This I Believe: I Believe In Science Fiction

Feb 15, 2018

Essayist Min Xian.

When I was little, my mom warned me time and again that if I became nearsighted, I’d only have my bad habit of reading under my comforter with a tiny flashlight to blame. I didn’t listen because in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” there was no worrying about eye care. There was just traveling across the ocean through the eyes of an explorer and feeling page-long names of sea creatures swim past my fingertips. A whole bunch of things in that book were made up, but I loved it.

I believe in science fiction.

I’ve always found those stories of universes we can’t see so fascinating. So I submerged myself in what science fiction has to offer: the iconic “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”; captivating TV series like “Westworld” and “Black Mirror”; and movies that can sometimes get heavy, like “District 9” and “Snowpiercer.” A lot of binge watching was involved; I wear contacts now.

I’m also now a novice grown-up who says things like “index fund” or “congressional districts.” I’ve discovered that taking care of myself is a lot of work. Now more than ever, I look forward to long weekends or a 16-hour flight where I launch a new sci-fi on my Kindle or pick whichever in-flight movie has the most spaceships.

A lot of things in life will get you down, but science fiction is a reminder that our problems are actually pretty minor. I recently finished the “Three-Body Problem,” in which our planet makes contact with a neighboring civilization struggling to survive under the influence of three suns. Facing the question of human survival, the book imagines a future where we inhabit outer space and examines what it means to be human. Heavy, right? But it inspires me to think of something much bigger than myself.

Just to clarify, I’m really terrible at science - any kind of it. Most of my Thursday nights back in high school were spent in a group study session where my physics teacher selflessly dedicated his time to helping kids who consistently failed. But that didn’t mean I ceased to be curious or amazed by science. Because science fiction kept me engaged.

Science fiction can even inspire social change. You might know that the role of Lieutenant Uhura in the television series "Star Trek" was a sensation in the 1960s. It was the first time a black woman was cast as a main character in a major TV show. But Nichelle Nichols planned to quit the show. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who convinced her to stay. At the height of the Civil Rights movement, King told her, “You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for.” That story fills my heart.

Science fiction is more than a book, a movie - whatever form it comes in. It’s about where we could go and how to get there.

I believe in science fiction.

 Essayist Min Xian is a reporter at WPSU.