FlashForward's Producers Wanted Science Fiction That Wasn't Futuristic

Upcoming ABC series FlashForward is about people who see the future. But there's no futurism in it. Robert Sawyer, author of the novel that inspired the series, said the show's producers felt they could sell science, but not the future.

Speaking to us at WorldCon science fiction convention in Montreal, Sawyer explained why the show (featuring John Cho, pictured here in a publicity shot for FlashForward) changes his novel in one significant way. The characters get a glimpse only six months into the future, rather than the two decades they get in the novel. Sawyer says executive producers David Goyer and Brannon Braga chose to do that for a few reasons:

One rationale is pure economics: you don't have to make the future world. But it's also about audience. For example, here's the difference between Battlestar Galactica and Lost. Lost gets 10 million viewers and Battlestar Galactica rarely tops 1 million, even if Battlestar Galactica is arguably a better show. And that's because as soon as audience sees robots and aliens, it dries up. They tune into other channels. Not showing the future on FastForward allows the audience to build.

Sawyer is a creative consultant and what he calls an "unofficial science consultant" on the ABC series. "I've been very impressed by how well-informed David [Goyer] is about science, and how important it is to him," Sawyer said. I asked whether the show would revolve around an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, the way the novel does, and he was mum on that point. But he did offer a hint: "They needed a science consultant for the show, so that tells you something about what's going to happen."

Mainly, though, Sawyer is happy with the writing on the show. He enthused:

I've seen most of the pilot and it's fabulous - it has the look of a motion picture. I don't expect the episode I write to be on the Hugo Awards ballot; I expect the pilot [written by Goyer and Braga] to be on the ballot.