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years or so, after 1977) that science fiction has begun to delve into the recent
past, as in the steampunk genre of stories.
Science fiction explores the implication of technological change. WilliamGib-
son made himself famous by taking the basics of the Internet and extrapolat-
ing that technology into his “cyberpunk” series. Gibson even coined the term
“cyberspace.” One of the things that marked Gibson's work was his almost
prophetic understanding of what “cyberspace” would do to entertainment.
His vision was similar in this respect to Wells' vision for travel to the moon
and outer space. Science fiction is marked by this prognostication into the
future.
Science fiction feels adult. The stories are often complex. Love isn't easy, emo-
tions are conflicted, relationships are strained by the environment or society.
Logan's Run is the story where overpopulation has caused society to adopt mass
suicide at an early age. What is love like in that kind of society? This motif,
where simple things are made more complex due to changes in society, are
common.
Sci-fi is male, hard, rough-edged, left-brain, analytical. The current hit TV
series Battlestar Galactica is viewed as the perfect modern sci-fi. It uses a very
limited and muted color palette, documentary-style camera work, and harsh
lighting to emphasize the danger to humanity itself as a result of the Cylon
War. Over the show's history, in fact, the story has morphed to move more
and more squarely into sci-fi territory. The risk of human annihilation has
subsided, and the show's writers now focus more on the question, “What
does it mean to be human?” as they examine Cylon society. This is a riff
on the way Star Trek: The Next Generation used the character Data as a foil.
Data was an android, and he spent much of the show's seven seasons trying
to prove or disprove that he was robot or human, and what it meant to be
either.
Good and evil are blurry concepts in sci-fi, and in fact, sci-fi often takes some
liberties with those very concepts. What is evil and what is good are, in science
fiction as in life, subject to interpretation and context.
Science fiction is often about environmental (external) forces or how an indi-
vidual reacts to an external force. In fact, often the antagonist is the environ-
ment itself. In the classic Larry Niven story “There is a Tide,” an astronaut
is sent on a mission to determine how a fellow astronaut explorer died. The
explorer's ship is untouched, but the astronaut himself was ripped to shreds in-
side his ship. The explorer was in orbit around a neutron star, and the extreme
tidal forces reached inside the ship and tore the explorer's body in half.
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