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May 27, 2017


I wasn’t even a teenager when the first sci-fi broadcast TV hit debuted: not a hit. “Star Trek” was niche marketed as a drama that happened to be in the future. With aliens. It changed everything. Soon thereafter “2001 A Space Odessey” became a visual refresh, aural treat and uber cool. But “Star Wars” was not intended to be ambiguous or cool, it was just old school adventure with a hip edge. It took months to appeal to people and I saw the movie in a near empty Times Square movie theater right after it opened.

Why has a huge chunk of today’s popular culture found now chasing these iconic, often lame tales/images/characters?

It’s a world, complete. It’s connected to now, but not today. It’s Hope, it’s Fear, it’s Joy. The distance in a future or distinct dimension from now, captivates us. We release our faith in conceptual gravity.

It fascinates because it’s a totally constructed rule book of forces, powers, meanings. Human characters, like us, ground the drama, and alternate extrapolations grab our personality.

But sports, religion, the fine arts all use this different human channel to focus attention. Difference focus attention. The tales of teams, liturgy, hipness can weave faith. The extension of Trek, Star Wars, the silence of space into a clear fantasy sucks many in to create entire elaborations. Sci-fi conventions, electronic games, rituals transcend entertainment, and for some become belief – devotion so real it inspires faith and New Facts.

Politics, now, is not far behind. Entire tales of Deep State, Secret Servers, Alternative Facts, Leaking, Clearance all create characters, rituals and virtual outcomes become entire universes of belief.

Some have more faith in what they could not know, but want desperately. We want a Spock. We would love to be filled with the Force. There is part of us that simply gets lost in the huge weaving so many answered questions. There is a certitude to entire constructs of time and fact in the science fiction world.

It’s real, unto itself. Like popular culture, religion, or politics.

I cannot go there. I have never been a fanboy. Even of the Episcopal world I dearly love, or in the deep devotion to football.

God is real, but the Episcopal Church is a construction, for me, a beautiful human creation. Football suspends some of the deepest virtues of love and sacrifice: but it’s a game. Sci-Fi is just fiction. It captures the emotions and values many live by, but it’s an absurdly wrought vision, not a reality.

It’s too easy to slip into a place you control. Mid-Century suburbia was a creation, it had great good human values – but it was just us trying hard to be better – like church, the game, sci-fi.

It’s hard to be real.

Real means often wrong, failures – and few, if any triumphs – often life is filled with disappointment: and for sure death at some point. Part of us want the perpetuation of the infinite control of sci-fi. sci-fiworlds created by us, for us: it’s the lamest part of dogma – reaching for a perfect truth, but woven by us: the imperfect.

It’s hard to be happy – if it’s us judging us – because we know the worst of us, almost unrevealed, and distrust of our best hopes (which seldom, if ever, happens). That’s why we create a separate world – sci-fi is just the most intricately fabricated to be sucked in by the rest of us.

Fiction is just that, weather scientific, religious, aesthetic or political. Today the fantasy of fiction seems harder to distinguish from reality…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim E permalink
    May 31, 2017 6:22 pm

    We want reality to be a narrative we understand and can master… not a big, freaking scary, beautiful, horrible, grace-filled, totally out-of-our-control reality that reminds us we don’t control jack, and we are just dust.


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