Feb 012011
Authors: Matt Miller

I have a confession to make: I love science fiction.

And no, despite what you may think, I am not an overweight individual with a questionable complexion, writing this in Elvish while dressed up like a Vulcan and debating on a forum if Han Solo or Greedo shot first in “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

And no, I don’t attend conventions where I become sweaty over props from “Stargate SG1” and cutouts of Princess Leia in her slave costume.

Now, with all stereotypes aside, when I talk about sci-fi I’m referring to a genre that has a very important part in culture despite its negative connotation. In literature, television and cinema sci-fi has, in the past century, produced some of the most beloved and highly regarded art that could stand side by side the likes of anything else.

If you walk into Barnes & Nobel and browse through the literature section you will find “1984,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “A Brave New World.” All of these could just as easily be filed under science fiction, and all of these are books are studied in schools and regarded as some of the most beloved works of fiction.

Sci-fi is a mode of thought. The same way that history can teach us about our past, science fiction can teach us about our future. It’s not just a genre but also a way to go beyond conventional storytelling and use the imagination rather than fact to explore complex areas of humanity.

George Orwell uses a fictional world in “1984” to warn of the dangers of totalitarianism, communism and the fear of ultimate power; a “big brother” that’s always watching. Seems like science fiction to me.

Orwell dreamed of what could come to pass in the year 1984, and even though it’s 27 years passed that date, his themes and his warnings still hold as true as ever.

Even science fiction not taught in schools, like much of the work of author Phillip K. Dick, has been hailed as much more than pop culture dribble. His book “Ubik” is on Time Magazine’s “All Time 100 Novels” and has been hailed as a flagship of postmodern philosophy.

I have another confession to make: I love Battlestar Galactica.

This one is harder for me to admit. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I gave up in my valiant defense of this TV Sci-Fi drama in the face of the losing respect and street cred from my friends and loved ones.

I felt like a 16-year-old who couldn’t go to sleepovers because I still wet my pants. Expressing any sort of love toward Battlestar Galactica is like telling all of your friends that you have every episode of “The Golden Girls” memorized.

But this should not be the case. The critically acclaimed series had no lasers, no techno-jargon and no aliens. It simply used the free reigns that sci-fi offered to express themes of humanity, religion and race. It even tackled the values of the modern political climate with allusions to 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and terrorism.

Even in movies science fiction has made an impact to our culture. The 1982 cult classic “Blade Runner” (based off the Phillip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”) stands alone in the quality of storytelling, cinematography and deep, culturally relevant themes.

A brooding Harrison Ford hunts down a band of human-looking robots that are obsessed with their own mortality, bent to take revenge on their careless creator.

But on top of looking into the cerebral, sci-fi can look at what could be: What humanity is capable of.

I remember when I was reading the 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451” I was amazed that author Ray Bradbury described a wife who stared at a wall that was a TV and put tiny shells in her ear that made her happy. I immediately thought of today’s flat screen TVs and iPod headphones.

Science fiction not only is a vessel to explore contemporary themes but also to open the mind and dream of a possible future. In the 1984 novel “Neuromancer” (also on Time’s “All Time 100 Novels”) author William Gibson imagines a world of interconnected computers and first used the term “Cyberspace.”

Perhaps it’s influences like these that gave us Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Sci-fi is not to be regarded as something for the unintelligent or nerdy; it is an intellectual leap into the future and the dreams of humans.

So please, next time someone wearing a storm trooper costume made out of foil and cardboard walks by you on the street, don’t trip them, mug them or tear them down emotionally. Give them a smile, because they appreciate a form of art that has provided much to culture. And maybe even check out a misunderstood genre.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:37 pm

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