|VIP: Very Important Planet|
I could write for pages about how science fiction apparently used to be the sole playground of nerds and crazy people, but that’s been done to death. What’s much more interesting is how mainstream science fiction has become lately, and how acceptable it is to enjoy it now. Perhaps not love its every miniscule detail, as a geek would, but enjoy it heartily just the same—sometimes without realizing it’s science fiction. For example: Lost, Flashforward, District 9, Doctor Who, Under the Dome, and The Hunger Games, among many others.
This surge of interest indicates to me an appreciation for one of the most important kinds of storytelling. That is: storytelling that starts with reality and goes somewhere interesting, and that we can believe might really happen in one universe or another. (Even the fact that I can say “in one universe or another” and be generally understood is a step in the right direction.) It means audiences are realizing that these stories are more relevant than ever. And in our current world, of course they are. Twenty years ago the internet was nothing to any of us, and now it’s nearly everything. Ten years ago there wasn't a single mobile phone photo taken of the 911 tragedy, and now just try to pry our smartphones from our hands. Technology and what we do with that technology is moving as fast as we can imagine.
|My God. It's full of geeky quotes.|
When I was a kid the only science fiction I read was 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. At least that’s all I thought I read. I didn’t realize that much of the other fiction I adored was what we’d now call Speculative Fiction, which is basically science fiction in every guise including fantastical, dystopian, alternate history, and superhero, and Slipstream, which is a cross between science fiction and literary fiction. For example, Christopher Pike’s Remember Me series which starts with a murder mystery and continues through to reincarnation and hereditary memory. This is at the boundary of what scientists would believe, but it still dances on that line, which is one of the great things science fiction can do.
Another great thing science fiction does is help us understand humanity. There’s a reason so many Star Trek episodes are concerned with what it means to be human, and why they always end with the epiphany that humans are flawed, bizarre, and totally great. Science fiction is a traditional way to examine ourselves as if we’re outsiders, and consider where we might be going next.
The shuttle program has ended, but we’re looking to Mars. Pluto is no longer a planet, but there’s a worldwide rejection of that result because as far as we’re concerned Pluto belongs to us. And science fiction belongs to us because the future belongs to us. I hope we can make it a good story.