Science Fiction As a Vehicle for Social Commentary
When many high school students think
about the genre of science fiction, they think of
aliens, spaceships, teleporters, and laser battles
competing with the flashing of the stars. They visualize
Jar-Jar and hear Kirk tell Scottie to beam him up.
They rarely think about the meaning behind these representations
and stories. When hearing about upcoming science fiction
material in class, students often say, "So what?
It doesnt have anything to do with me. What
use is it to think about other worlds and futures
that we dont even know will come to pass?"
Students are not the only ones guilty of this narrow
view of science fiction. Our society tends to view
science fiction movies as nothing more than a way
to show off the new methods of special effects. After
walking out of a science fiction movie, it is rare
to hear anyone discussing how the issues presented
relate to our present society. Instead, talk about
computer animation and staging of the explosions takes
a more central role.
People with this particular view of science fiction
are missing out on the power and possibility of the
genre. In his essay, "Black to the Future,"
Walter Mosley states, "The power of science fiction
is that it can tear down the walls and windows, the
artifice and laws by changing the logic, empowering
the disenfranchised, or simply by asking, What if?"
In this statement, he reveals the potential of the
Through this unit of study, students will come to
realize the potential and power of science fiction
as a vehicle for social commentary. Students will
be reading and viewing various works of science fiction
that make statements on current issues. The novel,
Parable of the Sower by Octavia
Butler, will serve as our primary text. Besides
exploring the ways in which other writers have used
the genre for social commentary, students will research
a current issue with which they are concerned. Based
on the research, each student will write a science
fiction story to illustrate the issue.
How can the choices an author makes affect the readers
understanding of current societal issues?