This feature will run every Friday, so grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and get to know our editorial staff.
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I’ll admit it – I’m a science geek. I love how science both defines and inspires. I love the infinity of space and the quandaries of time. I believe in faster than light travel and a Theory of Everything. It naturally follows that I love science fiction (any speculative fiction, really). It isn’t just the science, though (otherwise, I’d just read a physics book).
Like many people growing up in the 70s and 80s, I watched re-runs of Star Trek after school and Battlestar Galactica on Sunday nights at 8pm (in my pajamas and with a glass of milk). I saw Star Wars at the theater three times – and once at a drive-in. I spent many nights reading Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke and dreaming, drawing and painting the worlds they created.
Alien still scares me (“I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality” (Alien)- scary –a being without conscience…). In the 80s, I fell in love with the hard sci-fi of Gibson and Sterling. I named my cat Neuromancer and spent the next eighteen years explaining the name. Yes, nerd. I soaked up female writers Le Guin, Griffith, Tepper, Butler, and McCaffrey and learned to appreciate strong female characters in science fiction.
So what is it that draws me to science fiction above all other genres?
Science: It better be correct, or derived from current knowledge, or at least believable and explained logically. Yes, I insist. I can make an exception sometimes to enjoy pure pulp, but don’t count on it.
Escapism: Drop your troubles at the door… there’s a Death Star waiting to be destroyed! Travel through time? Sign me up! A world where women rule? I’m there! Save a planet from extinction? Before lunch! Books are often a means to escape the daily grind for a brief time and science fiction takes me way beyond the mundane.
Hot men: Han Solo, Mal, Jean-luc Picard, Neo, Robert Neville… you get the picture. (If you don’t, then look them up and come back) Ah-hem.
Imagination: Singing certain frequencies to mine crystals. Floating cities. Interstellar travel. Billions and billions of new worlds. Living forever. Wormholes and star gates. Transporting and re-materializing. Mind melds. Alternate histories. Parallel universes where you *didn’t* go out with *that guy*. Cylons, Overlords, Sith Lords, Morlocks, Alien. Need I say more?
Social commentary: What happens if people lose creativity? What happens if there are too many of us? What happens if we ruin our world? What if we inadvertently create a super-bug? How do we feel about class structure, racism, sexism, eugenics? How do we define sentient life? Everything that makes us human is explored and challenged in science fiction. The genre often dramatizes the human dilemma in questions like these from the BOOK OF QUESTIONS: “For an all-expense-paid, one week vacation anywhere in the world, would you be willing to kill a beautiful butterfly by pulling off its wings? What about stepping on a cockroach?” or “Would you be willing to murder an innocent person if it would end hunger in the world?” I love to escape, but I also love to think.
Romance: Add a great love story to great science fiction, and it just doesn’t get any better for me. We live on a perfect little planet with just the right combo of light, gravity, atmosphere, water, magnetic field, ozone layer… but what really makes our world go around (keeping in mind that we have the science in place *wink*)? Human relationships, of course – the nitty gritty of making friends and finding mates. Reading about the permutations of human relationships set against the backdrop of the universe = win.
In its best form, science fiction moves the heart and the mind. Worst case, I’ll take a hot guy and some pulp.
Why do *you* like sci-fi? Do you have a favorite book that has inspired you to read or write sci-fi?
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Kerry Vail, Associate Editor (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal)
Kerry holds a BA in English: Writing and Editing with a minor in Classical Studies from NC State University. She has extensive freelance editing experience, and teaches various fiction writing classes at a local college. In addition to editing, Kerry writes science fiction, romantic fantasy, and paranormal romance.