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The Crystal Ball of Sci-fi

I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy since I was a wee little lad. I was stuck on Lord of the Rings from 8-10, but after that I quickly devoured the Narnia series, and then all of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Simak, Asimov, Moorcock, Heinlein, K. Leguin, and a fleet of others. The world was close to nuclear disaster and as a teen, escapism seemed a logical choice. I was convinced the planet, or at least our species, was doomed.

Atomic war was, thankfully, averted, and while I discovered more optimism for our future, I never stopped reading sci-fi / fantasy. The best authors were not only fabulous writers, they also managed to cast a crystal ball into the social and humanistic challenges that might face us. I was especially fascinated by their descriptions of alien civilizations, or even future human ones, where the culture had achieved some level of planetary society or attained a lofty collective goal.

It seemed to me that, in comparison, our culture had no real collective plans for the future, no planetary goals, no lofty visions. We have been effectively adrift and rudderless from the perspective of creating a better future for humanity and the rest of the planet, and the future has become darker, not lighter. I still feel that fiction, and science fiction in particular, is a way for us to model the ‘what ifs’ of the future. I’ve read my share of well-conceived dystopian novels, and they have their place, But without the balance of positive goals, without also having some aspiration for a more utopian world that doesn’t spiral into decay, we are doomed as a culture.

The planet will easily outlive us. But if we collectively focus on creating a better future, our civilization may at least survive to a ripe old age. It seems a rather common sense thing to consider.


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