I am a new reader of science fiction, and have only been introduced to the genre a year ago. Since then, I have found myself devouring book after book, cultivating an excitement that’s hard not to share. So I constantly discuss science fiction and contemplate the reason why this genre is so engaging. I have had the question: Why do I read science fiction, put to me, and I have asked this question to others. The answer is quite simple:
1. The Aliens: Or rather, the potential for something else. A great question of humanity is whether or not we are alone in the universe. It is pretty narcissistic of earth to believe that we are the only planet that can support life. Every light that we see when we look up at the sky at night is a sun that could have numerous planets. Millions and millions of stars, billions and billions of planets; how are we the only ones? Our technology is not advanced enough to answer this question. We have only seen a fraction of the universe, and it could be generations before we can have a better idea of the vast cosmos we are a part of. Until then, we have our Earth writers and thinkers. We have imagined planets and beings that excite us and keep us wondering. It generates interest, which could inspire future scientists, astrologists, physicists, explorers, adventurers, engineers, astronauts, writers…
2. Preparation: What if the world is destroyed? What if a super virus kills all the grass? What if a meteor shower blinds ninety percent of all humanity? What if we make contact? These what-if scenarios are more than just thrills. As I was attempting to explain to my mother one evening, they allow for further exploration into the human condition. What is it that makes us human? Is it our supposed civility? Is it our ability to communicate and connect? How would our societies be if our world shifted drastically? Would we keep the same values? Do we continue with our traditional social norms or do we revert to a dog-eat-dog lifestyle? Authors who write well can offer questions that help us look at humanity, and ourselves, in a new light. How would you react in a what-if situation?
3 Avatars: Perhaps we may not be able to experience the what-if scenarios of the various novel universes, but we can follow the protagonists that do. What makes science fiction so compelling, is the fact that it’s written in prose, with characters, drama, and conflicts. We are introduced to the average character, and follow their adventures. This adds a personal element to the fantasy. It increases the realism, for now we have a connection. The author’s futuristic idea is now a story, which is something we may be able to relate to, for characters have back-stories, problems, and personalities. Characters love, cry, and hurt. We read about the protagonist in the what-if scenario; it becomes easier to imagine our own reactions if the fiction were to occur in our reality.
4 Living forever: We have to face it one day, we will not live forever. The elixir of life has not been invented, at the most our lifespan is a century. We will not live to see the next thousand years. We won’t know (probably) how our cities or towns or countries will change, grow, or degenerate. Once upon a time I played a game with my siblings. We were given the choice of a super-power, and I chose longevity; to live longer, healthier, so I can see how it all plays out. Mars One is working hard to get the first humans safely to the Red Planet, will that happen in my lifetime? Will jet-packs ever be released to the public? When we read science fiction there is a potential to look ahead and see what our planet and civilizations could be like in the future. Margaret Atwood and Arthur C. Clarke are two authors who excel at extrapolation: understanding our present and estimating a potential future, or futures. These stories can be viewed as warnings, or in anticipation.
5. Exploring change: Change can be a scary notion to grasp. It can be exciting, and promise new possibilities, or it can be interpreted as new avenues of potential failure. If it ‘aint broke why fix it? Yet it will happen, and science fiction can help prepare you for a wide variety of potential futures. Novels that use extrapolation can send you on a journey to the near or far future. Parallel or Alternate universes allow for a glimpse at how life could be if we, as a race, chose to follow one path over another. Perhaps it can also aid you in dealing with the changes that will occur in your own life.
All in all, before my first science fiction novel, which was War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, by the way, I had never considered the genre. For reasons unknown, I stayed far away. Perhaps it was a fear. Perhaps it stemmed from not wanting a glimpse or image of the future. Yet there is a benefit to reading science fiction, especially when the author is creating a commentary on our present.