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  1. #1

    Sci-fi: escapism or realism?

    Hi everyone,
    I love sci-fi. I love looking at the stars and dreaming of other worlds. And while some might consider this to be "escapism," I think that it's actually a way to look at our world "from the outside" and try to imagine how our world might be improved.

    To me, sci-fi has a way of communicating ideas and concepts about our world that is not possible with traditional fiction. It allows things to exist that in our everyday world would not be seen. Means of communication can be altered, explored, etc. Even our "virtual" world of Internet, which is now a reality, was once more sci-fi than anything else.
    Relationships, the depths of the human experience, etc are all brought into question in the realm of sci-fi, and I think it allows us to grow deeper as a result.

    Thoughts?

    brian

  2. #2
    Registered User JimF's Avatar
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    There is no rule that SciFi has to be one or the other. Sometimes a good escapist yarn is just the ticket. Other times you need a little more weight to your reading.

    The real issue is that some people can't recognize that scifi can have merit and think it is only escapism. In college in the mid eighties I had a prof who detested Science Fiction but one of the asigned books in his course was 1984.

    Jim

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    For me science fiction is more about looking at "what might be real", where as fantasy is looking at "what if this were real." So it's about the fringe of science for me, not so much about *anything* that could be possible, but what *might be* possible - if that makes sense.

  4. #4
    Most sci-fi stories have deep social/psychological parallels to what we experience here on Earth. I suppose that even the most "banal" science fiction, where it's simply "we're the good guys, the aliens want to kill us"-type plot, that there is still an underlying hint to a human mentality regarding how we treat those who are of other cultures. (are foreigners not also called "aliens?")


    In addition (but on another note), I think we (the sci-fi culture) still haven't really explored what would be truly realistic reactions to aliens coming to Earth. It seems just plain ridiculous to think that we wouldn't be more shocked than what we usually see. It's usually just a run-of-the-mill "oh, another alien" reaction. But we humans are much too complicated to react so "normally" to such an experience. Close Encounters, Independence Day, ET.... they lacked the depth into human experience that would have been necessary to make a truly profound impact on the silver screen.


    brian

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    Quote Originally Posted by ahigherway View Post
    Most sci-fi stories have deep social/psychological parallels to what we experience here on Earth. I suppose that even the most "banal" science fiction, where it's simply "we're the good guys, the aliens want to kill us"-type plot, that there is still an underlying hint to a human mentality regarding how we treat those who are of other cultures. (are foreigners not also called "aliens?")


    In addition (but on another note), I think we (the sci-fi culture) still haven't really explored what would be truly realistic reactions to aliens coming to Earth. It seems just plain ridiculous to think that we wouldn't be more shocked than what we usually see. It's usually just a run-of-the-mill "oh, another alien" reaction. But we humans are much too complicated to react so "normally" to such an experience. Close Encounters, Independence Day, ET.... they lacked the depth into human experience that would have been necessary to make a truly profound impact on the silver screen.


    brian
    That's a great point, Brian. I would love to see a sci-fi series that focuses on the way we might actually respond as a society to alien contact.

  6. #6
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    To me, realism as applied to fantasy is about characters one can relate to acting in believable ways. Although I'm not a medieval-style lord, I can understand how A Song of Ice and Fire's Tywin Lannister got to be the person he was, and why he reacted to certain things in certain ways.

    What ticks me off is when people say things like, "How can women be in charge in this book? Given medieval Europe, that's just not realistic." If I can imagine a world in which magic works and dragons are real, I can damn well accept a matriarchy, for crying out loud.

  7. #7
    Registered User Ken Jeavus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahigherway View Post
    Most sci-fi stories have deep social/psychological parallels to what we experience here on Earth. I suppose that even the most "banal" science fiction, where it's simply "we're the good guys, the aliens want to kill us"-type plot, that there is still an underlying hint to a human mentality regarding how we treat those who are of other cultures. (are foreigners not also called "aliens?")


    In addition (but on another note), I think we (the sci-fi culture) still haven't really explored what would be truly realistic reactions to aliens coming to Earth. It seems just plain ridiculous to think that we wouldn't be more shocked than what we usually see. It's usually just a run-of-the-mill "oh, another alien" reaction. But we humans are much too complicated to react so "normally" to such an experience. Close Encounters, Independence Day, ET.... they lacked the depth into human experience that would have been necessary to make a truly profound impact on the silver screen.


    brian
    You need to see District 9. About as real as it gets as far as alien contact. Just be careful, it's one of those movies that sticks with you long after the thing's over, like Born on the Fourth of July (non-sci fi).

  8. #8
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    Of the several things science fiction is, it is the only school of thought in which it is so easy to "think outside the box", which is being promoted at this time, but without the Psychology of Creative Behavior methods and orientations which have been discovered. People are merely told to "think outside the box" without being given available information on how to do that.

    So we might compare SF for example, to brainstorming. In brainstorming, one is supposed to come up with words or ideas rapidly without worrying about how the sound or whether or not they might work. Then AFTERWARDS, the ideas are evaluated, improved where such improvements are possible, and only then tested to see which of them is realistic.

    So SF writers try to come up with as many new ideas as possible, and write them up. Over the next century, some of the ideas will probably lead to new discoveries and new technologies, while other SF ideas won't get anywhere.

    In the meantime, everyone has an enjoyable time.

    Jim

  9. #9
    Let me be your gateway Chekhov's Avatar
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    I would say bad SF is escapism, good SF is realism. But YMMV.

  10. #10
    Registered User oceanworld's Avatar
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    Cool Agree

    Quote Originally Posted by ahigherway View Post
    Hi everyone,
    I love sci-fi. I love looking at the stars and dreaming of other worlds. And while some might consider this to be "escapism," I think that it's actually a way to look at our world "from the outside" and try to imagine how our world might be improved.

    To me, sci-fi has a way of communicating ideas and concepts about our world that is not possible with traditional fiction. It allows things to exist that in our everyday world would not be seen. Means of communication can be altered, explored, etc. Even our "virtual" world of Internet, which is now a reality, was once more sci-fi than anything else.
    Relationships, the depths of the human experience, etc are all brought into question in the realm of sci-fi, and I think it allows us to grow deeper as a result.

    Thoughts?

    brian
    I completely agree with you. With sci-fi it is a way to escape but can also be a way to see our world the way it is and the way it could be. Writers make up these worlds yet why can't we actually live in these worlds. Things are done here on Earth that was probably thought unthinkable yet look at us now.

  11. #11
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    Reading is always first and foremost an escape for me. However, adding a layer of speculation to contemplate can get me more involved in the world and even give me something to think about after the book. I tend to not enjoy the books that spend to much time arguing a point though.

    I would have to agree with JamesNewell, though, that on a cultural level, science fiction offers a great way to evaluate ideas. I can't tell you how many times I've seen comments on news articles where people mention a future written about in a science fiction book. And, no, not just '1984' and its like.
    Last edited by DeckardLee; December 30th, 2013 at 01:03 AM.

  12. #12
    Registered User oceanworld's Avatar
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    Cool Syfy

    Science Fiction does play a role in ideas. It seems writers create these worlds and scientist want to create these worlds or try to create it. These are worlds where almost everything they create is impossible but it is not. If we can dream it then we can make it. Sure there are some things that we cannot come up with now but in the near future. Science Fiction is an escape its a way to see a world that could be instead of can't be.

  13. #13
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    It's not an either/or question for me but rather a continuum. Like any established literary genre Scifi can offer relevant, grounded tales alongside flights of transportive, whimsical fancy. It all depends on the readers preference as to whether which is preferable. I for one see merit in both but I do lean towards realism in my personal writing. The process of exploring the real world ramifications of scifi concept is a fundamental part of my writing style.

  14. #14
    Sci-fi helps us dream up what the future will bring. For example, I could imagine a computer which could scan the human body for harmful viruses, malignant cells, etc, and eliminate them using a microtool. No harmful pharmaceuticals, just an ultra-precise tool and computer that "reads" cells.

    I remember a Dr. Who episode where Leela was shot by a ray gun that made her "happy." Rather than harming others, it causes them to be happily dazed. What a revoltionary way to deal with "dangerous" individuals!

    And, I'm still fascinated by the concept of non-violence as a means to win a fight..

    brian

  15. #15
    Registered User DrC's Avatar
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    Conceptual Realism

    I'm a hard edge realist. Once 2001: A Space Odyssey hit the theaters and book shelves my standards of Sci-fi raised considerably. Toughest thing to say is Star Trek is only marginally believable and Star Wars rates with Peter Pan. I write about time travel, but Dr. Who is incredible, meaning unbelievable. I see artists design spaceships that would never fly. I guess I expect more out of a society where science has advanced as much as it has.

    Escape? Sure. Fantasy, Bram Stoker and Tinker Bell, but don't have Tink arrive in an X Wing Fighter.

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