Science fiction offers us a great deal of perspective. When a story is set far into the future, it demonstrates to us that the days we live in will eventually be history just as the days of the past. One of the most clear examples of this is the Foundation trilogy, by Isaac Asimov. My fellow blogger already mentioned Asimov, but since we owe the majority of the science fiction to the side-burned sovereign of space, I believe I am justified in reusing the man. The books center around telling the story of “the Foundation,” a group of people who preserve and grow civilization in a futuristic history. These books span thousands of years, and often leap over hundreds in a single chapter. The unassuming protagonist of a few chapters is often the quoted and revered hero of the next. Some character’s words are even diluted over time, resulting in misrepresentation and confusion for future generations. Our society will impact the future just as the societies of the past impact ours. We have an entire future to inspire. We have a responsibility to become heroes and fight villains so the generations to come have stories to tell. Science fiction helps us to begin to think generationally.
This concept reveals another fascinating element of science fiction. Stories of war, passion, and politics will without a doubt reflect the war, passion, and politics of the past. Science fiction tells history. When we tell stories, they will mirror the stories of humanity, what we have experienced. It is difficult to separate the scheming ambition of Palpatine from that of Caesar. The brilliant barbarity of Star Trek’s Khan only further emphasizes the tactical ruthlessness of the Khan of Mongolia. It is near impossible to divorce the events of the past from the events of the future. What we face today is simply another conflict. As the book of Ecclesiastes says
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new?” It has been already in the ages before us”
The empires of today will crumble and fall tomorrow. Who can forget the iconic final scene of “The Planet of the Apes?” While overall the movie was a bit tiresome and drawn out, the climatic ending scene justifies the entire film. Transported onto an unknown planet in the distant future of 3978, Taylor (played by Charlton Heston, the other bright spot of the movie) wearily wanders on a beach until he stumbles upon a chilling structure. Half submerged in the sand is the emblem of an ancient civilization, the Statue of Liberty. His unknown planet was actually Earth, long since bereft of the men who inhabited it. Cultures live, prosper, and eventually die. Science Fiction helps demonstrate that. But this message is not a dismal one. We can take comfort in the fact that the struggles we face are a point on a timeline. There will be things after us, and there have been things before us. The horrors of this time will be fought, and will be defeated, even if not in our lifetime. There will be generations of people after us who will carry on the good work, and generations who must be stopped. It is our responsibility to do what is right today, and let the future marvel. Science fiction forces us to think with perspective. The future exists, and the past was just as real as the present is. We are living in the history of tomorrow.