At one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.
The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.
Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…
I was tempted — just for a moment — to call this The Lost Oeuvre, but it really doesn’t rate such a highfalutin title. (And until just now, I had no idea “highfalutin” was a single, hyphen-free, word.) Considering that “works” can refer to drug-taking gear, that word seems just right.
Going through some old stuff, I came across typewritten copies of a few scripts from my film student college days. Not just film, but television production, too. I ended up becoming a computer programmer, but for a while I aspired to be the next George Lucas (or more likely, Quentin Tarantino).
For fun, I thought I’d share one of the ones I’m not too embarrassed by all these years later.
And then there was one.
Last time, I wrote that my definition of science fiction is fiction with science + imagination. And that the science is freely defined to include guesses and completely made up, if not downright illegitimate, physics. In fact, that’s the imagination part of the equation. The fiction part is also freely defined, but basic story telling rules should apply. The science part must also play by certain rules, even when it’s made up science, even when it’s illegitimate
This article is about how I view the science and fiction in science fiction when it comes to playing by the rules. (Keep in mind that science fiction is art, and in art rules are made to be broken.)
Fantasy lovers take heart; in this case, my definition of science includes magic, the supernatural and the metaphysical. This uses the context of speculative fiction, which includes everything beyond current physics. The fiction canvas is framed by any physics, or metaphysics, the story requires. Warp drive is no more real science than vampires or Norse Gods; all of them are fiction.
I recently asked the question, “What is Art?” Answering that one is a real challenge, and the answer may be entirely subjective. This time I’m asking a question that is almost as difficult: “What is Science Fiction?” The answer may turn out to be just as subjective, and just as much of a challenge, but I’ve always thought the tough questions are the most interesting to explore.
I may, or may not, be an artist (but I know what I like!), and suffice to say I have only dabbled in art over the years. Science fiction, however, has filled my life as long as I’ve been picking my own reading material. I suspect that, overall, my fiction reading (and I read a lot of fiction) is at least 80% science fiction. It could be more. Most normal fiction leaves me disinterested, no matter how insightful it might be. I live in the real world; I want stories that take me far, far away, be it conceptually, spatially or temporally (if only temporarily).
Only authors that bring something newly invented to the table really hold my interest.