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sci-fiTalking about the Science Exhibition for young people yesterday made me think of all the books and films and magazines based on Sci-Fi and their great popularity among old and young. Its production certainly seems to generate great financial wealth for some. Does an interest in Sci-Fi generate a fondness for actual science and technology or is it for mere entertainment? It seems that many people want a world other than the existing world. Is it psychologically harmful  to youth and those not in a position to distinguish the difference to be caught up in it? No school texts on science and technology, as far as I know, refer to Sci-Fi.


Readers of 'hard' SF are most definitely scientifically literate and writers will tell you they GET LETTERS/EMAILS about their errors. I know many SF fans with a lifelong interest in science (including me!) and in space research.

Most really popular films and TV series have books that discuss the science (or lack of it, if you're thinking about films like The Matrix trilogy and, recently, Prometheus) behind the movies. They've been around for years, and they sell well enough.

I have read a number of popular science books (mainly for adults) that refer to science fiction novels and short stories, and, occasionally, things such as The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and there have always been scientists who write SF.

Certainly, forums discussing science fiction and fantasy film will make a point of poking holes in movie science. That's another way of teaching. (You don't see it with books, so much, because, on the whole, a lot of writers actually, you know, do their research.)

However, fantasy is more popular than SF, which suggests there are a lot of people around who aren't interested in writing about scientific ideas, and film and TV just ignore proper science.

Thank you - you are obviously "into" SF. I, on the other hand, have no interest in, or knowledge of, the subject. I was just wondering if being involved in it is harmful, especially to the young. They seem to be taken up a lot in watching it on mobile games and TV etc.
In what way might it be harmful?

It is no different from an interest in thrillers or detective stories or even literary fiction and drama. There is no more violence than a Shakespearean tragedy in most SF. What good SF does is explore ideas, often putting unusual points of view or seeing things in a different way. Widening knowledge and thought has to be a good thing.

As for computer games, it hardly matters what the background scenario may be; it might be science fiction or fantasy or cartoon plumbers! It must be marginally better to be shooting up aliens or zombies than policemen or soldiers, don't you think?
I'm not into sci fi but see it as utterly harmless.

Humans have always craved fantasy of one kind or another and it's just another form.

If it encourages an interest in science and alternative ways of seeing, it's all good!
yes, i think they are linked -- there is about to be a big science-fiction convention in boston, and they are having a major science track of programming and also a lot of engineering workshops.

recently i also came across a twitter dialogue between william shatner (a longtime science-fiction actor) and some actual astronauts on the iss -- and the astronauts were clearly very aware of the memes from his old show (which has been off the air for maybe forty years!)
As a child, loved both Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Still do. Also loved science and am scientifically trained. (I'm a doctor, although clinician, not researcher.) I think I'm in touch with the real world, or at least as much as any of us can say that. Is modern F&SF any worse than "old style" adventure novels of pirates and sorcerers and kings and explorers?
Yes, SF and fantasy can be harmful to those unable to distinguish fiction from reality. So can all other genres. There are people who write hate mail to actors, because they cannot identify the difference between a man or woman's character in a TV soap opera programme, and the person playing them. (I have to say that the supermarket tabloid market doesn't help with that particular problem.)
It also works in the opposite direction; some treat reality as fiction. Odd? No. Most people can take a 'not in real life', 'not to real people' leading up to 'not to anyone I know' or 'never happen here'.
Focusing on SF and fantasy as harmful in themselves is a very narrow and ultimately unhelpful viewpoint. We should be looking out for the people who cannot tell the difference, no matter what the genre, and making sure that they receive help and support.
Thanks to all. Not being personally familiar with the genre I seem to have lost out. Maybe I'll look into it and learn from it. Where would be a good place to start?

Edited at 2013-01-10 20:07 (UTC)
There are many different 'flavours' of the genre; some focus more on the actual technology, some are heavily character-driven with the science/tech more of a background factor.
It would be easier if you first told us some works of fiction and non-fiction that you find satisfying and enjoyable, and also what you find objectionable or just don't click with. For example, it's no good us suggesting Asimov's Foundation saga if you don't like 'sweep of history' epics.