Miércoles 19 de Noviembre de 2008, Ip nº 255

Sci-fi special: Margaret Atwood
Is science fiction going out of date? No point asking me - I'm too old - so I had a talk with Randy-at-the-bank, who looks to me to be about 25. (That may mean he's 35: as you get older the young look younger, just as when you're young the old look older. Time is relative. I know that from reading sci-fi.) I knew he was a sci-fi fan because he said he liked Oryx and Crake. So as he was setting loose the key I had somehow got stuck in my own safety-deposit box, I asked him what he thought.

The first part of our conversation was about the meaning of the term science fiction. For Randy - and I think he's representative - sci-fi does include other planets, which may or may not have dragons on them. It includes the wildly paranormal: not your aunt table-tilting or things going creak, but shape-shifters and people with red eyeballs and no pupils, and Things taking over your body. It includes, as a matter of course, space ships and mad scientists and Experiments Gone Awfully Wrong. Plain ordinary horror doesn't count - chain-saw murderers and such. Randy and I both agreed that you might meet one of those walking along the street. It's what you would definitely not meet walking along the street that counts, for Randy. And he doesn't think these things are going out of date.

I agree with him. Not all of science fiction is "science" - science occurs in it as a plot-driver, a tool, but all of it is fiction. This narrative form has always been with us: it used to be the kind with angels and devils in it. It's the gateway to the shadowiest and also the brightest part of our human imaginative world; a map of what we most desire and also what we most fear. That's why it's an important form. It points to what we'd do if we could. And increasingly, thanks to "science", we can.


  12/11/2008. New Scientist Magazine.