“…living in an SF scenario.”

I found this article at the UK’s Times Online, “Why don’t we love science fiction?” I’m sure we’ve all read plenty of articles about the snobbishness of the literary establishment toward SF, and why SF is important and worthwhile, and this is another of the same type. Of course with me, they’re preaching to the choir, but I thought it was a very good article nevertheless, and worth sharing. Here are some of the most share-worthy parts:

“The truth is,” Aldiss has written, “that we are at last living in an SF scenario.” A collapsing environment, a hyperconnected world, suicide bombers, perpetual surveillance, the discovery of other solar systems, novel pathogens, tourists in space, children drugged with behaviour controllers – it’s all coming true at last. Aldiss thinks this makes SF redundant. I disagree. In such a climate, it is the conventionally literary that is threatened, and SF comes into its own as the most hardcore realism.

People often say that science fiction is terrible at predictions, but it seems to me that just about every scientific invention and discovery of the 20th century was foreseen, if not in the precise details, then at least in a general way in SF literature. Foreseen, written about, the implications explored, then left on “simmer” until it (or something very like it) became reality. And like the author of that article, I too disagree with Aldiss about this making SF redundant. On the contrary, I think SF continues to become more and more relevant.

The big problem with being sniffy about SF is that it’s just too important to ignore. After all, what kind of fool would refuse to be seen reading Borges’s Labyrinths, Stanislaw Lem’s Fiasco, Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World or Wells’s War of the Worlds just because they were SF? These are just good books, irrespective of genre. But they are also books that embody the big ideas of the time – both Wells and Lem were obsessed with human insignificance in the face of the immense otherness of the universe, Huxley with technology as a seductive destroyer and Orwell with our capacity for authoritarian evil. Borges, like Lem, suspects we know nothing of ourselves. Interested in these things? Of course you are. Read SF.


The point is that SF is, in fact, the necessary literary companion to science. How could fiction avoid considering possible futures in a world of perpetual innovation? And how could science begin to believe in itself as wisdom, rather than just truth, without writers scouting out the territory ahead? Which is why this widely despised genre should be read now more than ever.

Exactly right.


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