Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Why Science Fiction Matters

Many people won’t read science fiction. They have the idea that it’s all warp drives and space battles and bizarre aliens and they just don’t want to read that. It’s too far out for their taste.

But not all science fiction is that way. Look at Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is more properly defined as speculative fiction because it doesn’t really embrace futuristic technology like most science fiction does. That’s a wonderful novel about where we might be headed – and it focuses on characters, not whiz-bang imagery.

The best science fiction, the science fiction that lasts, examines our society as it is and extrapolates out to what it might become. It issues a warning to all of us to understand the path we’re on and to reassess whether we want to stay on that path.

The best science fiction is “thinking” fiction. It challenges us at the same time it entertains. The same can be said for all types of fiction, I suppose. But too often in modern fiction the goal is merely to entertain. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t feed the soul the way good science fiction does.

Science fiction – good science fiction – opens a window to our better and worse selves. It examines how we build societies and how we tear them down. It makes us appreciate our accomplishments and forces us to face our fears. And it generates ideas that later become reality.

Further, I suspect more people like science fiction than are willing to admit it. They just don’t want to read it – they want to watch it on the big screen. Look at the prevalence and popularity of science fiction films throughout the past forty years. Ever since Star Wars redefined the genre in the 80s, science fiction has done extremely well at the box office.

The problem with movies, of course, is that special effects can distract from the story rather than enhance it. If done well, special effects make a movie powerful, but if the CGI takes over, then the ideas behind the story can get lost.

In a book, the same dynamic holds true. If the focus is too heavily on the tech side of things, the ideas get lost. But if character is allowed to take center stage, if ideas are allowed to propel the action, then science fiction can be great. That’s what I aim for in my books – enough action to entertain, enough tech to surprise and delight, but always grounded with the gravitas of human struggle.

So science fiction matters. We need science fiction. That’s why I write it.

book 1 in the Susquehanna Virus series

book 1 in the Susquehanna Virus series

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