Has modern Sci Fi strayed too far from its roots?

 “THE FUTURE IS A LOADED GUN!”

by CHIKE DELUNA

chike_delunaThe idea that human consciousness is capable of evolving beyond its current tribal limitations has been tossed overboard in recent years, the optimism of Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, or Tarkovsky’s Solaris, has given way to a stubborn conviction that human consciousness has reached a comfortable plateau and that it is technology that will provide the key to evolution.

When Star Trek was rebooted in 2009, “science”, the driving force behind the entire franchise, was jettisoned through the first airlock, “space exploration” was placed so low on the agenda it scarcely registered, the Federation was up against terrorists now, the likes of Nero and Khan Noonien Singh, and its response was fairly Homeland Security, one can only imagine the Prime Directive replaced by something akin to the Patriot Act or the UK’s very own “anti-terrorism legislation”.

In this brave new world Superman will kill if push comes to shove, the Avengers will leave downtown Manhattan looking like a war zone, and now that Disney has its hands on the Star Wars franchise can we expect a similar reboot of the Jedi? Will they be transformed into gun-toting, tobacco chewing jarheads with a license to visit “Shock and Awe” on anyone who breaches the party line?

Think Aliens, Pitch Black, Terminator: Salvation, District 9, Equilibrium, the Resident Evil franchise, Elysium, Ender’s Game, Battleship, Pacific Rim, Skyline, and an entire assembly line of super hero movies, and it becomes painfully obvious that the military is colonising our future in much the same way it dominated our past.

TV presented us with Star Gate, Firefly, Babylon 5, Andromeda, Battlestar Gallactica, and don’t get me wrong, these were all fine products in their own right, but they also suggest that for some reason Sci Fi is not very optimistic about our future anymore, space is infinitely hostile, everyone is out to get us, only science can prevail against the unknown and unknowable enemy. During the McCarthy era in America the alien invader stood for communism, now it stands for terrorism, a threat that has no state and no borders and so means whatever we wish it to mean.

In the case of mass media Science Fiction we find the costumes change, the settings change, the make-up changes, but human beings essentially stay the same, and yet I imagine that space itself would be the single factor responsible for changing us beyond all recognition, I imagine that first contact with a completely alien culture would change us, I imagine that faster-than-light travel would change us, I imagine that cosmic rays would change us, I imagine that colonising an alien world would change us, and for these reasons any attempts we made at militarising space would be doomed to failure, over such vast distances we could not possibly maintain our social cohesion, we would splinter off into cults and sects and sub groups of humanity, in essence we would become alien to ourselves.

And yet every now and again cinema throws up a flash of pure genius, a movie to remind us that Sci Fi is still capable of such miracles: Gattaca, Moon, Minority Report, Blade Runner, Inception, eXistenZ, The Fountain, the original Matrix movie, Soderbergh’s Solaris, and even Sunshine, all of them titans in the field of future speculation, but unfortunately these flashes are not frequent enough to restore the reputation of a genre that was once at the cutting edge of human imagination.

I want to feel hope again. I want to dream again. I want mainstream Sci Fi to dump its ties with the military establishment and get back to the business of exploring human consciousness, that’s what the genre is really about, looking at our reflection and using eternity as a mirror.

Its 2014 already, let the odyssey begin.

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Chike Deluna is author of the Sci-Fi series “Mistress of the Web”, and the transcendental comedy, “The Cosmic Foot Masseur”. Visit him at http://delunabooks.com/

3 Comments

  1. Excellent article.

    While I do enjoy all the theatrics of recent films/books, I do agree that we are missing something, some humanity, in our science fiction. Like you said, it is all about the military at the moment and high body counts.

    However, I’m not sure it will prove inaccurate. While NASA and the International Space Station go to great pains working on propelling humanity forward, corporations and the military seem well poised to knock us back a notch or two for the sake of control and profits. Hard to be optimistic, but I’m with you!

  2. Yeah the film and TV SF have gotten dumb and propagandistic.

    I suppose if that was propagandistic and dumb it would be redundant and repetitive.

  3. Excellent article, I love the conclusion, by all means, let’s”get back to the business of exploring human consciousness, that’s what the genre is really about, looking at our reflection and using eternity as a mirror.”

    Using eternity as a mirror, what an apt image! Since the stories are set in the future, it is true that this “future setting” elevates the stories to near-myths, it gives them an added dimension, particularly if the stories and settings are both highly plausible.

    Personally, the SF I like best is the “highly plausible” variety, like, for example, “climate fiction” that is not set into a future so distant that nothing in it reminds us of ourselves. The key here is to write stories with which we can empathize, that makes us stop and think and tell ourselves “yeah, this could happen some day (and maybe in the not-so-distant-future) if we go on doing things the way we’re doing them now”…like all this mess with pollution, war, poverty, inequality, injustice etc that we see now all around us.

    The best SF is the kind that makes us stop and think (like Orwell’s 1984 once did)…Just my humble opinion…

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