Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Benefits of Science Fiction

While science fiction may not suffer from the stigma of magic like fantasy does, it still has plenty of gray areas as a genre, leaving many readers on edge. Their concerns are not invalid. We should be concerned with the potential problems with humanism and its resulting impact on human value, language, violence, and sexuality. If this was all science fiction had to offer, it would be a problematic genre indeed.

However, science fiction, like its fantastical counterpart, has much to offer.

First, it challenges our prejudices. In science fiction we face alien species, robots, and cyborgs. We can jump worlds and times. We watch as terrorism and war decimates, space travel confines, and technology resets the borders. In short, science fiction uproots, transplants, and generally smashes our comfortable boxes. By separating us from the familiar and making our survival dependant on those nothing like us, we often discover that perhaps not as much divides us as we thought.

Second, it raises tough questions about ethics and morality. Because of its emphasis on advanced technology and science, this genre pushes us a few (or many) steps beyond where we are currently and then asks, “Do the rules still apply?” For example, what delineates humanness now seems pretty straightforward. But what happens when you add sentient aliens or artificial intelligence into the mix? What do we really believe about slavery, organ harvesting, murder, and religion?

Which brings us to science fiction’s third benefit: It dares us to take our beliefs to the logical conclusion. It extends the consequences into the future. It applies rules, boxes, division, and judgments to parallel situations—often with unexpected results. It asks, “If A + B equals C, does C – B equal A?”

And in doing this, science fiction helps us to see what should be our fundamental and unchanging beliefs.

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