Oh man, somebody pull the civilization fire alarm. Call the police, call the government, call somebody. Look at what our world has become – do you remember that mass shooting in Sacramento on Sunday? Did you hear Noam Chomsky say ‘We’re approaching the most dangerous point in human history?‘ Did you see the UN warning about that Earth is ‘firmly on track toward an unlivable world?’ Or were you like me, too numb to really notice? Are you starting to experience ‘apathetic doomerism?’ If humanity is to survive, if we’re to build the future together, we need something to create a lingua franca of hope and optimism. Science fiction has been that bridge language of people who want to build a better tomorrow, so let’s use scifi to build our future together.
What’s that, you say? You think it’s a stupid idea? You think scifi can’t save civilization? Nonsense. There’s a direct causal link between what a society thinks about itself and where it goes as a civilization. ‘Myth bestows meaning. It teaches people who they are and where they belong. Above all, it frees them from a sense of meaningless isolation.’ Science fiction is, and always has been, a rich resource for those cultural myths.
Science fiction is a weapon in the war against our dystopian reality.
In fact, science fiction succeeds in this role where other genres fail. Regular fiction can’t do this without sounding preachy, fantasy doesn’t do this because it doesn’t obey the rules of our universe. They have their uses of course, but they can’t do what science fiction does! Where fantasy just imagines a completely separate reality for its readers, science fiction uses science and technology as solvents to dissolve the super-ideologies of civilization. It serves as social court jester, speaking on controversial issues in a society does not permit them to be discussed.
I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Scifi stories’ cultural impact is well-documented and understood. “Science fiction is a way of thinking,” Gene Roddenberry once said. “A way of logic that bypasses a lot of nonsense. It allows people to look directly at important subjects.” Indeed scifi “inspires curiosity through stories that demonstrate what could be created and what could become of society.” We need that more than ever, now.
Sadly, science fiction has become a victim of its own success. Scifi’s traditional role of ‘predicting the future’ has become something that forgets “the deeper role of the genre in exploring how ideas and technology make us human.” Like many other vehicles of human progress, science fiction has become commoditized to its own damage.
This is killing all of us. Science fiction isn’t just a genre, it isn’t just a community, or a hobby. It’s a tool, it’s a weapon in the war against our dystopian reality. We can weaponize this power to slay these monstrous problems, and it’s why I think we can build our future together with science fiction. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. To paraphrase Edward R. Murrow, Science fiction ‘can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends.’
I’m going to pick this up in a second blog post – stand by for Part II – In the meantime, please enjoy this week’s Weekly Interactive Top Ten