The rapid pace of technology and the advancement of scientificunderstanding in the past one hundred years are at the backbone for thedistinctly twentieth century genre — science fiction. Such rapid advancementin these fields of technology have opened up literally worlds of possibilitiesfor the future. One hundred years ago the possibility of simply flying fromcity to city may have seemed nothing more than a distant futuristic dream tomost. While a mere sixty years later the impossible was achieved — a humanbeing on the moon. Since technology has brought as much change as it has in thepast one hundred years the next hundred should be entirely incomprehendable tous. Who knows what to expect? “The modern discoveries and applications ofScience throw deeply into the shade the old romances and fanciful legends of ourboyhood”observes James. Technology has made what was once thoughtimpossible, plausible and weather or not technology is directly incorporatedinto a science fi ction story as an obvious vehicle, the author knows that it isalways present in the mind of the reader. It is this plausablilty of whatconventionally should not be acceptable that has led to science fiction’sincreasing popularity over the years.As James explains, “much sf is concernedwith the future and with the possibilities presented by scientific andtechnological change. Truly, humans exploring and even colonizingother worlds, the plot of many a science fiction novel, has to many becomeinevitable.The successful series of Apollo moon landings in the 1960’s andthe knowledge that we already possess the technology to send humans to otherworlds leads many to believe that it is only a matter of time. Even such anotably respectable news source as Newsweek has detailed the future manedmissions to Mars. When I look forward to the future I canhardly imagine the changes that will occur as a result of new discoveries inscience and new technologies. With so m any possibilities for the future,science fiction is able to capitalizes on this by showing the audience entirelynew worlds and alternatives to our own.
Technology presented in science fiction stories most commonly serves avery important role in the stories plausablilty to the audience. While thisdoes not mean that technology is necessarily the focus of such stories it isoften used as the vehicle for which such alternative and wonderous events occur.
Without the advanced spaceship how could the Segnauts have gotten to the planetZorgon and defeated the evil empire? In 2064, or Thereabouts by David R. Bunch,the robotic men and the mechanical world play a secondary role to the importanceof the human traits these half man half machines possess. Despite the fact thatthese people have become converted into a part robot for increased strength and,apparently, longer life the mind still searches for something that technologyapparently has not solved — the meaning of life. The initial recognition bythe reader that technology in our time and place is continuously expandingallows for plausibility such a strange and bizarre plot to occur. In Pohl’s DayMillion the seemingly strange world set one thousand years in the future is socompletely different from earth today because of technological changes invirtually everything — even the act of love, which is at the center of thestory, has become completely alien to the audience. Despite thefact that the technology presented may seem strange and unusual to the audiencePohl draws his ideas directly from modern day science and technology. Genemanipulation and machine interaction with the body are all currently beingresearched and used in the science labs and hospitals. In the case of DayMillion such technology shapes how these people live and interact with oneanother.
Science fiction in many cases attempts to better our understanding ofour own world and our surroundings by using technology not as a form ofadvancement, as it is commonly seen in many stories, but as a form ofdestruction and danger. James states, “You might note that only on sf shelvesare there serious fictional discussions of the possibilities of survival afternuclear warfare or the consequences of the greenhouse effect or ofoverpopulating or of the possible dire consequences of genetic engineering. Truly, the mad scientist’ character itself was spawned from sciencefiction. Earth by David Brin deals with a miniature black hole developed by ascientist who believed he knew how to contain it. Instead the experiment goesout of control and results in a expanding black hole that consumes the Earthfrom the inside out. Technology in Michael Chrichton’s Jurassic Park, the bestselling novel in 1990, enables scientists, lured by greed, to geneticallyengineer dinosaurs that turn out to be too much for the human scientists tohandle, despite the technological precautions taken beforehand. The readersurely can not help but compare the world of the story to that of their own.
“Not only is science fiction an idea of tremendous import, but it is to be animportant factor in making the world a better place to live in, througheducating the public to the possibilities of science and the influence ofscience on life” . Science fiction in this sense does much more thansimply relay a story but it calls for the awareness of the reader to judge thepossibilities of the future of their own world. Certainly science fiction inmany cases serves not only as a beautiful vision of our future but also as aclear warning of what might become. “The content may be not scientific butscientistic, when science and technology are presented as deity (or negativelyas demon). Science is all-powerful: it can create anything (destroy everything).
Science will save us (destroy us). It can solve any problem (it is the problem).
It is the essence of human (it creates monsters). Science is a purely rationalprocess (the scientist is mad)” . Technology in these science fictionstories poses clear questions to the audience as to the merits of such advancement’. “Science fiction not only allows us to escape our assigned spaceand time and step into other dimensions. It lets us examine our mundane,earthbound problems from a fresh original viewpoint”.
The advancement of science and technology in the twentieth century andthe unknown of what lays ahead in our future have allowed science fiction to notonly plausibly escape the world as we know it but criticize it as well. “If youthought about it, you might see that sf…because they deal with imaginativealternatives to the real world, also frequently offer criticism to that world. Science fiction can not help but draw upon the promise of futuretechnology and analyze how it will effect our lives. While this role may besecondary in many science fiction stories, its importance most certainly is notmeant by the author to be ignored.