I was first introduced to mainstream science fiction in the 1960s by Star Trek. It debuted on September 8, 1966. I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate its genius, but I liked it more than the cartoons of the era. Only by watching it later through the lens of a 1960s world could one see how Gene Roddenberry sought to deliver a vision of a better place. Without lectures. Without shoving anything in anyone’s face. He addressed the social issues of the day in a subtle way. People didn’t know they were being influenced and were changing the opinions of a generation, all because of a TV show.
But it was so much more. Science Fiction authors of the era penned such classics as I, Robot (Asimov 1950), Non-Stop (Starship)(Brian W. Aldiss – 1958), Starship Troopers (Heinlein 1959), Stranger in a Strange Land (Heinlein 1961), Dune (Herbert – 1965), Berserkers (Saberhagen 1967), and Dragonflight (McCaffrey 1968). Each story had characters I could relate to that opened up the possibilities for a greater world. So many good authors from that time – James Blish, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak, Ray Bradbury. The list is almost unending. Just like one would look at a list from today and see so many great and prolific authors. Will their work stand the test of time? Only time will tell.
Although Fantasy, I include The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien 1954-1955) on any must read because Tolkien takes the heroes journey on the quest that takes a whole lifetime. I also read everything Robert E. Howard wrote, but that didn’t have the profound impact that science fiction did. Conan was fun. A big barbarian destroying evil, although he often paid the price for being such an upstart, losing an entire army at one point. Not a thing for anyone to emulate.
These authors and their stories helped shape me into what I became. A career Marine, but always questioning. “What do we want to achieve? How will they respond?” Being able to accurately predict outcomes helped me to accelerate in my Intelligence career. It also set me up for a career as a science fiction author. What do we want the world to become? Star Trek IV, the movie probably did more to save the whales than any Greenpeace interdictions, demonstrations, charities, or anything else. Science fiction changed the world where everyday efforts didn’t.
No one wants to be lectured to. Everyone wants to see what good will come, but not the pain in between. Let the doom of madness fill the screen, not our everyday lives.
Let science fiction tell the tales that tickle our subconscious. Influence in the right way. If you beat people into submission, they don’t stay down for long. If you convince them what is right subtly, with humor and good grace, you may be able to convince them forever.
Peace, fellow humans