What science fiction and fantasy means to me: pt 2

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

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Two weeks ago, I talked about my intro into reading and fantasy in particular. Today is a bit about my intro into science fiction.

It took me longer to get interested in SF. Science itself was a natural topic; my dad worked for the Forest Service as a land surveyor. We took many trips as a family to State parks and National forests. Lakes, rivers, streams, forests, and caves were all part of my mental canvas, but they lent themselves more toward fantasy.

Space didn't interest me that much as a child. My first memory of thinking about space was the preparations for the Challenger and then watching its explosion on tv during school. I wrote about that memory in a comment on The Sharp Angle several months ago. It was fun following along with the reports until the day of the tragedy. I remember the shock and grief, but once that faded, my interest in space faded with it.

It was my dad a couple years later who got me actively intrigued by science fiction. He didn't believe in us kids hanging around our bedrooms all Saturday, even if we weren't sleeping. Saturdays were for doing things around the house and for family time. So if we weren't up by 10 am, we were gonna be. He would put on a record album (yep, good ole vinyl) and crank the volume up. One of his favorite ones to use for that was Flash Gordon. All of a sudden we would hear this booming from the speakers:

Emperor: Nigel, I'm bored (at least that's the name it sounded like)
[rumble, rumble, rumble]
Adviser: Hahaha Ha Hahaha Most effective Your Majesty. We'll destroy this...Earth.
Emperor: Nigel. I like to play with things awhile. Before annihilation. Ha ha ha ha
[beat, beat, beat, beat, beat, beat, beat, beat]
Flash! Ahh ahh!

So my ascent into a love of SF began with an evil villain's plans and laughter. It was a couple years before I finally saw the movie, but by then I was hooked enough that 80's cheesiness didn't faze me. Granted I was a child of the 80's, but it was still a cheesy movie. Didn't matter.

The next SF story to grab me was Star Wars. I don't remember when I first saw some of it. What I do remember is visiting my grandparents for a week, just my sister and I when I was 11 or 12. (I'd have to find the mini album they made of our trip to find out exactly when.) We visited a local movie rental shop, and they asked us what we wanted to rent. I asked for SW. They were dubious about my interest, but since I insisted I liked it, they rented it anyway. I was enchanted. The following Christmas, they bought me the 3 VHS box set. (I still have it, along with the boxed set of the enhanced rerelease.)

I've discussed before how I got hooked into ST. Much resistance, and finally capitulation. Even with some excellent individual episodes, it's still not my favorite series.

Even with these stories, I didn't start reading much SF. Well, not that I realized at first. Anne McCaffrey was my first SF author with her Pern series. I just didn't realize for years that it fell under SF rather than fantasy. I nibbled at my mom's Andre Norton collection, sampled her ST collection, and tried out various books at her urging. Some were interesting but most failed to entice me for rereading.

College was when my passion for SF took another surge. I discovered Babylon 5 during its fifth season. Even more than ST, B5 took on social topics and presented them in the backdrop of another possible version of our future. Mankind was not the top of the pecking order by a long shot. In fact, out of foolish and panicky actions during a first encounter, mankind nearly was wiped out by the Minbari, a much more advanced race. The Babylon station was built to prevent such a near tragedy from occurring again. B5 took on work strikes, raiders, corrupt politicians, religious clashes, and more, all in a believable manner. Characters changed: some died, some left, some became powerful, some were transformed. And that was just among the primary cast. I'll talk more about this amazing show in a later post.

Science fiction brought space back into my thoughts. What we could do if we really did venture out into space. What might happen. Who we might meet. The what-ifs are both frightening and intoxicating. I did my senior thesis on the biological concerns for exploring and settling Mars, because I'd become enamored by space. I read articles, studied pictures, pulled my way through my required physics classes by sheer determination (and a fantabulous professor). I was space crazy.

Some of that shiny enthusiasm has worn down a bit, but I still look for SF stories that reach the heart what really matters: what people will do, whether they are human or alien. I may not be ready to hop aboard a spaceship anytime soon, but I do hold a dream for mankind's future. And outer space is a part of that.

What do you find fascinating about science fiction?


Brad said...

Flash....Ah, ahhhh...He'll save every one of us!

Not only do I love the Flash Gordon movie (and yes, the cheez is part of its charm), but Queen always has been, and always shall be, one of my all-time favorite bands.

Star Wars was my introduction into sci-fi. I saw it before I found Narnia or Middle-Earth, and it forever changed the way I thought about the stars.

I may read more fantasy than sci-fi, but I still love sci-fi and always will.

I think what I love most about it is the endless "what if?". What if we found evidence of life (past or present) on Mars? What if we spread out through the galaxy, founding Empires of our own, or Asimov-like Foundations for preserving humanity?

What if we could remotely-control bio-engineered "Avatars"?

The possibilities are endless, and I think that's what I love most about sci-fi.

And I'm with you on B5. I didn't get the chance to see it when it premiered, and I didn't want to open the book in the middle, so I resisted for a long while.

Then, when TNT started the show from the beginning, a friend of mine started recording the episodes and sending them to me while I was away at school in TN. He would send me tapes with five or six episodes at once, so I got to watch the entire series in under a year, instead of spread out over five.

Loved it.

Jaleh D said...

Thanks for sharing, Brad.

Queen is a great band. I got lucky in that my hubby is also a fan of their music. And likes many of the same books and shows. It's so much fun being able to discuss things after we've seen/read something.

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