Thursday, June 07, 2007

Why I love science fiction

My dad loves to read mystery/thrillers. His mom reads everything, but at one time had a neat collection of old westerns. My uncle can devour a book in a few hours (devour it mentally, not digestively), and I think he's also partial to mysteries and thrillers. My son reads mostly Bob the Builder and Cars. I don't know of anyone who reads purely non-fiction, but I'm sure they exist.

Me? I love science fiction. Sci-fi, or from here on out in this post, SF. And I loved SF from the very start, even melding it into other genres you wouldn't think of. My favorite book was the Smurfs, but specifically, it was Astrosmurf, the story of a dreamer dude who wanted to fly to the moon in a rocket ship. It was smurfy SF.

Later I progressed to more sophisticated material, such as the Choose Your Own Adventure series. You can guess my favorite of the set.

It holds true today -- I love nothing more than a great SF story. Every year I read the short story collection edited by Gardner Dozois, titled The Year's Best Science Fiction. Every year I come away screaming, "Why can't Hollywood take any of these stories and make them into films!?!?! They would far surpass Mission to Mars, Battlefield Earth or any of that other drivel that's been thrust upon us!!" Then I take my medicine and all the angry thoughts fly away into the moonbeams.

This year I added another anthology to my reading list: Fast Foward 1: Future Fiction From the Cutting Edge. Note: if you look for it, make sure you get the title exactly right. There's another book called Fast Forward that is an autobiography from a screenwriter of pornography. I'm not kidding.

Not only was Fast Forward just as strong any other book I've read, it shows again why SF is such an important genre. You all know me by now, if you've been reading a while. And you know that I'm ultra-introspective and annoyingly relentless about improving myself as a person. So SF to me can't be just entertainment.

Here's Frederick Pohl (SF author) and his take on why the genre helps us all:

"Does the story tell me something worth knowing, tht I had not known before, about the relationship between man and technology? Does it open a new horizon for my thinking? Does it suggest possibilities about the alternative future courses my world can take? Does it illuminate events and trends of today, by showing me where they may lead tomorrow? Does it give me a fresh and objective point of view on my own world and culture, perhaps by letting me see it through the eyes of a different kind of creature entirely, from a planet light-years away? These qualities are not only among those which make SF good, they are what make it unique. Be it never so beautifully written, a story is not a good SF story unless it rates high in at least some of these aspects."

Editor Lou Anders has this to say:

"Asimov gave us the word 'robotics' and Gibson the world 'cyberspace.' Our communications satellites were dreamed up by Sir Arthur C. Clarke in 1945, and our personal computers were first envisioned by author Murray Leinster back in 1946 in his short story, 'A Logic Named Joe.' Not only did Leinster envision the PC, but he understood that it would be used for television, news, horoscopes, dating, stock trading, weather, and all the 'junk' that fills up so much of our inboxes. As has been said before, anyone could have predicted the automobile, but it would take a SF writer to predict the traffic jam."

Reading SF is not just escapism for me -- it sharpens me. Off the top of my head, I can think of stories from those two recent books that have changed me in very real ways. One gave me vision for a humanity centuries away, and a hope that our race will continue to make progress in learning what it means to truly love and serve one another. Another reminded me that nothing impacts a man quite like the experience of becoming a father, and that eventually every dad has to let his children find their own way. Every single story shaped me, mostly in ways probably imperceptible.

Our world needs dreamers. The laptop I'm typing on, the wireless internet connection I'm surfing on, even the custom-made chair I'm sitting in... all were made by technology thought impossible just decades ago. Yet they exist, and here I am too. I've had a hernia operation (when I was 7 years old), rehabbed from knee injuries and had LASIK to fix my eyes. To someone from 1907 I'm a certified cyborg, a freak of science. My wife and children wouldn't even be alive in previous centuries, and even today in many parts of the world, due to their health issues. Yet here we are.

Science is a wonderful thing -- it has literally saved my family's life. And it's made it possible for you read what I'm writing now. And today's science was yesterday's SF. What's up next? I can't wait!

That's why I love SF.


MamaRose said...

I LOVE IT, TOO, as you know & don't know just WHY your Dad has been so SLOW to 'come around' to it!
He was 'ok' with the Chinese Martial Arts movies UNTIL they started FLYING AROUND in the AIR--guess he thought that should be SAVED ONLY FOR 'SUPERMAN', huh??!!!
You're RIGHT--someone/anyone has to DREAM something BEFORE it EVER becomes REALITY--no matter how SILLY it might SOUND now!!! & GOD BLESS THOSE FOLKS/PIONEERS--you could be one. LOVE YOU, Mom

Redlefty said...

I wish, but it's obvious to me that my gift of creative vision isn't quite as strong as the guys whose stories I'm reading.

But I'm happy to tag along on their dreams!

MamaRose said...

Just 'GIVE IT SOME TIME'--you never know!!!!! LOVE YA, Mom

James W said...

I knew there was a reason I like you. I use to love reading those Choose Your Own Adventure series books.

Redlefty said...

Yeah, those storied ruled. I guess they're probably still around for this generation too?

It will be interesting to see if my kids ever get into those books.

Lisa S said...

I too like SF for many of the same reasons - the social & cultural issues that are raised are just as interesting as the technology issues - remember the series where humans are valued because we are good at war compared to the other civilized worlds - anyway - excellent post -

Redlefty said...

Totally agree, Lisa! The internet is fascinating as a technology project, but truly bewildering in how it's changed the way we communicate, and with whom we communicate.

Thanks for dropping in!