Let me say something that might raise an eyebrow for a few of you. It’s an idea that’s not airtight, not proven fact, but it’s something that gets debated to a lot. I think it’s an important discussion. So I’m going to throw it out there: Science Fiction was the most important mode of art in the 20th century.
Its power in the last 80 years shouldn’t be underestimated or trivialized. Its influence operates on two levels:
On the first level, science fiction is really about us. It’s got robots and aliens and unrealized technology. But all of those things are proxies for what’s really happening in our world today. Science fiction writers have always used the these far-off tropes to make us feel more comfortable with the dangerous things they are writing about: racism, political ideas, poverty, environmental collapse, and so-on. It’s been a very useful spoon of sugar to take while swallowing difficult ideas that we were grappling with.
But the second level has taken some time to surface. It’s the cultural impact of reading about and seeing things like robots, video chat or driverless cars emerge from the safe fantasies of a sci-fi story to our boring lives in a matter of years. It’s the effect of real future shock. While science fiction writers aren’t actually predicting these futures, audiences are encountering these things first through science fiction works.
I think that’s a powerful thing and we can see it having an impact. Over the past couple of generations, science fiction has grown enormously popular. It’s not just an economic phenomenon. It’s a societal wave connecting to our lives at many touch points.