Monday, April 22, 2013
From time to time I have mentioned that I grew up on a diet of science fiction books and TV shows. Even the music I listened to in the early seventies had an SF feel to it. There was Bowie, of course; but there was also The Moody Blues – is there anyone else on the planet who remembers them? – with several albums, but most notably To Our Children’s Children’s Children, with strong SF themes. Rick Wakeman recorded Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1974; and a few years later Jeff Wayne recorded a musical version of War of the Worlds.
There was, and often still is, in SF something of a religious feel. Powerful aliens, or the advanced human race of the future, replace the gods, while evil aliens replace the demons and devils. Epic science fiction so often follows the theme of “good vs. evil”. This is much more than cops and robbers in space. It has a powerful mythological edge: dark and light abound. There is sometimes, of course, a dark, apocalyptic edge to SF. But SF is also, sometimes, the carrier of human hopes and aspirations.
Early in my new novel Angel’s Harp, a father says to his son (born in 1957, on the day that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1): ‘We’ll be living on Mars by the time you’re all grown up’. I think it is fair to claim that during the sixties, this did not seem too farfetched. It seemed as though the human race was poised to cross some kind of threshold, perhaps several thresholds: spiritual, social and astrographical (as a space age equivalent to “geographical”). The human race was about to pass through a cosmological change – a C-change.
Of course, like so many things promised by the sixties, this did not come to pass. This religion, too, is largely lost, except among a lingering New Age fringe. The New Age did not eventuate.
From time to time, even in recent SF television shows (the Stargate franchise comes to mind) an alien race appears that wears the trappings that gods once sported. The utopian dream is not quite dead, it seems. It is not a bad thing to believe (or, at least hope) that it is possible to overcome the internal and external conflicts that plague us as a species. Even if it never happens, at least we can hold some vision of what it might be like. No doubt, being human, we can find a way to fight about which is the correct vision.