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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Can Technology Save Us or Not?

Hey all you sci-fi geeks out there!

I'm preparing some presentations that I'll be giving for the Higher Things Youth Gathering in St. Louis next week. And right now, I'm thinking about the genre of science fiction. It seems to me that there are mainly two types of science fiction.

The first type is optimistic about human nature and our use of reason and posits that mankind will gradually evolve and, by means of science and technology, solve all our problems. Under this category, I'd include Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek series and movies.

The second type is pessimistic about human nature and serves to caution us against the folly of placing too much faith in science and technology. Under this category, I'd place Andromeda Strain, I Robot (the movie), Westworld, and Frankenstein.

Movies like Star Wars seem to me to fit better under the fantasy genre. They contain advanced technologies, but the stories aren't about the technology and its potential for good vs. its risks. They're about the characters and the technology is mainly a part of the setting.

Anyone have thoughts to share on this subject?

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Petersen said...

There are lots of ways that Science Fiction can be sub-categorized, but I would argue that it is always really a fantasy genre.

But along the lines of categorizing, comparing and contrasting literature (and movies) I had a prof in college who said that every story worth telling was a love story. It wasn't a love story it wasn't interesting and we don't care. If it wasn't a love story it was just a documentary and boring. All drama, he claimed, came from love. I think he is right. The plot is always about love and the conflict is always about love. Sometimes it is the love of a man for his country or a dog or soemthing other than a woman, but it is always love in some way.

Paul said...

I would tend to agree with those two outlooks for science fiction that depicts earth's future (rather than just using space as a setting for the story: like Star Wars). Either humans are going to come together and make a paradise or people, because of their self-ambitions, are the cause the opposite. In either case they provide us with really good examples of how an author's world view affects what he/she creates.

Bob Waters said...

Dunno. Sci-fi fans, to the extent that we watch TV, can often be divided into Star Trek fans and Babylon 5 fans. I am one of the latter, in no small measure because I think it transcends the two categories you mention.

It belongs to a third vision of the future in which humanity (and whatever other type of corporeal sentience we may encouter out there)is pretty much the same screwed up, flawed bunch of critters we're familiar with today. They struggle and strive- and sometimes overcome. And sometimes not. And sometimes overcoming has a terrible price. And sometimes not overcoming has a terrible price, too.

It's not just the technology that's vastly more true to life in the Babylon 5 universe than in the Star Trek one; it's also its inhabitants. There are "good" people (Sinclair, Sheridan, D'lenn, G'kar) "evil" people (Bester, Reefa)- and one character in particular who seems to me to be unique to the Babylon 5 universe, and in some ways a kind of one-man summary of the show's vision. He is an evil man who is slowly transformed into a good one.

I have to admit that early in the series if anybody had told be that Londo was going to turn out to be a Christ figure, I would have told them that they were nuts. But as it turned out, at least in a limited sense that's exactly what he was. In a limited sense, and only at the end. But at the end, he may have been the most admirable character in the series

Through most of the series, this ambitious, vain, flawed, venial, self-seeking character first descended to the depths of becoming an accomplice to genocide, and then slowly was redeemed and transformed through his growing relationship with G'Kar. None of this, of course, means anything to anyone who wasn't a fan of the series, but suffice it to say that the characters- and Londo most of all-
developed, for better or for ill. The development wasn't a statement about the future, except insofar as the future is made up of individuals. When early in the future, a character with
powers of discernment beyond those of our species remarked that of all those present, Londo had the greatest capacity for self-sacrifice. I, for one, laughed. But it turned out that such was precisely the case.

The third option is a universe in which the future and the people in it are neither heavenly nor hellish, neither demonic nor angelic, but simply capable of being redeemed.
It simply suggests that there is hope.

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