An Open Letter

A Letter to Parents of A Science Fiction Fan

Originally published in Solar Spectrum #2, Spaced Out, Melbourne, 2002.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Dear Mum and Dad,

You recently skimmed my bookshelves full of Babylon 5 DVDs, and novels by Clarke, Asimov and Le Guin. Then, you asked me your questions about “sci fi”. “Haven’t you outgrown these childish stories?” one of you asked. “Why does this fairy tale stuff appeal to you?” added the other, disparagingly. I felt like I was fifteen years old again, being chastised for staying up too late at night to watch a scratchy episode of Star Trek. But here is my answer.

I enjoy science fiction because it allows me to view the world through the eyes of a child – a youthful and enquiring mind. It gives me the chance to retain a childlike (not “childish”) sense of magic and awe at the world around me. Like a child, I can view everyone and everything as being full of potential and possibilities.

I enjoy science fiction because it is not fairy tale stuff. It is literature that dares to promise me possible utopias or warn me of possible dystopias. It challenges me to act, to take my individual place in the timeline of history, to actively create the future that I would want for myself and for those who will follow.

I enjoy science fiction because it renews my sense of wonder at the Universe. It reminds me of the insignificance of human ego when compared to the magnitude of galaxies, interstellar distances and planetary timescales. It tells me that our daily news – dominated by wars, politicians, economists and sports heroes – is fleeting and transitory. Science fiction reassures me that the beauty of the stars and galaxies will endure, long after our petty worries have been forgotten.

I enjoy science fiction because it promises me that humanity has a future, full of dreamers, explorers and heroes. It promotes the joy of diversity – including aliens, robots, cyber citizens, sentients, men and women, queer and trans and gender non-binary humans – all living together in peace and equality.

I enjoy science fiction because it prepares me for that future. It has introduced me to many concepts from tomorrow’s world – cloning, IVF, mobile phones, the Internet, space travel, ecological problems, robotics, computers and virtual reality – in many cases, years before the “mainstream” even considered the possibilities.

I enjoy science fiction because it has given me friends who represent the future. They are folk with open and enquiring minds, and they display a healthy scepticism about so many of society’s assumptions. They are true scientists in a world that too often equates science with militarism, religion or superstition.

I enjoy science fiction because I recall a television series, “The Invaders”, from the misty days of my childhood. The plot focussed on aliens invading the planet but symbolised American fears about communist infiltrators. In retrospect, I now see the show as an unintentional metaphor for gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people living in every strata of society. We are here – get used to it.

I enjoy science fiction because it is a form of literature that will one day become “mainstream” literature – when the rest of the world is ready to accept its challenges.

I enjoy science fiction because it is all of these things – and more. It always promises me that the best is yet to come.

© 2002 Geoff Allshorn
Updated/reprinted version © 2021 Geoff Allshorn

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