On writing

We need more books that push the science fiction envelope

I’ve been living in my own science fictional world the last few days, where my sense of well-being is directly proportional to the level of cold-and-flu drugs in my system. The recommended daily dosage wears off much faster than they say on the packet, so there are times in between feeling okay and feeling wretched where you’re just waiting for the next lot of pills to kick in.

You can feel when they do.

Last night I took a batch of pills at midnight, but they didn’t kick in until 1:20 am (exactly). Between those two times I sat up in bed. My nose was a tap, continually running. I couldn’t lie down because otherwise the gunk ran down the back of my throat into my lungs. My throat was so swollen it was hard to breathe. It hurt to cough, but I coughed all the time. Plus, I was freezing cold even though I had a doona and two blankets.

My mind wandered.

I started off thinking about the drugs and what they were doing to my system. It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t have access to the drugs I did (and sometimes they had access to stronger drugs). How has that made us as a people? A lot wimpier about illnesses, I think.

How many lives have medications like this saved? Just drying up the mucus alone will save on lung-related complications like pneumonia.

From there I moved on to thinking about science fiction. So many of the things written about in the golden age of science fiction are now fact. Drugs for common ailments. Cars that drive themselves (well, there’s one, so far).  Going to the moon/Mars. Genetic engineering. Mobile phones.

One of the reasons it was the golden age is because back then the ideas were so new and fresh.

Fresh ideas seem harder to come by nowadays. Not because they don’t exist. They do. But in the golden age there were no precedents. We didn’t have a strong history of science fiction to draw on. Every idea was new. Every idea stretched us in a new way, and made us think.

That’s why it’s great to see stories like Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice winning so many industry awards. Her story does what good science fiction should do. It entertains, it makes you think, and it pushes science fiction just a little further out.

I hope she goes on to win more awards this year.

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