Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Appreciating Sci-Fi Fiction

Last month, a friend became aware that I am a huge fan of science fiction movies and television series, but that I rarely read sci-fi novels. She offered to share with me a DVD course “How Great Science Fiction Works,” part of the Great Courses series. I’m only halfway through the course, but I already feel that my eyes have been opened to a genre that I’ve previously pretty much ignored.

Though I have read some sci-fi, I’ve often found it too action-oriented and weak in character development. But what I am realizing by watching this course is that sci-fi is also a fiction of ideas, often inspired by real world events. Often this genre will project into the future, basing plot, technological devices, and science on ideas that might only just be forming in the present day. For example, last year I read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which is set in a dystopian California of the future, devastated by an ecological crisis. This book was published in 1993. One cannot read a newspaper today without being aware of the effects of climate change. Butler imagines a world where environmental change leads to people fighting over the scarcest resource: water.

Over and over again, the Great Courses DVD gives examples of fiction that was ahead of its time. This has prodded me to pick up some science fiction and check it out, give it another chance. I just finished Butler’s Kindred, which is impressive (though I think it’s a stretch to call it sci-fi when the method of time travel is never explained). Next, I’m considering taking on Dune by Frank Herbert. Maybe. If not Dune, certainly I’ll try one of the other sci-fi classics recommended in this course.

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Change of Habit

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) is a classic science-fiction novel that has been made into a film more than once. Also, a future adaptation is planned as a scripted series for the SyFy Channel, which I look forward to watching one day. I love sci-fi movies and TV shows but don’t read much in the genre. That might be because often the plot and science seem to predominate over characterization in sci-fi stories, at least in those few that I’ve read, including Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein) and Black Moon (Kenneth Calhoun), just to name a couple. Of course there are exceptions such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series, which are both rich in character as well as plot.

Brave New World impressed me because it has an interesting plot plus some solid characters with depth. Though written in the 1930s, it is relevant to today’s reader because of its theme of government vs. individualism. Just a couple of weeks ago I read another sci-fi title, Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler). Again, this is a novel with strong characters and a story relevant to our current day. It tells of a world that has crumbled under the effects of global warming.

Given that my recent sci-fi reads have been satisfying, I might reconsider my opinion of the genre and sample more in the future.