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Genre as Argument: Science Fiction


Tweet of the Day:  Bidding Farewell to the Comfort Zone

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If science fiction makes an argument, it is one centered around technology: either it will improve our lives or it will devastate us. Each sub-genres within it stakes a place along the scale of idealism versus cynicism. Born out of the combination of the shift of paradigms of the Age of Reason plus massive technological advances during the Industrial Age, science fiction writers envision a world where technology revolutionizes the way we live. New forms of transportation, communication, modes of living and travel beyond the confines of the Earth seemed within reach.

It is, what today we might call  a progressive view of the world. Humanity marching toward an inevitable technological utopia.

Yet early science fiction writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells made an interesting argument that has largely been forgotten in our Nuclear/Information Age: be wary of Man, not Machine. So while many early science fiction stories propose an idealistic vision of technology as always improving the life of men, the masters of the genre were far more astute and tempered the idealism with a counter argument, man must change first. Men of virtue can put technology to good use, but it is also the nature of man to use any tool available to dominate other men. This is a great example of a genre putting forth an argument and then subverting it or contradicting it. It usually happens as a genre matures and following generations of authors who grew up reading the earlier examples counter the arguments in those tomes with some of their own, although in the case of Verne, he did it within his own writing and lifetime.

Yet science fiction retains the basic argument, if at times subverted by itself and its children, that humanity is moving to a better place through the use of reason and technology. The jury is still debating that one.

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6 comments on “Genre as Argument: Science Fiction

  1. I tend to only enjoy sci fi with that deeper, personal message about humanity. Good post.

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  2. Thought-provoking today, Rafael; I love the gothic disaster bit of science fiction, for the same reason that I love ghost stories. They are cathartic.

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  3. I can’t tell you how hard I’m laughing right now. Way too funny!

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  4. Great points, Rafael.
    New technology changes our perspective, and a changed perspective influences what new technology we will develop. It’s pretty hard (if not impossible) to accurately predict how the future will look like. That’s why all schools of thought are equally valid in science-fiction. And why I freakin love the genre. 😉

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    • Yeah, these kind of posts are hard to write because it is easy to get lost in the minutia. Trying to come up with a cohesive posts is challenging, to say the least.

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