I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was four. It started with TV shows like the original Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man, Batman (the shapeless tights 60s version) and Saturday morning superhero cartoons. One of my first visits to the movies was when my mom took me to see Star Wars in 1977. Then I started to read novels and ploughed through Heinlein and Clarke. I remember finding Stranger in a Strange Land a little weird at about age eleven, but I enjoyed it. Later I became a devotee of LeGuin and Lovecraft.
Sf was such an obvious thing to me from an early age, and so the fantasy of Tolkien and his tradition came as more of a revelation to me when I discovered it. I spent ten years in the Stockholm Tolkien Society, and when the time came for me to choose a profession, there were really only two alternatives: either astronomy (inspired by sf) or archaeology (inspired by fantasy). As it turned out, you had to do a year of math and physics before you got to look at any stars, while archaeology was hands on from day one. And so one fascinating discipline without many job opportunities lost me to another with only a little more.
Weaning myself off television as a teen, and never a being a big moviegoer, I may not look much like an SF/F fan to people who have the Babylon Five and Battlestar Galactica boxed sets on their shelves. But I read, and I listen to weekly short-fiction podcasts like Escape Pod. Though looking at my notes for the past year, I find that I’ve read only one sf (-ish) novel, one sf story collection and one collection of essays about sf. I blame the blogging.
Now a couple of readers have asked us Sbloggers what we see as science fiction’s role in promoting science, if indeed it has any. The term “science fiction” was originally coined in the 1920s by Hugo Gernsback for a genre of fiction where the conveying of scientific lessons would be more important than the narrative content of the stories themselves. This of course is not what made sf a hugely popular genre. That honour goes to good old sense of wonder. Sf is good when it’s gripping and exciting, preferably emotionally, artistically and intellectually. And if you learn some science along the way, real or fictional, then all the better. It’s probably very hard to remain ignorant of and hostile to science if you like sf, but then, if such is your background, chances are you won’t seek out sf anyway.
The science fiction and fantasy subculture I grew up with has seen increasing mainstreaming. You needn’t identify as a nerd to go see the Tolkien movies and Will Smith in I, Robot. Indeed, being ignorant of that sort of thing now constitutes a failing in the cultural competence even of the most determinedly mainstream person. And walking around with an internet-enabled PC in my pocket that allows me to check out the latest images from the Mars rovers even while out in the woods, I live in a world more futuristic in many aspects than much of the sf I read as a child.