It all happened at a hibachi house down the street. The diners at my table included my wife and my mother-in-law. As our sushi appetizer arrived and we watched the chef prepare to do the usual line-up of tricks, my wife and I were in the midst of bemoaning the process of getting older. I stated that this year's birthday was going to be an especially miserable one for me as it marks yet another turning point. I mean, I never celebrate my birthday but this year I'm planning to travel to a foreign country, check into a hotel, hide under the bed, and pretend it isn't happening.
In an attempt to ameliorate our condition, my mother-in-law jumped in. She said that neither my wife nor I look our age and that we have hobbies and interests that keep us young.
"Jon, you're into science fiction, so that helps," she said.
It didn't make much sense to me at the time, but now I see what she was trying to say.
The consumption of science fiction may indeed have helped in my battle against age. It is a genre that is always asking the question, "what's next?" In turn, this tends to establish a heuristic method within the mind, an outlook that is accepting of new principles such as changes and advancements in technology. There is a saying that any technology around at the time of our birth is commonplace. Any technology that comes along before we turn 30 is new and exciting. Any technology that arrives after that is to be treated with fear and distrust. I need only look at a certain 19th Century Luddite I know to see this in action as he rants and rails like an Old Testament prophet against the "evils" of Twitter and social networking, calling for people to "get together" under a tree or something and play Eric Clapton songs on an acoustic guitar. I do not share such cynicism.
Perhaps that is another fundamental effect of the consumption of science fiction: optimism. More things, such as interplanetary space travel, seem possible to fans of the genre than to those outside of it. The universe is an amazing, exciting place and contains far more than commutes to a mundane job, TV shows, and smoked bbq. Anything can and *does* happen in it. Those with open minds and spirits know this. We're just waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Speaking of optimism, science fiction may also be the most philosophically optimistic genre in all of literature. A bold statement to be sure, so why did I make it? Well, a great deal of science fiction presupposes a future. In a few cases it may be a bleak one and it may very well suck to be alive in them, but there is a future. Life has gone on. We did not destroy ourselves entirely, despite how things might be looking based on current events. That could be the most pollyanna viewpoint of all.
Those were some tuna rolls!
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