The first question I get asked when I am talking about either my writing or my personal fandoms is, "Why Scifi? What makes it so special?" I really want to answer, "Because it just is!" but I take a deep breath and I answer for about the billionth time the number 1 question a fan gets asked.
I fell into fandom, like so many before me, because I just couldn't except that the world I live in is the best, only, penultimate expression of human civilization. If we were already there, then we would have solved these pesky problems plaguing us: crime, poverty, corruption, pollution, disease, et al... The problems are still here, so we obviously haven't found the solutions yet.
Star Trek, Dune, Star Wars and various comics were my gateway drugs, they lead me to the conventions and there I saw as an impressionable 11-year-old a different world from the one I was forced to live in for the rest of the year.
Beyond the Gimmicks
I went through a similar change in my attitudes towards Scifi as the early writers did. When I read E. Everett Evans' speech, Science Fiction in the Summing Up, originally delivered October 29th, 1953, I saw the psychological change that converts a Scifi Enthusiast into a Scifi Fan when he started talking about the changes the genre its went through:
so the psychological angles of science-fantasy imagination came into being. Nowadays we use as the basis for our science fiction stories, the same old spaceships, the time machines, the robots, the great inventions. But they are merely the background -- what writers call the "gimmick" behind their story. Actually, what we are now doing is trying to figure out -- to extrapolate -- the economies, the mores and taboos, the forms of government the philosophies and religions, the ways of love and business, of the peoples of the future who live in a civilization and a culture where these advanced sciences and technologies are as commonplace as electricity, automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, and telephones and so on are to us of today (E. Everett Evans).
At the conventions, I joined the conversation for the first time. I saw in the books, shows and movies I loved a deeper layer. They were showing alternative ways to live and be. I didn't have to be a passive observer, I could join the growing cultures of choice developing around ideas like IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination).
Suddenly, this wasn't just fiction, it was inspiration to build a better me, and hopeful contribute to a better world.
Scifi is a Genre like no other
In no other type of literature today can writers put down as freely their thoughts and hopes and conclusions as to "whither are we going?", as can be done in science fiction. In the western story or the historical novel, writers put down "what has been". In the detective, or whodunits, in the love story, in the ordinary though excellent modern story, they write what now is. In what we call true fantasy they write what might be. But in science fiction they write what they think "will be" (E. Everett Evans).
Whether it is a fantasy (like Avatar or Star Wars) telling me what might be or a science fiction story (like Star Trek or Dune) telling me what most likely will be under certain circumstances, as long as they are entertaining I can find inspiration for a better world.
That is why I an a fan of Scifi! Why are you? Let me know in the comments.