Who determines what “proper literature” is? Science fiction literature has always been generally perceived to be insignificant, meaningless and immature. However, the genre of science fiction is much more than the fictional worlds of imagination. It is a platform upon which human nature and other social issues are speculated. Jennifer A. Rea asserts in “From Plato to Philip K. Dick: Teaching Classics through Science Fiction” that the philosophical, social, political and psychological queries which the ancients explored are undoubtedly similar to the very same issues explored in science fiction works.
Numerous classic and contemporary science fiction works explore larger issues about human nature, ethical questions, and the effects/results of humanity’s actions, analyzing the future condition of where humanity is heading. Examples include: George Orwell, 1984; Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Science fiction literature not only often depicts the future, but often eerily “predicts” or anticipates the conditions and ethical dilemmas of the future of the human society. Orwell’s 1984 has become disturbingly relevant to modern society, with its depiction of governmental panopticism. In Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card creates a world where Earth’s government has established institutions to train child geniuses for the military, where they play games to learn training. Eerily similar systems have come to be on the rise in the real world as well, as evident by this article in The New York Times: Luring Young Web Warriors Is Priority. It’s Also a Game. The article covers a digital defense simulation challenge called the “Cyber Aces” that has now begun in the U.S. (and which already exists in China), recruiting children and adolescents who compete in learning hacking skills in order to be initiated to work for the the Department of Homeland Security.
Other ways in which science fiction speculates about the human condition is through the depiction of aliens. In “Self and Other in Science Fiction: Alien Encounters,” Carl D. Malmgren declares that there is a symbolic metaphor behind the depiction of aliens in science fiction: “The encounter with the alien in science fiction literature inevitably broaches the question of Self and the Other…The act of extrapolation insists that there is a line of connection between terran and alien actants, between Us and Them. The act of making that connection forces us to explore what it means to be human” (15-17). In Ender’s Game, the humans’ interactions with the aliens reveals the true nature of what constitutes a human, and what this implies about human interactions with one another.