Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


A little over a year ago, I began what turned into my year of science fiction. I was, and remain, an amateur in the field. While I have read dozens of novels, watched several movies, explored the genres and themes, I still feel I am a novice, still the Janie-come-lately. There are so many stories, so many classics I have yet to explore. At least I can look forward to never reaching the end of something I enjoy so greatly.

What have I learned? What insights have I gained?

First, that science fiction is about humanity. That is the core of the genre. No matter what the story or where the focus, we read and write science fiction to explore the essence of humanity. Science fiction permits the removal of all the dressings of life. We are all that remains. We imagine who we would be if the context were changed, how far we can push the limits until we lose our identity. The things we take for granted, the elements that are considered inherent to our being are removed and altered.

The books, the movies, the tv shows that I like the least, maybe even hate, are the ones that fail to consider and question humanity, to engage in the ambiguities of life. They represent humans in the most superficial way. Remember that Star Trek crew with the emotional intelligence of adolescents? Do their antics reflect how you behave and think? These twerps are not the high point of human maturity and intelligence, fit to explore the universe's numerous intelligent species and establish positive relationships. It is just a frat party in space.

Second, science fiction is about possibility, what we can make possible, what may be possible if the we can change the rules and laws of reality.

Third, science fiction is a modern form of mythmaking. We create the extraordinary, the ubelieveable. We call the supernatural alien or evolution or progress. The protagonists are extraordinary heroes of strength, cunning, compassion, cruelty, intelligence, leadership. We make them in the image of our greatest desires and fears.

The genre influences and is influenced by our understanding of science and its role in our lives. Exploration into what can be known and invention shape the world of science fiction. But so too does science fiction influence our relationship to science. We have invented what was inspired by fiction. In turn, science fiction has supported our scientific achievements and endeavors, it has inspired to take our minds further than what is physically capable, to reach out to the great unknowns.

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