Why Science Fiction?

I never tire of listening, I am never satisfied.  If you know more stories tell them to me.

– Saunaka via William Buck’s 1976 retelling of the Ramayana

I read a lot.  I read a lot of different sorts of things, but Science Fiction is one of my staples, and one of my favorite subjects.  I read so much of it that many of my friends come to me for recommendations on what to read.  They do so because I am not an indiscriminate reader; I am picky, I am critical, and I love the genre.

As far as novels go Science Fiction is one of the few, perhaps the only, genre that captures the spirit of intelligent speculation, that truly explores the “What if?” question, the only genre that extrapolates from current trends and toys with future prediction, and the only genre that fundamentally relies on a basis of scientific principles.  That is not to say that there is not excellent sci-fi that walks the fuzzy line of fantasy, or that there are not a number of excellent books in other genres, rather it is to say that science fiction must base its collective imagination on what we currently understand of the universe and where that understanding could lead.

Science Fiction is often not taken seriously, in part because there is so much bad sci-fi out there and in part because many people consider it to be pure escapism.  At the same time certain “classics” of Science fiction are required reading for what they say about society; books like 1984, Brave New World, A Handmaid’s Tale, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Left Hand of Darkness, and Fahrenheit 451.  These are fantastic books, but they are older, old enough to be taken seriously now by those stogy folks who decide school curriculum.

Over the last 50 or 60 years Science Fiction has proliferated like no other genre and a great number of fantastic works of literature and excellent stories have been written.  At the same time our lives have been increasingly infiltrated by and reliant upon technology, so much so that many of the things we take for granted now would have been (were!) considered unrealistically far in the future just a short time ago.  Technology has crept so far into our lives and bled into other written genres that many stories now contain some small science fiction-like aspects to them.

Technology is often part of the bedrock of Science Fiction and the genre relies on extrapolation from what currently exists, but at the same time Science Fiction has given us words for technology that did not exist when the books were written but now do.  Snow Crash and Neuromancer were seminal works in the cyberpunk sub-genre and have given us not only some of the words we now use to describe the internet, but provided some of the ideas as well.  Google Earth, that wonderful piece of software so many of us can spend hours exploring is based partially on a piece of software used by the protagonist in Snow crash.  Arthur C. Clarke first did the math on geosynchronous orbits and suggested placing satellites there and at the L4 and L5 points; now we have satellites in those places that we rely heavily upon every day.

Our understanding of the universe has grown by leaps and bounds, demonstrating that the universe is larger, wilder, stranger, more detailed, and far more cryptic and we ever thought.  Science Fiction has had to evolve to keep pace and to leap ahead.

Science Fiction has also given us some of the most memorable  movies and TV shows of all time; Star Wars: A New Hope, Alien, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and BladeRunner to name a few.

On these pages I will introduce books and authors I particularly like, occasionally delving into movies, TV shows, or actual science as the mood strikes.

I’ll put up a page of reading recommendations that will slowly be expanded as well.

All of your comments, suggestions, insights, and recommendations are enthusiastically welcome.  I will not write about books or authors I have not read, and I ask that you respect that these are just my opinions.  If I like a book you particularly dislike, or I do not like a book that you like, I am indicating nothing more than my personal preference and taste, which I will attempt to explain in my writing.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy these pages.

The background image – StarWars meets Firefly over the rings of Saturn