Prophets of Science Fiction

The science fiction genre in storytelling provides an excellent vehicle for social philosophy and social commentary, often taking an aspect of contemporary society and projecting it into an extreme vision of the future to make a point about it.

The world in which it is set, or its “social stage”, is therefore one of the most important features of science fiction. And the technology within that world is equally important, as science fiction is often, fundamentally, a comment on technology.

Prophets of Science Fiction” is a documentary television series produced and hosted by Ridley Scott for the Science channel.

SBS aired the series earlier this year and their overview of the series states

“Each episode of this series examines and celebrates the life, ideas, convictions, philosophies and genius of eight legends of the science fiction realm. These are pillars of the genre, representing the most ground-breaking conceptual viewpoints of their eras. Notable for some of today’s greatest sci-fi concepts, these writers and their works continue to inspire the minds of young and old around the world.”

(I thought that was a really excellent description of it, so I lazily stole it instead of working on one of my own!)

The eight chosen visionaries the series examines and celebrates are

Mary Shelley who started writing “Frankenstein” as a teenager, in 1816.

Philip K. Dick who was both a literary genius and a paranoid outcast. His work inspired the films “BladeRunner“, “Total Recall” and “Minority Report“.

H.G. Wells who wrote stories like “The Time Machine“, and “War of the Worlds“, and famously wrote his own epitaph – “I told you so…”

Arthur C. Clarke who co-wrote the script for the “2001” with Stanley Kubrick, the pair having based it on a short story by Clarke called “The Sentinal” (although he was quoted as saying that comparing “The Sentinal” with “2001” was like comparing “an acorn to the resulting oak-tree”).

Isaac Asimov who wrote “I, Robot“, and hoped for a better future where we had nothing to fear from technology.

Jules Verne who pioneered the science fiction genre, writing about space, air, and underwater travels before practical means of had been devised. He is best known for “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea“, “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Around the World in Eighty Days“.

Robert Heinlein who is “a walking contradiction. His stories address themes of patriotism and duty, while stressing the importance of personal freedom and expression”. The theme “What is freedom?” permeates his work, which includes “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Starship Troopers“.

George Lucas who gave us the epic space mythology of Star Wars and the concept of “the used future”, and changed the way movies are made altogether.

Critics of the series have deemed it to be “light on the substance and heavy on the exaggeration“. And, at times, I agree with that statement. (Especially with respect to the final episode, number 8 on George Lucas).

That said, it is still a fascinating, thought provoking and very worthwhile series to take a look at in my humble opinion.

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