Thursday, January 28, 2016

Is Science Fiction Dead? or Merely Asleep

Some have lamented the death of Science Fiction. The great pioneers of the 30's and 40's predicted a lot of things that are now a part of our daily lives. The visions of the future have largely come to pass, with the exception of space exploration which we now know will take longer than any of those early visionaries thought. There also seems to a trend to stick to the facts and not really push the boundaries of technology when telling a story (this has traditionally been called Hard Science Fiction).

So, is Science Fiction dead? Well, that depends on the fans and the writers. For some it may well be, but those people lack imagination. They tend to be fans of Hard Science Fiction and eschew the softer, and previously greatly popular, side of the genre. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for Hard Science Fiction, but let's face it, that is not where Science Fiction came from. It may be hard to grasp when you go back today and read the works of the Golden Age that most of that stuff was not even considered possible. Today it seems like they knew what they were talking about. Heinlein's description of zero gravity in Orphans of the Sky was frighteningly accurate and written decades before anyone had experienced it. Traveling to the moon, much less another planet, was so far fetched in the world that read the Golden Age books that it could not be considered anything but Soft Science Fiction. The Golden Age was full of dreams of the future that few thought would actually come to pass.

But today, with so many of those inventions of the imagination a reality and some of the dreams pushed further into the future, it must seem like the genre is dead. But it isn't. We have just forgotten to dream. One set of dreams came true and we need to find new ones. There are still many possibilities out there, we just need to dream them up and write about them. Science has advanced so far that some feel that we know too much and there is no room left for dreams, but we still do not have humaniform robots, we still don't have space colonies, theories concerning faster than light travel have advanced taking relativity into account, science has investigated the transporter, and then there are the many social issues that we have yet to deal with. We are not where we could be and it is up to Science Fiction to show us where we can still go. To do that, we need to dream. We can't stick to the facts of Hard Science Fiction, we have to push the boundaries and question what can and can't be done. If we don't question our understanding of things as they did in the Golden Age, it leaves no room for imagination. We are only limited by our imagination and if we reign that in, we have no place to go.

While I greatly respect the efforts of the Hard Science Fiction community, they do not represent true Science Fiction. The heart of the Genre is imagining the impossible possible and that goes against the very nature of Hard Science Fiction, but it lies at the core of all Golden Age stories. We need to dream and dream big. We need to write stories that inspire the imagination and let young readers dream big. For only by dreaming big and being inspired to discover what is possible do we get that gleaming core of scientists who take the stories they grew up with and make them reality. Science Fiction writers need to get back to dreaming big so that the inspiration of our imagination can inspire the science of a new generation. That is what Science Fiction really is. And I'd have to say that if we can't find that voice of dreams again, that the genre might be truly dead. But I don't think it is. I dream and aspire to inspire and I know others writers do as well.

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