same way that
Bell (2014) did. In short, the hybridization of literary techniques with scientific
theory may be a poor fit.
Imagining the Future
Finally, there is likely bias involved in selecting lists of fiction to examine.
In Fergnani & Song's (2020) sample preparation, they pared down a Wikipedia list
of 512 films set in the future down to a final sample of 140 films by excluding
"films set in a fictional future as a result of a fictional past or featuring a substantial
amount of fantastic, and/or surreal phenomena, superpowers, monsters (not aliens),
magic, the supernatural…" (p. 5). While their rationale for these selections is
understandable, it does reveal a bias towards what the researchers consider to be
"real." For instance, why would they accept films with aliens but exclude
supernatural phenomena? Aren't there billions of people who hold religious beliefs?
Fergnani & Song's approach might betray a bias towards a secular worldview. How
might Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and others perceive what is "real"?
Recommendations for Additional Study
The principle of the democratization of foresight techniques requires that
recommendations for additional study be conveyed back to the academic
institutional setting. More time and resources are required to ensure scientific rigor
and the development of sound theory than I have at my disposal.
To test the degree to which different catalogers sort works of fiction into
similar or dissimilar categories would likely require a double-blind study with some
basic control measures in place. A statistically relevant group of individuals could
be selected to review a Rapid Fiction Analysis worksheet pre-populated with
identical information. The survey participants would be asked to sort each of the
titles based on the perceived theme of the work. Their responses could be run
through a statistical analysis to quantify the degree of difference between responses.
To test if the hybridization of a literary technique is compatible with a
scientific foresight theory, I recommend a quantitative text analysis similar to the
one Fergnani & Jackson (2019) used in an earlier study of Dator's (2009) four
archetype alternate future model. The research question might be: To what degree
are the subjective "best guesses" of catalogers using the streamlined method similar
or dissimilar to a categorization based on the quantitative analysis of unstructured
textual data?
To overcome the problem of potential bias in the selection of lists, the
streamlined method for categorizing fiction according to the Six Archetype
framework must first be validated. If it proves to be a valid approach, the principle
of the democratization of foresight techniques could again be employed. However,
this time the Rapid Fiction Analysis tool could be distributed to the "cloud" to
solicit analysis from many different researchers.
Imagining the Future
Rather than modify the Six Archetypes Framework to account for
supernatural phenomena, lists with specific supernatural phenomena could be
selected. There are numerous examples of such easily generated lists:
Buddhist Fiction (100 books) (
Christian Fiction (2731 books) (
Islamic Fiction (72 books) (
There could also be a test for competing secular visions of the future.
Which ideas might seem to reflect best the reality humanity is moving into?
Best Existential Fiction (438 books) (
Nihilism in Fiction (26 books) (
Postmodern Novels (98 books) (
Competing economic and political issues could be explored. Although
Goodreads does not offer a selection of Capitalism in fiction (they only have non-
fiction titles), a diligent researcher should be able to generate an appropriate list:
Communism in fiction (25 books) (
Best Books about Capitalism (47 books) (
The future of societies is also impacted by geography, history, and culture.
Any number of these variables can be considered at a regional level:
Best Indian Fiction Books (889 books) (
Best French literature (816 books) (
Japanese fiction (353 books) (
Not all of the books in these lists present portrayals of the future; however,
it is clear that the sample sizes are quite sufficient. Overcoming bias in the selection
of lists could involve comparing and contrasting the results from different
categories. The possibilities for such analysis are infinite, and so are the possibilities
for valuable insight and new applications to be gained from this approach.
Imagining the Future
Bell, JS, (2004). Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips
readers from start to finish. Writer's Digest Books. Cincinnati, OH
Bell, JS, (2021). The Inside Secrets of Bestselling Fiction. Video Lecture Series. Christian
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Bell, JS, (2014). Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters
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Dator, J. (2019). Jim Dator: A notice in time. Selected work, 1967 2018. Springer.
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Directed Fiction is a strategic foresight tool designed to simultaneously consider multiple plausible future states. Four specific foresight tools were employed to develop the scenarios described; Framing, Horizon Scanning, STEEPLE Analysis, and an Axes of Uncertainty diagram. This paper describes a proof-of-concept eBook that uses these tools of foresight to direct a series of fictional short stories towards a contemporary issue. To fully immerse the reader in the scenarios generated, fifteen short stories have been arranged in a Choose Your Own Adventure format comprised of eight separate plotlines with five different plausible outcomes. The point of view for this eBook is written for a Humanitarian Response Team responding to refugees fleeing across the Moldovan border to escape the War in Ukraine. Consider that this same technique could be applied to a whole host of contemporary issues, for example; to examine economic conditions, to consider policy directions, or even to speculate on the performance of political candidates prior to elections. The eBook is available for free here.
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We propose a scenario planning method that combines quantitative text analysis with the creation of scenario narratives. We design a variation in the scenario archetypes method (Dator, Journal of Futures Studies, 14, 1–18, 2009), a futures method to create four archetypal scenarios based on four predetermined generic alternative futures named continued growth, collapse, discipline, and transformation. In our variation, we extract archetypal information on the futures from documents about the future via quantitative text analytic techniques, and qualitatively elaborate this information into comprehensive narrative scenarios. This method can harness the abundance of unstructured textual data, significantly reducing the time employed to collect the relevant building block information to write scenarios without decreasing the scenarios’ quality. On the contrary, the text analytic algorithm we use allows us to identify very rich and archetype‐specific information. We present the result of an application of this method in a case study on the futures of work. The method's contributions to the futures literature and limitations are discussed.
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A critical pathway for conceptual innovation in the social is the construction of theoretical ideas based on empirical data. Grounded theory has become a leading approach promising the construction of novel theories. Yet grounded theory–based theoretical innovation has been scarce in part because of its commitment to let theories emerge inductively rather than imposing analytic frameworks a priori. We note, along with a long philosophical tradition, that induction does not logically lead to novel theoretical insights. Drawing from the theory of inference, meaning, and action of pragmatist philosopher Charles S. Peirce, we argue that abduction, rather than induction, should be the guiding principle of empirically based theory construction. Abduction refers to a creative inferential process aimed at producing new hypotheses and theories based on surprising research evidence. We propose that abductive analysis arises from actors’ social and intellectual positions but can be further aided by careful methodological data analysis. We outline how formal methodological steps enrich abductive analysis through the processes of revisiting, defamiliarization, and alternative casing.
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This essay explains and illustrates how the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies of the Political Science Department of the University of Hawaii at Manoa conceives of and uses "alternative futures". The design and conduct of a "futures visioning process," of which experiencing "four generic alternative futures" (continuation, collapse, discipline, transformation) and envisioning preferred futures are essential parts, is described in some detail.
We propose a new scenario archetypes method generated by extracting a set of archetypal images of the future from a sample of 140 science fiction films set in the future using a grounded theory analytical procedure. Six archetypes emerged from the data, and were named Growth & Decay, Threats & New Hopes, Wasteworlds, The Powers that Be, Disarray, and Inversion. The archetypes in part overlap with and confirm previous research, and in part are novel. They all involve stresspoint critical conditions in the external environment. We explain why the six archetypes, as a foresight framework, is more transformational and nuanced than previously developed scenario archetypes frameworks, making it particularly suited to the current necessity to think the unthinkable more systematically. We explain how the six archetypes framework can be used as predetermined images of the future to create domain specific scenarios, making organizations more resilient to critical, disruptive futures. We finally present and discuss a case study of the application of the method to create scenarios of post-Covid-19 futures of work.
This book features a selection of the published writings and public presentations of Jim Dator. Most of the chapters are directly concerned with futures studies and ideas about the futures. The topic covers many disciplines and subjects. It is also concerned with many different parts of the world, even Mars. In addition, a few of the earlier papers contained here are about more conventional topics in politics and religion. The collection spans a more than 50 year period of thought, reflection, and instruction. In particular, the papers examine six main topics. These include meditations on the very nature of future studies, visions of preferred futures, ideas about alternative futures, and details on future theories and methods. Coverage also considers such specific topics as AI and robots, the environment, food, culture, energy, families, future generations, and more. Overall, these papers help readers gain insight into what it takes to weave together alternative images of the future in useful ways. They also reveal cross-disciplinary patterns in key fields of human endeavor that will help readers better understand trends and emerging issues.
Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. Writer's Digest Books
  • J S Bell
Bell, JS, (2004). Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish. Writer's Digest Books. Cincinnati, OH
The Inside Secrets of Bestselling Fiction
  • J S Bell
Bell, JS, (2021). The Inside Secrets of Bestselling Fiction. Video Lecture Series. Christian Writing Institute. Retrieved Online:
Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters and Everyone in Between
  • J S Bell
Bell, JS, (2014). Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters and Everyone in Between. Compendium Press. James Scott Bell (