Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Back to the Future
I have always enjoyed reading science fiction and future-oriented fantasy fiction. For one thing, what starts as fiction may well become reality. I remember watching the original Star Trek television series and feeling awed by their "communicators" which resemble current cellular flip phones in form and function. As a child, George Orwell's vision of 1984 intrigued me precisely because I had no idea what would actually transpire in that future era. One of my favorite authors from this genre is Piers Anthony. For one thing, I admire his productivity, as this prolific author has published an incredible number of books. I also consider him a role model, because he has managed this achievement despite the limitations of being dyslexic, a learning disability by which I am also affected. However, the fact that his fiction demonstrates the parallel functions of the creative and technical spheres of life has enabled me to better define and implement my participation in both spheres. All fiction risks the parallel experiences of victory and defeat, as the author creates a world populated by characters that must be convincing despite never having actually lived. Another author whose accomplishments in this genre are breath-taking is Octavia Butler, whose Xenogenesis trilogy elevated her into the pantheon of brilliant writers. The vision that she created of the human race and its survival by incorporating genetic contributions from other species is matched in intensity by the reality she explores in Kindred, the story of a black woman transported from the present to the time of slavery. Whether fiction leaves present time to travel back into history or forward into the future, it gives the author an opportunity to shift basic assumptions from the present reality to create new societal paradigms. The infinite possibilities empower the writer to explore cultural phenomena without the limitation of attachment to existing realities. In fact, such explorations can create a willingness to question the present that may lead to the possibility of change. I have learned to appreciate technology in a different way once I realized how hard my great-grandmother had to work each day just to keep her family fed and clothed. There was no outlet shopping mall where she could purchase clothing on sale, no automatic washer and dryer to facilitate doing laundry, no microwave oven to provide instant hot food for consumption. The barriers to education would have limited not only lifestyle and career choices, but the self-awareness to develop beyond the strictly limited boundaries proscribed by her status as a slave. When I am tempted to complain about how hard my life is, I simply have to remind myself of how much harder it could have been were I born 150 years ago. At the same time, I can evoke a sense of possibility by imagining how many of life's daily problems will be minimized 150 years into the future. As a writer, it is possible to create a vision that exploits those possibilities. Feel free to step out of present time in your writing and enjoy the adventures you encounter.