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The Big Yellow Book

Seeing the World from Both Oculars-- a Bananaslug's Journal

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Why I read...and sometimes write...science fiction and fantasy...
Somebody wrote once for Ted Kennedy to say at his brother Robert's funeral: "Some people see things as they are, and ask why. My brother saw them as they might be, and asked why not."

Science fiction and fantasy have had a disproportionate effect on the modern world culture, from "Destination Moon" to "Lord of the Rings" and unless you are a supersnob, there is no disagreement with this. The question is why.

I think that it is in large part what Teddy said. Science fiction, and fantasy, both ask why not. And two and a half generations have now grown up with science fiction and fantasy as an integral part of their culture.

If you look at the Treo 650 Smartphone, it is directly descended from the Star Trek Tricorder. There are other examples as well. Young people grew up on Star Trek and emerged as scientists and engineers who had a vision of what the technology of the future might be, because they had been exposed to it in science fiction.

Arthur C. Clarke invented the communications satellite. Robert Heinlein created the waterbed and the slidewalk, and now scientist-engineer turned novelist Travis Taylor is continuing the tradition, with novels based on the physics of the Casimir effect...which he says in his scientist persona aren't too far from reality...at least the science/physics part, anyway.

Heinlein also invented the concept of the computer avatar. Many science fiction writers posited the existence of the Internet...and John Brunner defined it in "Legend" and "Shockwave Rider."

Fantasy, much more so than contemporary fiction, addresses the big questions of spirituality, eternity, and responsibility. It is not an accident that the Lord of the Rings books and films have resonated so richly with several generations now. As a culture, we need and demand those roots, even if we have to make them up ourselves.

We continue to ask ourselves how things could be different, and why not.