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Grantham Journal column: The spectre of sci-fi hate

By Dr Gillian Sutherland

Peter Clawson.
Peter Clawson.

A former colleague and long-standing friend once told me he was immensely proud of the fact that he had never read a book of any kind since his schooldays.

If he ever did, he added, it would definitely not be science fiction, which was a load of fabricated nonsense.

When I reminded him of Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey and involvement in the invention of artificial earth satellites and H.G. Wells’ prophetic novels Things to Comeand War of the Worlds with their references to death rays (lasers) and atomic bombs; not to mention George Orwell’s 1984featuring Big Brotherand other anti-social measures, he went into absolute denial.

Wishful thinking on the part of sci-fi historians, he insisted. “People read into things what they want to believe.”

Which was exactly what he was doing, thus also condemning to obscurity the works of countless modern American and English authors, whose creative minds have contributed enormously to our funds of scientific knowledge with their prophetic novels.

Alternative universes and dimensions, black holes, time travel, UFOs, little green men, cosmic disasters, asteroid strikes, robots, androids and intelligent life on other planets, etc. etc., all of which scientists have come to investigate, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Many of these things had their birth in the unlikely pages of science fiction.

Other scientific concepts were developed to extremes by writers whose only restrictions were their own imaginations, helping us to believe what we thought was impossible.

Meanwhile my friend, when asked if his dislike of the genre extended to films, nodded enthusiastically. I only go for realism,” he insisted. “Not sci-fi farce.”

So what were his favourite and, in his opinion, only movies worth watching?

James Bond. Eat your hearts out Ian Fleming fans.

What more could I say?


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