The flickering light of the flames, the pulsing red of the coals, the sheer sensuous pleasure of the radiant heat.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the first major change to their environment early Hominids made was the taming of fire. And then they evolved to better take advantage of that warmth in the cold, the delicious food that happened when things were exposed to fire. The safety from predators in the night, a relatively safe way to drive animals over a cliff.
Oh, we evolved to fit better to agriculture, as we invented it, and cites, industry . . . but even now, I sit tapping at a computer, producing some blather that I’ll post on a world-wide web of high tech connections . . . and I am doing it while sitting here in front of a recess built into my house for the sole purpose of enjoying sitting close to a low wickering fire, with one arm warm and one cold. Something I inherited from some primitive ancestor is content to sit here, some sense that this is a safe place where I belong.
We’re now in a time of rapid changes to our environment. No, I’m not talking about climate change—climates has always changed, and we used our tame fire to deal with that.
No, I’m looking at technology, at culture clashes, at hostile political factions.
It’s all happening too fast for evolution to deal with, too fast for cultural evolution—I look around and see a society that is breaking, not adapting.
Do we have the resilience to adapt? Or will we fall apart and have to rebuild. Will we emerge on the far side to the final death of Communism and the bright future of individual freedom, responsibility, and striving?
I think one reason I both read and write science fiction is to explore those possibilities.
What if humans became the perfect soviet? Like ants, toiling as one, for the Hive? Sometimes I swear that is the goal of the would-be Hive Masters. I don’t think they’d actually like the results, even if they were on top. Because, speaking of hostile political factions, ants do go to war. Hmm, haven’t read any of that sort of SF lately . . . Although my Cyborgs (NaNoWriMo project this year) are actually quite close, even though I was working more toward the next subgenre.
What happens as we become our machines? Will we become dependent on the tech parts? Will we lose something that makes us who we are when we change what we are? I have so many friends that I think I know so well, on line. Haven’t met half of them in the flesh, but I want to. Bunches of them met online and now married or making wedding plans. Will we continue to value that last real world physical touch, or will it become more rare, until we’ve forgotten how wonderful it is to deal with others in the flesh?
And speaking of technology, what happens when we move to space habitats, other planets, other planetary systems? As travel times stretch from days to months, years, and many decades between groups of people will we evolve into different species, or will we be more like breeds of dogs? Incredibly different looking, but still dogs? The Founder Effect in interstellar colonies will be strong. I regret that I can only play with it in fiction, and will not live to see even the start of it.
What if we go out there and find other intelligent life? Friends, enemies, incomprehensible . . . SF is rife with our meetings and what can happen. I think this is where I see the most variety in SF. Thousands? Millions? Lots of people exploring all the possibilities. Mind bogglingly odd sometimes. I mean “Shakespeare in the original Klingon?” Really?
Genetic engineering. Still in its infancy, we’ve fictionally explored its use in creating horrible plagues or supersoldiers. We do love those unintended side effects, and things escaping into the wild that should never have been created in the first place. But we’ve also explored changing ourselves to fit alien environments and uplifting other species into sapience, for better and much worse. This is a field much loved by Horror writers.
And then there’s Time Travel. An exploration into the past, a study of what else might have been. which could often be mistaken for parables about the importance of not changing history. Closely related to both Alternate History and Parallel Worlds fiction. It’s odd, that the least likely field to ever happen is the one with the most real world applications to the here and now. Because we can look into the past and see where action could have avoided a horrible war, or a tragic disaster—and we can see where our current situation leads, if we just stand by and let something just starting, continue.
Science Fiction is often denigrated as “Escape fiction.” A way to not deal with the real world. I think that’s exactly wrong.