Alright everyone, I’m going to go a bit old school-nostalgic on this one. I can trace my loving relationship with the world of science fiction back to one place. Well, actually it was five people…
The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.
That’s the one. That show started it all for me. It was just the right thing to turn my 4 or 5 year old mind on to the concept of science fiction and all the aliens, lasers, and giant robots that came along (especially in Power Rangers). I say this with all due respect paid to Star Wars (the shining jewel that it is), but Power Rangers came to me first. After that, I really fell down the giant space rabbit hole that was science fiction television in the early ‘90s. I fell in love with shows like the remake of Gigantor, Thunder Cats, Transformers, Voltron, Robotech, and all sorts of others (and as you can see, giant robots were kind of my thing). Elementary school saw my introduction to sci-fi videogames like Starcraft and Mechwarrior 2 (more giant robots, but now they were MY giant robots), and I started watching some pretty good movies. I saw Star Wars and finally started to actually grasp it, but it was Stargate that really blew my mind. Then I finally was old enough to start reading some real novels, and I fell head-first into things like the BattleTech universe, Tom Clancy novels, and a book called the Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen (which remains one of my favorite books). And all of this just scratches the surface. We’ll just say that I’ve had a long, fruitful relationship with science fiction in its many forms.
As far as defining it... Well, that's a little harder. It is pretty difficult to beat “the genre of ‘what if.’” I mean, for a long time this was a genre defined by space ships and giant robots, but I understand that is not, and never was, the case (although both of those things are still awesome). I mean, sci-fi certainly is about the “what if,” but couldn’t traditional fantasy play that role as well? I’ve spent the last week trying to pin down the crucial elements of science fiction, and I’ve come away pretty empty-handed. I have had one thought though: science fiction exists through the power of explanation. I think this is what sets it apart from fantasy when it comes to telling the story of “what if.” When fantastical things happen in a science fiction world, there always seems to be an explanation. In fantasy, it is most often written off as magic, but sci-fi always seems to rationalize events with things like “ancient alien technology” or midi-chlorians in your cells giving you control of the Force. Anyone have other thoughts on this?