Science Fiction as Engagement with Inhuman Reality

A thought for the day. I’ve seen a post by SF critic Paul Kincaid wondering how a film like Hidden Figures — a historical film about the early US space program — can be nominated for a Hugo Award, an award for science fiction.

Because SF is about the future, or alternate realities, and whatnot.

I think my conception of what SF is answers that. The meaning of SF isn’t that it ‘predicts’ or anticipates potential futures. The meaning of SF is that it’s the only form of literature that in any way considers how human values and priorities are not closed systems — that is, how they relate to the larger, objective real world, however alien that world may be to human values. (As just discussed in my post about Lawrence M. Krauss’ book.) That’s why historical examples, like Hidden Figures and Apollo 13 (both have been nominated for Hugos) seem to qualify as SF, even if they’re not about the future. It’s because they’re engaging with exploration of a realm still outside the ordinary experience of humanity.

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