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Sci-fi and the Human Error

After trying to dip my toes into different genres, I have circled back to the genre I feel most comfortable in - Science Fiction. I'm not entirely sure why I went out my way to avoid writing sci-fi. Perhaps its because I felt it was too childish or fantastical, but the reality is - it opens up a lot of opportunity.

The idea of sci-fi presents to me the opportunity to discuss a political and/or social dilemma discreetly without being overly politically correct. Yet, it also carries a strong message that whatever world we base our stories in, we are always going to encounter controversy in order for it to be effective. Be it the most ridiculous narrative you have ever read *coughs* The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy or a carefully thought out and plausible novel *cries* Flowers for Algernon - they are always going to have an underlying meaning.

When reflecting on a lecture on sci-fi, I try to remember some of my favourite books and find that many could only be lightly considered as science fiction. I feel that perhaps, in a lot of cases, that it is in fact a subgenre - or at least not one genre that can exist entirely alone in a story. For instance, think of Nineteen Eighty Four, Frankenstein and The War Of The Worlds. They are all classed as Science Fiction novels but also are heavily influenced by the themes of horror. It seems that one genre compliments the other.

As another example, think of the themes that are explored in The Time Machine and The Handmaid's Tale - Both H.G Wells and Margaret Atwood use an entirely bizarre concept and create a whole new fantastical world but still use other heavy stylistic choices from other genres to compliment the sci-fi aspect.

Recently, my interest in Sci-fi has been directed at our current day authors. This started out when I began reading the Wayfarers series and unintentionally picked up The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet not knowing that it was in fact the third in the series. However, once I had read that first book, I'd felt so moved by it that I started reading all of Becky Chambers' books and came to realise that this was perhaps one of my favourite book series. If you haven't already read the Wayfarers series, then I will tell you that it is so invested in exploring societal dilemmas that you almost completely forget that the main characters are AIs, Reptiles and other outlandish space criminals. And when you are suddenly reminded that this universe that Chambers has created is so cinematically fictional, you end up questioning whether the difficult topics in the stories are not too far from our own problems.

This type of fiction, I feel, is strongly derived from the Utopian and Dystopian, minus the whole intergalactic space alien relationships and all. But it still has the same elements that blend reality with fantasy. It carries out the different functions that we see in pretty much any sci-fi novel I can think of; entertainment and education but most importantly the consequences of human error.

This last function is one that I am currently exploring in my short story drafts. I like to find a certain controversial conversation and shape and twist it so that it fits into a world of my own creation. The psychology of our modern society is a fascinating one at the moment. We are all so divided by our beliefs that we have lost respect for variety in opinion. We are so religiously set up in our faith to one particular side of a story that we let it become our identity and we are unwilling to learn in case it damages our fragile ego. Perhaps it is due to isolation and having too much time to think. Or maybe we have too little to fall back on when our defences are penetrated. We are living in a time of anger, mistrust and sluggishness. You can observe this just by reading the news, by scrolling through social media. There are arguments about parenting, people's diets, vaccinations, lifestyle choices, music preferences, sex life, culture, race - arguments about anything and everything, really. It is so sad but also so intriguing and, luckily, gives a modern writer a lot to work with.

Drawing a valuable message from current day situations and manipulating them into fantastical, dystopian futures has perhaps been one of my favourite ways of learning about a particular issue. Films and books such as The Girl With All the Gifts, The Hunger Games, The Time Traveller's Wife and Sea Of Rust have a particular spot in my heart that have used twenty-first century concepts to drive the story forward.

For my assignment, I plan to write a story that revolves mainly around the idea of what it means to be alive - reflecting on social status, class differentiation and human rights. This story is going to be narrated by the grandson of a synthetic user - a human that has chosen to have their mind inserted into a non-organic form - and will take place in the not too distant future.

If you know of any similar concepts, please let me know :)

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