Once upon a time, a little girl watched tv and saw two droids lost in desert.
And she cried.
It’s been almost 40 years since that time and, thankfully, I’m no longer distraught at seeing R2-D2 and C-3PO on Tatooine. Now I can chuckle at Threepio’s fussiness and Artoo’s rude retorts.
There are still times when science fiction makes me cry. Most recently it was at a movie theater. I believe Ghostbusters: Afterlife should come with a Kleenex warning. I sniffled from the moment I recognized the character in the opening scene. And I didn’t stop. The movie is a wonderful tribute to Harold Ramis and his ghostbusting alter ego Egon Spengler.
At least I went into that movie KNOWING my favorite character was dead. I’m still in denial over Han Solo.
And Wash (from Firefly/Serenity).
Science fiction means different things to different people. Some people like to watch or read the classics by the likes of HG Wells and Isaac Asimov. I tried. I read Dune and didn’t enjoy it. What I liked best about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick was the title. Instead, I’m into the glossy pop-culture forms of science fiction: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Babylon 5, Firefly, Red Dwarf, etc.
What is it about science fiction that makes it popular? For some, it’s the escape from the humdrum of today’s world. For others, it’s the possibilities that exist thanks to science. Don’t ask me about how science fiction works. I’m like Jack O’Neill (Stargate SG-1) when it comes to understanding it.
For me, there’s the ability to connect to the characters we see onscreen. I cried over droids being lost. Droids! My favorite Star Wars movie is The Empire Strikes Back. Never mind events in it don’t go well for the main characters. The rebels lose the battle and their base on Hoth, Han Solo is placed in carbonite, and Luke loses his hand and finds his father.
I want to ask questions about what we don’t see about these imaginary people. Did Leia collapse over seeing her planet destroyed? Why or why not? What made Sam Carter go USAF when so many Sam Carters in other realities were civilian scientists? Was it her mother’s death, or something else? Why did Chakotay keep his Maquis leathers after putting on the Starfleet uniform? And, in a nod to the book off which Blade Runner is based: does Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram sleep when he’s offline? Does he dream?
It’s through science fiction that I realized I like bad boys, although the bad boys who become good guys are even better. Han Solo, Chakotay, Jack O’Neill, Donnie Wahlberg. Oh wait, that last one is real…
I love the relationships between the characters. Particularly the romantic ones. I’ve made good friends through online fandoms for certain pairings: Han/Leia, Luke/Mara (the Star Wars “Legends” books), Kathryn/Chakotay (Star Trek: Voyager), Beka/Tyr (Andromeda), Jack/Sam, Daniel/Vala (both SG-1). When the scriptwriters go in an unexpected direction, we can use our imaginations. We live in a world where Han Solo never left his wife and died, Chakotay didn’t date Seven, and oh yeah, Tyr Anasazi didn’t fall into a never-ending abyss.
And then there are the settings. Who wouldn’t want to go shopping in Babylon 5’s Zocalo? I adore the architecture of Stargate: Atlantis. Did the Ancients inspire Frank Lloyd Wright or vice versa? How do buildings on Coruscant stay up and not collapse? How does Cloud City on Bespin stay afloat?
For me, science fiction is all about imagination, and the ability to create worlds and people beyond my immediate environment. When depression kicks in, I know I can escape for a time into a Galaxy Far Far Away, or to the Delta Quadrant, or travel through a Stargate to undiscovered planets in our own system. And that’s why I’m celebrating National Science Fiction Day today.
Images from Starwars.com, Startrek.com, and Gateworld.net