What is your personal science fiction fantasy? Let’s say you die and wake up in front of a superior being and he/she/it tells you to pick your next life, what would it be? You can pick anything from reality, your own imagination or from any fictional world you’ve encountered. It’s a big multiverse out there – where would you’d like to go?
Would you want to time travel to the epic past to be another Solomon with a harem of hundreds? How about just taking a chance by asking to be born a thousand years in the future. Military SF is popular so would you volunteer to join up and serve in an interstellar military brigade? Does being a pioneering colonist on Mars inspire your dream time? I know, ask to be a rock star in England in 1965.
Now think hard. Use your imagination. You don’t want to be Dudley Moore in Bedazzled.
All of us spend a lot of time reading science fiction escaping our mundane life in exciting stories of the future and other worlds, but I’m reminded of a title of a Philip K. Dick book: What if Our World is Their Heaven? How do you know that the life you are living right now isn’t the one you picked the last time you died?
If you think about this for awhile you’ll see you will want to be reborn into a life of opportunity and not restrictions. The reason we all aren’t still living some Old Testament fantasy is because its so limiting. If you look at the history of mankind on Earth you will see the evolution of diversity of being. Imagine if reincarnation is true – but instead of us all trying to get off the wheel of life and death we all anxiously die desiring to come back for more and more and more. The Hindu believe we return to this life because of the sin of desire. Obviously we’ve embraced desire over returning to Oneness.
The philosophical purpose of reincarnation is to provide a mechanism by which we improve our souls. So should our science fiction fantasies follow this concept? Do I love Have Space Suit – Will Travel because it’s a blueprint for improving my being? Or do we merely choose our stories seeking to diversify our desires?
Growing up my number one science fiction fantasy was to live on Mars. If I died and met that superior being now that wouldn’t be my wish. No, my current wish is very different. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating my naval while listening to pounding hard rock music that stirs my emotions and vibrates my neurons into a higher state of consciousness and I know what I would tell that very superior being.
I’d tell ole SB to put me back in my own life starting in 1963 so I could live my life over and try again. I’d want it to be the ultimate “if I knew then what I know now” experience. I don’t know if the laws of reincarnation allow for reincarnating into oneself but that’s what I would want.
Now this isn’t because I thought my life was so great and I’m unnaturally attached to it. First off, I hope I would do everything different. Sure being a colonist on Mars would be damn exciting but to be honest, I don’t have the Right Stuff. I think those Hindus were right, the idea is to improve and not just party hardy. I think a do-over would teach me a lot. Maybe it would take several repeats of this life before I do have the Right Stuff to go on.
Now this isn’t avoiding making a choice in front of that superior being. This is a very active science fiction fantasy. Log some iPod time and fantasize this out for yourself. Imagine your own do-over and think about all those decisions you made where you could have followed the other path.
With every novel we read we step out of our own life into another world. With every movie we watch we reject this reality for fictional moments in another. What does this tell us beyond showing us we have a desire to escape? Has reality has just gotten too slow and boring for us and we need imagination to make it more exciting? This reality is pretty far out. As far as we know Earth is the most happening place in all the dimensions we know about.
Reality has always been vastly more complex than any fiction. Remember that when you’re making your wish in front of that superior being. No one has ever imagined a Heaven better than Earth. Think about that. Think about those poor Muslim bastards who kill themselves for seventy-two virgins. Does fresh quim really define paradise or is it just an unimaginative wish? Why do so many on this planet want to believe this world is shit and the next one Heaven?
I don’t believe in superior beings or lives after this one. Every day I am reborn into the same exact reality as yesterday. Every moment is a then where I know what I know now. I am facing the same decisions I made in 1963. Mars is always there if I take the time to invent a way to go.
Are our science fiction fantasies escapism or planning time? What is your science fiction fantasy? What does it tell you?
The energy for this essay was fueled by:
- “The Weight of the World” by Neil Young
- “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult
- “Thank You Friends” by Big Star
9 thoughts on “What is Your Personal Science Fiction Fantasy?”
I’d pick a world from Iain Banks’ Culture series, no doubt about it. Preferably post Culture-Idiran War. It really is as close to a sci-fi utopia as it gets. I don’t know what I’d do there, but I expect I’d spend the first hundred years or so just indulging myself.
Vadim: Since I haven’t read those books I’m going to have to go find one and check it out. Any recommendation for one to start with? What is Banks’ science fiction world like, and what about it appeals to you?
“With every novel we read we step out of our own life into another world. With every movie we watch we reject this reality for fictional moments in another. What does this tell us beyond showing us we have a desire to escape? Has reality has just gotten too slow and boring for us and we need imagination to make it more exciting? This reality is pretty far out. As far as we know Earth is the most happening place in all the dimensions we know about. ”
I’m not sure, are we ‘rejecting our reality for fictional moments’ or enhancing our reality. I generally feel like I take something from all my ‘escapist’ moments, even if it is just the desire to step out and create something myself. I have always espoused that entertainment, especially through reading, is not the time wasting activity that unimaginative work-all-day father figures spouted at us while we were growing up. I think that imagination, whether we are young or old, is what spurs us on to think bigger, to find more creative solutions to problems, and to actually evolve and grow as individuals and as a species.
I do believe there is a life after this one, but I refuse to believe that we were created to reject this life for the hope of a better one in the future. I think we were created to live. Do I believe that means we should spend all our time between the pages of books? Heaven forbid! I do however think that reading fiction, and even watching films on some level, causes us to live more fuller, richer, dream-filled and creative lives. They allow us to look at our own world through different eyes and they allow us to see beyond just what is staring us in the face every day. Even if what is staring us in the face is mostly good.
My life isn’t shit by any means, but I still dream of being Han Solo in the Millenium Falcon. I still look up at the stars with child-like enthusiasm and think, ‘what if’. Does it bother me that I won’t get to experience it for real? Certainly on some level, but mostly no because I do visit it in my imagination regularly and that is generally more vividly realized than any reality I am likely to achieve regarding space. The one isn’t a terrible substitute for the other when looking at the reality of it all.
But back to your original question. Hmmm…I think it is obvious from my statement above that if I could pick a life after this one living in the Star Wars universe and being a loveable rogue would be a top choice. He is the swashbuckling hero from all our childhood fantasies realized in a science fiction universe. And he has the equivalent of man’s best friend who can actually communicate with him. Wow!
I also wouldn’t mind living in a future Star Trek like universe with holosuites available to explore whatever adventure one wanted to explore. Talk about the ultimate role playing/dream realizing experience!!!
In the end though I want to get the most I can out of this life. Whether one believes in sin or not I certainly think it is a sin not to glory in day to day existence. There is alot of beauty, love, adventure, etc. out there that just begs to be discovered. Or, if one is so inclinded to write or make art, to create.
I love books. I love fiction and stories. Sometimes I think they are the greatest achievements of humankind. I also love communication. And I believe there are many levels of communication. If you think about it, a book that takes hours to read is the most complex form of communication around.
Most people have the patience to listen to their friends talk for very short periods of time. To listen to an author for twenty or forty hours is quite a compliment and reflects the creative power of fiction.
That said, I am a person that lives between two worlds. I think of novels as complex communiqués about reality and the minds of other people. But ultimately they should be pointers to reality. I am not into escapism to just get away. I think of a novel as expressions of one soul to another.
I think Star Trek and Star Wars do communicate something about reality because those stories resonate so strongly with readers. Carl, you told me about your wish, but you didn’t analyze yourself for why you made those particular wishes. Go deeper. Think about why you are attracted to those stories.
All stories, like scientists, stand on the shoulders of giants. There are psychological threads in ST and SW that tell us a lot.
We all want so much more from reality than what we get, and I think fiction tells us about deep desires. I like to think of humans as programs. Most of us act on our programming, but it’s also fun to debug ourselves and see how we’re written.
I certainly see the fun in psychoanalyzing ones self, but that stuff only holds true to a certain point and then gets silly. I don’t believe because a person likes escapist literature that they want to escape something. I just don’t. I think it is part of human nature to want to be entertained and I think fiction in book and movie form allows us to enter into that entertainment and interact with it on several levels.
Why do I still like Star Wars and Star Trek today? The reasons can be numerous. Number one I like to maintain that link to the wonderous feelings I had as a child in discovering science fiction. I like to nurture those feelings. Partially because I feel nostalgic for those times but also because by keeping that child within alive I still have moments of blissful wonder in new fiction that I read, new shows I discover, etc.
Also I love the whole hero thing. We all want to be heroes, as husbands, fathers, friends. I’m attracted to Han Solo because he represents what I think so many guys are and want to be…we are by nature somewhat independent and yet at heart we crave a few good, close, intimate friends and the love of a good woman who is our equal, not a damsel in distress. I look at my own personal life and I believe I have that. My wife is every bit the person I see in so many of the romantic movie and book roles I love. And over the years I have had the opportunity to find a couple of male soul mates as well. Guys whose passion for comics, books, art, and music rivals their love of the NFL and college sports….all things I have such strong passions for. The reason my avatar is and always has been Han and Chewie is because the thing that I gravitated to the most in those early Brian Daley Han Solo books…my intro to science fiction…was the love and companionship these two had for each other. I love the way those roles reaffirm what is important in my own life.
As for the Star Trek reference, I unfortunately will never be rich enough to visit all the places I would want to or do all the things that I want. The holodeck is the ultimate wish fulfillment in that sense. Who would want the opportunity to do real live roleplaying, or to visit places in the present, past, or future that one would never get to visit otherwise. Rather than be limited by the reality of time and finance wouldn’t it be great to be able to use one’s entertainment time this way. And yet part of me would not wish for that as I could see it being very addicting and I could see how in that world it might be less engaging to read when it would be so easy to be in a novel, etc.
Now I’m not naive enough to ignore the fact that there is some degree of escapism in watching films and reading. I don’t believe there is any way to ever get totally away from that. But I think there is a fine line between escapism and entertainment and I firmly believe that if you read something and it stays with you and you are thinking about it and mulling it over and it somehow inspires you, lifts your mood, etc. then it is making a positive contribution to your life. ‘Escapism’ as a term seems to bring up only images of negative stuff.
I’m not sure I believe that novels or television shows or movies have to be pointers to reality. I think storytelling for the pure love of storytelling is as old as time. I think the very best stories do indeed point to reality and/or give us something to take with us into our lives…plant seeds for who we are to become or what we are inspired to do. But I also think part of being a healthy individual is the occasional engagement in ‘mindless’ entertainment. I think as humans we need to deprogram and unwind that way otherwise we are not mentally healthy. Unfortunately some people don’t get beyond much of the ‘mindless’ variety of entertainment, but I generally don’t feel many of those folks would anyway, regardless of what was put before them. Some people just don’t enjoy life or simply don’t want or expect much out of it. That is a sad but true thing. I do believe those who were inspired by literature at a young age tend to be those who use that inspiration to expect more from life and go after it. I have no proof of that, though, just my observations and gut feelings.
I guess I should qualify my opening statements about self examination by saying that I work in the mental health field as an administrator over several programs and there are days when I am so sick of talking shop that I can sometimes sound pretty anti-psychology. It is an occupational hazard, don’t mind my grouchiness. 🙂
I can understand Carl, given where you work you wouldn’t want to get too much into the analysis of mental states. However, the people you deal with are working to solve negative problems. I’d like to think that our fantasies and choice of fiction show us our positive problems. I think sense of wonder shows us where we want to go. Life grinds us down and we all have to deal with negative problems. We make compromises and slowly we forget to work on our positive problems.
For instance, I think my fictional fantasies show a desire to be a pioneer. Carl, I think your fantasies about Hans Solo represent a desire to be a hero – in the Joseph Campbell sense. I think we all have creative fantasies which we all struggle to find time to pursue.
I think if we analyze our science fictional fantasies we’ll see how we want to reshape reality. It’s sad, but as we get older and mundane life sets rigid patterns for our behavior, it is easy to think of fantasies as just escapism – a way to rest while running the rat race. Maybe I’m just nostalgic and want to relive my youth, but I keep thinking I need time to work on my positive problems. A long time ago I read a book called Positive Addictions which suggested that the way to beat a negative addiction is to acquire a positive addition. I enjoy going home and working on my blog because it’s become a positive addiction, and it’s making me think about the positive problems I’d like to work on.
FYI, this is just a quick post. Carl, you have written so much in your recent replies that I need to devote some significant time to working on answers. They have even inspired a new blog post I want to work on.
Wow! I never looked at it that way before. Quick post? Maybe, but in these few short paragraphs you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. Thanks, I’ll be mulling this over for a response.