Science Fiction as a tool for human survivalJan 24th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Inspiring, Science, Technology
“Sleep Dealer is remarkably topical for a film set in the future (albeit one described by Rivera as taking place “five minutes from now”). Central themes include outsourcing, corporate ownership of water, remote warfare, confessional internet diaries and military contractors who are accountable to no one. It’s the rare political film without any reference to contemporary politics; like Blade Runner and other big-brained sci-fi flicks, it’s about ideas, not selling merchandise.”
“Films like Star Wars use terms like empire and rebellion, but they are bandied about in bland ways — powerful words used to describe nothing,” Rivera said. “One of the original propositions of my film is that we (create that sense) of a world divided between wealth and power.”
“I love gnomes and goblins and elves,” said Rivera, who’s made a name for himself touring museums and festivals with his award-winning shorts. “But what I’m really interested in is speculative fiction. I wanted to use this film to ask the question, ‘Where are we going?'”
Sci-fi has for a very long time served the purpose of framing current sensitive social and political issues and putting them into a clear perspective without making people feel preached to. It was a way to get people to think about issues that they normally wouldn’t or didn’t want to think about for various psychological reasons. I feel that this has always been the greatest strength of the genre and during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, with the exception of Star Wars and a few other more trivial pieces, the genre as a whole set out to bring a multitude of social issues into the spotlight. It was like film directors and authors realized this magic lamp where they could very surreptitiously put these unquestioned injustices into peoples minds and make them question them for the first time. I wouldn’t call this a ‘golden age’ of sci-fi but it certainly was a purer age. There was less science fiction being produced(as there were less movies in general being produced) but on a per capita basis they were overwhelmingly more thought provoking and taking full advantage of the above-mentioned strength of the medium.
Today however that is changed, and not that it is necessarily a bad thing as the more Sci-fi blockbusters we have the more
interest and acceptance the genre has as a whole and the easier it will be for true science fiction to get funded, but today is certainly a different age where Sci-fi is big business. We have more and more pieces of strictly eye candy, where the strength of the medium to affect change in our thinking and society in general is thrown out for the ability to create big explosions and satisfy the increasingly shrinking attention span and ever expanding mental laziness of the developed world. People don’t want to think, they want to be distracted from thinking by exploding starships and revenge seeking Romulans(referring of course to the latest Star Trek Film – thanks Abrahms).
However this isn’t a doom and gloom article, this is an article of hope for as I mentioned the more play these pieces of porno-graphic eye-candy get the more interest there will be in the genre overall and we are starting to see more and more thought provoking sci-fi than ever before. While it may seem like the 60’s,70’s and 80’s were pumping out great sci-fi at a faster rate, it certainly wasn’t so.. There were so many classics made in this era no doubt but they were certainly spaced out over a long period separated by years at times.
Whereas we are seeing 2-3 fairly profound films coming out almost yearly now and even some of the frivolous eye candy such as Avatar will have an obvious and simplistic thought provoking message behind it.
Here’s a great resource that lays out a timeline of the SF era of the past: http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/timeline1960.html
Because of this evolution of the genre I feel that we are going to see a clear divide coming down between Sci-fi action flicks such as the last Star Trek, or Avatar and then the sci-fi that attempts to shine light on these dark recesses of our mind that we so conveniently block out such as District 9 or Soylent Green.
Alex Rivera, in the linked article at the top of this post mentioned ‘Speculative Fiction‘ which is a great term to show the other greatest strength of this medium. As apposed to regular fiction or fantasy Sci-fi and speculative fiction forces us to look forward instead of being stuck in the mud of the past or present, but more importantly it forces us to look forward to where we are going and ask ourselves ‘Is that really where we want to go?’ . I think that is where we are going to see a divide forming even stronger than before between Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction. The latter intending to provoke debate and thought about our evolving society and the former meant to simply turn off your brain and take you on a mini-vacation from your everyday. Both certainly having merits but I feel it is going to be incredibly dangerous to undervalue the importance of the former over the latter.
We live in a world that is incredibly frightening for a growing portion of the population because of the exponential rate of change and development we are experiencing. So much so that some scientists playfully predict the emergence of a species of humans, homo evolutis, engineered by us. Our world is changing so fast now that we often don’t have time to contemplate the full ramification that come with the increasingly rapid adoption of new technologies and social changes. Most often this is simply because these changes are being introduced almost one after another after another without any time to breath. Speculative fiction however, if widely adopted makes it almost instinctive that we think about these situations and possible outcomes before they even arise. It puts our brains into a future simulator of sorts where we are running through countless of possible outcomes for our society every week, culminating to subconscious database of sorts of ‘what if’ scenarios that we carry around with us. Without this database in our heads we blindly charge forward through the jungle of our progress without any regard of potential cliffs that lay ahead until it is too late. With a mind that is constantly being challenged with deep thought-provoking what if scenarios we will hopefully be able to recognize some of the signs of these impending cliffs before we are spinning our tires in mid air about to drop 1000 meters to our doom.
Clearly I am not saying that Speculative Fiction is going to single-handedly save this world however with the current rate of adoption of technology, a rate which is increasing exponentially, we can no longer afford to live in the past or even the present for that matter. The logical part of our brains must exist 100% in the future at all times, not just one future but many possible futures. A failure to do this could very likely destroy our future all together.