Science Fiction, Science Present

A recent article features Hugo/Nebula-winning author Robert J. Sawyer (and his new religious-rights novel Mindscan) and his take on why science fiction reflects the present as well as the future. Some interesting blurbs from the article:

The worst thing that ever happened to science fiction occurred in May 1977 when Star Wars premiered

“You can’t read science fiction in any kind of deep meaningful way without understanding that it’s a commentary on the present.”

3 thoughts on “Science Fiction, Science Present”

  1. I need to take issue with this. The addage that the best science fiction is allogorical to our times is flawed. I fail to see how Foundation was a lens through which World War II was viewed. True, there is war and chaos and rebuilding, but the central concepts of Psychohistory and the Foundation itself certainly didn’t apply to anything at the time.

    Same with Dune. One could argue that a desert messiah leading a war over a precious comodity could be a take on the middle-east, but that doesn’t make it time-specific. A galactic war over a mind-altering drug might be seen as a guess as to where the 1960s may have been heading, but given as the story is set more than 100,000 yrs in the future I can’t see that as a possibility.

    The best stuff I’ve read lately has been intriquing, thought-provoking, and several times removed from any possible allogorical trope. This includes Reed’s Sister Alice, Wright’s Golden Age, the Night’s Dawn trilogy, and Simmon’s Ilium.

    I’ll go so far as to say that as soon as I detect any commentary on the present creeping into a storyline, I usually put it down.

    I do agree with Sawyer’s comment about Star Wars. The movie did open the gates for mainstream science fiction films, but it tied SF with action and hobbled the genre for years.

  2. I think Robert Sawyer’s are directly on point. They are directly in tune with what UK LeGuin said in her introduction to _The_ _Left_ _Hand_ _of_ _darkness_. To ad one of Le Guin’s comments SF is NOT predicative.

  3. I somewhat agree with you, Jeff. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I don’t specifically care for heavy-handed messages in my fiction. Sure, authors can model some story on some real-life event or they can use a scenario to make a statement, but as a reader I find the entertainment value is in the telling, not in the real-life parallels. I just don’t care for the preachy messages – I’m in it for the sense of wonder, the thought-provoking issues, the fun.

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