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Posts Tagged ‘Elysium’

Alien_(1979)_-_The_AlienMyths and fairy tales are two separate, though deeply related, genres; but the concerns of both tie in with the concerns of science fiction. For our purposes, these concerns pertain to suffering.

In his book “Making Sense Out of Suffering” (if you haven’t read it, do so — it’s a real gem), Peter Kreeft designates myths as dealing with suffering in terms of “paradise lost” and fairy tales as dealing with the need for shadows against the light to make for an engaging story.

Sci-fi has both of these elements.  In some ways, they feed off of each other.

And by the way, by “shadow” we mean monsters, witches, dragons…and yes, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” creature.  And in dystopic stories like the upcoming film “Elysium,” it comes in the form of totalitarian oppression.

The why of shadows is obvious: Without danger and conflict, the story gets boring.  But we can’t forget that science fiction is the lore of a technological age, the summum bonum of which is the pursuit of convenience, pleasure, ease, and the cure of all ills.

While this might sound good in everyday life, no narrative can sustain itself along such lines.  And so we have “shadows” that are specific to premises based on dreams of technological and scientific progress.

But I don’t think storytelling is the only issue here.  Storytelling, after all, comes from a deep, basic, and primordial understanding of reality.  As much as we might wish for a perfect society in which science and technology solve all of life’s problems and end all its evils, I think somewhere in our souls we get the sense that it can never be quite that simple — not, at any rate, on this plane of existence.

BraveNewWorld_FirstEdition

Even utopian societies such as the one portrayed in Alduous Huxley’s “Brave New World” show us the dark side of our technological dreams.  In the future Huxley envisions, everyone is perfectly content, because they are genetically engineered to like and fit into whatever roles the governing body wants them to fill.

The problem, however, is that mankind has lost one of its chiefest and most valuable treasures: Freedom.  All people are pawns in a great machine that conditions them as it wishes, so that they cannot think, reason, wonder, want, pursue, or hope for themselves.

So there are dark shadows even in utopia.  And in all of its varieties, science fiction is at its most compelling when it pits darkness and light against one another.  And it most speaks to the soul when it acknowledges the ultimate victory of the latter.

That’s the shadows side.  We’ll get to the “paradise lost” side next time.

Images from Wikipedia

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Elysium_PosterThe slew of recent, current, and upcoming science fiction films and TV shows intrigue me; and of course, they inspired this post.

But I don’t think I’m so much dealing with a current trend as with a deep fascination that won’t go away.  Science fiction, many have said, is the mythology of the modern world.

The word “mythology” has at best an academic connotation, and at worst the air of the naivete of pre-modern man.

But as famed Middle-Earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien said, a myth is in fact “the very opposite of a lie.”*  Myths tell us, in a sense, who we are — not as societies, or as cultures, or as people of this or that time or place, but as human beings.

Our most primal longings, desires, and fears are expressed not in words or on paper, but in the images and motifs of the myth.

TechnologyBut the meaning of “myth” in a technological society is a little ambiguous.

To be sure, our technology and scientific progress have been remarkable assets to us.  They even express the creative aspect of our being made in the Divine image.

But slowly, surely, and to some extent unconsciously, we have hereby come to see the world and even ourselves as objects for use rather than for reverence and awe, as problems (in the mathematical sense) to be solved rather than as mysteries to be known (in the existential, rather than experimental, sense).

We have made objective reality a matter of cold, impersonal measurements, having nothing to do with values, meaning, or purpose — all of which are now considered “subjective.”

If sci-fi tells us anything, I think it’s that the technological boom cannot and will not dispose of our deeper humanity…our sense of wonder, the searching of our hearts.  The “dream” of science fiction is that even a technological society is not immune to the wonders and dangers of a universe like ours.

* Quoted from a dramatization, which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzBT39gx-TE&feature=player_embedded

Photos from Wikipedia

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