I grew up watching William Shatner monologue his way to fame on Star Trek. I marveled at the horny, dancing green lady. (This is probably the seed of an idea most high school students had several years later – green M&Ms make you horny.) I watched Scottie beam the crew time and again to different worlds and planets. Remember the aliens who spoke only in metaphors?
The Jetsons was a popular cartoon back then also. George Jetson was a bit of an asshole, but at least he got to drive a flying car. He didn’t even have to change his own clothing. Maybe he was an asshole because his boss always bullied him around, who was a bigger asshole. How depressing, when you think of it. We can figure out how to build flying cars, robots, and machines that automate every aspect of life, but we can’t figure out how to get people to stop being assholes. See, there’s always a deeper meaning, even in children’s cartoons. Will human nature ever change?
At the time, Star Trek was just another show on television. There wasn’t anything geeky about it. We didn’t watch The Jetsons just because it was sci-fi. We watched it because we had only a handful of channels, it was a cartoon, and George drove a flying car. And Rosie the robot was funny because she had a smart mouth.
When I was a teenager, I watched The Twilight Zone at midnight on Friday nights (when I wasn’t out with my friends). I watched many episodes when I came home from my job as a waitress at Friendly’s.
Never was there any talk of people being geeky because they liked these shows. It was just a part of daily life and culture.
In my later years, my love for sci-fi grew into a passion. As you live longer, you realize that people who write sci-fi are often visionaries. They set the mark for the future. They plant ideas that could be the seeds of progress tomorrow.
They can also make you think about what we’re doing right now. Is it possible that this could happen? What can we do now so our children’s future doesn’t suck?
Going back to The Twilight Zone, there was this one episode, Midnight Sun, where the Earth was off its orbit and caused terrible heat. Most of the people were on the clogged highways trying to drive further north. Because of the mass exodus, Lois Nettleton, her landlady, and a grief-stricken father and husband were the only ones left in the city, sweating and running out of water until they couldn’t stand it anymore. However, it was all a dream. When she woke up, the earth was covered in snow and freezing temperatures.
Was Rod Serling a visionary? If we take a look at today’s circumstances, while the earth is not off its planetary path, we are experiencing extreme temperatures because of greenhouse gases. As I write this, we are hiding in our air-conditioned house as we live through our hottest summer ever. And, here in the mountains, we have experienced our coldest winters here, much colder than normal even for mountain weather.
It’s my opinion that people need to keep reading science fiction, because we never know what version of the future will turn into our present.
Hopefully, the visionary information we receive from science fiction won’t always be dystopian. Sometimes, cool visions of the future come from science fiction – like rockets and flying cars. Maybe those flying cars won’t cost a million dollars one day, and every person named George will hear the Jetson theme song as they fly by in their flying car. Maybe I’ll have a flying car too. Or, maybe I’ll be too old to drive and my kids will have to fly me around as I scream my head off.
So keep reading. If you’re a writer, keep writing. Only time will tell if you are a visionary of tomorrow.
What sci-fi work do you feel was visionary? Please share.