Why We Need Science Fiction

If you had told me about a year ago that Ray Bradbury would become one of my favorite authors, that I would be devouring The Illustrated Man like it was a Whitman’s Sampler, and would look for more of the same, my response would have been something along the lines of “Do you know me?” For years, science fiction interested me not at all. Well, maybe that’s not exactly true: I did rather like The Twilight Zone (the original version with Rod Serling) and when I was assigned to read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea in ninth grade, I didn’t dislike the book. But that was as far as my interest in science fiction extended, until I met Ray Bradbury.

In the winter of 2013, I read Fahrenheit 451. By that time, Mr. Bradbury had been dead for well over a year, but he still spoke to me powerfully through that novel, and especially through his essay “Coda” at the end. He said things I had never heard any author say—deep, true things that needed to be said—and in ways that I had never heard anyone speak. Since then, I’ve come to consider him a genius and one of my favorite writers. His stories, and his own words independent of his works, have made a believer out of me when it comes to science fiction. And while technology bores me and I still can’t fathom the vast legendarium that is Star Wars, I now realize how valuable science fiction can be.

It often seems that the craziest people are the ones who make the most sense. Such is the case with the authors of science fiction: their books seem too wild and outlandish to have any bearing on reality when they are actually more real and more true than any one would like to admit. These books are mirrors: they show us both who we are and who we are going to be. But, they do it under a fantastical guise, so as to make to medicine a little easier to swallow. Oscar Wilde once wrote (or at least, people claim that he wrote), “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” Science fiction authors don’t make their audience laugh, per se, but what is laughter? It’s a response to something unexpected. We humans hate monotony and like to break out of the mundane as much as we can. Science fiction helps us do that, while also giving us a clear, badly-needed reality check. By breaking out of reality, it helps us understand reality better.

So, as we begin another new year, you can be sure I’ll be reading a little more science fiction. Bradbury’s works are certainly high on my list, as well as the Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, and maybe even some George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. I can’t wait to see where this goes!

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23 thoughts on “Why We Need Science Fiction

  1. I love Science Fiction! I often think what will the future hold, how so much has changed just in my time, and how I wish I could be able to see what’s going to be around in a hundred years from now. Alas, we can’t, so imagining it is the next best thing.

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    1. But oftentimes, science fiction does seem to give a glimpse of the future–maybe not where technology or world events are concerned, but in the ways people act and interact with each other. Ray Bradbury used to say that that’s why his books are so spot-on even fifty years later: because he writes about human nature and human nature never changes. I like books like that, that talk about the sorts of ideas that are always relevant. 🙂

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    1. Cool! You probably figured this out already, but I would recommend Bradbury’s works if you’re just starting out, especially his short stories. “The Veldt” is the best one, I think.

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        1. I love “The Veldt”! So far, that’s my favorite of his stories! I actually had the ending spoiled for me by reading an essay of his, but even so, I still found it chilling. Takes a pretty good author to do that.

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  2. I’ve read Fahrenheit, 1984 and A Brave New World so far, and Orwell’s book is one I liked most. In fact, it’s one of my favorite books ever. I’m planning to read more of his works as well as Bradbury’s. Huxley’s book was interesting but it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.

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    1. I can’t seem to make up my mind about Brave New World. Every time I say I’m going to read it, I always chicken out. XD

      1984 has been on my “To Read” list for a long time and I hope to get to that one soon. Thanks for commenting! I’ve had this blog for months, but I still get excited when I see a new comment.

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  3. I’ve tried sci-fi SO MANY TIMES, but each time I just get lost and confused and feel rather stupid. >.> So it’s a no from me, but I would like to try Fahrenheit one day at least! At least try!! XD

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    1. Fahrenheit was really good, but it’s a little . . . how do you say it? . . . it’s not heavy on science, but it is a lot to take in. Good book, but not everybody’s cup of tea. However, Bradbury’s short stories are pretty flipping awesome. They’re not very science-y either, but they do make you think.

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  4. Ray Bradbury talks about what science fiction is in this interview (http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury), which is very much worth reading.
    Science fiction, for a lot of authors, is a fiction that explores the conclusions of things. What is the conclusion of global warming now on the future? What, at least, does the narrative of the author make as the conclusion?

    In a lot of ways, science fiction is kind of the heir to the Apocalyptic literature in the Bible. Apocalyptic literature explores the ends, purposes, conclusions of things. What are things at their fullest? Science fiction does the same–assuming the author uses it like that.

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    1. That interview actually went a long way toward informing my thinking about what science fiction is and why it’s meaningful. If it hadn’t been for Bradbury, I would probably still be dismissing SF/Fantasy literature as simply an amusement for children. (Me of little faith!)

      I had never thought before about the relationship between science fiction stories and the ends of things. It’s amazing what great potential there is in science fiction to explore human nature and the meanings of things, if only more people would make good use of it.

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        1. I do write a little and I’ve tried science fiction a few times. I’m afraid many of my stories don’t get out of the drafting stage, though.

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