Monday, March 27, 2017

The Sci-Fi Surprise

Until recently, I hadn't seen myself as a sci-fi girl. Growing up I liked Star Wars and I would watch Star Trek late at night while babysitting - pickings were slim back then, all we had was network television. But this never really struck me as being a "sci-fi geek." I realize now that I may have been deluding myself. Even though I wasn't a fan of Buck Rodgers, and Fantasy Island was too intense sometimes for this 9 year old, I had completely bought into the genre long ago. I loved the idea of what might be, what was possible and what we should all be wary of.

As I have gotten older I have realized that I am a sci-fi geek, and a big one. It's time to own it. The first time I fully embraced this side of myself was with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. That show was incredible! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching it (you can find it on Amazon and iTunes). It's so worth it. It explored many themes with an amazing cast. Somehow the unbelievable was made believable. And then, all of a sudden, we were wondering which characters were machines? Which ones were human? How would you know? Which of course is so relevant to our current human discussions about what makes you an alien, how would I know, and just exactly why would it matter?

To me, this is one of the greatest things about science fiction: it explores what it means to be human. In all my favorites (and there are many: Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Wars, any Marvel movie or series), the genre asks this constant question. Sometimes it asks it in a campy superhero way, and sometimes, as with Battlestar, it's much more complex and cerebral. And I generally love that exploration. I didn't want to commit that geekiness earlier in my life. For heaven's sake it's hard enough to be a girl, let alone a sci-fi geeky girl! I wanted it to be about entertainment. But let's get real. The thing that makes grown men and women dress up at comic con is this intense connection to a story that explores what it means to be human -- and somewhere in that story, that fan-girl saw herself. She recognized the person that was being questioned or resisting evil. And she saw herself. Of course I want to be Princess Leia, and The Doctor's Companion, and President Roslin. Why wouldn't I want to see the world through that lens? A lens at once complicated and simple; seeing both the complexity of humanity and the simple solution of finding love, compassion or truth. That's what sci-fi does. As far as I am concerned, we need much more of that.

I also think it's a little easier to see some of our own, real-life, questions when they are put in a different framework. Doctor Who is great at this. Is it ok to punish one segment of a society for the benefit of another? What will the consequences of our actions be years and years into the future? Sometimes seeing it play out in another world helps to clarify one's position here on Earth. I actually think Star Wars has some commentary in a similar way, especially about women and our expectations and stereotypes around them. I love seeing so many strong female role models in the Star Wars world! Why? Because even with the Women's Movement of the 70s, we are woefully behind in giving women their equal place in society. We are still fighting, and I love to see mighty females we can emulate.

So there you have it; I'm a self described sci-fi geek, cerebral and nerdy and all in. It's helpful at a time like this to have another world to sneak off to. It's a way to find compassion and humanity when many of the humans around me are expressing something completely different. You may not feel it so strongly, but I assure you, I do. Every time another black life is taken, every time another trans person dies, every time another woman has to fend off an attacker, every time a jewish center is threatened, a little bit of my hope in humanity is snatched away. And presently, that risk is higher than it has been in a long time. Make no mistake. The resident in the White House has opened this door. Your votes can close it. Think about that next election cycle when you are weighing the cost of your health plan in the balance with the cost of being human. For me, there is no contest. We have to protect the rights of those who are most threatened.

Help me sci-fi fans, you're my only hope.

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