Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Those crazy, futuristic sci-fi writers

Summertime, and the thinking is easy...

Seriously, I'm pretty sure I think deeper thoughts in the summertime, unlike the school year when my mind is full of details like filling out book orders, engaging 40 classes a week, planning lessons, washing band shorts, and making lunches for the week.

Summertime also brings a renewed effort at improving my health.  Long walks in our peaceful, birds chirping-lawnmowers running-kids playing-dog walking neighborhood give me ample opportunity to think.

And there's been a lot to think about lately, with the latest news on the Middle East, SCOTUS rulings, daily updates on the state of education in the U.S., questions about our Bill of Rights, and all kinds of op-eds, blogs, and memes highlighting our differences and how we can't get along because of them.
Photo courtesy of swamp dragon on Flickr

Which is why, naturally, my thoughts turned to The Face of Boe (don't question the randomness, not sure where it came from) which in turn led me to think about those science fiction shows and writers featuring body-less aliens.  You know, the ones that have evolved to just brains, living and communicating and transporting themselves on brainpower alone.   Do you think the writers were dreaming of a world where we are able to function through reasoning, where messy details like gender, skin color, and basic needs like food and water didn't become platforms for politics and wars?

Science fiction is known for couching messages for social change within the fantastic, surreal stories of the present on altered worlds, or our future on this one.  My favorite TV example is the famous kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura of the original "Star Trek" series, aired in 1968 when interracial relationships were just barely accepted in the eyes of the law, much less in popular culture.  

I encountered yet another example of strong social and political messages when reading The Forgotten Door (Key, 1965) with my fifth graders this year (anti-war, anti-racism) and my re-reading of A Wrinkle in Time (L'Engle, 1962), which isn't technically sci-fi but does lean toward it.  L'Engle includes messages about valuing the lessons from several different religions as well as the uniqueness of individuals and the importance of choosing our own life paths.  Both books were right in line with the civil rights and social movements of their time.

The futures both books speak to must be post-2014...because fifty years later, we're not quite there yet.  Not that I want to be a floating brain, either...after all, how would one enjoy a salted caramel milkshake without a mouth?  

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