Why Science Fiction Matters
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I spent hours each day abroad in the galaxy. Science fiction wasn’t just a great source of exotic adventures, or an escape from ever-confusing Planet Earth. It was my new mythology. I was centered by the companionship of noble creatures saving entire species from annihilation. Science fiction refocused my self-centric perspective, and showed me that problems much bigger than mine could be solved.
Not only could they be solved, they should be. The great writers of sci-fi helped me see that this conflict-ridden world was worth saving. They showed me the necessity of nurturing respectful relationships – intergalactic, interspecies, interracial, interpersonal. They made me aware of the hope and terror that science could bring to our world. They taught me to keep a critical eye on “progress,” to look for each remedy’s poison as well as its cure. Their works embodied reassuring ideals of protection and preservation.
Sci-fi affected my inner world, too. Thanks to H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak, Ursula Le Guin, and oh yes Gene Roddenberry, I could depart their works and re-enter the atmosphere of pre-adolescence with a reshaped sense of self. Sci-fi distinctively made me aware that I was a human being – incontrovertibly part of something bigger than any group or clique, something that might need saving from itself. As such, I had bigger things to do than worry about what to wear, or who to sit with at lunch. My fantastic excursions actually grounded me. I had a role. I was on a mission. It was my duty to pay attention to things that mattered.
Like reading more great books, and learning more great things.
To this day, the lingering influence of science fiction permeates my perspective. That’s why I shared the best of it with my kids when they were 9-12. And that’s why LitWits shares sci-fi with your kids too.