I once read a copy of a speech that was given at a science fiction writers’ convention. Sorry, it was long, long ago and I can’t remember who it was or where or when. But the theme of the speech stuck with me. Which was that part of the reason science fiction is so popular is that it is today’s cutting-edge literature because it, above all other genres, looks at the human condition, at people, at society and takes it apart and puts it together again in another way. For better or worse, according to the speaker, we see ourselves when we read science fiction.
I believe this to be true. Consider some early science fiction stories. Gulliver’s Travels, in which we see ourselves in each different world Gulliver visits. Think of the societies described by Jules Verne. And so on. Of course that’s not true about all science fiction. I’ve read some pretty bad stuff and some stuff that was awesome. Depends on the writer and the writing. Of course.
I believe that science fiction is so wonderfully reflective of us as a people, and so popular while doing what could easily cause it to become the subject of a congressional investigation, is because it doesn’t name names or point fingers. It just tells a story that the reader can generalize and put against known reality and today’s society. Especially those things in society that should be changed. Science fiction frames reality.
It’s so popular that it has spawned its own sub-genres. More about those later.
In the meantime, hats off to those science fiction writers who choose to show us ourselves without stepping on our toes.