What draws me to science fiction?
Is it the thrill of looking into the future? Looking out and imagining what life could be like if technology continues to advance beyond our current capabilities? Do I wonder what it would be like to explore the universe, travel to distant planets, or maybe even discover that we are not the only ones out there?
In short, yes.
Science fiction is unique as a genre in these respects. Fantasy delves into the realm of an alternate reality, accepting the unexplainable and 'magic.' Historical fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and horror explore the world that we live in. These might touch on topics that are difficult to explain, or cannot be explained in the human sense, but they exist in the world as we know it (or knew it).
Standing apart from the above is the exploration of what life might be like in the future. Dystopian Earth, highly advanced society, space travel, aliens. While some of these might be more likely to be true than others, they are all possible outcomes that loom before us. That is precisely where the thrill of science fiction comes in.
How do we adjust to this impending future?
Sure, we can look back in time and think of what it would be like to live before computers, or cars, or modern medicine, but that is typically not the point of other genres. It is central to science fiction, the idea that we are heading towards a future that is unknown, and we need to learn how to function as a society in a new world.
With this lens in place, we see that this simple genre can teach us so much about life. It's tricky like that. One minute you may be reading about space travel and exploration, then realize that you are beginning to understand the vast cultural differences that exist on our own planet, and how you have not even scratched the surface at understanding them. You have slipped into someone else's shoes through the narrative, and realized that you fail to do so in everyday life. Or, you may be reading about government collapse and the rise of mega corporations, and that scares you because you can see the beginnings of it happening in your own life.
It confronts us with some uncomfortable truths about our own lives, and where we could be headed.
However, it is not all grim foreshadowing and harbingering of doom. In fact one of the most compelling reasons that I read science fiction is to dream about what is possible. Look at where a few short years have brought us in technological advancement, and think about what life might be like in twenty or forty more years. Assuming none of the apocalyptic or nuclear disasters beset our development, could we be traveling to a new planet by 2033? Could we develop new and utterly unimaginable ways of connecting with one another through technology in even five years?
This is all exciting to imagine, to dream, and to perhaps even predict. Taking our current reality to the extreme, and extrapolating events that could shape our planet and our race is compelling to me. That is why I am drawn to science fiction. Are you?