Monday, February 3, 2014

Why Everyone Should Read Science Fiction

"Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real." -- Jules Verne

That's a great quote, especially coming from Jules Verne who may be responsible for more of the things we have today than any other man. At least as far as concept goes. During one of the A-to-Z challenges, my theme was all about things that we have now (or that are being worked on) that originated in fiction, mostly science fiction, and I ended up back at Jules Verne more times than I can remember right off hand.

Right now, I'm reading Brave New World and, again, I'm struck by the incredible vision of the author, in this case Aldous Huxley. I mean, the book is full of helicopters, which didn't exist yet, and TV that was fully experiential, which the Japanese are working on, not that TV even existed, and genetic engineering, which... well, yeah, who knows exactly what we're capable of with that.

Science fiction is so often belittled as just "genre writing" that is done by hacks that can't keep their feet on the ground. It's not "important," whatever that means. Real writing is literary and deep and, well, heck, often incomprehensible, but, you know what, if Joyce had not written Ulysses or not written at all, the world would be basically the same place it is today. Take away John Irving and the nothing changes. But if Jules Verne had never put pen to paper, or Wells or Asimov, and everything would be different.

Everything.

I think that's something to think about. There's your "A Sound of Thunder."

16 comments:

  1. Preaching to the choir, here...I try to educate my work friends every day on the importance of sci fi. I'm the only geek in the crowd, there. :)

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  2. That was very well said. Great job.

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly, Andrew. I've always been interested in sic-fi but never had a deep appreciation for it until the last few years.

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  4. Well said, and it's funny that you mention this because our next release (in the coming week) is a sci fi short story. Writing it was so much fun that we're entertaining the idea of a sci fi collection. Definitely something we've both taken for granted the past few years, not just with writing, but with reading as well.

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  5. "Take away John Irving and the nothing changes"

    On a macro level perhaps this is true. On a micro level it's not. Mr. Irving's books greatly influenced me and they have influenced many others as well. As has James Joyce or any other great writer.

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  6. RG: Tell them about how we have only been into space because some kid read Jules Verne. True story.

    Rusty: Thanks.

    Elsie: It deserves a deep appreciation. People will understand, maybe, when they have their own lightsabers.

    ABftS: Well, I can't wait!

    Pat: Yes, but I wasn't talking, today, about the influence on the individual; I was talking about the influence on society as a whole.
    And you're the reason Irving came to mind, so that was an influence, but, again, not my point today.

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  7. Excellent words Andrew. I've listened to learned men and women say writers helped make the technology that exists today. Including abhors writing about holographic images before it existed and so on. Let the haters hate, sci-fi is here to stay and will continue to inspire.

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  8. Sheena: It's true; it will. I just think it's time for people to quit putting it down so much, although I suppose it's not as bad as it used to be.

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  9. I figured PT would jump in there in defense of John Irving.

    Your point is well-taken, of course: scifi visionaries have both mirrored and helped influence sci-fact people. And as a person who ended up finding "Ulysses" a waste of time, I hate to defend that book, but I feel compelled to point out that it helped shape and eliminate the artificial restrictions on what people could or could not read, after being deemed obscene and them becoming a test case.

    While literature as a whole may or may not receive ample credit for shaping society (or mirroring it, or helping people realize its excesses, like "The Bonfire Of The Vanities" did), genre fiction as a whole takes a terrible rap. And I'm including such extreme examples as comics. I can remember my mom complaining that I read comic books so much as a kid. She thought they weren't really reading and were below me, as I was a smart kid. But comics not only helped me actually love reading and served as a springboard to more, they served as a kid-friendly gateway to science. Maybe it's ridiculous to think of a portion of a white dwarf star giving someone the power to shrink, or a radioactive spider bite conferring spider powers, but thinking those things gets people thinking about science, in general, and wanting to know if it could, or could not, actually happen.

    So even more than Jules Verne inspiring people to create submarines, I think scifi in general inspires people to think about science. Sometimes that's hard science, as in Sandra's books, and sometimes it's more the philosophical implications of science, as in the few scifi things I've written (where the science is pretty speculative), but either way, if people think about it, that's helping a lot.

    On PTs side, though: I have learned a great deal about how to think about people from John Irving, whose books are greatly important in my life. I can remember whole passages and characters, 20 years later, and the attitudes that they exemplified and the way characters looked at things have always stuck with me. So there's that.

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  10. Parents are never fond of their kids reading comics or, at least, that used to be true. It might not be true so much now. Heck, I'd love it if my kids read comics... if they were still affordable.

    And, trust me, I'm not trying to put down other literature; I just want to point out that things like rockets and going out into space are specifically because of Verne and Wells, and Wells wouldn't have written about it without Verne.

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  11. I'm another member of the choir. Isaac Asimov actually lived long enough to see some of his ideas become facts. I remember reading an intro he wrote to an anthology of his work in which he pointed out just that and assured the reader that when he wrote these stories, the things he wrote about didn't exist. What about Multivac and hand held access to this super computer. Today we have the Internet and cell phones. Clever men these sci fi writers.

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  12. It's very true. You think, I think, when you're writing, "I'm just making this up," and a few decades later there it is staring you in the face. So strange.

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