By William Markiewicz
It’s only human that we are attracted by the fantastic. It’s also human that we are preoccupied with elementary human questions. So, they naturally meet each other. Authors probably are not always aware that their flamboyant imagination leads them toward the basic human condition and human longings. I once tried to make a list of basic human questions and the way writers handled them. The list was long and as for the authors, I knew only a handful of them and I’ve forgotten most of them. So I will try to give a few examples of the topics and magic beauty of science fiction that tries to popularize what is deep and essential in us. As I don’t remember the authors or the titles, I will only summarize particular stories.
In one of them a space ship landed on Earth. The peculiarity of the space ship was that it was alive, a harmonious composition of elements that can survive by themselves and, taken together, made a perfectly functioning spacecraft. The only element missing in this particular spacecraft was the ‘pusher’ who was needed to mentally initiate the practically unlimited speed. The previous pusher had died and the engine couldn’t return to its home planet until a "pusher’s" planet was found. The pushers happened to be human. The first human they encountered was a young man. Surprised to see strange life forms speaking his language, the young man collapsed and all the others were surprised that the pusher, the most complex of the Cosmos’ inhabitants, could be scared by anything. Finally they convinced him that he belonged to the species of Pushers; all he needed to do was to have the Wish to push. They explained that all the inhabitants of the universe were individual components of the whole and the ultimate goal of each was to become a part of cosmic communication by being part of the cosmic “machine.” They promised him a Paradise on the Mother Planet of All and they would never be speedy enough to get there without a Pusher. He accepted to join them and he tried to “Push.” After a few unsuccessful attempts, he finally succeeded and the machine went to its radiant destiny, vastly outracing the speed of light.
What does the story teach? It is a "Communist" conclusion; we are nobody when alone and everybody when together. We don’t live only for ourselves, but joining forces, the community may achieve shining tomorrows.
Another story tells us about a dangerous drug which, when consumed, totally abolishes the separation between reality and imagination. We see people shouting at guards in hospitals: “Leave me alone; I know that you don’t exist.” Others sleep and we don’t know of which reality they dream. The hero of the story lives his long life and dies, to wake up and start another existence again. We don’t know which one is true and which one is the dream. It ends when the hero renounces knowing whether what he is living is true or false. Many philosophies discuss the gates of reality and illusion. The movie “Matrix” focuses on it. Students of multidimensions sometimes get lost in the search between spirituality and material reality (Hilley).
The "Berserkers" of Fred Saberhagen, repeats themes that have existed since Antiquity; about struggles between good and evil, monsters and humans, gods and giants. The spiritual writers glorify the apparently gratuitous and glorious sacrifice for an ideal. A religious astronaut sacrifices his life, his future, to read the Bible to metallic robots on a far away planet. A priest sacrifices his future in the church to save the soul of one prostitute in a space ship, and he thanks God for giving him this privilege. Supreme rejection of Sansara in favour of Salvation. An asocial human was rejected by society which just ignored him and he had no way to reach them. He found refuge from his loneliness, frustration and despair in creating beauty in his cave. I don’t remember if he painted or did other things. I remember when I read it long ago how surprised I was at the author’s choice. I couldn’t see any valuable message; who can profit from a message from somebody pathetic, rejected, creating only for himself. It took a long time for me to understand the painful reminder that an individual has the right and duty to defend himself against collective power, right or wrong, that he could find refuge in the infinite universe where the frontier between real and imaginary is abolished. Here we come back to the “Matrix” and we can remember or imagine other aspects of the cosmogony called Science Fiction.Back to the index of the Vagabond