Why Science Fiction Matters

With Naomi Alderman‘s ‘The Power’ still topping the book charts, the 13th Doctor hitting her stride on the BBC, and ‘The First’ launching on Channel 4, it’s worth remembering that Science Fiction matters as a genre.
Sci-fi is the one genre that, no matter how dark, has hope built into it because it presumes humanity will continue to survive.
Yuval Noah Harari recently commented in Wired that he believes science fiction is the most important literary genre.
He says, ““It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”
Sci Fi allows us to model and experiment different ways of living. It’s this speculative fiction that has inspired real world innovations such as the mobile phone (“beam me up, Scotty”), A.I. (from HAL to Alexa) submarines (20,000 Leagues), and of course, space travel (thank you Jules Verne).
It also allows us to warm up to innovations in fictional settings. From virtual reality to the self driving cars, tomorrow’s innovations are exposed to us first in novels and cinemas.
It’s too easy to discount sci-fi as niche or geeky, for science fiction constantly sets the path of human development where fact inspires fiction and today’s speculation becomes tomorrow’s reality.
When I started writing Alienated, I wanted to use the genre as a fun house mirror to explore the complex social structures of high school.   It’s a flexible genre, one that storytellers can use to look at the world through the lens of “what if?”
What are your favourite science fiction stories?   (please share below or tweet me at @thejefffnorton)

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