On Remembering Science Fiction
I remember growing up on some of the most respected science fiction films of all time. Forbidden Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The day the Earth Stood Still, The Time Machine, etc. I also remember Star Trek. I recall how so many issues relevant to the time were presented using science fiction as a vehicle to illustrate issues that could not be presented by other forms of literature or film genres.
It seemed to me that Science Fiction was the perfect medium for presenting contemporary issues in a format that was acceptable to society – by being culturally relevant to current times to be easily identified, and yet distant enough to be non-threatening. Classic Star Trek during the 1960’s presented a long list of relevant subjects ranging from race relations, arms proliferation, and many others. No other series could have presented those issues at that time without having some kind of severe public backlash.
The issues raised by science fiction also relate to expectations of the future of what we can expect our society, and our world to evolve to. Inextricably, most science fiction involves some major advancements in technology or in medicine that transform society into the image of that futuristic state we see on the screen. Science fiction challenges the imagination by creating plausible paintings of various scenarios that our present day society may evolve to, while in many cases bringing attention through satire of some of the most troubling political issues facing the world at the time.
One of the most memorable was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)” filmed in stark black and white, in just two weeks. Its place in the history of science fiction is secure, yet it is the only science fiction film, I can recall that features no alien technology, no spacecrafts, no alien monsters, but rather reflections of humans who lose their humanity by being taken over, one by one, by those oddly looking “PODS” – which some attest was really a statement on a communist takeover of a free society. I recall having difficulty looking at or eating Brussels Sprouts for years!
Who can forget “The Twilight Zone” – that brilliantly written anthology series, many episodes of which featured science fiction themes? “Presented for your consideration” by Rod Serling, who in the span of 23 minutes (not counting commercial interruption), created a compelling story so colorful and richly acted, all involving some form of IRONIC TWIST that comes out of left field. The episode of the nine-foot alien, landing at the UN and presenting the world with a book “To Serve Man”, which by the end of the episode turns out to be a cook book!
No medium has had quite the impact nor as loyal a fan base as science fiction. It deserves another look as I, quoting Serling, say about science fiction: “Presented for Your Re-Consideration”.