YA Science Fiction, Truth, and Margaret Atwood

There’s this cool journal on the east coast for the past 20 years called Whole Terrain. They focus on reflective environmental practice and are mostly nonfiction, but very nicely published my YA science fiction story “North Sector.” Editor Cherice Bock said something smart to me about science fiction:

“I love how science fiction can tell truths that “non-fiction” has a harder time communicating.”

Yes, nailed it. (That’s why she’s the editor.) Science Fiction allows the reader to suspend disbelief and talk about very real and important human issues (“truths”)* through the lens of story.

Consider Margaret Atwood’s classic “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Once we understand that we are no longer in our world, anything becomes possible, even the extreme and complete subjugation of women. (I know some would argue we do live in that world, but if you’ve read the book, you know what I mean.) We can then read her story of feminism, Christianity, government (theocracy vs. democracy), and hold these examples to our current world. We allow almost anything to happen in science fiction, which then allows us to emerge from the story and study specific examples about how we actually live. And what we think we know about ourselves, our world, might change. Our “truths” might be different after we look through the story lens.

Science fiction matters. Story matters. Characters and plot and dialogue are all tools to convey things that actually happen to people. Whatever genre you choose to write in, it all has a real and serious place in the discussion of what it means to be human.

*Truth ends up in “quotation marks” because that is a larger discussion, and a post for another time.

Gorgeous cover photo by Jason deCaires Taylor.

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