Monday, June 20, 2005

Aliens and angels

Margaret Atwood on why we need science fiction:
Literature is an uttering, or outering, of the human imagination. It lets the shadowy forms of thought and feeling - heaven, hell, monsters, angels and all - out into the light, where we can take a good look at them and perhaps come to a better understanding of who we are and what we want, and what the limits to those wants may be.


Tim said...

I had to make a similar defense -- though not as well -- of a play I wrote in college. It was science fiction, and even though the guy who wanted to produce it didn't care, he wanted to know why it had to be sci-fi.

I believe I said something like -- because it allows us to examine things from a different perspective, particularly when you're dealing with a difficult topic; it gives you the ability to show something in a completely different way.

No one wants to listen to the rhetoric about the dangers of book burning, but reading Fahrenheit 451 illustrates those dangers, while making it all seem like entertainment. It's a truly marvelous genre in that way.

Isabella said...

I wholeheartedly agree. While I'd always dabbled in reading SF, it was a university course in dystopian fiction that fully opened my eyes to its potential.

I know a lot of people who have trouble making the required initial "suspension of disbelief," so I'm always heartened when a high-profile writer comes to SF's defense, because once you do leap, SF's power to shed light on current society is immense.

"Realistic" novels tend to focus on individuals, their drives and ambitions, whereas SF explores the workings of the society, its ethics, as a whole (that's a huge generalization, I know, but I think there's something to it).