Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An eclectic survey of SF

Scientists, engineers, and astronauts have often commented about science fiction attracting them to their careers (on a personal note, SF attracted me into physics Way Back When).

In that vein, it's interesting to read (from The Atlantic), "Why Today's Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction." Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner, the two interviewees, are both affiliated with that premier idea factory, the MIT Media Lab. Far from SF's influence being a throwaway line, Novy and Breukner have developed a college course dedicated to the proposition. Check out the syllabus for MIT offering Science Fiction to Science Fabrication -or- Pulp to Prototype.

Meanwhile, io9 offers an insightful essay, "How to measure the power of a science fiction story." Hint: it's not success at predicting the future. A prime example is George Orwell's 1984. It's a great novel, the mark of its influence encapsulated in the ubiquity and widespread understanding of the simple phrase "Big Brother." Read the whole thing.

Having watched SF films for a long time (at least since Forbidden Planet was first run, which would be 1956!), I was taken by a list in The Hollywood Reporter of "10 Classic Sci-Fi Movies With Better Effects Than Modern Films." Many of my all-time favorite movies made the list. (Forbidden Planet did not -- deservedly omitted. It pairs a great script with utterly cheesy effects.)

Finally (amusing others being, IMO, a virtue), over at Tor.com, Ryan Britt offers his personal list of "The 10 Funniest Lines in all of Star Wars."

How has SF influenced you?


Anonymous said...

Regarding the influence of reading SF, not too many years ago I read an essay based on a poll about change in our society. It seems that fear and resistance to change is practically universal. Almost as an aside the author said that among those embracing change the most common characteristic was that they read science fiction.

Edward M. Lerner said...

An interesting survey! Please write back if you know where I can find it.

- Ed

Todd said...

I'm a mathematician. Did SF move me in that direction? I'm not sure but, probably. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and Neutron Star and the like made me want to be a theoretical physicist for a while, but I ultimately landed in pure math.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Todd,

Thanks for your comment. As it happens, both books you named are among my favorites.

- Ed