Science Fiction Through the Light-Years

Science Fiction Through the Light-Years

*I should preface this by saying that a light-year is not actually a measurement of time but actually a measurement of distance. More specifically, how far light can travel in one year, which is the equivalent to 5.879x10^12 miles.

This week has seen a lot of attention on the Sci-Fi genre with the release of the full trailer for Star Wars VII and the official 'future day' of Back To the Future II. Therefore, I thought I'd take this opportunity to have a run through of some of the major works, which I think were turning points in Science Fiction!

(1818) Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein': Literary enthusiasts will join me in recognising the sheer genius of Shelley's 'Frankenstein'. Named for the doctor behind the creature (who is never actually given a name) this book explores the science of galvanism and perfectly captures contemporary thought about the relationship between religion and science. Often labelled a Gothic novel, 'Frankenstein' is also an important work of Sci-Fi because it represents one of the first eras to use the term 'science' as we understand it to mean today. However, because of the infancy of science at the time, the novel does suffer from a lack of scientific explanation. Although the reader understands that electricity is involved; the protagonist conveniently cannot recall the exact process by which the creature is brought to life (traumatised by the success of his endeavours, his mind blocks out the memories of the procedure).

(1949) George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four': Not only is this novel so iconic that it coined the term 'Big Brother State' but is an also eerily accurate portrayal of the future by Orwell. Whilst we do not have surveillance to the level portrayed in the novel, CCTV use and government ordered surveillance on citizens are issues that keep appearing in the news. The indoctrination of children and control over all aspects of life are actual techniques used by dictators today. This Sci-Fi novel starts to question were the use of technology/ surveillance for safety ends and its use for control begins. Today's culture puts its faith in technology, with our personal details, passwords and sensitive information but as seen in recent major hacking operations, this trust can make our private information vulnerable. Reading this novel always reminds me of Benjamin's Franklin's words "Those that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." This novel may not have a creature composed of dead bodies but its ideas certainly scare me.

(1963- present) Doctor Who: The Doctor Who franchise has been on and off television since the 60s, with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman currently occupying the TARDIS. When the television show first came out it was questioned whether Science Fiction was an appropriate theme for a BBC show. However, it is believed audiences reached up to 10 million people in the early series. The show is one of the few times that aliens are given a fairly positive portrayal. Yes there are the Sontarans, Sycorax, Slitheen etc. that just seek to kill us but the Time Lord's unwavering love for humanity shows that not all aliens seek to conquer and enslave. Certainly not the first time time-travel was portrayed but I think the most iconic; and whilst the quality of the last few series is questionable, it is still an important symbol of the Sci-Fi genre that HAD to be given a mention on this list.

(1997) Gattaca: I love the idea behind this film; that mankind pushes the limits of science so much that we make ourselves the inferior species along the way. Certainly from the perspective of those deemed 'in-valid' this is a dystopia where you are a second-class citizen for not having genetic enhancements. The story tells the struggle of one such 'in-valid' to make it in a world where all the opportunities are given to the stronger, healthier 'valid'. For me, this Sci-Fi film denotes the future of real science as 'designer babies' and other medical advancements seek to strengthen future generations. Are we heading for such a technological age that if WE are not scientifically designed, we fall behind? Novels and other films play on these ideas but it is Gattaca that strikes me as the best portrayal of this idea.

I realise that most of these pieces are from the 20th century but in fairness, this was the century that saw the explosion of the Sci-Fi genre. May the force be with you Sci-Fi fans!


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