I do think that even with science fiction and fantasy a lot of the stories play into idea that are active in our world today. I was thinking a bit about some of the most common themes that have been about in films, books and games recently. Here's my thought on what some of them could be:
The apocalypse: There seems to be more and more of this around recently, I'm thinking of things like the Road, the Book of Eli, Hunger games, Fallout and even my first book Paradigms.
For me the symbolizes a fear that a lot of people have in the west about the current state of affairs. In many ways it seems we've already peaked and are now on the way out to be replaced by something else from the East with very different values from our own. Is it the end of of our would as we know it? Maybe not quite in the way that some people are portraying it, but it certainly feels sometimes that we are at the end of one “section” of history and at the start of another.
The return of Dragons/Elder Gods/Insert other thing here: There have also been plenty of stories around recently about the return of some former ruler race that come back to enslave mankind and put it back in it's place. Most recent things that come to mind are:Prometheus, Skyrim, Risen maybe to some extent the Avengers.
These types of stories for me make me think about a certain fear about religions – in the old style. A lot of people in the world have become secular and have given up on the old ways or at least have become accepting of other culture and beliefs. But there's been revivals in certain parts of the world and signs that religion is not as gone as many of us thought it was. In fact in some places it's coming back and taking over again, finding it's way in to politics and race relations. Maybe some of us are afraid of being put in our place again.
Zombies: We've had loads of zombie stuff of late. The walking dead would be the vanguard for sure, but there's been plenty of other things in other places. I used Zombies in Bardo as a way or portraying the hungry ghosts and it seems to be something that become a minor theme in many books and films. Think of what Loki does in the Avengers, or the zombie type things in Fallout.
Zombies are classic and I think they're still the same deal as what they were when they first came out, but in the generation of the Iphone, they seem even more pertinent than they were in certain shopping malls. You only have to see a bunch of kids shambling down the street with their smart phones to know what's going on there. Never before have we been so connected and yet disconnected at the same time. Have we lost our brains and been reduced to comments in certain number of characters? Can we no longer think for ourselves, but simply consume RSS feeds, podcasts and youtube videos (well not if you have an Iphone but you get the point.)
Vampires: Another classic that's been revived thanks to Twilight, True Blood, Underworld and the amazing number of Vamptasic ebooks that have been published.
Lust, as it ever was, seems to be the name of the game here with vampires. Although it seems to have taken on the form of angsty teen development in modern cases. Are we worried that our kids are growing up too fast? Are we worried about the not so modern, but much more out spoken obsession with sex? To be honest I'm a bit old for this one, so better to ask a teenager, but there something going on with blood suckers for sure.
Now I'm sure there are load of interpretations as to what all these things could mean and there are a lot more recurring themes than the ones I'm pointing out. In fact, the ones that I've picked probably say a lot more about me than anything else. Still I always think it's interesting to look at what's possibly going on in our collective cultures/consciousness/media – however you want to look at it.