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Escaping Science Fiction

Science fiction is so full of tropes. I won't say we should avoid the tropes, but we have to recognize them in order to subvert them to tell a phenomenal story. To list the tropes would be exhaustive, but there are wider trends that every science fiction author ought to be aware of.

Philosophical Trends

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In theological studies there is a word used for the study of "final things" or "the end times", known as "Eschatology". The fate of mankind in the world as it is reconciled with God. In the late 19th century, as the biblical dominance over cultural hopes began to wane, the secular world needed to find an answer to the world eschatology. What is the end of man if God does not exist? Science fiction as we know it was born from this study.

Science fiction falls into roughly two trends. The Trend towards modernism , searching for a "new man" a new future without God; and Post Modernism , searching for a "new hero" in the paradise the moderns created.

The sixties and seventies saw the heyday of modernist "Transhumanist" science fiction. The sexual revolution, and the huge number of possibilities that Buddhism and drugs seemed to open up gave us dozens of visions of what the "new man" might be. "Stranger in a Strange Land" is a classic example of how we can re-imagine the role of gender in our own identity, "the time machine" presents a more dystopic vision of man's replacement in the scale of power. Even Asimov's "The Foundation" is about the possibilities that science might offer of reaching a new age in which war has been abolished.

The great fathers of science fiction wrote sci-fi because they wanted to what the new world without faith might look like, how mankind might transcend himself and discover a "new state" of the human condition, free from the problems of our past.

Post Modernism was born as an implicit rejection of that dream.Where Modernism imagined a bright new future, Post Modernism had to recognize the dark places of their inherited heaven. Writers from the early part of the 20th century created the sexual revolution, and today we have to deal with the fallout of unwanted children, abortions, objectification, and sexual chaos. They created drugs that they thought could give them super powers and their children had to grow up in households where their parents spent most of the time in some other world, completely detached from our own. The post moderns, without ever realizing the implications of their writing, wrote stories about overcoming the forces of paradise that seek to enslave us to the ideals of our parents.

Power is the central theme of Post Modern Science Fiction. Who has it, and how to take it from them.

Where dystopias of the Modernist tradition explored how society could destroy the individual, as in "1984" or "Soylent Green", the modern dystopia explores the way a single individual can rise up and destroy society, as in "Divergent", "The Hunger Games", and "The Giver". Even Luke Skywalker's story is about his pursuit of power over his father. Power, power is the motivation of the post modern story, as it is the motivation of most of his life.

The Challenge

Power and Transhumanism are both good, excellent even, but both fall short.

If art is the pursuit of beauty, beauty is the discovery of truth.

While transhumanism searches for a future truth and the way to either manifest it or keep it from occurring, the post modern obsession forgets entirely about the pursuit of beauty and satisfies itself with our appetite for big battles, big sex drives, and big entertainment. As writers, it should seem that these sorts of limitations curb our creativity, so in the interest of both rediscovering the beauty of science fiction, and telling more interesting stories, we ought to ask ourselves, "how can we escape science fiction?" How can we tell more interesting tales?

A Single Idea

Science Fiction has always looked out at the stars, and there it has discovered it's greatest beauty. In the shifting of the planets, the jostling of the asteroids. In the shere size of our universe, and in the possibilities for human life that are to be found there. But there is something more beautiful, and it lay right among us.

The future will not be very different from today. Everything will change, we will build spaceships, settle worlds, fall into chaos, watch nations fall and rise, but mankind will still be the same tomorrow as he is today (even if the transhumanists get their way). We will still feel the same hurts, the same longings. Love will never dissapear, and as a result neither will loneliness.

If you're looking for a way to escape science fiction, don't look to the stars, look to the small things in this world. Look to the beauty of a child's innocence, the tragedy of a family member's death, the drama of a couple's desire to live according to love. In science fiction we often think that the bigger the world the better, but there is more beauty in the moment a child learns to love than in all the movements of the galaxies. There is greater beauty in a martyr smiling on his way to the Cross than there has ever been in the machinations of a thousand warriors.

There is a common phrase amongst Christian circles, that we are to be "in the world, but not of it". Perhaps to be great science fiction writers, we ought to view our work in a similar light. "In the genre, but not of it." Perhaps a saint living on the moon, or a child dying of Leukemia on another world.

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Posted in Health and Medical Post Date 01/19/2017


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