Why does science fiction work so well?

Of all the genres in entertainment, science fiction is the one genre which I love the most. It just seems the most interesting and cool genre. I do like comedy and action, but science fiction appeals to me in many ways. So I want to know, why does it work so well? And why do I love it so much?

So, first of all, what is science fiction? Well, science fiction is a genre which uses science-based theories which are not confirmed by real science, such as aliens, time travel, spacecrafts and robots, to tell stories. These can be set in the real world or on alien planets or in pretty much anything.

So that’s a basic summary of what science fiction is. What famous examples are there? Well, for books, you have War of the Worlds and the Time Machine (both of which I know I need to read), and for films, well: Star Wars, ET, Star Trek and Jurassic Park just to name a few. And for television you have Doctor Who and Star Trek (again). All of these deal with science at their core,but are varied in their topics. There are two kinds of science fiction: hard sci-fi, which tries to be as accurate to science as possible, and soft sci-fi, which uses whatever they want to create a story. These will have aliens, spacecrafts, time travel and pretty much what ever they want, like most science fiction.

This leaves me to wonder – what makes so many people interested in science fiction? Maybe it’s the appeal of alien life and other worlds. If aliens are nice, great! But if they’re not… someone call the Doctor. But while there is no proof of aliens, the reason why they are often used for science fiction is because they COULD exist.

That’s why science fiction is so great. It uses things which could exist and makes them real. But hard science fiction also works. These stories use real science to try and explain things. There is no explanation as to how spaceships in Star Wars works, but if Yoda says…

Ah, you see, spaceships are powered by the power of FUEL! Typically from Shell and BP! Fuel is used to power spacecrafts they are!

… then the universe is more realistic. If  science is used to explain something, even if it’s impossible, then the story turns into hard science fiction. In Doctor Who, an explanation is given about how the TARDIS works, but it’s still a time traveling police box. In a film like Jurassic Park, real science which actually exists is used to explain the plot, making it seem more realistic. Cloning is real, even if it’s proved unsuccessful.

But perhaps the real craft of why sci-fi works is that it poses questions and themes which can’t work in other genres. What if robots could think? Does that make them human? Is cloning dinosaurs a good thing? Is it messing with nature? Is changing the past worth it, just so people don’t need to die? Is it possible to change your future? Is it dangerous and is it messing with fate? These deep questions appear in science fiction and can’t work in other genres. Dramas may have deep emotions and complex characters, but they can’t talk about the pros and cons of time travel. This is the real greatness behind science fiction. It isn’t just spaceships and aliens blowing things up, but it’s about addressing ideas which could one day be real.

But… sometimes it IS just about spaceships and aliens blowing things up.

3 thoughts on “Why does science fiction work so well?

  1. Star Trek, along with Star Wars, deals with complicated moral issues. While Star Wars is primarily based on the inward and outward struggles of good and bad, and what is morally correct either way, Star Trek is more diverse, targeting religion, conflicting culture, authority, bigotry, racism, feminism, acceptance, emotional baggage, family struggles, disabilities, proactivity,humanitarianism, and what makes us human, to name a few.

    These deep, thoughtful messages conveyed while exploring strange new worlds, seeking new life and new civilizations, bodily going were no one has gone before, and of course beyond awesome special affects, delightfully daring, clever, brilliant, and even ingenious plots, and of course the bold feelings conveyed throughout such an amazing experience, just appeals to the more intellectual and creative audiences. Science fiction is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of cinematography, on every space-time continuum on every universe, on every dimension, and on each plane of existence. To bad not many seventh graders can realize that, preferring to watch the Disney channel or American Idol. Ugh. ( as a British person you may not get that reference) You are correct in saying there is no quality television programming anymore. I bet the same can be said in Canada, Uzbekistan, Germany, Norway, Sweeden…. you name it. The world needs more science fiction.

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