Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Realistic Science Fiction

The Backstory:
I was using Sparks, a Google+ project, when I came across a survey that asked you to pick your top three favorite Science Fiction books. At first glance, I thought that my choice would be very easy. However, I was wrong and it was so hard to only pick three.

As you can imagine, a conversation developed in response to this Google+ post, where me and my friends discussed which three we chose. One of my friends chose "The Time Traveler" by H.G. Wells; the father of science fiction. I had never read this book, so my friend dutifully brought it over to my house for me to read.

The Middle:
Since H.G. Wells was a knowledgeable scientist, his Science Fiction is infused with scientific facts that reflect scientific theory of his time. For example, in response to evolution, he posited that in the future, humans had evolved into some other sort of species that were different than the time traveler's contemporaries.

I think there is a subtle talent that H.G. Wells is demonstrating that I think is lost in some of the other science fiction. As opposed to just using his imagination, H.G. Wells bases his science in...actual science. Unlike Star Trek (By the way, I am not knocking Star Trek. I am a fan.) where holograms don't reflect the true nature of our current understanding of holographic technology, I think that there is some sort of scientific honesty that H.G. Wells employs that makes his book so much more realistic, despite the fictional dreams.

The Kicker:
There is a subtle difference I am trying to argue here. Its not that Science Fiction writers should not be imaginative. Rather, I think that we should go to life and apply what we know to do new and innovative things, rather than thinking of innovative things and then applying what we know. To explain differently, think of how we use computers. I think that when we use a computer, we should not look for some feature that we think a program should have. Instead, we should understand the program to the best of our abilities and then use it to do what we need to do. My brother and I play this game called Minecraft. In this game, one could say that the laws of physics don't really apply. While we dream big and have that imaginative aspect and want the game to do whatever it is we want (like having cool interactive holodecks as seen in Star Trek), we also take the laws of physics that comes with the game and do some pretty interesting and innovative things.

The Ending:

With H.G. Wells, I feel that he speaks to this impulse in me. That he takes what he knows and applies it to his imaginative world. This process makes his books so much more real despite its fictional nature. Perhaps, we should go through life taking what we know and learning to apply it in different ways, and not just seeing what we don't have and wishing for more.

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