SF and Looking to the
By Lazette Gifford
We live in a science fiction world.
When I was younger I read books where
people had computers everywhere -- instant access to knowledge and power. I
read stories where women were not slaves to the kitchen stove, and food came
from a quick, convenient push of the button. The normal world in which
those science fiction people lived was different from the one in which I
lived, where computers too whole buildings, and the only women who didn't
spend the majority of their time fixing food for others were the few who had
outside jobs, or who could afford to have someone else do the work.
Sometimes it is the little things that make
the world an alien and different place. Every year we become more of a
science fiction world compared to the one in which we were born. We change,
the world evolves, and technology adapts. Science fiction sometimes peers
into that future and catches glimpses of the little changes -- and sometimes
even the big ones.
Science Fiction is a genre of hope. The
largest section of the genre is filled with tales of the future, and by
their very existence, they proclaim a belief that we will survive. Oh
certainly there are dark, dystopia-filled tales of horrible futures, but
there always were. Every age has a golden age past, where things were
better and life was simpler. And every age has a vision of the future that
wavers from bright to dark depending on the vision of the person writing it
and his own experiences with life. Even in such tales there are still
usually the people standing against the darkness.
But overall, science fiction is filled with
hope and wonder. Those tales of people colonizing other planets are not
just stories about far travels and adventures; they also predict that we
will survive and grow. They are tales that mirror humanities inborn sense
of curiosity, which has already driven us to live in a world that people a
hundred years ago could not have imagined.
Writing science fiction is an affirmation
of faith in the human race and our ability to get through dark times
(because the present is always a dark time compared to the golden past and
the bright future). It is a belief that we will survive our predilection
for self-made trouble as well as natural catastrophes. It is a belief in
Of course it's not all about optimism.
It's not even always about the future. However, SF is very good at is
showing how our choices today might shape the future. And there are
the adventures that characters can have in an sf story -- whether that is
the near future or the far future. Sometimes SF can even be used to mirror
modern society and cultural foibles in a way shows the trouble without
pointing fingers. We can look at ourselves and see what we are, what we
hope to become, and what we fear we might be instead.
SF is the genre of adventure and
exploration into places that we haven't yet been. Chances are many of us
will never live to see how the reality stacks up to some of those dreams.
But, nonetheless, we can let ourselves as writers --and others as readers --
share the adventure just people at shared the excitement of an undersea
journey in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, which was
published in 1870. He also sent men to the moon with a gunpowder fuel --
and disdained H.G. Well's literary invention of 'cavourite' to get his
travelers to the same location. The battle over whether the work is
scientifically correct goes back to the start of the genre.
But it wasn't the gunpowder or the
cavourite that drew readers. It was a look into a 'what if' future with
people we think -- and sometimes hope -- we will become. It's the adventure
of the Age of Discovery taken to a new location and the ties of reality
loosened a little. The humans who appear there still have loyalties, wants,
and loves. They are still us, grown up a little sometimes, but with our
wants, our needs -- and sometimes our dreams fulfilled.