SF as Psychological Exploration

I love this article exploring the connections between storytelling and memory:

What Novels Can Tell Us About Memory by Charles Fernyhough (posted on The Huffington Post on January 28, 2014)

We’re storytelling creatures, it’s built into the most essential processes of our consciousness. Storytelling and memory are how we define our identities—biological, individual, social, cultural.

As always, whenever I think about identity and storytelling, I think about why I love SF stories and novels.

I’ve long believed that SF (speculative fiction—scifi, fantasy, horror) offers the best venue for us to explore what it means to be human: biologically, personally, socially, culturally.

SF allows us to create situations as extreme as we can conceive, and then imagine how people might behave, react, adapt to them.

In trying to imagine beings that aren’t human at all—aliens, fantastical creatures, paranormal entities—the contrast throws into stark relief what it means to be human.

Consider how our sense of self must change when we imagine how we might be changed through science or magic: technological enhancements to our bodies; computer enhanced consciousness; bodiless consciousness; transfiguration. How must humanity be defined when we adapt ourselves to multiple worlds? When we transcend corporeality and become patterns of information in a matrix? When we exist across and outside of perceived linear time? When we can transform ourselves into other sorts of creatures?

When we radically alter the most basic elements of our existence, what’s left? What are the irreducible, essential things that make us human? How much can be changed—in ourselves, in our environment—before we stop being human?

How varied can human beings become and still be contained in humankind?

SF is one big thought experiment exploring the breadth and depth, the capacity and essence, the potential of human nature.

It’s said that art holds up a mirror to the world. SF allows us to create mirrors that are unlike anything else.

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