Science Fiction has always been to tool for entertainment and prediction, escape and speculation. I wasn’t born to write, but enjoyment of this genre has been with me for what seems like all my life. I simply love to escape in it…
Now I wonder why it has captivated me since an early age. I have no idea when I first knew I liked it, or even when I first realised what it was. I am not one of those people who seem to be able to remember this or that exact moment from their childhood. I often wonder if these memories are actually fictions; do those who claim to remember such detail from the earliest age really remember such things?
There are huge chunks missing from my memory of my earliest years, as I am sure huge chunks are missing from my adult memory too. Maybe this is just how my individual mind works. It’s almost as if my mind is the proverbial ‘jug’ that once it is full then arbitrarily the memories slip and spill over the edge to be forgotten for ever. Maybe too many brains cells have been destroyed by beer and fast living…though sometimes right now I yearn for so much more of that!
Memory is a strange and fickle thing, sometimes it behaves like a hidden demon within our subconscious. We cannot control what we remember and it forever plays tricks on us. Sometimes it is a conjuror pulling rabbits out of a hat as we remember things we had no idea we knew in the first place. Other times it teases us; showing us a glimpse of stocking as if to say you can have this when you can’t; the countless moments when a memory lingers on the tip of your tongue, never to be released. More frustrating still, memory can put a wall around what you should know but still fail to know. In my everyday life for example I am constantly stumped when I try to remember people’s names. Often people I see every day. Now I know full well that I have a problem with this, and this knowledge makes the problem worse. I have a mental block and the names don’t come, as if I consciously build the wall.
When thinking about this problem I wonder if it is because somehow, within myself I am deciding to remember what my subconscious thinks is important and simply discarding everything else. I don’t remember people’s names sometimes because I don’t care about them. Can this be true? I have no idea, I am not even sure I believe in this shaky hidden spectre that we call the ‘subconscious’, it is a being that by it’s very nature we cannot know it or see it, and yet it can control us somehow. Like a convenient scapegoat puppet master we can blame our subconscious for all our failings. But, as usual, I digress…
Another frustrating thing with memory is it’s complete lack of accuracy. For example, some of my earliest memories are now memories of memories of memories ad infinitum. I can, at least I think I can, remember being weighed as a naked squirming baby in the cold tin bowl of a weighing machine. I have no idea if this is in any way a real memory. Maybe I remembered something like it when I was 3 or 4, and then remembered remembering it later!
So what has this got to do with Science Fiction? My memory obviously doesn’t serve me well, but I think that I was taken with puppet shows in the 1960s like Fireball XL5 and the Thunderbirds when I was pretty small. And I think the moon landings had a big effect on me; my memory tells me we watched the white clad astronauts bouncing in the moon dust on a flickery TV at school. Later still Wednesday night was always a thrill for my brother and I as we got to walk around the corner and watch Star Trek on my Aunt’s colour television. Our TV was a black and white set with no remote control. Imagine that now, only 3 channels and you had to get out of your seat to turn it over! Gosh how I show my age…
After this I was bowled by things on the big wide silver screen. The cinema gave the ultimate escapist thrill. I can still almost feel the shudder of seeing the first massive imperial space cruiser appear in the opening scene of Star Wars. I remember looking upwards because I actually believed the spaceship was flying over me. Did I actually do that as a teenage boy, or is that a distorted memory of a memory?
I think what I loved about it, apart from the obvious romance of it all, was that SciFi allowed for all possibilities and pointed to fantastic futures where astonishing things would and could happen. Yes there might be an apocalypse or two, or some horrifying aliens, or wars to contend with but humanity would win out. We would exist with amazing technology and be enriched by discovery.
Of course the reality of life and the world never quite lives up to the imagined romance of the fiction. I remember thinking that when I grew up I would probably have a hover car and go on trips to the moon. However the reality is often just as astonishing. Star Trek for example had communicators and amazing computers. I sit here typing this on an iPad and the new IPhone takes orders by you speaking to it. We live in a post modern world of huge contradictions. Wars, poverty, conflict and the sickening inequality of capitalism depress me hugely. But at the same time I am still overjoyed and hooked by the thrill of the new. Still captivated by the romance of new discoveries and the possibilities that are flung at us from all sides.
How will I remember this time? Well probably with memories of memories. And I will measure it against the thrill and experience of my young daughter. Who knows what wonders she will behold in her life? What do you think?
© 2011 Simon Poore