Do You Have to Compromise Imagination for Smart SciFi?

So I bought my dad a book for Christmas. We are both big scifi fans. I have been since my sister’s boyfriend gave me a copy of “Ender’s Game” in eighth grade. Although my dad always liked Star Trek and Star Wars, but I don’t think he really subscribed to the genre until the last few years.

I want to add that my dad is one of the smartest people I know. He studied engineering in college. He was a pilot and aircraft mechanic. He has many hobbies: carpentry, mechanics, welding, dirt biking, and generally┬ábeing brilliant. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised by our recent conversation.

The book I gave him for Christmas was Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles.” I hadn’t read it, so it was a bit of a risk, but the reviews were all promising. He read it pretty quickly, but wasn’t crazy about it, although he admitted to interesting elements. He had a hard time describing it at first and finally landed on: “It seems more mythological than science fiction.” I didn’t understand until I read it.

I still hold that it’s science fiction, but I can see where my dad is coming from. Bradbury is imaginative. He runs close to fantasy. He does not focus on the science so much. He envisions the places future science will take us and then focuses on the condition of humanity as a consequence. The science is more like the setting than an important part of the plot. I can understand that. But my dad clearly prefers the nitty gritty smart talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I do too. That was one thing I loved about one of my favorite shows, “Stargate: SG-1.” I felt like they really made advanced theoretical concepts easy to grasp. They made me feel smart. And whether or not all of their science was on par, they definitely worked hard at it.

But when it comes down to it I think I’m a bit more like Bradbury. I’m a philosopher at heart. I love the possibilities that new technologies open up. I want to focus on the ideas, the people, the impacts on society. I want to dream big and wacky without having to back it up with a dissertation.

So I think the answer to my own question is “No!” But you do have to recognize that it may narrow your audience a little bit. (I just want to add that even though he failed to impress my dad, Bradbury was a huge success!)

What do you think?

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