Science fiction script Writing Contest

shuttleDoes sci-fi serve a purpose beyond that of entertainment or escapism? Why do we write, read, and love sci-fi?

Arthur Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) once said, “There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places… We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future. In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues, reality.”

Here are some thoughts on the important role sci-fi plays in our culture:

1. Sci-fi makes us think, wonder, and ask what if and why.

I recently watched the movie Contact with my 5-year-old son. The next day I was over the moon with delight at the myriad of questions he asked me. “Why didn’t we see the aliens? Are they coming back? Is there going to be another movie where we get to see them? Why didn’t anyone believe her except the people outside that big room?” I’m sure when he’s older he’ll have even more questions to ask about it, like, “Is that what it could really be like, to make first contact? Is it possible that other races are capable of such travel?”

Carl Sagan wrote the book Contact in an attempt to answer such questions, and in doing so, to my mind, provoked even more such questions in asking of them. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

2. Sci-fi allows us to ask hard questions about gender and racial equality and how we treat each other.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek said, “For me science fiction is a way of thinking, a way of logic that bypasses a lot of nonsense. It allows people to look directly at important subjects.”

The beauty of sci-fi is that it allows us to stand outside the experience of our own culture and look back to face otherwise emotionally-charged and complex questions in a more neutral manner. When we can be separate enough — by looking at how we might fictionally treat an alien race, for instance — we see things with new eyes. District 9 is a powerful example of not only of what might happen if an alien race arrived that was in need of help (another “what if”), but also of our own bad treatment of other people we don’t understand or relate to, just as we’ve done countless times in our own history. District 9 itself is a chilling examination of apartheid and oppression in South Africa.

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