Gordon Hackman pointed me in the direction of c.s. lewis' on science fiction in On Stories.
There Lewis offers a taxonomy of sorts concerning science fiction. 1) science fiction by displace authors. This is when an other tells adventure/love/mystery stories in the context of the future, but is only doing it b/c it is a fad that he trying to cash in on, not b/c it is intrinsic to the story. Lewis destests this kind. 2) Satiric or prophetic: using the future as commentary on the present, here he lists Brave New World and 1984. Usually political and social critique. 3) Engineer's Stories: focusing on technological developements as real possibilities in the actual universe. Lewis not too fond of these but he sees their merit. 4) Speculative Stories: moving beyond the strictily scientific to speculations at the limit of human comprehension, the center of the earth, Hades, aliens. 5) Eschatological Stories: speculation on the ultimate destiny of humanity, of the universe. Not necessarily political/social, but cosmological. They present the big picture, and man's small place within it. and lastly, 6) Fantasy: "This last sub-species of science fiction represents simply an imaginative impule as old as the human race working under the specail conditions of our own time." Science Fiction has to leave earth b/c our knowledge of earth is geographically complete. Before, Homer set his character across the sea to find strange new world, creature, and mysteries. Because of our knowledge, fantastic stories can't be located in the forest next to the village, or the land across the sea, or even in the sky, they must leave earth and forge out into space.
For myself, I have always been attracted to the Satirical (think Gulliver's Travels) and the Fantasy.
For this reason I will use these Science Fiction Friday posts to explore the how science fiction is working to offer a social/political critique of our current situation (or its failure to do so while imagining it does), as well as its resources to reenchant our world.
Along those lines, next week I will explain why the ideology of aliens (as employed for multiculturalist reason) is coming to an end, and how the 'other' of humanity is not some strange alien but rather humanity itself. For me this is the fundamental turn in current science fiction.
Here's my question to you all: to what use (or what roles) do(es) aliens typically play in science fiction? They can be multiple. This will set up the discussion next week.
So that's my topic: what social/political topics are compelling for you in the genre of science fiction?
also, here is Gordon Hackman's peice on science fiction and theology. It is great. and I think i'll read it again and maybe work it into this discussion in the future.