Science Fiction: The Best and the Worst of Us
Editorial from Twisted Pulp Magazine Issue #27
By Chauncey Haworth
I was born in 1976, I like long walks on the beach and science-fiction that wasn’t made to be a blockbuster movie. The 1980s, where I did most of my imaginative-brain-formulation, was the cusp of the sci-fi genre, both a good and bad time for science-fiction, the slow loss of the old and the fervent explosion of the new. And, like all media since the turn of the century, we can probably blame film for the population’s view of the genre. In the 1950s and most of the 60s, science-fiction movies were still holding fast to those Space Age/Cold War Era chills and thrills, mainly directed at young people. But, by the 1970s, science-fiction films had grown up a bit and found cinematic highs like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Zardoz… okay well, maybe not Zardoz, but I still love it.
My point is that through the 1980s it was a tumultuous time for science-fiction films. Thanks to Star Wars and others, the 1980s ended up being a time that production companies were throwing money at sci-fi flicks, and not always wisely.
This very much affected all generation-xers. It taught us about diamonds in the rough and sweet thrift store deals; it very much defined the people that make this magazine. We had to learn that gems were hard to find, and that with the greatest risk comes the greatest reward. For every ten terrible movies there was one gem, hidden and dusty at the bottom. For each attempt at a movie like The Day Time Ended (1980) and Warrior of the Lost World (1983), there was that chance that you would find a The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) or Videodrome (1983).
One might be asking themselves, “Are these movies so good as to endure hours upon hours of terrible crap?” The answer is yes. Few genres have the same potential effect on people as science fiction.
Science fiction has a way of taking abstract ideas and helping us understand them. Like Arthur C. Clarke helping us to understand actual space travel better, or Robert Heinlein giving us a deeper understanding of sociology. And, while that ability of sci-fi has helped our society in many ways, science fiction has another more powerful skill, it can take the inedible and make it palatable. It can sneak in ideas about your world just by presenting those ideas in another time, by presenting a realistic idea in a seemingly unrealistic world.
1984 is a commonly cited example of ideas about the government and society. It’s now so much a part of the vernacular that the word “Orwellian” actually shows up in the dictionary, as well as every twenty minutes on whichever news channel you watch. Would these ideas be so ingrained in our society without science fiction at one point having made them palatable and relatable?
I wish there was a way for me to test this deeper. You know, ask the big questions. Questions like “Would euthanasia be a national conversation today without Soylent Green?” or “Would we fear AI without Terminator… or War Games?”. Ultimately, it is worth enduring terrible stories to find the gems. As animals we instinctively go after the food, the sex, the survival, the safety; but as humans, we just want something to entertain or inspire us in the meantime.