Science Fiction

According to Wikipedia “Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life”.

Ever since I was a boy, I have been an avid reader of all types of literature on all sorts of subjects. While less prolific in my reading of fiction these days, a lot of what I read in the past included various genres of fiction, including science fiction, starting with being introduced to authors like Isaac Asimov and H.G.Wells. It was the fascination of what the future had in store, a universe of which we know only a tiny part and the possibilities arising from scientific discoveries and technological advances that drew me to this, although my reactions reading science fiction and later watching television and films ranged from disappointment to delight.

Perhaps my favorite example of science fiction, although it might be said that it is a spoof on the real thing, is “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and its sequel, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, although there were further sequels, but I found these less impressive. I just found it funny, insightful and imaginative, which resonated with own sense of humour, and in subtle and not so subtle ways was a witty, even satirical, commentary on modern life.

When it comes to films and TV, the two stand out science fiction offerings as far as I am concerned are Doctor Who and Star Trek. Doctor Who was part of my growing up. Fascinated I was at the time by the mysterious, somewhat eccentric, doctor character, who along with his human (usually female) assistant toured time and space in his time machine (in the form of an old fashioned police box), rescuing the universe from an assortment of baddies. My reaction to the recent re-emergence of Doctor Who series is a mixed one, albeit veering toward disinterest. Maybe it is because I’m too old and grumpy, get bored too easily and am too impatient when things don’t seem to add up as they ought or endings disappoint.

As for Star Trek, if I hadn’t been going through a goody goody religious period of my life when this hit the TV sets as a 19-21 year old student attending university, I would have been an avid fan, as many of my contemporaries were. Later I discovered “The Next Generation” and at the same time became interested in checking out the original series. Even now with re-runs regularly appearing on cable TV, I find myself watching these as a way to relax. What I liked about Star Trek was the chemistry between the main characters, the imaginative plots and its attempt to project how science and technology might be in three hundred years or so from now, as the Star Ship Enterprise undergoes its mission to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no man has gone before.

One of the fascinations watching Doctor Who and Star Trek over a period of fifty years is to reflect who the scripts and plots reflect the cultural pre-occupations of the time. I read with wry amusement how one who in the past was a Doctor Who fan declared he no longer was going to watch as it promoted the “gay agenda” rather than the more innocent, straight forward pursuits of yesteryear of saving the universe. The cultural reflection aspect is also noticeable in Star Trek. The original series came out when the feminist revolution was just beginning and in it we found women often seen as sex objects and generally subservient to man. In the Next Generation woman were decidedly men’s equal in all aspects.

In concluding this lighter than normal blog posting, I should say there are many who are more knowledgeable and interested than me in science fiction, yet I am still a fan and it has given me a degree of pleasure over the years. I  admire writers who can somehow match character development, scientific integrity and imagination. I have been able to reflect on what is and imagine what could and should be as human knowledge expands at a rate that we can hardly keep up with, and reflect on the human condition, which in a strange way remains timeless despite scientific advances.

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