Science fiction is new to me. Not entirely of course, but still new. There has been Red Dwarf with its six fantastic series’ followed by two horrendous ones and the pathetic three part reunion. But when it worked it really worked; alternate dimensions, judgemental genetically engineered life-forms (GELFs), polymorphic emotion sucking monsters (also a GELF), its vast ship creaking slowly across vast uninhabited space, and its stubborn refusal to include any alien life form whatsoever.
Then there were the rest of the small tastes of sci-fi I sampled sparingly across the expanse of my life. The Terminator films with their exciting hints at the development of SkyNet into a self aware hostility targeting humanity. Total Recall, “for the memory of a life time, Recall, Recall, Recall”. Get your ass to Mars, get your ass to Mars, get your ass to Mars. “Not free honey, but available.” Even Bill & Ted; time travel, We built this future utopia on rock n roll. “God gave rock n roll to you...”
I’ve never liked Doctor Who but I vaguely remember Sylvester McCoy in the late 80s swanning around in his Rupert the Bear scarves. Neither as a child did I love Star Trek or Star Wars. I didn’t even watch Star Wars until I was about 18; I blame the cannabis but I loved it. Still love it now, but as sci-fi goes it doesn’t make much sense; very little sci to complement the fi. I only regularly followed Star Trek when, aged 19 and horny, I noticed Jolene Blalock as T’Pol, visually the kind of alien that would never really exist in this world of Greys and amorphous blobs. She was enough to get me watching and, by season three with its massive story arch about the impending destruction of Earth, I was hooked. I was starting to become I sci-fi nerd, and all that that entails.
I hated 2001: A Space Odyssey, but even more so I hated the book by Arthur C. Clarke. I read it expecting to be transported into another world, and be convinced by its ambition of storytelling. Instead I was massively disappointed by its lack of imagination. In describing an artificial intelligence data bank in a space ship it describes the miles and miles of magnetic storage media needed. Instead of in any way imagining a future storage medium that would fulfil its needs, it just took what already existed and made lots of them. In space.
And that put me off reading science fiction for a long time. Genre fiction always swims with mass produced shit, tat churned out for children, idiots, idiotic children, and adults with the minds of children and the tastes of idiots. How was I supposed to find the good stuff amongst all the shit, if the supposed good stuff was so shit? Time told. I carried on watching science fiction, mostly watching the same few things over and over and gradually committing to watching some Star Trek in proper episodic order. I read popular science about quantum and theoretical physics where most of the ideas for science fiction come from. I read Cosmos by Carl Sagan and noticed his son Nick’s name on the credits for many Star Trek episodes. I read about the Apollo Project and about e=mc2. I took perceived scientific discrepancies in Star Trek seriously (like the way when two ships meet they are always the same way up relative to one another, and how Vulcans and humans can mate even though a human is genetically closer to a banana than a Vulcan).
Then I decided to buy a second hand Isaac Asimov anthology and within its pages I finally discovered the way in to fantastic science fiction writing. Two stories, The Last Question and The Bicentennial Man, finally gave me the hit I had been craving. Intelligent readable science fiction that makes sense, has internal consistency and ambition, and leaves you agog and craving more.