Sometimes when I'm trying to muddle through A Brief History of Time, I ask myself why I chose sci-fi over fantasy. It's moments when I'm reading multiverse and string theory that I question why I didn't go with magic. In these dark times I imagine somewhere Stephen Hawking is having a good chuckle at my expense.
I love magic after all. I can say with no shame that the Harry Potter series tops my list of favorite books ever, and I've read quite a few books. Crewel even has some fantastical elements to it, but in the end, it's grounded in very theoretical, pseudo-science. One day while I was decrying the whole choosing sci-fi thing to my husband and how hard it was and how I didn't understand anything I was reading but still felt compelled to grasp these theories, he said something insightful. I know, dear readers, you are dying to know. After all, my husband is amazingly profound. No really, he is. Also he understands said complex scientific theories and explains them to me with small words and pictures.
He said, "Sci-fi isn't about the science, it's about taking a possibility and exploring its implications." He pointed out a favorite book of his Kiln People by David Brin (which I have not read, because he lost his copy!). In it, people have the ability to make clones of themselves, called kiln people. These clones can be used for various purposes and have varying life spans. The main character is a private detective who uses his kiln people to do his dirty work, which sometimes gets them killed in the process. It's mystery, complete with all the Sam Spade tropes and Chinatownesque settings, you'd expected of a P.I. novel, but really it's a novel that explores the possibility of duplicating oneself and the implications. It isn't bogged down in the science. It just makes use of the idea. Since we're all familiar with genetic engineering, it's not terribly hard to buy into and it addresses a subject that's certainly fascinating and controversial in an exciting way.
And it's discussions like these with my husband and other writers which remind me that the Crewel World series is sci-fi because it had to be in order to play with the effects weaving the world would have.
But maybe also cause I'm a giant J.J. Abrams fan. That could be it, too.
So tell me, why do you read or write sci-fi?