It never ceases to amaze me just how many people I know who snub science fiction. Mind you, these are the same people who raved about Star Wars, The Matrix, and Spider Man on the big screen, while on TV Stranger Things captured their attention and imagination.
For as far back as I can remember, science fiction has never been considered high-brow literature. It is catalogued as genre fiction, like mysteries and horror, and therefore deemed not worthy of the term literary fiction. In college, I remember being asked in one of my classes to pick a book for discussion that had a profound effect on me. I chose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for its brilliant, laugh-out-loud funny spoof of sci-fi, but my professor refused to let me use it. “Pick a real book,” he said, “not that science fiction nonsense.” I was stunned by his short-sightedness.
I did pick another book, this time without bothering to consult him. It was another favorite of mine, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My professor must have forgotten the disdain he showed for science fiction because I ended up with an “A” on the paper.
When I first read Jack Finney’s book at the age of ten, I was scared senseless. I remember checking around our yard for giant pods. Just in case. Upon re-reading it for that college class, I found that what struck me the most the second time around was the atmosphere of paranoia that pervaded the book. I enjoyed the re-read immensely and followed it up with the Donald Sutherland movie of the same name. Incidentally, if there are any of you who have not watched the 1978 movie, I urge you to do so at once.
Over the years, I’ve acquired quite a library of sci-fi books and movies, many of which are near and dear to my heart, but nothing comes close to the fear that gripped a ten-year-old girl at the possibility that she could lose her real parents to pod replicas.
When the call went out from Transmundane for stories for their IN THE AIR anthology, I immediately flashed to those pods, arriving from some strange and distant planet. Taking root amongst our plants and flowers. Affecting an unsuspecting population.
There was my story. What if…alien spores arrived from Outer Space? What if they drifted on air currents, disguised in the ash from wildfires? What if they altered our brain chemistry for the worse? What if they caused chaos and destruction wherever they settled? Channeling my inner nerd, “Spore” was conceived, and I had a lot of fun writing it.
Classic sci-fi has influenced generations of writers of the genre, and spawned a number of movie and TV franchises that are pure gold. Star Trek and Alien are two of my favorites, the first showing a future we all want to believe in, and the second showing one beyond our wildest nightmares. And if neither of those franchises appeal to you, there are many more out there to choose from. All that is required is an open mind.
I leave you with this quote from the great Arthur C. Clarke: “…science fiction is something that could happen—but usually you wouldn’t want it to.”
Lorraine grew up globally, constantly having to adapt to different cultures. Writing was her escape from the reality of always being the new girl in school. These days she writes for the pure joy of creating new stories instead of escapism. Her short stories have been published in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and mystery/crime anthologies, and usually feature an Indian protagonist. She has been lucky enough to have her work featured in Transmundane Press’ After the Happily Ever After, On Fire, Transcendent, and the upcoming In The Air anthologies. Find her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/loneriter; on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/loneriter/; on Goodreads at: www.goodreads.com/lorrainesharmanelson; and at her website: www.lorrainesharmanelson.com
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Featured Image Credit: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)