When I was young, I inhaled books. Throughout elementary and middle school, I was rarely seen without a book in hand, often reading one or two per day. The books changed frequently in genre, but science fiction has always held a special place in my heart. In addition to reading, I would often write my own stories, collaborating with my cousin, who had almost as much enthusiasm for the genre as I did. Every summer, we would work on some fiction or another. This continued until one Thanksgiving, when I inquired about his writing, and my cousin informed me, a touch of disdain apparent in his tone, that he no longer wrote about such subjects anymore. I could only stare, wondering if he’d been replaced by a pod person in the night. This was, of course, just my own whimsical notion. In truth, my cousin’s behavior was not so unusual. He had merely fallen prey to the majority notion that science fiction is not a “literary” genre and thus holds little real value aside from entertainment.
Though negative attitudes toward science fiction have lessened over time, the genre remains underrepresented in educational curriculum, in Western cultures and even more so in countries such as South Korea.
Art and literature tend to reflect the contemporary state of society. Science fiction (and dystopian literature in particular) may include otherworldly or futuristic settings which may at first glance seem irrelevant to daily life, but in fact, these settings are used as a lens in which to view the present. They offer a unique critical analysis of society by providing a glimpse at the world if we continue current destructive patterns. Many tell cautionary tales with the intent of instrumenting change. Utopian science fiction tales propose the opposite, presenting ideal societies that have already corrected our contemporary problems. Both provide useful glimpses and possible futures, and this speculation encourages people to analytically reflect on the current state of affairs.
In addition to providing insight into humanity’s present and future, the science fiction genre creates hypothetical scenarios that allow readers to deeply consider ethical dilemmas and their own personal moral beliefs. They illustrate how humanity might act within certain contexts for good or for ill. This in turn allows the reader to examine the morality of humanity’s actions, past, present, and future, as well as develop their own particular ethical beliefs.
Lastly, science fiction fosters creativity. It provokes readers and viewers to “boldly go where no one has gone before.” Much of the technology in the science fiction writing of the past exists in some form or another today. Science fiction directs readers to think about new and different ways of viewing the world, not just from a technological standpoint but in how society itself could be structured.
Like any genre, science fiction may occasionally have substandard material, but to disregard the entire genre as mindless pulp fiction will deprive readers of a meaningful and essential perspective of the world.