Science fiction can have a profound impact on a person’s outlook on the world. As a good illustration of this, I found the below on Neil Gaiman’s blog a while ago, on the effects of watching Dr. Who as a child:
These days, as a middle-aged and respectable author, I still feel a sense of indeterminate but infinite possibility on entering a lift, particularly a small one with white walls. That to date the doors that have opened have always done so in the same time, and world, and even the same building in which I started out seems merely fortuitous – evidence only of a lack of imagination on the part of the rest of the universe.
This made me smile, and how could it not? It’s evidence of an adult still taking a great deal of pleasure in finding wonder in the world that started when he was a child. I’ve found that science fiction and fantasy encourage that mindset, and I don’t really understand people who don’t like the genre.
Sci-fi/fan lets us stretch our imaginations to explore all those “what if” scenarios we come up with, particularly the ones that aren’t remotely possible now, and what could be cooler than that? It represents writing and creation in the mindset of discovery, a willingness to go beyond the known and into something new. Hmmm, now that I think about it, maybe all of my reading about such foreign cultures prepared me to later be more ready to explore the more immediate foreign cultures here in our current terrestrial plane of existence.
I admit, I didn’t have as much of a life-changing experience with Dr. Who as Neil Gaiman did. I remember watching it during my preschool years, and have only vague memories of it. Bizarrely, it came on right before The Dukes of Hazzard, and my recollections of the two shows are interestingly paired as a result.
However, long before I started reading huge amounts of sci-fi/fan novels, I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. This has had profound effects on my philosophy, as I wrote about on my old blog here, in which I recorded the following conversation:
Dana: I wonder how much of my feeling that we shouldn’t really be trying to run other countries and interfering with their attempts to set up govts of their own has been influenced by growing up watching Star Trek, with its Prime Directive.
Will: Except they totally interfered all the time
Dana: I know, but at least they felt kind of bad about it and tried to minimize the damage.
Dana: I think the main difference is that they started from the premise that it was a bad idea, rather than a God-given right.
So I have two fun exercises for people to ponder:
1) What childhood TV experiences still affect your thinking about the world, and how?
2) The next time you’re in an elevator, try to imagine what world the doors might open into.
-posted by Dana