October 17, 2010

Slice of PIE: Science Fiction and Fantasy – Evangelistic Literature of Hope and Triumph!

No matter if you fall into the dystopian, the utopian or the realist writer’s camp, few people will deny that at one time, science fiction was the evangelistic literature of science and fantasy was the evangelistic literature of the triumph of good over evil.

At one time, science fiction characters solved problems by the dramatic application of science. In fantasy, heroes overcame incredible odds to ultimately triumph over evil. Horror, of course, plumbed the darkest side of human nature and the supernatural, seamlessly illustrating what happened when the two collided.

Not so any more.

Horror leaks into fantasy; fantasy darts into science fiction and the genre itself has broadened to a point where the originals and their clear permutations are now sheltered under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction. (Isn’t ALL fiction speculative? Is that where we’re going?)

And yet…

And yet…

As harbingers of things to come and heralds of good and evil, science fiction and fantasy served clear purposes. The one provided visions of the future that we could mull over, reject or accept and consider implementing. The other gave us clear hope that given great sacrifice, good would triumph over evil. Even the Bible, if taken as simple literature, bears this out over and over.

Science fiction and fantasy, fondly known more briefly as SFF, bore their message both to a very specific slice of America (and sometimes beyond) and shaped technology along the way. How many of today’s scientists and inventors grew up and helped realize the vision of Roddenberry’s STAR TREK? If you watch Motorola’s “DROID” commercials, at the very end you’ll see that the name is courtesy LucasFilms, owners of the STAR WARS franchise (as well, the initial commercials paid homage to SUPERMAN and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, too).

My thesis here – which will go undefended at this point and serve only to irritate or get people thinking – is that by scooting under the skirts of “speculative fiction”, both SF and F have lost their purpose. It is a rare instance now to read SFF and come away with a positive vision of the future or a belief that good will triumph over evil.

That’s not what “specfic” is for. Dystopian SF has flooded the YA/Teen market. Fantasy worlds hold neither good nor evil, just people of various fantastic natures muddling about, trying to do…well, usually not right, but stuff so that they don’t get killed themselves.

Instead of being messengers of future hope and the triumph of good over evil today “specfic” merely seeks to speculate in order to entertain (or grind a particular writer’s axe...but then THAT part hasn’t changed.)

How if we hie back to request those former days – NOT the “Golden Days” of SFF which, besides being schmaltzy, were sexist, racist and almost any other “ist” you can think of) – rather the days when SFF was the evangelistic literature of future hope and the triumph of good over evil?

image: http://www.letstalk.com/img/prod/cell-phones/verizonwireless/motorola/droid-by-motorola-verizon-wireless_pdi.gif

1 comment:

The Coffeehouse Storeroom said...

On the nature of good and evil:
It isn't cut and dry, and 'golden days' SFF (or, I agree, primarily fantasy)I think, defines the battle between the two incorrectly.

For example, the hero archetype, the original, the golden haired, tan skinned, ridiculously strong young man (usually shirtless) going into a dark, slimy cave to slay a hydra.

The reason Greeks and the English and the Norse and every other culture had this Demigod (or at least Quasigod) like characters was because they felt the world around them was wrong. So, they created a perfect, indisputable morally perfect hero to slay the dragon or save the damsel in distress or fight with a giant model horse.

They had too many flawed characters around them so these cultures created the perfect generation of advocates for good, battling the forces of evil.

But: now genres have become muddied and harder to define. There's less of the good and evil and more of the good and the evil and the tricky and the bad and the ugly and the good and the good and the not-so-horrible and the evil again. It connects more to how things work and how we as a planet fight with ourselves, and not hydras in dark, slimy caves.

Leon H.