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Science fact, not science fiction

December 7, 2011

(The History of Science Fiction, from awesomeinfographics.com – click for a more detailed look, well worth it!) 

One of my all time guilty pleasures is science fiction.  Hard, soft, alternative timelines, fantasy, dystopian, post-apocalyptic.  You name it, it’s right there.  (Or if it isn’t, please tell me because I’d like something new to read).

I’d like to think that this interest is a natural extension of what I do everyday.

Looking at ideas about how things could be in the future, and imagining how people might react to those scenarios and situations.  When you put it like that, isn’t that just a definition of part of what planning is?

So it’s always puzzled me why people tend to look down their noses a bit at science fiction as a genre.

It’s a different way of exploring things that are interesting about how humans think.

And I love how people can think of things in books decades before they become reality:

For example that science fiction staple – tractor beams.  Or the existence of other worlds similar to our own. And today the idea that they might be able to clone a woolly mammoth – a la Jurassic Park.

So why is it a genre that is looked down on as trashy by a large majority of people? I read an interesting commentary from Robert J Sawyer on the discovery of Kepler-22b.  In particular this element:

“In October 2011, the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency invited me and nine other science-fiction writers to share our visions with scientists and engineers at the first public symposium for The 100 Year Starship Project, an initiative to get human beings to a planet outside our Solar System within a century.”

This is something that so many science fiction books deal with, because of the vast distances in space.  And I love the idea that the writers might be able to imagine a solution to the problem.

Which got me wondering, which comes first? Do authors imagine things beyond the realm of possibility, and scientists work towards achieving them. Or does the science exist (at a conceptual level) and the authors are borrowing this ahead of time.  The link between imagination and invention is so close.  So where is the line between fact and fiction?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. tom permalink
    December 7, 2011 11:22 pm

    I like this “the link between imagination and invention is so close”

    • December 9, 2011 12:53 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I think as well the point I was trying to make with that is not just ‘invention’ but the link between imagination and discovery too.

      I’m reading The Quantum Universe at the moment and I’ve been astounded at just how a lot of discoveries have come about by imagining something first and making the maths/phyics work after, rather than following the maths first and happening upon discoveries that way.

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