Science Fiction: What’s the Point?

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While recording episode 2 (and 3) of our upcoming podcast, I realized that there is SO MUCH science fiction out there. There are the titles that have become mainstream, that even many who wouldn’t count themselves as fans of Sci Fi are very familiar with (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc.) There are cultish titles that self-described geeks spend a ridiculous amount of time analyzing, wishing there were new installments of, talking about, and creating fan fiction/websites/art about (Firefly, Dune, etc.) Then there are the cross genre  creations that are described (and argued about) as science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, or any number of other possible labels (Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and so on.)

Ok, that’s obvious, and anyone reading this blog is probably thinking, “Duh. Get to the point.” Well, the point is, what is the point? Why do so many people (and the numbers seem to be increasing) feel drawn to the Science Fiction genre?

One theory is that it is because we are, even much more so than our predecessors, truly on the verge of what once was the vision of “the future”. There have been many comments made about how so many of the things we take for granted we not so long ago theorized in sci fi and fantasy books and movies. Things like cell phones, bluetooth technology, 3-d video, computer chips that make inanimate objects smarter are a part of our daily lives, but we don’t often think about how amazing it is. A computer on the Answer and Question quiz show “Jeopardy” beat the show’s top winners…and the trick there is the questions aren’t straight facts-context and complex wordplay must be understood to get the right answer for many of the questions. So the computer had to know how to analyze the words for sometimes alternate meanings, then cross reference them with the facts it had accesss to…like our brains do. Can it be long before true artificial intelligence is developed? Particles have been “transported” from one place to another. Can it be long before larger and larger objects can be broken down to their atomic structure and reassembled almost instantaneously at further and further distances? Seemingly credible reports of UFOS are coming from all over the globe at somewhat regular intervals. Can it be long before we make contact with intelligence beyond our planet?

It could be that the increasing fascination with all things fantastic and futuristic is because we are getting closer and closer to the world(s) that have been theorized and presented by the gurus of Sci Fi: Asimov, Roddenberry, Herbert…but there is another, darker theory…

It could also be that mass consumption of science fiction is increasing because of a sense of fear or dread about our actual future. When watching or reading the news, things don’t look so good, so perhaps people look to sci fi as an escape, to show us a more hopeful version of the future that isn’t so easy to see when world economies are down, and the planet seems to be rebelling against humanity with increasingly larger acts of destruction such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes…

If you look back, science fiction seems to have had it’s points of highest popularity during difficult times. The Flash Gordon comics and serials came about between the Great Depression and WWII. Star Trek first came to life in the late 1960′s, when the world was very concerned about the Vietnam war, the spread of Communism, race riots, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Since then, the number of science fiction and fantasy books, movies and television shows has exploded. Is that because people think we are heading relentlessly towards destruction, and therefore need to see a fictionalized version of the future to help us believe that a future can exist? Or is it the lighter, more hopeful possibility that i mentioned first, that we’re close to the future that has been envisioned?

Time travelers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, since there really is no one answer. Please comment below, or on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/watchcausality) and let us know what you think the reason is that Science Fiction seems more popular than ever.

Posted by   @   June 6, 2011 1 comments
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Jun 9, 2011
1:39 pm
#1 J.M. Frey :

Great article! This seems to be a much-discussed topic in the literary circles recently, and it’s great to see it expanding into media, as well.

I also did an article on why I write SciFi – http://www.gabrielle-edits.com/2011/01/10/sci-fi-by-jm-frey/

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