Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Makes Good Science Fiction?

Still forging through 2666, so even though I have a Bill Bryson book to review, I will hold off for the moment on reviews and give you this Roger Ebert blog post. Since his cancer and therapy have prevented him from speaking, Ebert has been writing a long and thoughtful blog. He's met a lot of interesting people and has some great stories to tell.

This entry made me think, not about the subject per se, though that's interesting too, but about the one line he writes, that Arthur C. Clarke was often prescient in his science fiction. And I thought about Clarke and Bradbury, extraordinary storytellers who turned their gifts to science fiction, and I thought that the key to understanding science fiction is to understand, not science, but people. The yearning for communication that Ebert describes is at the heart of many good science fiction stories about merged minds and telepathy; the curiosity about what is Outside is the foundation of a library of excellent SF; the need for companionship and our social nature informs much of the "softer" SF of the sixties.

These are parts of people that remain constant through the years. Good science fiction imagines how they might react to new technologies like cell phones, like the Internet, like flying rocket cars. And because people bend technology to their desires, rather than the other way around, the really good science fiction becomes, eventually, truth.

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