I was reading this (Is Movie Science Fiction Actually Anti-Science Fiction?) and here (Our science fiction movies hate science fiction). It got me thinking.
The authors argue, with some coherence, that science fiction blockbusters always make science the villian. They tie this, with some plausibility, to an anti-intellectual, conservative bent in our society. All that has its point, on some level. But there’s one thing they strangely left out.
Science fiction has a long history of creating cautionary tales. H.G. Wells drew from this well many times. Think of The Invisible Man’s obsession with scientific experimentation. Greed, selfish ambition, undoes him. Another novel, The War in the Air, is probably less well known; but here again technological advancement is prone to misuse. Wells effectively predicted the first World War in this novel. He wrote a line you may have heard, something like this: “We were so interested to find out if we could do it, we never asked whether we should.” Even the more famous War of the Worlds has a strong element of skepticism toward technology. For that matter, The First Men in the Moon is skeptical of science.
Of course, science can also save the day in science fiction. I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Almost every other episode was solved by some clever scientific or technological innovation. But that seems to belong to the grand pro-Federation narrative. And the Borg are not to be forgotten: the looming threat of “assimilation” via technological hybridity.
So, I guess I’m saying let’s not get too crazy here. As if SF is really, at its best, about how great science is, how it will solve all our problems, and how “doing it because we can” is the only motto to live by. There are real, dare I say serious, questions about what technology and science are doing to us, as individuals and as societies, including globally. I think it’s a legitimate heritage of SF to explore these problems–not just the solutions science might provide.