Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The serious business of Science Fiction and Fantasy

I've got friends that don't quite get science fiction and fantasy and don't really understand why I write it.  I recently deployed to Afghanistan and wrote some emails about my experiences there, emails I forwarded on to friends and family, who as a general group gave me positive feedback about my ability to write about the experience of being a soldier at war and who praised me for doing a good job capturing what Afghanistan is like (and Iraq, when I wrote about it in 2008).  A few of these friends suggested that if I want to write fiction, I should be writing military thriller genre, something like what Tom Clancy does.

Truth is I could and maybe will someday.  I'm interested in military stuff and certain non-fiction, too, but writing about unreal worlds in general interests me more--and I think there's a positive reason why this is so, beyond the fact that I enjoy exercising my imagination.  You see, writing science fiction and fantasy is serious business.

This statement may very much surprise friends of mine obsessed with politics or convinced this world is about to end soon...to them, I imagine, speculative fiction (a term which embraces both sci-fi and fantasy) is sheer escapism from the world around us and spending time on it is acting like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.  I do want to acknowledge they have a point.  Speculative lit seems to be nothing but escapism for some people.  And there are times when it is absolutely essential to pay attention to the moment you are in and not wander off mentally to realms of what is not.

But I believe worlds of speculation, of the unreal, serve a very important function for most people, whether they realize it or not.  They remind people this world we are in is not the only possible world; what was the world once is not just the stuff of known history, but also lies in the sphere of the unknown and legendary...and such legends have the power to live in human imagination right now.  And even what we see all around us will change over time into something else someday, a world of advanced technology perhaps, or perhaps a collapse into decay and death.  Science fiction and fantasy explore these other realities of what could have been or what will be.

THIS WORLD IS NOT ALL THERE IS shouts speculative fiction, pointing out a void in our human lives.  It's often true that speculative fiction, an expression of corrupt humanity, tries to fill that void with corrupt thoughts.  That void truly longs for God, the creator whose imagination far exceeds mine, Who has the power to create new worlds at a whim (I am not stating He has created them, simply that He has that power) and Who will bring to an end all of the things we know now and establish His own rule.

Christians may feel we know our future eternity very well:  pearly gates, throne of God, singing praises, etc.  But remember 1Corinthinans 2:9:  "...Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."  The actual truth is that what we know is only the tip of the iceberg.

As a point of fact, the full reality of what world awaits us is mostly unknown.  As is also how long it will be between this world and the next and what will happen in this world in the meantime.

I write what I do not only to exercise the faculty of imagination God gave me in a positive way, but to reinforce the truth that this world is neither all there is, nor all there is to be--and to spin visions of the unreal that specifically point fingers back toward the creator God, the author of all things.  As much as I may engage in flights of whimsy at times, all of my writing science fiction and fantasy has a bedrock foundation in this definite serious purpose.

I hope very much that makes sense...


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