Science Fiction IS “Real Life”

planetartOne of the most widely-heard principles of storytelling is this one: “write what you know.”

Many people might wonder how this applies to authors of imaginative fiction, such as science fiction and fantasy.  As one of those folks myself, I can say this–science fiction and other areas of imaginative literature offers one of the most useful lenses for looking at the human condition as it is and imagining how it might be–and thus, offering a tool of vision to hopefully, bring about that change.  Gene Roddenberry created “Star Trek” not simply to give the world “Wagon Train” in space, but to visualize a future in which the best instincts of humanity have combined to make a brighter future.  Robert Heinlein, in “Stranger in a Strange Land”, used the figure of Valentine Michael Smith, a human man raised on Mars, to provide a view on humanity that is both human and alien at once.  I myself looked to Heinlein’s and Roddenberry’s influence in my SF novel “Annah”.   Annah is a young woman seeking her own identity; asking questions about difference and belonging that are universal to the condition of being–human or otherwise.  This combination of the universal, the commonplace, and the unfamiliar is what makes science fiction a powerful tool for innovation as well as for social change.  If we cannot imagine a different world, we can’t hope to make change a reality in ours.  Shows like “Star Trek”, or books like Heinlein’s or (hopefully) my own are not mere escapism just because they take place in a world we can’t see outside our window.   They can show us, if we let them, that imagination can give us the tools to become the change we seek; to open our eyes onto another world without faster than light travel, simply through the engine of our own will.


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