Reality Skimming

Optimistic SF by Michelle Murrain

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Michelle MurrainMichelle Murrain is a science fiction writer who has published six novels. Her novels are hard science fiction, but incorporate social, political, and spiritual topics. Michelle also works as a nonprofit web developer, and has been a neuroscientist and professor. She lives in Northern California.

Why I Write Optimistic SF

Optimistic speculative fiction is, to me, fiction which explores our better nature, as well as explores how to deal with our shadows in a way that can lead to positive change.

I am at heart, an optimist, although I do feel often deeply troubled by the state of the human race. My work never glosses over those aspects, and is never "polyanna". But my plot arcs are generally stories of transformation - of individuals, groups, and societies. And, in general, although tumultuous and sometimes violent, those transformations are toward the greater good.

I'm not against dystopia - in fact, the novel I'm working on now starts out in a dystopic future. In some ways, describing and delving into dystopia is a way to show the way forward in a sense. Octavia Butler did this brilliantly in "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents." Showing the logical result of current human actions isn't pessimistic - it's realistic. The question is then, what do you do with that? Many authors show positive transformation out of dystopic, or simply difficult scenarios.

The thing I think I love the best about SF, is that you really get to ask big questions, in really big ways. That (besides getting to play with futuristic technology) is why I write science fiction. And since we get to ask the big questions - why not answer them in ways that help people see the good that's possible. and help them see where we could really get to, if we had the will. I think that's why a lot of people really love Star Trek - it portrays a future where so much of what we are burdened with today has been solved, but there is always more to grapple with.

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