Why Science Fiction is Important
There’s little more beneficial to the technological development of humanity than a healthy stretching of the imagination. Science fiction politely serves as the taffy puller for human imagination.
This isn’t to say other genres don’t have equal merit. Rather, science fiction, compared to, for example, the magical or supernatural (genres I appreciate for different reasons), is often the milieu of the possible. Usually the technology is something you might consider just beyond the horizon of our scientific knowledge. Is it possible a wizard will come to your doorstep, do a bit of magic, and convince you to infiltrate the lair of a dragon? No. Not really. That’s likely beyond the realm of reality—though it strikes me as something that could serve as a great story line.
Perhaps science fiction’s most salient contribution to fiction, and the world in general, is the flag it places on the mountaintop, leagues away, at the edge of telescopic vision, that reads: Capture Me. Science fiction has given us a glimpse at a plethora of futuristic devices (or warnings) that, some years after their initial conception in the realm of science fiction, have since come to fruition
A tiny sample would include exosuits (Starship Troopers), submarines (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), IBM’s “Watson” and voice command (Star Trek/2001: A Space Odyssey). Robert H. Goddard was inspired by The War of the Worlds to build rockets, and while he was not the only fellow working on them, his involvement sped their development and led (eventually) to the space program and NASA. Marty McFly’s 2015 hoverboard may also be a reality, which may seem frivolous, but could have additional, fascinating applications. Watch most of the science fiction films of the 1980s and 90s and you’ll see hints of the technology making an appearance today.
While many of these things may have seemed absurd, maybe even magical at the time, technology has always found a way to catch up and make the improbable commonplace. It makes one wonder what the future holds.
Do science fiction writers have the ability to look into the future? As someone who considers science fiction one of the genres in which he writes, the answer is awesomely, majestically, astoundingly anticlimactic. No. No more than anyone else, anyway. The desire to look into the future based on what we know of the past and present can lead to some interesting decisions in terms of plot devices and devices in general. In fact, as I’ll get to later, some gadgets are often a means to an end rather than an inspired piece of technology (see: second paragraph from end).
Science fiction isn’t a perfect predictor of how events and technology will play out. We don’t yet have steam-powered, flying bicycles, and probably won’t, but that isn’t the point. The point is the generation of ideas, of exploration and experimentation, and the development of notions others will find worthwhile bringing into reality.
As with all writers, science fiction writers have the capacity to inspire. For many, Star Trek had a profound impact. It was multicultural, it was gadget-filled, and it had, amongst other things, teleportation. It’s entirely possible that, eventually, teleportation over great distances would have been a next step in the evolution of our transportation. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. But then, so is fascination. Is it possible science fiction has accelerated a natural progression?
Perhaps more importantly, you might be wondering, am I saying we’ve invented teleporters? Simply stated, yes. Sort of. Remember Klingon cloaking devices? Well we can make things invisible, too. Sort of. While we may have these nascent technologies, they currently only work at a molecular or atomic scale. But it’s a start.
On the other hand, we still don’t have time machines, nor do we have flying cars (but those may follow if the hoverboard tech proves practical and can work on a larger scale). The nature of time, however, is something we still don’t fully understand. That said, HG Wells and Doctor Emmett Brown treated their devices as novelties to be treated with extreme care rather than something for mass production. So maybe that’s something we won’t be seeing. At least not parked under tarps in our garages. But the idea is there.
And this is only the purely technological aspect to which science fiction applies. There’s plenty of philosophical science fiction out there as well. Take a look at Asimov’s I, Robot for a glimpse of human/robot psychological development; H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds for positing on evolution and imperialism; Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein to grok religion (and much, much more); ad infinitum.
Incidentally speaking, Star Trek teleportation had its own Mother Necessity. Why even bother creating teleportation? Simple. The cost of creating sets and effects for landing the entire ship was too time consuming and expensive—instantaneous teleportation was a cost-effective way around it.
So there it is. Our inevitable form of transportation born out of the budgetary restraints of a 1960s television show. Thanks, science fiction.
 … but not exclusively so. We want to keep this a blog not a book unto itself.
 On the other hand, Arthur C. Clarke did say that any sufficiently advanced technology would seem like magic to a civilization that did not understand it. So… maybe a form of wizard is in our future.
Cast back in time to a perilous wasteland, Andrew is tasked with recording the fate of an individual history has chosen to ignore. Threatened by knee-high creatures called Wogs, an enigmatic beast known as the Forest Monster, and the man orchestrating the slow annihilation of the world, Andrew discovers all hope for salvation and survival rests with a boy without a history.
“That statue,” said Andrew. He gave the stonework a quick look, then looked back to Hobert. “It's a hero?”
Maybe the statue represented a hero who came before this era of desperation and despair.
Hobert cast a somber gaze into the street and nodded.
“A hero. Yes,” he answered. “He's very tall.”
Andrew found himself suddenly interested. This was the story he wanted to write. A story about a hero, the obstacles he faced on his path to heroism, his guides, his arch enemy, the ultimate goal of being a hero, and, of course, whether the story continued or had an end.
“What made him a hero?”
Hobert shrugged, removed the pipe, and gestured toward the statue with the stem before poking it back into the corner of his mouth.
“He's very tall,” he repeated.
Andrew paused, waiting for Hobert to continue, but that was all.
“Tall... and what else?”
Hobert's smile faded and he faced Andrew, somewhat irritated. Two gray trails of pipe smoke jetted from his nostrils.
“What else what?”
“Beside being tall,” Andrew clarified. “To be a hero.”
Hobert fixed Andrew with a hard, querulous stare, then shook his head as though the question didn't make sense.
“Being tall is being a hero,” he answered.
“What what?” Hobert replied. “What don’t you understand?”
Andrew spread his arms.
“Oh,” the fellow replied. He leaned back in his chair and pulled his hat down over his eyes. “Then you’re hopeless.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
This author has held several positions in recent years, including Content Writer, Grant Writer, Obituary Clerk, and Staff Writer, and is under the false impression that these experiences have added to his character since they have not contributed much to his finances. He was awarded a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism and a BA in Technical Communication by Bowling Green State University because they are giving and eager to make friends. He has a few scattered publications with The Circle magazine, Wild Violet, Toasted Cheese, and Lovable Losers Literary Revue, and resides in the drab, northeastern region of Ohio because it makes everything else seem fascinating, exotic, and beautiful.