Yes, it’s true. I confess. I’ve had an addiction of sorts for many years to science fiction. Actually, us “real” junkies don’t use the term sci fi, finding it trite and the phrase of choice for the truly uninitiated. You know the ones I mean, the kids who really watch Star Wars, and BattleStar Galactica only for the cowboy shoot ’em ups, and not for the deep sociological meaning.
Sociological meaning you ask? But of course. Real fans know that much of science fiction but masks a political statement by the author of the state of the world today. It is critical analysis of our “issues.” Anybody who watched the old Star Trek knows that. Roddenberry wrote scripts that addressed war, racism, sexism, and a plethora of social ills of his day. They are mostly still our ills lo these many years later.
I came to the genre in my late 20’s and held on fast for more than ten years. And this is somewhat surprising since I was never a fan of fantasy, even in my youth. I cannot tell you how many times I sat down to begin Alice in Wonderland, only to throw it aside in disgust as “weird” and “unbelievable nonsense.” I guess you could say I was not a child who had a great imagination.
When I joined the science fiction world, I tended to the hard science writers; those that took technology of the present and “futurized” it. Azimov was a favorite as was Heinlein, Clarke, and a host of others who dropped me into a universe of faster than light travel, robots, and other really neat things like portable phones and touch pads.
We, the science fiction followers, thought of ourselves as ahead of the curve, preparing ourselves intellectually and emotionally for the 21st century, still years away. It was much later that I broadened my landscape to include fantasy and it happened slowly and carefully, just a writer here and there. It broke wide open with Lord of the Rings. I distinctly recall going into the my office one day, and announcing “FRODO LIVES” to much laughter from those who had read the trilogy years before.
Television and movies were not to be found in quantity, and well, quality was even worse. To this day, I enjoy the thrill of really really bad sci fi movies. Sci fi is an apt description, since these were D list affairs, costing thousands to make rather than millions. The actors were either very new at their craft, or very old and still horrid. The plots were predictable, the aliens laughable. As I said, they remain so bad they are hilarious to watch. (think of watching old episodes of Dark Shadows.)
Today, my but things have changed. Science fiction in all its permutations is big business today. That is true in the land of movie making and television fare. Weird is the new normal. From Lost, to Heroes to Caprica and Sanctuary, the airways are filled with distinctly not normal stories. And, it appears we are eating it up.
If you add together the science fiction/fantasy world and the “reality” TV world, you have cornered the market. What this says about us as humans is hard to gauge. It may be that we are hell bent on escaping reality but then isn’t all such creation just that anyway? Whether I’m entering into an alien futuristic world, or merely watching some other real human’s life, escapism is inevitable.
NASA must be sad these days. Their space traveling days, as creators of rockets and propulsion systems is seemingly over for the time being. We are ending our “adventure in space” in a sense. We will have to hitch a ride in the near future. We are not gearing up for Mars landings and building bigger and better ships to travel faster and further.
But we will, of that I have no doubt. We are a curious species. Not the only one, but the only one both curious and capable it seems to deeply alter their environment. The porpoise may wonder about the universe, but I suspect it has little hope of building a space ship. Our need to know will drive us inevitably into the cosmos. Our arrogance will push us to discover if in fact we are the most intelligent of species in the universe.
That is the promise that drives those of us who love to fall into this world of robots and faster than light travel. It is the dream we dream, yet know we cannot partake of it but in our minds. It is in part also the world of fantasy, since other worlds, we believe will be so incredibly different from us that indeed we may find talking rabbits and “plants” that giggle when touched.
Whether we are escaping, as some suggest, into worlds that are less threatening, is still up for debate. The same can be said for golf and quilting or any “hobby” that becomes a favorite of leisure time. In the end, I’m not sure the debate is fruitful. I’m just mighty glad that I have this opportunity, for however long it lasts, to wallow in the glut of other worldly movies and such. Some suck, and others are true genius as one would expect.
So the next time you hear about sci fi being taught at our schools of higher learning, don’t shake your head and decry the “basket weaving” mentality of college curricula. There’s more to this than meets the eye. Or eyes, as the case may be. Engage!