Science Fiction and November 2020

Hello, SE readers! Today I will again focus on inspiration–but with a twist. I’ve been thinking about Mark Twain, and not because I live a couple of hours from the Mississippi River. Rather, it’s because I read some of his science fiction work and was haunted by his comment: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

It seems to me that Twain nailed it. Truth is stranger than fiction, and November 2020 is evidence. Most of us could not have imagined the craziness that has unfolded this year. But if anyone could have, wouldn’t it have been the science fiction writers? Those visionaries who populate outer space with odd-looking creatures, who make intergalactic wars part of our vocabulary, who go deep into the earth and uncover cities of strange beings? Yes, those writers.  

Inspired by Twain’s statement, let’s visit a few science fiction writers and see what they have to say.

The first visionary is Ray Bradbury. Consider the following:

Anything you dream is fiction, and anything you accomplish is science,

the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.

I had to read this quote multiple times before I understood what he meant. It’s undeniable that fiction depends upon dreams, some that are nocturnal and others that float freely throughout the day, but Bradbury doesn’t stop there. He suggests that our dreams lead us to concrete action, and then he makes the outrageous claim that our entire history is science fiction. Really?

Given his position, I doubt Bradbury would have worried about conspiracy theories or who/what we can trust — or not. After all, he perceived reality through the lens of science fiction.    

Ursala K. Le Guin is another notable science fiction writer, and her position is similar to that of Bradbury. In her distinct style she writes:

If a soldier is imprisoned, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?

…if we value the freedom of the mind and soul, then it’s our duty to escape,

and to take as many people with us as we can.

Le Guin’s words seem to carry a challenge, one that suggests we need to flee from the limitations of accepted assumptions. Could there be a better escape than the imaginative world of science fiction? Maybe if we stepped back from the current dramas and envisioned an alternative universe, it would add perspective — unless, of course, we’re living that alternative now.

Octavia E. Butler builds on Le Guin’s premise and explains the following:

I was attracted to science fiction because …

there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.

Butler’s comment sounds like a declaration of freedom. If she could conceive of it, she could write it. And did! Fictional worlds, mysterious characters with super powers, time travel — all were hers and ours to enjoy. She joins Le Guin in charting a path through the unknown, and similar to Bradbury, she understands the world in terms of science fiction.

E. B. White offers the final thought:

Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.

For White, the gold mine is the writer, and to bring inspiration to paper means personal digging. This is why there are traces of the writer strewn across the pages of her or his work. A mannerism, a dream, a memory may find expression through the heroine or the villain, the lover or the foe.

Returning to the beginning of this post, what does any of this have to do with 2020 and inspiration? Consider with me, what would happen if everyone took to heart the messages from each of these science fiction visionaries? What if we really are the opus that must be translated, what if we really are the creators of our world?

Sometimes writers will say, I write because I must. Hmm, what is the story writers are driven to tell?

65 thoughts on “Science Fiction and November 2020

  1. I agree entirely with robertawrites’ comment above. Bradbury’s quote makes perfect sense when interpreted in this light. One of the reasons I love Ray Bradbury’s work is because he writes with great vision for his time and great humanity. In other words, he writes with his head and his heart. A great example of this is his novel “The Martian Chronicles.”

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  2. Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are books that truly speak to this moment. When I read her works, I get goosebumps. She’s a kind of Cassandra in the way she describes a near future United States. -LJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s definitely a science fiction year. Watching the lift-off last night was amazing – another example of abundant possibilities.


  3. As others have noted, the quotes–and the message of this post–are awesome, Gwen. I was particularly struck by Ray Bradbury’s thought and read that one several times to soak it in. Bradbury was a huge influence on me as a writer, especially in my earlier years. This is a post that definitely gives the reader pause to wallow in thought. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Mae. Story Empire authors are incredible writers of science fiction, and through you and the others, I’ve learned so much. Even though I showcased four prominent visionaries, the SE team sparked the post. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post, Gwen. You found some great quotes for musing, and I must admit to liking Butler’s best. One of the interesting things about writing (fantasy) fiction is creating scenarios where people willingly accept a worldview and perspective that is different from what they hold in “real” life. As a reader, I love books that challenge my worldview and make me examine human (my own) choices. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Running a day late, folks, but please do yourself a favor and check out yesterday’s Story Empire post by Gwen Plano. Amazingly thought-provoking and inspirational, she quotes some of my favorite authors (Ray Bradbury being one) and poses some interesting questions. When you’ve had a chance to ponder her topic, I hope you’ll pass it along so others can give it some thought, as well. Thanks, and thanks to Gwen for a superb post that will resonate with me for some time. (There’s a reason I read more fantasy than anything else these days. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve got a big smile, Marcia. Thank you for reblogging my post. We do live in interesting times, don’t we. Fantasy sounds like a great choice for an afternoon read! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Judi. You are right-on about every genre opening doors. These days, though, I’m particularly in awe of science fiction writers. Who knows maybe an intergalactic visitation could bring us to our senses. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post, Gwen! You give us much to ponder. I love all the quotes, but I’ve always been partial to E.B. White. And I think it’s time to escape 2020, don’t you? 🙂 What a year, and more tragic and life-changing for some, too. Wishing you a great weekend! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Lauren. I’m with you, it’s time to escape 2020. Oh to fly away to some unknown island, free of COVID, free of the elections… 😊


  7. What wonderful quotes to draw from, Gwen. Your post makes me pause and really think – let it sink in. I do believe we are creators of our own worlds, whether in life or in fiction writing. Great food for thought! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post, Gwen. 2020 has certainly given us a lot of scenes that would get scratched by a serious writer as being too absurd to believe. Maybe it will open a whole new genre. Thanks for sharing these quotes and your thoughts with us. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love all the quotes you posted. (I use Twain’s often.) I was particularly struck by Le Guin’s. Fiction and escapism seem to go hand-in-hand, especially these days. And on Friday the 13th, to boot. Lots to ponder. Great post today, Gwen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Staci. It seems to me that science fiction writers, such as yourself, open the doors to new ways of seeing. How extraordinary–and necessary! 💗


  10. I’m pondering the Bradbury quote. Certainly food for thought. This year has been a rough one (in more ways than one) and I’ve struggled to write. But writing is, among other things, my way to escape. If I had applied those thoughts to this year, I should have written at least three novels. 🙂

    Lots to ponder here, and I love the E B White quote.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great quotes, Gwen. I especially love the one by Ursula K Le Guin. I’ve struggled to write this year. I have a trilogy to finish as well as a novel … both in progress and stalled due to … well, 2020, I guess! lols. Here’s for a smoother time from here on in. Lovely post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Harmony. Like you, I love her quote. It seems that life itself has slowed this year, one day like the next. The thought of escaping with Le Guin is entrancing. I suspect there will be an explosion of creative thought in 2021. Your trilogy and novel will be top on my list to read! 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My writer’s hat has somehow mislaid itself this year. I have tried to write without it, but it would seem the odds are against me.
    Is it really possible to write when our world, both private and public, is in chaos? I wonder how all the authors in your post would cope…

    Liked by 4 people

  13. HI Gwen, I found these quotes very interesting. I am a huge Ray Bradbury fan and I agree with what he says. My interpretation is that innovation and progress in the areas of science requires inspiration, creativity and a dream that compels the scientist / investor to make a great leap of faith forward. Without creativity, science becomes stagnant and this is why it is so important to teach children art, literature and provide for a broad spectrum of other creative endeavors.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I love your interpretation, Robbie. Thank you! Where would we be without that leap of faith and the breadth of the creative arts? It would be a different world for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

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