Science Fiction and Society

The three stories that I have looked at are The Veldt (1950), The Nine Billion Names of God (1953) and The Gernsback Continuum (1981). All of these look at various science fiction scenarios which speak a lot about what society was expected to become. It does serve as a catalyst, bringing to the forefront many popular beliefs of those time periods. In the Veldt the George and Lydia’s house was fully automated. One did not have to raise a finger. Meals were prepare and presented to you. You didn’t even have to tie your shoes for yourself. They were happy to provide all this for their Children including a Nursery that worked via the power of imagination or thought. At first it was seen as an ideal addition to the house, for the children’s’ entertainment but it soon became a problem. This automated life was slowly backfiring on the family as the basic morals and values that were once taught and came like second nature were completely absent from their children’s lives. The children were spoilt and even worse they were addicted to this virtual reality. When it was threatened to be taken away from them they were very distraught, and their thoughts became more violent to the point where the Nursery itself began to attack the threat which were the parents. Intelligent technology always has some sort of power and always has some sort of disadvantage or consequence. The house was being threatened by the parents and the children, through their own thoughts, helped the house and the Nursery defend itself in a very gruesome and thought-provoking way. In the 50’s there was this thought that everything would be automated but that also gave rise to thought of machinery rising against humanity in the process. Is technological advancement really worth losing your life?

In The Nine Billion Names of God, you see the popular topics of science and religion emerge. There is a long-standing belief that science and religion are at opposite ends of the spectrum and cannot mix. Science tries to disprove religion and hence religious bodies protect themselves or shield themselves from the wrath of science and technology. In this story, however, the Tibetan monks call upon the use of a computer, the same technology that is usually cast away, to aid them in accomplishing God’s work. This here shows how Science and technology and Religion can stand side by side. It can be advantageous and used to achieve a greater purpose. It doesn’t always have to end badly for Society. The end of the story seems to show the sky going black but according to the monk, the result  would be nothing as trivial as the end of the world.

In the Gernsback Continuum it seems to me that this shows how the future did not develop as was imagined back in the 30’s and 50’s. There were cars and highways and innovation but society was not is a post modern society filed with chrome and geometric structures. It seemed that all the thoughts that were put on paper in America manifested itself into the minds of some of the British and other people around the world. They believed this world did exist and that it was just hiding in between the normal world that we know. Sometimes the two worlds crossed paths almost like a glitch in some sort of time continuum and people saw the flying machines and chrome structures that should have been in a future that never was. People seem to be blind to this alternate universe due to filling their brain with useless trivial things such as pron and television. When the protagonists of the story sees this alternate universe emerge he is frightened and does not accept it. He would much rather live in the imperfect world that he knows and immerse himself in the mundane trivialities of television etc. This epitomizes the popular view that it is better that the future of the 30’s and 50’s didn’t exist. Living in a world where everything was clean and pristine and where everything ran perfectly could be daunting. Imperfections are comforting since no human being is actually perfect.

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2 thoughts on “Science Fiction and Society

  1. walkerc84 says:

    In regards to your view about The Veldt and further your thoughts, the take over a machines were a recurring theme throughout history; remember the Terminator in the 80’s, and The Matrix in the 90’s and I am sure there are many more examples. As I stated in one of my other comments, the advancement of science and technology seems to have a recurring theme as well, the impending demise of the human race at our own hands. It is hard to think about it, but now that I realize it, science fiction seems have a vendetta about advancements in science and technology, but some how it also seems to drive us forward in our advancements.

  2. I think that a lot of the science fiction stories end in trouble for the humans at the hands of their own inventions because science fiction can serve as a critique of technological advancement. It seems to take ideas and beliefs of present times and then forecast what those ideas and beliefs could lead to. However, I think people accept that they are just fiction and that although we are working towards a more technological future, that future is not likely to be very similar to how the science fiction stories portray them.

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