Thursday, March 6, 2014
Love in worlds beyond
Science fiction retreated into dim memory after 9/11; a society consumed in fear, seeing a world of darkness and enemies forgot for a time how to dream. Gone were the hopeful days when we imagined putting aside our differences and creating a united world, flying to the stars, seeking out new life and new civilizations.
Well now, our long-repressed precious capacity to dream (the very thing that makes us human) seems to be re-surfacing. Science fiction and paranormal fiction seem to be making a comeback. But, as our collective psyche evolves through these rapidly changing times, science fiction is evolving too; a strange, dark evolution, but one that is spawning some very intriguing fiction.
Most of the sci-fi movies and television shows now emerging are geared towards younger audiences, and set in dark, post-apocalyptic futures. In many ways, the trend is reminiscent of the dark, apocalyptic sci-fi of the 1970's. The popular "Hunger Games" franchise offers young love in the midst of bloody post-apocalyptic tyranny and escalating insurrection. The TV series "Revolution" teaches dark life lessons in a shattered world where passion and power vie for the soul. "Tomorrow People" presents young love set in a struggle for Darwinian survival as a new race is born. "Star Crossed" is a sci-fi Romeo and Juliet; a high-school romance between a human girl and a boy from another planet, in a near future in which aliens are treated like illegal immigrants, persecuted by KKK-like anti-alien groups and agitated by AlQuaeda-like alien dissident factions. The forthcoming "100" is a space-age "Lord of the Flies" featuring still more comely teens. The soon-to-be released film "Divergent" is yet another teen love story about kids who are different and hunted by intolerant adults.
Yes, the target audience is young, angry, amorous and confused. The older generation depicted in these stories is clearly suspect; fearful and also confused, if not necessarily evil. The young have started dreaming again, but the dreams are dark, disturbed and seeking. The direction of today's sci-fi is inner space, not outer. (Understandable, perhaps, since all that self-confident adult military discipline featured in yesterday's space-exploring science fiction doesn't allow much room for confused, seeking, hot-blooded youth.) Science fiction has never appealed much to lovers of romance fiction, but that may be changing, too. The one thing that the kids in these stories can count on as their worlds crumble beneath them is love.
In "Black Goddess," I tell the story of a young, troubled Gulf War veteran who can't survive unless he finds answers to ancient and basic questions. He seeks his answers by going backwards in time, towards the very moment of Genesis. Obsessed with storming God's citadel, he's destroying himself and everyone around him. But, he finds his salvation in the love of a young woman who teaches him that love is the one light in the darkness.
In optimistic times, sci-fi reflects the optimism in bright dreams, sometimes drifting into arrogance and earning it dismissal as "dork fiction". In troubled times when the young are looking for answers, life may seem a dark journey reflected in a humbler, more twisted kind of sci-fi, perhaps more accessible to the young adult mainstream for its emphasis on love. Love is presented in such stories as the nobler path, since hate is presented as the far easier and more seductive path.