One of my least favourite genres had always been science fiction. It seemed flakey, featherbrained. My father, however, a history officionado and man grounded in reality, loves science fiction. This seemed, to me, a puzzling contradiction in his personality.
As a young adult, he attempted to change my opinion on the genre by introducing me to the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. Although Vonnegut and Adams are incredibly talented writers, after reading I still viewed science fiction as strictly alien and space travel fodder.
Over the years, my father continues to champion science fiction in part because many of the inventions created by authors (even before the term “science fiction” was established) eventually became mechanisms used in real time. When I finally started paying attention, I marveled at the authors’ abilities to conceive and generate such intricate contraptions and concepts. Many a brainchild has been introduced through science fiction, from the moon landing, predicted by Jules Verne in his 1865 novel, From Earth to Moon, to wireless earbuds, devised by Ray Bradbury in his dystopian story,Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953.
If I were to engage in speculative, sci-fi writing, I’d want to invent a technology that would benefit all humans. Ultimately, I’d like there to be a way to understand, quickly and viscerally, how our behaviours affect one another; a small visual, indicating a gain or a loss of life points per se, depending upon our attitudes and actions. A rectangular screen could be implanted on our chests. All clothing would be designed so the screen was always visible. If we scream at someone, ignore a child’s needs, dominate conversations, treat individuals with disdain, or abuse people in any way, the visual would indicate a loss. Maybe points could be reclaimed by demonstrating a sincere correction of negative behaviour. In general, obtaining points would require genuine, heartfelt care toward ourselves and society.
However, there are a million questions, a million what-ifs, a million pros and cons. What would be our starting score? Would a person be jailed if his or her score, from oozing boorishness, reached epic lows? How do we explain the contraption to a child? Would certain scores manifest themselves as satisfactory or substandard mental and, or physical health? Could a score translate into a life expectancy? Of course, this idea is preposterous, nonsensical, but so were ideas from sci-fi writers including prosthetics, holograms, gesture controlled computers, robotic surgeries and self-driving cars, to name just a few. Today, no one tends to blink an eye at these developments, so why not mine?
Now I truly get my dad’s admiration for science fiction, but I worry that all the innovation and inspiration has thus far missed its mark, since we cannot fix anything in this world without first fixing our propinquity. As sci-fi writer and psychologist, Nora K. Jemisin wrote in her novel, The Fifth Season, “After all, a person is herself, and others. Relationships chisel the final shape of one’s being. I am me, and you.”