What you should know about science fiction

At the end of every century, and especially when millennia draw to a close, many cultures look beyond the limits of everyday life for a glimpse of the future. Apocalyptic events seem to hover just over our heads as a new century or millennium dawns. Accordingly, cultural media such as books and literature reflect supernatural and spiritual interests.

This phenomenon holds true again at the beginning of the 21st century as a renewed and strengthened surge of science fiction and fantasy works fill bookshelves, movie screens, video stores, and television shows. New Age, occult, apocryphal, and other-worldly themes draw our attention to ideas and stories that transcend past human experience.

If you are unsure what all the hype means, here are a few guidelines that may help to make sense of this movement:

  1. Science fiction is a genre that bends the natural laws of science, such as physics, biology, and chemistry. Mutations, reconfigured life forms, and a return from the grave are some of the common and popular themes associated with this novel style. Broad in scope, it encompasses past works that include classics like Dracula and Frankenstein. During the mid-20th century as the Cold War ensued with its threat of nuclear disaster, science fiction led to stories about life forms that were disfigured from radioactivity or nuclear fallout. Werewolves, formulas, and variant life forms on earth and elsewhere fill science fiction stories.
  2. Horror is an offshoot of science fiction when it focuses on a subhuman or superhuman figure that threatens normal life. An unhinged killer or a mutated madman stalk unsuspecting victims to send shivers down readers’ spines. Stephen King is sometimes considered the master of the modern horror story, with classic titles like Carrie, The Stand, Cujo, and It. The inexplicable becomes real and must be defeated for survival.
  3. Terror is another possible outgrowth of science fiction when it plays upon psychological fear of the unknown. An unnamed menace or a mind that plays tricks on itself due to a mental aberration are examples of psychological terror. Usually focused on interior fears and uncertainties, terror intensifies self-doubt and the surreal to create conditions of unbearable anxiety or pain.
  4. Extraterrestrial forms emphasize life in other parts of the universe rather than on earth. sometimes those life forms are good and positive; at others, they are menacing and destructive. The story’s tension lies in the protagonist’s need to confront and correctly assess an extraterrestrial encounter without being destroyed or allowing other humans to face annihilation.
  5. Spiritual or religious threats. Twenty or thirty years ago, films like The Omen, Damian, The Other, and The Exorcist introduced a supernatural threat from spiritual realms. A demon figure or Satan himself might inhabit a human body for evil purposes, often without the awareness of those around the possessed. In recent years themes include end-time scenarios as predicted in the Bible where God’s chosen will face the great enemy in a final battle for human souls. The Left Behind series is a recent adaptation of this theme.

Whatever your literary tastes, science fiction offers an escape from reality that is hard to resist. Whether you are fascinated by aliens, ghosts, or demons, you may enjoy a science fiction story as a means of exercising extreme emotions that may lay dormant at other times.


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