Last week I talked about how science fiction lends itself well to morality tales, and how much I enjoy such stories. This week I’d like to dive into a similar theme: aspirational science fiction.
Aspirations & Ideals
Now, I don’t think I’m using the term aspirational entirely correctly here, as the dictionary definition is “having or characterized by aspirations to achieve social prestige and material success.”
Perhaps a better term would be utopian or idealistic science fiction. I’m talking specifically about Star Trek, for example. The Star Trek universe, from TOS to TNG, depicts an ideal future Earth and humanity, where money, violence, and disease have all been eradicated. The crew of the Enterprise visits far off planets whose inhabitants never seem to be as good as the humans of Earth. The series The Orville is similar, with a bit more comedy in place.
Aspirational Science Fiction
I haven’t read a book on my list yet like this, but it’s an important part of science fiction that I wanted to discuss a bit.
I enjoy these idealistic universes as much as the morality tales I discussed last week, much for the same reason: they show us what we can be. And not by illustrating a worse version of ourselves from which we’re supposed to learn, but rather by actually showing us a better version of ourselves. I find Star Trek to be not just aspirational but also inspirational, especially in episodes that grapple with ethical dilemmas.
By constantly placing us into unfamiliar and unknown situations, science fiction can show us so much. A story can be entirely escapist and entertaining while also teaching us a thing or two about life. It can be one or the other, but it can also be both. And I love that dichotomy.
In terms of actually writing a story like this, with characters we can always look up to, it would be difficult. Indeed, it’s hard to create a compelling character arc for someone who is always good. And Star Trek: TNG certainly falls into this trap. But I think it’s important to try and have that representation in our fiction.
Check out any of the Star Treks for an inspirational dose of all that we could be.
Ciao for now!