One Genre. Many Arguments Derived. What Does Science Fiction REALLY Promote?

When traffic cameras became a thing around America, I heard people talk about 1984 by George Orwell. When people talk about the newest technological gizmo, I hear things brought up like Star Trek. If you are in favor of human and robot interactions, you might point at I, Robot by Isaac Asimov as a prime example of it all being okay. If you don’t agree though: The Matrix and Terminator.

Notice a pattern? I’m sure you do: they are all science fiction stories. Different sub-genres of course, different authors and creators: but all science fiction. Arguments for and against technology coming from the same birthplace. The same talking points.

How could a genre do something like this? How could it promote advancement, of robots helping out our daily lives, of automatic cars and devices making life easier, and yet turn around and spout the opposite? How could it say from its various mouths that we could see a Clearwater of hoverboards and holograms like Back to The Future or a nightmarish city like District 12 in The Hunger Games?

Well, I have an answer. It’s by its very nature. Science fiction is perhaps the most important genre of art we have in terms of societal and technological progress. If most art forms exist to describe what humans “are” and what that means, then science fiction functions as a way to show what we can be—depending on how we move forward in the coming years and decades and centuries.

They are dreams of a future. They say to the audience “here is a way it could be,” and if the viewer, if enough viewers, agree to it, then well: Star Trek had cellphones before the real world did.

What We Promote Can Become Real

If you are a believer in an infinite number of alternative universes, then we can think of science fiction stories as making windows into possible worlds. And like any time you list all potential possibilities, some are not pleasant, good, or wholesome.

So, science fiction delivers both warnings and goals. It is saying “you can have a robot butler, sure, you should try to do so, but if you don’t think to make sure they cannot hurt us—well, don’t go crying to John Connor.”

Because the stories warned us. Moderation. Foresight. Ethical Choices. Equality. These and others are at the core of the themes of most science fiction stories. They are a method to promote morality for hypothetical outcomes.

Because, going forward, some won’t be hypothetical. And thanks to a sub-group of the most creative people we’ve had the pleasure to share a planet with, we have a chance to be ready. We have a chance to not make the same mistakes as those fictional characters in print and on the screen.

We get to choose a future. From staggering amounts of options, we can mix, cherry-pick, and curate to promote to the scientists and the creators and the industrialists and the politicians and the businessmen what we want to exist.

And I hope we pick something astounding, aspiring, and astonishing.

If you liked this article, you can read more of Brandon Scott’s work on The Hive, or at his website:

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