Friday, July 08, 2005

Science Fiction.

What determines "science fiction" ? In the last couple of blog entries that I have created, I have used that phrase within, it's time to remove those confines...

In my opinion, science fiction, in it's intended uses of that phrase does gross injustice to the entire genre that it is supposed to encompass...when mindless nonsense (read Independance Day or Armageddon) is filed within this genre, then it not only does injustice, but also drags the entire genre, it's great practitioners and ardent fans, through the mud.

As I happened to read in the preface for a great book, science fiction has been used to include everything from "futuristic novels", to fantasy, to alternate realities and many more different what qualifies as true science fiction ? Is it just all of the above ? Is it narrower that what I have mentioned ? Is it a ll about a geeky adolescent's fantasies about space operas and light sabres ? The answer, of course, is yes and no...

Again, to take inspiration from that preface...suppose I write about a story in which a character needs to whip up some eggs and I describe a device which does that...then it is not science fiction...doesn't matter if the story is set into the infinite future, or in an alternate dimension...I am still describing an egg-beater, which has existed for decades now...but suppose, the story had been written by some person, 300 years ago, then that would be science fiction in its purest sense...he sees a need to perform a task, but there exists nothing in the practical world which would help him achieve the task of whipping the he "invents" and describes a wonderful device which allows him to do just that.

So, to generalise, science fiction, is all about diving the future...the economy, the political and social setups, of course the popular technological advances, and even the religious fall-outs of such advances...maybe it could be that the religious advancements of humanity were what drove the other fields to catch up....but still, the science fiction writer is not just writing about the cool gadgets...his responsibility goes far beyond that...he must forsee the conditions of humanity (albeit through certain characters), and comment, or invoke commentary on that. So, more often than not alien lands and cultures, the moral and technological advances, the socio-economic and political rights and wrongdoings are just metaphors...about the current state of human affairs and how they would, at times in the extreme, lead humanity as a whole towards the unforseen future.

So, from the simplistic/idealistic writings of Asimov to the paranoid delusions of Philip K Dick, or even the subtle handle on reality of James Blish, we see the above characteristics come through.

This is where science fiction can deviate from fantasy...the latter is all about imaginary lands and worlds and more for the cause of entertainment...they do not invent, or divine...sometimes they do, to prove a point about how humanity exists in it's current situation, but never really do they take the bold step of looking into the future...

p.s. : here is an article about science fiction.

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