Science Fiction or Real Life?

One of the most interesting ideas of the first chapter in Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction was the prospect that science fiction can predict the future. In the reading, Hugo Gernsback, one of the great sci-fi magazine publishers, describes science fiction (or commonly known at the time as scientification) as enabling scientific change, whereas most people believed that scientific advancements allowed for science fiction texts to be made at all. What especially stood out to me was the fact that inscribed above each editorial of his magazines was the phrase, “Extravagant Fiction Today – Cold Fact Tomorrow”.

To me this is a very powerful saying because it displays the very power that science fiction has in influencing reality. A common theme in many of the science fiction works we’ve read in class so far is the concept that science fiction’s purpose is to get us thinking critically, to spark new innovations in society and technology. Furthermore, science fiction is incredible because of its ability to inspire creativity and imagination in others.

Some real-life technologies that were first conceived in science fiction.

A quote in the reading from Jack Williamson, a science fiction writer in the 20th century, states that after he started reading classical science fiction novels from older writers like Verne and Wells, he “began dreaming up and writing on [his] own.” Following that quote, another science fiction writer, Frederik Pohl, described the genre as an
“irremediable virus.” Both sentiments play into the idea that science fiction is an infectious source of energy for creativity and imagination.

The creative nature of many science fiction novels are often what keeps readers invested in the genre. For example, in the science fiction series Red Rising by Pierce Brown, there is a weapon called the razor which can transform from a two-meter long whip into a one-meter long rigid blade that can cut through anything with the flick of a bioelectric impulse. To many people, the inner mechanisms of how such a technology could work is beyond the scope of comprehension, but when introduced to us in a science fiction setting, we are forced to contemplate about how it might. This brings me to my final point: the allure of science fiction also allows for a more widespread audience to become exposed to more technical or scientific concepts that normally would be too hard to digest alone.

A crucial aspect of science fiction is its ability to condense a plethora of information into a form that is more easily digested to the ordinary person. Hugo Gernsback describes science fiction as “instructive” and great for “supplying knowledge that we might not otherwise obtain … in a very palatable form.” This depiction of science fiction as a form of enlightenment to concepts and terminologies unbeknownst to us is important because it ultimately broadens the appeal for the subject matter inside a given work of science fiction. An example of this phenomenon includes the film Interstellar in which there is a considerable amount of scientific understanding embedded into the plot, but not too much to where the reader can still understand the main plot, which is that humanity needs to find another planet to live on because climate change on Earth has made life unsustainable. The sci-fi film therefore allows a lay watcher to comprehend the issues of why climate change is an issue in an entertaining fashion.

A poster for the film “Interstellar” directed by Christopher Nolan.

The ability of science fiction to create such an influence in real life makes the genre so much more interesting and powerful.