Science fiction should be more than entertainment. Great science fiction should make you think. It needs to challenge the status quo and ask questions that many fear to ask. Science fiction should not only show the range of possibilities, but also consider their ramifications. This is why certain books, movies and television series make an impact. The old classic “Forbidden Planet” was a space opera on the surface, but it came to a point where it asked deep-seated questions of the psyche and the possible consequences of tapping its power. That is why it endured. The original Star Trek series was an anthology wrapped around a central story line and cast of characters. Each episode tackled different subjects, from time travel to bigotry. The crew, star-ship and “federation” were but a milieu to tell those stories. Though the special effects, uniforms and aliens are hokey by today’s standards, the stories still hold.
Great sci fi challenges us to think. Robert Heinlein’s “Starship troopers” (the book, not the movie) questions why men fight. Philip K. Dick’s dystopian Blade runner questioned the issue humanity and technology. The old classic “A canticle For Liebowitz” questions nuclear war and humankind’s repeated attempts to annihilate itself.
Yes, science fiction can be entertaining. Movies like “The Fifth Element” and “Valerian” are a romp through fantastic worlds. However, they merely entertain, though they entertain well. The truly great sci-fi asks and inspires.
It is truly said that the idea is not to have all the right answers, but to ask all the right questions. Great science fiction does just that!