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Worlds Without End Blog

Should Science Fiction Be Rational? Posted at 8:00 AM by James Wallace Harris

jwharris28

In the book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen catalogs countless ways in which America is irrational. Andersen is an admirer of Philip K. Dick, and quotes/mentions him more than once, including one very long passage where Andersen says he couldn’t explain things better than PKD. However, Andersen connects science fiction several times to irrational thinking, and sometimes I get the feeling he thinks science fiction is a catch-phrase for nutty ideas.

Here’s one quote, “Like so much pseudoscience, mesmerism was faulty science fiction, a fantasy inspired by a misunderstood bit of reality” – is Andersen defining science fiction as fantasy literature that misunderstands reality?

The last science fiction novel I read was Chocky by John Wyndham. Its premise is telepathy exists and works instantaneously across the vast distances of space. Wyndham in his story proposes that matter is limited to the speed of light but not mind, and thought has no speed limit. Chocky is a far distant alien that possesses a 12-year-old British boy. Of course, this idea is descended from Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. I consider alien mind travel a fun meme for fantasy stories, but the philosophical disciples of Shirley MacLaine would testify under oath that’s how reality actually works.

Here’s another quote, where he talks about L. Ron Hubbard:

“Hubbard had a brazen indifference to the line between nonfiction and fiction—specifically science fiction, and not just e-meters. Scientology’s theological backstory is staggeringly ridiculous sci-fi, 2001 meets Star Trek meets Star Wars meets The Matrix meets Prometheus. In short, each of us contains a thetan, one of the ethereal beings who created the universe but each of whom, after being shipped to Earth and hit with nuclear bombs by the evil dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, was brainwashed to forget its godlike origins and believe in the false reality most people consider real.”

You have to admit that Scientology is whacked, but then so are the ideas in those TV shows and movies. We think of them as fun. Andersen claims 2/3rds of our society think of them as gospel.

Fantasyland is a book everyone should read because it defines our times better than any book I’ve read in the 21st-century. However, as science fiction fans we need to ask ourselves some very serious questions. Andersen makes an overwhelming case that America has become irrational with about two-thirds of its citizens rejecting science and rational thought. How much has science fiction contributed to the emerging paradigm of believing anything is possible because believing is what powers our reality?

If you don’t think this is true, then I plead for you to read Fantasyland. It is the Future Shock of this generation. To show I’m not holier than thou, I wrote “22 Dumb Fantasies I’ve Tried to Believe” at my blog. I’ve since realized I could have easily doubled or tripled that number.

Science fiction is as tainted as New Age philosophies when it comes to pseudo-science. Cleaning up the genre will be just as hard as convincing society at large to think scientifically. I doubt it’s even possible. But shouldn’t we try? Should science fiction take a position in the current war of the irrational on the rational? If you think that last sentence is hyperbole, then read Fantasyland.

 

2017 World Fantasy Awards Winner! Posted at 9:22 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The 2017 World Fantasy Awards winners have been announced. The awards were presented during the  World Fantasy Convention, held November 2-5, 2017 at the Wyndham Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX. In the Best Novel category the winner is:

The Sudden Appearance of Hope

WINNER:

FINALISTS:

Our congrats to Claire North and all the finalists. You can see the complete list of winners in all categories over at Locus.