Say the words “science fiction” and most people conjure up an image of teenage boys wearing Star Trek costumes and speaking Klingon while playing World of Warcraft on the internet.
Science fiction is a serious literary genre that focuses on social commentary, moral issues, exploration, and invention.
Here are some examples of each aspect:
Social Commentary – Science fiction examines society as it is and shows what it could be. George Orwell’s novel 1984 depicted a totalitarian state that could be avoided. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek exemplified a future where Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was real.
Moral Issues – Science fiction examines moral and ethical issues. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein examined the moral issue of science tinkering with the natural order by re-animating flesh. Michael Crichton’s Coma examines the ethics of selling organs for transplant.
Exploration – Science fiction inspires scientific exploration. Long before the launch of Sputnik 1 by Russia in 1957, the moon has been an object of desire. The earliest known science fiction story is Somnium,written by mathematician Johannes Kepler between 1620 and 1630. Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, written in 1870, inspired exploration of the ocean depths.
Invention – Science fiction fosters invention. H. G. Wells’ 1914 science fiction story, The World Set Free, about atomic energy led to the world’s first nuclear power plant. The cell phone was first described by Robert Heinlein in his 1951 juvenile novel Between Planets.
Picture the one aspect of our present that you could not imagine living without. Now imagine our world if the visionaries and their “what if” scenarios had not existed. Necessity would only have taken us so far. It was that early reaching for the moon that eventually propelled us into our present.
Science fiction shows us that we are only limited by our imagination. Read more sci-fi novels; watch more sci-fi films; think about what you have read or seen. Embrace the social commentary, the moral issues, the explorations, and the inventions that you will find there.
Open your mind to new ideas.