Big Issues in Reading Science Fiction
It's typical of a literary genre that as it develops it takes on a certain set of issues: partly because of the usual
traits of the genre (for example, the possibilities for defamiliarization that science fiction allows and exploits),
and partly because writers, reading in the genres they practice and prefer, are inspired to respond to the issues
earlier authors in the genre have raised. Science fiction authors continue to engage the arguments and concerns of
the classics everyone reads (for Russian SF writers, Dostoevsky especially), but the genre begins to demand that they
address certain common issues. Čapek and Zamiatin become expecially important after the Second World War.
Big Issues as of the end of February:
- What is the responsibility of scientists? What is, and what should be, their role in society?
- What is the nature of human beings' relationship with technology?
- What can or should technology do to, with, or for human beings?
- What is the place of logic and rationality, and what are their limitations?
- What is the nature of the near future, of the more distant future?
- What is the nature of progress? How does it take place, or through whom? What kind of progress should human
society aim for?
- What should government's role be?
- What is the relationship of the individual to the collective?
- How do class issues play out in Russian or East European science fiction?
- What does it mean to be human/alien/cyborg/animal?
- How do gender roles or other kinds of Otherness structure society?
- What are the role of love, sex, and children (or: biological relationship and reproduction) in dystopian or other
kinds of SF?
- What is the role of other worlds (imagined or real) in science fiction?
- How does, or how should, humanity respond to crisis?
- Eschatology has always presumed that humans could contribute to the end of the world (usually, by sinning so much
that the Deity would end it all in disgust). How do the stakes of human choices change, if at all, as technology
and a worldwide economy develop to the point where human beings could conceivably end the world by themselves
(and is that really so different from the previous vision of Last Things)?
- What are humanity's particular traits or (in a crisis) secret weapons?