Jul 23, 2017

Reading Science Fiction Is Essential For Our Modern Times

If you think about it science fiction is really just fantasy, isn't it? Fantastical ships which travel faster-than-light, are just as impossible as Harry Potter flying on a broomstick, a motorbike or in a Ford Anglia. So what makes science fiction different from a fantasy story? The answer may surprise you.


 Science Fiction appeals to hope and wonder, both in how we want things to turn out, and how we are afraid they might turn out worse. Fantasy on the other hand is about yearning and regret, an appeal directly to the heart about how things should be. (tvtropes.org)

Science fiction is built on thought experiments, which explores hypothetical possibilities and the consequences of any science and technology developed in that scenario.   It's beauty is that is can cross over with a lot of other genres of fiction including horror (the Alien franchise), fantasy (the Star Wars franchise) and historical fiction (Steam Punk).

What's important about science fiction, even crucial, is the very thing that gave it birth-the perception of change through technology. It is not that science fiction predicts this particular change or that that makes it important, it is that it predicts change.

- Issac Asimov 1

 Good science fiction explores change and how this change will affect us. Both forms of literature ask the question what if or just imagine, however a good science fiction story should also make us look at our lives in a different way.

Whereas fantasy asks what if magic existed or just imagine dragons were real, good science fiction will ask the what if and just imagine questions and then go on to ask questions like where have we come from? and where are we going? and then try to explore the often unexpected, social implications of various breakthroughs and technologies, and how this may change us, in light of our reactions to other historical changes.

For example: Scientists have found a way to reverse the ageing process, extending the lifespan of mice by 20 per cent and raising the prospect of an anti-ageing treatment for humans within a decade.

A good science fiction story will not say just imagine people live longer and go from there. It will ask the questions: How have we shared previous medical breakthroughs, historically? Have we shared them out equally or have an elite few hoarded it for themselves? (Where have we come from). Once we've decided on an answer to those questions, we must then decide, in light of our answers,  how this will this affect us in the future? How will this change us as people, as a society? (Where are we going). The story may then explore the idea of whether we should live longer, will it be beneficial or harmful for us as a whole.

As Ursula Le Guin says, after reading a good science fiction novel should come away changed.

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we're done with it, we may find—if it's a good novel—that we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it's very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed. 2

It's a toolkit for life.     

 The great thing about reading science fiction is that because we have suspended our disbelief and been changed by living in world created by an author, if only momentarily,  we are now open to new ways of thinking. We too, have been shown how to conduct a thought experiment.

For me I find that stories in which I don't like the premises or the path they took, while frustrating at the time, are better reads, because they make me think more. I have to consider why I didn't agree, what I would do differently and why.  It's even better if you can discuss this with someone else after you've clarified your thoughts. And the best thing is that this prepares you for real world.  Yes, you heard me right, science fiction prepares you for real world applications.

Michael Kaput says it very well when he writes:

The ability to rigorously imagine future outcomes based on incomplete information (and uncommon imagination) with the same diligence that many use to assess immediate economic, political, emotional and business conditions is a bulletproof skill. It’s a practice that sparks creativity, uncovers new opportunities, and improves current operations.

Science fiction is a toolkit. A toolkit for imagining what’s next, and how to get there—no matter how big or small. The real world is catching up to the imagined worlds of science fiction. We’re running out of literary runway for our ideas to take flight.

Thought experiments matter, even if they’re light years away. Because more than ever, individuals, businesses, governments and societies are in uncharted territory.

Which is why using the books we have to imagine the world that we don’t is more important than ever.

Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world because it is the history of ideas

- Ray Bradbury

Part of the 'In Defence Of Science Fiction.'

If you're new or unfamiliar with science fiction, want to understand the genre better or wanting to read more of it, This series is aimed at you! I wanted to to share my passion with my friends and I'm hoping that you the reader will benefit as well.

The links will be affiliate links, so if you going to make a purchase at Amazon I'd appreciate you using the link. Doing so will help me buy more books so it should be a win-win for us both.

Enjoy reading more and thinking more... with your favourite beverage!

Further reading:

  • Is-science-fiction-past-its-sell-by-date
  • Why-everyone-needs-to-read-more-science-fiction
  • Speculative-Fiction

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1. "My Own View," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Holdstock, ed., 1978 Asimov on Science Fiction, pg 5.
2. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction By Ursula K. Le Guin

Jul 21, 2017

Weekend Reads - RAW 170721

This week we look at if science fiction is 'real' literature, and if it's really about the future. Along with if life is possible in the Trappist system plus more.

Jamie Savage had an interesting take on Star Trek's utopia which shocked some people but I thought was quite on point. Want to know my view on utopian fiction? Read my article Why I Dislike Utopian Fiction... 

Also this week on WolfsBooks Discover | The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne Valente and keep an eye out on Sunday evening for my latest article the the In Defence of Science Fiction series called The Reason Why Reading Science Fiction Is Essential.

But now sit back with your favourite beverage and have a relaxing read of the following articles.

For a long time, critics and English professors declared that science fiction wasn’t literature. Most of them spoke from the modernist-realist basis of never having read any science fiction since they were twelve. They were comfortable with a judgment that allowed them to remain both superior and ignorant...

Walking through Barbican’s new science-fiction exhibition, “Into the Unknown”, is like walking through a nerd’s dream bedroom – and I say that as a nerd myself.

If you’re a fellow bibliophile, then you’re definitely already winning in my book — but, from one book-lover to another, reading isn’t the only thing you totally excel at.

The concept of a habitable zone is based on planets being in orbits where liquid water could exist, said Manasvi Lingam, a Harvard researcher who led the study. This is only one factor, however, in determining whether a planet is hospitable for life.

At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, John Hodgman hosted Syfy’s Great Debate where Orlando Jones, Aisha Tyler, Adam Savage, John Barrowman, and io9 co-founder Charlie Jane Anders, debated a variety of classic nerd conundrums. And, somehow, Savage’s answer to the eternal Star Wars or Star Trek question brought down the whole room.

Star Trek’s original captain William Shatner is known for being prolific on Twitter but every once in a while he dives into the world of Reddit (TrekMovie has verified the account is authentic). He commented on one of the many about Star Trek: Discovery in the r/startrek subreddit. In a thread mocking those who are pre-judging the show) Bill weighed in...

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Jul 19, 2017

Discover | The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne Valente

From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been fridged, a trope used in many comic book plots involving the deaths, disablement, and disenfranchising of female characters to forward a male superhero protagonist’s story-line, (follow the link for more information on this trope).

In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humour as her fairy tales. After all, superheroes are our new fairy tales and these six women have their own stories to share.

Jul 14, 2017

Weekend Reads - RAW 140717

This week we look at what fiction trends say about us, publishing and piracy along with a discussion about aliens and where they could all be. Before you leave don't forget to check out Science Fiction's Mythical List That Will Make You Rethink How You Recommend Books

When it's time to relax this weekend, grab your favourite beverage and enjoy reading the following articles.

The book market is shifting again as it has quite often in the last five years. Let’s face it. It’s desperately trying to keep up with our fast-paced world. How we discover books, how we purchase them, and how we read them have changed completely.

Authors should be more concerned about obscurity than about piracy, as Robert Kroese discusses today.

The company has signed up about 130,000 digital subscribers — more than any American newspaper aside from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. That’s in Norway, a country with a population of about 5 million people.

I have always loved the idea that the world is greater and more mysterious than we will ever understand; that there are strange things moving in the far corners of the world and in our own backyard. That what we call our reality, our history, is just a story among many others. It could be because I was reared on fairy tales, mythology, and stories of weird beings in the Swedish countryside. No matter the reason, there it is.

Only decades into our age of cosmology — the moment when we earned the technological rights to peer deep into our cosmic home — we’ve learned that we live in a mega-palace of a universe. And we’ve also found something odd. We seem to be the only ones home! Where are the aliens? Was it something we said?

For a while now, there's been a debate in the US over how to direct NASA's next major human spaceflight initiative. Do we build an outpost on the Moon as a step towards Mars, or do we just head straight for the red planet? Which ever destination we choose, it'll be viewed as the first step toward a permanent human presence outside of the immediate neighborhood of the Earth.

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Jul 9, 2017

Science Fiction's Mythical List That Will Make You Rethink How You Recommend Books

People who like to read science fiction all know about a mythical list of books, that you must read. This list allows us to share a common experience which we can then use to recommend other books to each other.

For example the book Ringworld by Larry Niven would be considered part of this mythical list of science fiction books or canon.

Jul 7, 2017

Weekend Reads - RAW 170707

When it's time to relax this weekend, grab your favourite beverage and have a read of the following articles. Start with this one: Discover | Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

Help support this blog by buying a T-Shirt on my TeePublic page here's a look at the latest one.

 The best number is 73

The best number is 73. 73 is the 21st prime number.  Its mirror, 37, is the 12th and its mirror, 21, is the product of multiplying 7 and 3... and in binary 73 is a palindrome, 1001001, which backwards is 1001001.

Now on to the articles:

Jul 5, 2017

Discover | Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

Any book by J.R.R Tolkien is worth a read but this one, Beren and Lúthien, is pretty special. JRR's son, Christopher draws out a key love story from his father's book The Silmarillion. The story is about an immortal elven maiden, Luthien, sacrificing her immortality in order to marry a mortal man, Beren.

The earliest version of this tale of Beren and Lúthien was written in 1917, when Beren was an Elf not a Man and the equivalent of Sauron was a large evil cat. The story underwent considerable revision throughout Tolkien’s life, and was reworked in both prose and poetry. This new book will demonstrate this evolution.

An interesting fact is that Tolkien related his courtship and marriage of Edith (his wife) to this story. Edith gave up Anglicanism and converted to Catholicism in order to marry JRR, which did take a toll on her. Tolkien self-consciously equated Luthien with Edith and himself with Beren based on a walk they took in a wood while he was recuperating from World War I. He even had “Luthien” inscribed on Edith’s tombstone and “Beren” carved into his own.

Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.