Why Sci-Fi?

First off, I want to thank Simon Farnell for allowing me to be a contributor here on Universe of Possibilities. If you’re interested in learning more about this awesome new Sci-Fi hub, and perhaps finding out how to become a contributor yourself, click here.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my first post on this site, but I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little about why I got into science fiction in the first place. After all, there are certain stereotypes about Sci-Fi nerds like me. Some people call science fiction “escapism,” or they call it “childish.” And I don’t know… maybe they’re right.

When I was growing up, if I behaved, I’d get to stay up past my bedtime to watch Star Trek with my Dad. My bedtime was 9. Star Trek: The Next Generation came on at 10, which meant I’d be up until 11 at night! And if I was super extra good, I might get to stay up even later on weekends for reruns of Doctor Who. That didn’t come on until midnight!

To be honest, at that age I didn’t understand much of what I was watching. But that was okay because I got to spend extra time with my Dad. He was a huge Sci-Fi buff.

Star Trek had cool spaceships and an android. The Borg were awesome because they were so powerful, and Q was even more awesome because he was even more powerful than the Borg.

As for Doctor Who… I thought of Doctor Who as TV for really smart people (smart people like my Dad!) because every episode went waaaaay over my head. Even the one about dinosaurs. That may have been a function of my age plus how late at night it was plus the fact that Doctor Who is a rather complex show.

Then not long after my tenth birthday, my Dad unexpectedly passed away.

Being ten was almost like being a grown-up, as far as I was concerned, and quite a few people kept telling me that I was “the man of the house” now that my father was gone. It was important for me to be strong, for me to be okay. And I pretended very, very hard that I was okay.

If ever there was a time when I needed some childish escapism in my life, that was it. So I watched more Star Trek and more Doctor Who. I began collecting Star Wars action figures, and I read the Timothy Zhan Star Wars novels (which are still canon in my mind, rather than The Force Awakens). From there, I started reading other science fiction novels, which inevitably led me to Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Yes, Dune was a bit above my reading level at the time. Much of the story went right over my head, but that just made me more determined to finish the book. This was science fiction for smart people, I thought, just like Doctor Who. It was the kind of science fiction my father would have shared with me, if only he’d had the chance.

But there was another reason why Dune was a book—more than any other book—that I needed to finish. For those of you who don’t know, Dune is a grand epic of science fiction that happens to be about a young man who lost his father and, in so doing, lost his whole world—literally. You can call it escapist literature if you want. It was a good escape for me at the time.

But the book was also quietly holding up a mirror. It gave me a safe way to explore my grief, and it helped me better understand the pressures being placed upon me to follow in my father’s footsteps.

And so when I committed myself to a writing career, of course I wanted to write science fiction. I was somewhat surprised by teachers and critics and self-proclaimed realists who encouraged me to write something of more literary merit, or something more consistent with market trends in the publishing industry. Maybe science fiction is mere escapism, but I know firsthand how that sort of escape can change people, how it can save people.

Anyway… wow, that turned out to be a more personal kind of post than I originally intended, but that’s okay. Everybody talks about personal stuff on the Internet these days.

So Sci-Fi hubbers, how did you get into science fiction? What does science fiction mean to you? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to click the follow button for all the great Universe of Possibilities posts that are still to come.


J.S. Pailly is a blogger, space enthusiast, and science fiction writer.  He has no real world experience with space exploration, but he likes to pretend that he does, and he tries to back that up with as much scientific research as he can.  Sometimes that research turns out to be useful for the purposes of science fiction.

planetpailly.com

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22 thoughts on “Why Sci-Fi?

  1. Reblogged this on Planet Pailly and commented:

    Today, my first official post as a contributor for Universe of Possibilities is up. Universe of Possibilities is a new Sci-Fi hub started by Simon Farnell. My post is about how I got into science fiction in the first place.

    This ended up being a more personal kind of post than I originally intended, but that’s okay. Science fiction lies at the heart of who I am as a person. A post like this was bound to touch on some personal stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A powerful post James.

    My own entry into science fiction wasn’t so poignant. It started when I was very young, watching syndicated Star Trek and Lost in Space in the early 70s. Later I was captivated by the Planet of the Apes TV shows (both live action and cartoon), The Six Million Dollar Man, and Space 1999. Before Star Wars in 1977, science fiction shows were few and far between.

    But I do very much owe my reading habit to my own dad. He was the one who encouraged me to read early on, first comic books, and later novels. I eventually discovered that media science fiction was a pale reflection of the literature. The translated Perry Rhodan books in the 70s and Heinlein’s old juveniles were major stepping stones. Eventually leading to books like Dune, Ringworld, and other classics in my teenage years. (Not to mention my share of fantasy books.)

    I’ve often wondered what initially attracted me so much to science fiction, but I fear it’s lost in the dim mists of time. But I do know why I continue to be attracted to it: the wide open possibilities, in the case of hard science fiction, real possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t mention this, but comic books were part of my initiation into science fiction as well. I know these things are silly, and cheesy, and all that, but comics and TV shows can be a good way to get the kids early.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually think most science fiction is silly. But that’s okay, because it’s the silly stuff that initially attracts us. I doubt I would have ever gotten to Dune, Foundation, or Ender’s Game if I hadn’t started with stuff like Lost in Space, Space 1999, and Marvel comics.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a really beautiful train of thought, actually.

    In my experience, the biggest inspiration to us earth-bound mortals come from those who dare to dream bigger, spacier, more fiction-y.

    Please excuse the made-up words. It proves my point. 😉

    I’ve always been far more inspired and moved by shows like Doctor Who, Star Trek, and books by authors like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, than by something “of greater literary merit.” Good for you for sticking to your guns. The world needs more of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Powerful stuff. I grew up in a sci-fi house myself, and my Saturday afternoons were spent with Doctor Who. Sure, it gave me nightmares, but the possibilities enchanted me (and still do). The TARDIS has always felt like a physical manifestation of my own imagination

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, this is a really gorgeous post. Made me tear up. I’m so sorry about your father–it sounds like the world lost a great, loving man far too early.

    As for the naysayers, I will share this quote from Stephen King: “Almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write, someone will try to make you feel lousy about it.”

    Like

    1. Oh yes, Tolkien was and is important to me as well. My Dad actually read me The Hobbit as a bedtime story. One of the things that impresses me about both Tolkien and Frank Herbert’s writing is how you keep finding new meanings in them as you grow older. At least, that’s been my experience with them.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. I’m hoping to have my first book out by the end of this year. It’s a collection of short stories about a journalist who travels through time, reporting the news before it happens. I’m currently working with an editor, and we’re getting very close to having it ready.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My father started me on a lifelong love of sci-fi too (complete with staying up late and being taken to see the first Star Wars film when I was really too young to grasp much beyond really, really wanting a droid of my own). I lost my father just before my fourteenth birthday. I often wonder what he would have thought of the new stuff he missed. I think he would have loved DS9, Voyager, and the ‘new’ Doctor Who, as well as numerous other shows and films.

    Liked by 1 person

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