The Peripheral

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Is The Peripheral a gateway to Hard Sci-Fi?

The Peripheral (2022) is a recent sci-fi TV drama series based on the book by the same name by William Gibson. It was developed by Westworld creators and has a similar aesthetic. The series is set roughly a decade in the future with a focus on how technology can change society (similar themes to Westworld), but primarily follows the creation of an alternate reality that a VR gamer gains access to. The main narrative begins in the Blue Ridge mountains in the USA where Flynn and her brother Burton accept an opportunity to beta test an advanced VR game.

What is interesting about The Peripheral is that it is Hard Sci-Fi: it includes alternate realities, consequences of technology, dystopian societal states, VR, body modifications and nanotechnology. Throughout the show the technology both in the near future reality in USA and the futuristic capital of London is based in scientific developments that are a mere step from our present. The extrapolations are linked to scientific discovery and justified well within the scope of the progression in the series. By beginning in a more relatable near future with the slow introduction of different technology, the viewer is lead smoothly and easily into accepting such technology as a reality within the context of this series. The careful handling of the plotting allows even the most mainstream viewers to be eased into what is basically Hard Sci-Fi.

This is a very brief overview of a complicated progression through a series that makes every hour episode feel like a movie with the density of events and character development. It would be interesting to map this more fully, and explore the actual progression of how and in what order different technology is introduced and explored to help scaffold a viewer’s experience of being eased into Hard Sci-Fi. It is also an interesting series to look at how the handling of futuristic Sci-Fi can be managed without becoming disjointed or pretentious (for instance a comparison to MoonHaven would be interesting to explore). Finally, the series eludes quite strongly to the consequences of our current state of affairs with the Jackpot and an analysis of the implications of this to where we are currently located would be interesting to explore the extrapolation of a near dystopic future of our actual world.