Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today- but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept about which resolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all. Isaac Asimov, "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
While Asimov was interested solely with Science Fiction, I believe the same can be said about Speculative Fiction as a whole. Many of the problems we face cannot be faced solely by working to fix the present conditions. If we do not explore the possible futures our choices could produce, we walk blindly into the future.
It is change, continuing change inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the word as it will be - and naturally this means that there must be an accurate perception of the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our Everyman, must take on a science fictional way of thinking, whether he likes it or not or even whether he knows it or not. Only so can the deadly problems of today be solved.
Isaac Asimov, "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Again, I would broaden his words out to all of Speculative Fiction.
Numerous horror novels/movies have shown us the problems eugenics would unleash upon our societies. Lestat's hope that there is some good in the universe heightens his fear and motivates him to find the answers.
H. P. Lovecraft's fiction had a simple message behind the supernatural horror. Humankind's chief sin is hubris. We think too highly of ourselves, and as a result blind ourselves to the fact that somewhere in this vast cosmos, there are creatures who are infinitely more powerful than we are, and whose motives are unfathomable by human logic.
Cthulu, Nyarlahotep, Azathoth, the color out of space, and the color out of time are all horrifying warnings that if we lie to ourselves, pretending there is not a bigger fish out there, we will eventually be devoured by it.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an all too familiar cautionary tale about scientific and technological advance without the restraining forces of morality and common sense. The tale has been told and retold, spawning an entire subgenre of horror about the dangers of dabbling in things not understood.
The Resident Evil franchise, Godzilla, and so many others I could spend the rest of the year naming them have picked up the mantle and and shared the horrific future we could create for ourselves if we are not careful to think ahead and not blindly rush into the future.
Showed us a future we could hope for. Imagine a world where hunger and poverty were removed from the equation. New challenges would raise their heads, some of which would threaten to return us to the barbaric world we had left behind.
Gene Roddenberry kindled a vision in the hearts and minds of his fans of a world of limitless possibilities. A world were our only limitations were our imagination and our character. It is a world to strive towards.
Lord of the Rings
In the Lord of the Rings books, J. R. R. Tolkien showed us a world on the cusp of transition from one age to another. His mythic prose illuminated the choices that people have to make when culture finds itself on the crossroads of history.
The basic choice is demonstrated through the characters of Sauroman and Gandolf. Their world, their age was ending. They had the choice to either embrace the future and try to make the new world a better place to live, or to hold on the past and seek the destruction of the new world before it comes. Gandolf chose the first path, Sauromon chose the latter.
Anakin Skywalker is faced with the same choice in the Star Wars saga. At first he fights the future out of his attachment, but when he is faced with the ultimate decision, watching the future be destroyed in the person of his son, he learns that he must let go of his attachments and help the future come.
I wonder if that is why more people don't love the prequel trilogy. It touches a nerve in them, and despite our bravado, no one really wants to think of themselves as Darth Vader. No one wants to entertain the thought that they could destroy everything they believe in and care for as a result of trying to protect it.
Like all great stories, Star Wars holds a mirror up to us and says, this could be you.
We need Progressive Speculative Fiction
Many things are hard to talk about. Stories can often show us things we would not or could not have seen otherwise.
Next time, we will discuss the differences between Positive Scifi and Progressive Speculative Fiction.