Dreams are as natural to human beings as breathing. We need to dream to stay sane. Occasionally allowing our minds to wander into the distant universe allows us to wrestle with some pretty awesome questions.
How does science fiction fit into our natural tendency to dream or imagine? Perhaps more than any other genre in recent history, science fiction has altered humanity’s trajectory. For good or for ill is not for me to say.
Let’s visit three early science fiction works and consider serious societal issues in light of their meaning.
Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein in 1818. The book centers on a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who creates new life in the form of what he later considers his monster. Frankenstein’s initial excitement, obsession even, with his work is based on the fact that he is doing what no one has ever done before. His mind is filled with glorious possibilities. The consequential reality is something much more poignant and tragic, however, as innocent lives are destroyed by his monster creation.
The point of Shelly’s work stands as tall as the mountains that readers cross throughout the journey. Science in general and medical science, in particular, bear a moral responsibility to be careful and not turn a blind eye to unintentional consequences in the face of wondrous possibilities. Today, the US works under the auspices of the FDA, in which the approval of most drugs and medical advancements must be considered under the scrutiny of many eyes, various experiences, and the glaring light of time.
It is a leap to state that the FDA or any medical oversight came about because of a science fiction book. And that would never be my claim. But it would, perhaps, be fair to say that the same forces that impelled Mary Shelly to write her science fiction novel and those who subsequently read it did create an environment where the FDA could be successfully created.
H. G. Wells first serialized War of the Worlds in 1897. In his story, aliens are taken very seriously and met with complete bewilderment by humanity. It’s a look at what “might be” in terms of the universe and how humans don’t know what we don’t know. There is almost a sneering undertone in the book as to our naiveté. The most remarkable aspect of the book, for me, is not the storyline but the fact that readers latched onto the concept of aliens so absolutely. By the late 1800s and into the 1900s, humanity was learning at a faster rate than ever before, peering into a vast universe that held innumerable secrets. This love affair with alien life, albeit with fear and trembling, has sustained many space exploration programs and created an exploding genre of fiction. Would the whole chain of events leading to William Shatner taking a ride into space on Blue Origen in October 2021 have happened if sci-fi writers hadn’t started imagining who might be “out there” back in 1897?
George Orwell wrote and published 1984 in 1949. The basic premise behind his best seller involved the power of a government to manipulate the meaning of words and control whole populations. I won’t go down the political and societal rabbit hole by conjecturing on just how embedded the power of word manipulation has changed our culture today. Just consider the vast amounts of money and the huge influence of lobbyists who use particularly powerful trigger words: reason, choice, honesty, freedom, news…and more. I am not qualified to discern the manipulation of certain words over others, but clearly, words are used in media to push emotional buttons. Click bate, anyone? With bots often directing the merry-go-around, power words beget more power words, not necessarily reason, choice, honesty, or freedom.
In my book, Last of Her Kind published in 2017, the characters reel from a host of challenges. Primarily, humans’ inability to conceive new life and subsequent world challenges. Humanity must prioritize medical advances and consider—not how did this happen and who do we blame—but how do we handle extinction staring us in the face? Unintentional realities happen. Now what?
Another major aspect of LOHK relates to the watching alien world that comes into the clearest focus through Cerulean, an alien from Lux who has fallen in love with Anne, the last woman to conceive a child on Earth. Lux has its own problems, as does Cerulean. No matter how different aliens may be from humans, family conflicts beset us all.
Throughout LOHK, news reports, blog posts, international events, family reactions, neighbors’ reflections, marriage fractures, and every imaginable human form of communication lies the corruption of the message. The fact that even when a human being speaks as honestly as he or she can, there is an element of incompleteness. We do not know ourselves. Thus, it makes it impossible to know anyone else completely.
The interaction between humans and Luxonians creates an “illuminating” juxtaposition. As a writer, I had to get outside my own skin and attempt to see the human race from a higher perspective. How might we appear if someone from another planet took a long look at us? We are loveable, certainly, but are we admirable?
Science fiction, in a way, embodies all genres and adds a fresh perspective. That’s why I find it has such power in the human imagination. We see, we act, and then—we look up and dream about the biggest question of all—Who am I?
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
After the close of the OldEarth world and a prelude to the Newearth series, Last of Her Kind sets the stage for an inter-alien alliance. Cerulean’s admiration for Anne evolves into an extraterrestrial high road—offering the universe true humanity.
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