like, and what you are like -- what's going on -- what the
heard, in their time in this world, a third of it spent
"In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we're done with it, we may find -- if it's a good novel -- that we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it's very hard to _say_ just what we learned, how we were changed. " (Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness).
Oh, yes, reading Sci-Fi can be a subversive act. Sometimes, if it is good Sci-Fi, we see a truth that the author is telling us about our world, about our selves. And we cannot unsee it . Good Sci-Fi it is not about geeking out on the future or vegging out on technology. Good Sci-Fi is about us. Now. And once we have seen the particular truth about our condition, we cannot unsee it.
Reading science fiction is a dangerous thing. For a good science fiction novel strips away the evasions and the confusions, making stark the reality of our own lives within the text. In our real lives we often go about like Katniss's prep team, wrapped in the mundane and necessary routines that make up daily life. But in the dialogue between the reader and the text, the reader's reality is stripped of the little things, and the meaning of it, illuminated. We are made uncomfortable. Are we really like the citizens of the Capitol, living vicariously through others? Do we see revolution as a Google-made game, created for our entertainment, returning to our own fleshpots, making a pun of the crack-down that we ignore afterwards? Are we more like the people of the Districts, afraid to step out of line for fear of losing what little they have? Is there perhaps, something of Katniss hidden deep within us, something that drives us to act--albeit uncounsciously--in defiance of our own slavery?
No wonder, then, that unfree societies take up the time of the individuals that they enslave with bread and circuses, in order to distract. But even in the real world, bread and circuses are in themselves dangerous to the regime that uses them. For while they lull the "citizens" who are fed bread they did not earn into somnolence, they eventually remind the circus "performers" that their lives are not their own, that they are living for the purposes of others. But in real life, this may take generations. In the story of the Israelites in Egypt, it took 400 years for the Israelites to realize that they had allowed themselves to become enslaved, the lives of their children at stake to prop up the power of Pharaoh.
But in Sci-Fi novels like the Hunger Games Trilogy, the story begins at the place where the reality of the consequences of second-hand lives, and of enslavement is no longer obscured; in the stripped down version of a story about us, now, we the truth of who we are now, and what we are doing now. And what it means. Really.
Oh, reading Sci-Fi can be a dangerous, dangerous act. For by paring down what is, and placing it in another place and time, it can cut through the bread and circuses, and bring the reader into an uncomfortable confrontation with reality.
And that changes a person, until with that internal dialogue, and then another and another, the unconscious understanding of what human freedom entails bubbles dangerously up, irrepressible, and the undercurrent becomes a mighty stream that wakes us up and forces us to confront the reality that all is not as we thought it was. And that understanding leads us into a confrontation with those who wish to keep us asleep and compliant to the thousands of little slaveries that keep us in bondage to their wills.
And so the subversive act of reading Sci-Fi can enventually provoke us to recognize who we are, to break our bonds, and lead us out of our second hand lives into the liberty of who knows where?