Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thinking Things Through

As you know (or may not, depending on those memory pills!), I'm beginning my sci-fi novel. Or have begun, I suppose is a better tense.

I know the eye rolls whenever I say sci-fi, considering most (all?) of my friends are literary and well-read and intelligent and have little if anything to do with science fiction as storytelling. They're not snobs, not by a long shot. It's just that sci-fi has transformed itself into something silly, in many ways.

The problem, as I see it, is that sci-fi changed from when I was a kid, dealing with the perspective of "What is Life" and "Where do we fit in?" -- Bradbury, Heinlein, Wells, Shelly -- to the sci-fi of today, mostly known from movies. What used to be a genre to extrapolate "where are we going and what will we find" has turned into more of the adventure western: good vs. evil, aliens vs. humanity, humanity vs. some apocalypse, etc. The adventure has completely overwhelmed the philosophical. And that's a shame.

When I think of The Empty Everything as I write, I am moved not by the future of science (which is interesting enough), but by the essence of humanity. How far away from what we accept as human today can we move before we no longer recognize ourselves? Is being biped, semi-hairy, vocal, and aware enough? If the human race was reduced down to 1.5 meter tall (About 4.5ft), thick boned, dark skin, hairless people, but who spoke a semi-recognizable language and walked on 2 legs, had 2 arms, 2 eyes, 2 ears, and a tendency to laugh ... is that enough for us to automatically say: Yes, they are human.

I think so. Not necessarily by the physicality, though it's close enough to certainly reassure us immediately, but more by what makes us really human to begin with. I believe a sense of humor is the key. Laughing, at others and ourselves, is what really differentiates us from any other species, earthbound or alien. (Well, alien, as far as we can speculate.)

So, my idea of sci-fi is one of philosophy. A chance to turn the mirror on our society and try to guess not only where we are, but who we are. That's interesting.

1 comment:

  1. I've never really been a sci-fi fan, but I don't know if I really ever gave it a chance. I think I got more involved in the absurdity and lack of relatability to something 'alien' that prevented me from looking a bit deeper ... I just may be ready to give it another chance.