Bill Paley (mycroftca) wrote,
Bill Paley

F&SF essay for this week

In youth, most people have at some time or another thought about being invisible. They also may have considered how wonderful it might be for their pet to be intelligent, and able to act as would a human. Many people in younger years would have heard the adage, "In the Country of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king.", but few consider the true repercussions of life amongst the blind. I recall hearing some young friends speculate on how nice it would be to live in a binary star system with longer days or well-lit nights, but again, they thought only of the light, not the climate effects.

H. G. Wells did consider what realistically might occur in each of these cases, and explained in clear terms what these events would suggest. He did it in language that fit the Victorian Age, and was sufficiently clear that it made for good reading amongst his audience. He showed them why these events were not positive, but were, in fact likely to be serious problems for those involved. Wells' works were thought-provoking in this way, throughout his career. This was the seminal work that led to the genre now called Science Fiction, a form of speculative fiction in which one aspect of the world is changed (a man can become invisible, scientists can with vivisection make animals human) and look carefully at what the changed aspect would do to the world. Were there more changes, it would be too fantastic, and wouldn't provoke as much thought. But having only one change keeps the world mostly recognizable to the reader, and allows them to really examine the effects of that choice.

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