My 2 Cents on: Science Fiction

my 2 cts onMy 2 Cents on:
Science Fiction

zur deutschen ÜbersetzungLet me say this, in my own clumsy way.

I haven't been reading a lot of science fiction lately, and I've skipped a lot of movies too. And it finally hit me after seeing Cloud Atlas what was bothering me.

I grew up in an age when science fiction movies were about vision and courage. Things To Come was about humanity triumphing over ignorance and leaping into space. Destination Moon and Conquest for Space were vivid predictions of what was possible.


my 2 cts onForbidden Planet took us to far stars and 2001 was one of the great inspirational landmarks of the twentieth century. Star Trek, the original series, was about a future of exploration and partnership. All of these taken together said that human beings would survive our darker impulses, would learn how to live together in harmony, would assume the responsibilities of true sentience. And it's no coincidence that those stories helped motivate one of our grandest adventures -- the Apollo program that took us to the moon.

Today, too many books and movies and TV shows are about the failures of humanity. We see big impersonal cities or dystopic soul-crushing cities. We see failure and futility and hopelessness. We do not see people laughing, building, exploring, seeking, discovering, or rising to new heights -- no, we see them struggling for survival, squabbling with each other-- not uniting in common cause, not surviving as communities, but devolving into deranged and panic-stricken animals.

I know from personal experience that view of human nature is wrong. I've been at the center of a disaster and I watched as strangers came together to help each other, as neighbors gathered to make sure that everyone was safe and cared for.

I think that since the sixties, science fiction authors have become more and more overwhelmed by the future -- there's too much knowledge, too much research, too much technology for any one single human being to keep up. The "singularity" is crushing down on us even before it arrives. So it's easier to write about the collapse of civilization than to imagine a future where civilization has leapt to a new level.

But the history of our species is an astonishing chronicle of invention, innovation, and stubborn mean cussedness over the obstinacy of the physical universe. There is still so much we can be looking at, imagining, predicting, postulating, extrapolating, and describing so vividly that the reader will be certain we're time-travelers from the future. We have a whole solar system to explore. Getting into orbit, getting to the moon and Mars and the asteroids and the moons of the gas giants, all of those locales are opportunities for amazing tales of unknown possibilities.

This is my point. Everything in the world starts as a conversation. Everything. The conversation can be "I hate it when..." or "why can't we..." or "I wish it were possible to..." or "what if..." or even "that's odd..." -- but those conversations are the beginning of possibilities. Science fiction is about possibilities. It's the consideration of those possibilities that creates probability. And after probability, the next step is inevitability.

Science fiction is about the choices ahead of us. Every moment of every day, life is about choices -- not just the choice of the moment, but the results of that choice. Science fiction is about the results and the opportunity to make choices that will take us there. Science fiction is the conversation that illuminates the unknown landscapes of tomorrow.

That's the science fiction I want to read, that's the science fiction I want to see in the movies. Because science fiction is an opportunity to rekindle the enthusiasm for science as a world-changing adventure.

My two cents. <plink, plink>

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