“It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.” This a quote said by Donna Haraway as she received the prestigious Pilgrim Award from the Science Fiction Research Association for her work in science fiction. Throughout her speech Haraway’s dialogue invokes her own work in the field of science was responsible for shaping her outlook in her stories. Take this example of when she talks about her “Cyborg Manifesto”: “Cyborgs were never just about the interdigitations of humans and information machines; cyborgs were from the get-go the materialization of imploded (not hybridized) human beings-information machines-multispecies organisms. Cyborgs were always simultaneously relentlessly real and inescapably fabulated.” (Haraway, 2013) While art and science are separate fields, they are not independently distinct. In science fiction, either of these can precede the other and shape how stories are told, but they cannot be isolated away from each other. Similar to the Oreskes reading on how science is shaped by the public and scientific community, sci-fi writer Octavia Butler notes in a speech delivered at MIT that although virtually everyone in America can read, less than half actually do that. Most Americans don’t even bother picking up a book to gain a deeper insight or for fun, but rather profess difficulty in engaging the skill (Butler, 1998). Even with great works of science fiction, they are pointless without the reader’s attention, a major knot in knotting the knots. Without this, people become disengaged in science and art, and the two fields suffer as a whole. Science fiction is a great way to promote interest in creative fields such as science and art, but in order to do that the general population must have motivation or ease of ability to read those works. We see this drip into a story by Ted Chaing, a science fiction opus about mechanized “people” that operate using argon fueled lungs that can be switched out for new pressurized air at designated filling stations. In it he notices clocks are running faster than normal, but when inspected finds no imperfections in the machinery, so he decides to operate on his own brain to figure out the cause. Doing so reveals that people’s brains are having a slowdown due to a lack of air being delivered to the brain. As a result, he was able to discover that memory itself is tied to these airflows, making everyone think slower. The notable conclusion is revealed when it is discovered because of the increasing air pressure of the universe, the planet’s pressure is progressing to a different equilibrium of high and low pressure, and eventually one day their way of life will cease to exist when a point of maximum slowness hits. While quite a sad tale, it does end on a bittersweet moment that is relevant to the quote at hand. (Chiang, 2014) This personal connection the reader experiences about a fiction, but also semi-realistic story tries to get them to appreciate the world they have today. For example, climate change is another event that will end up destroying our planet irreversibly if we do not make hard changes right here, right now. Just like running out of pressurized air, it is important to look around you and be thankful for the world you have now, because it could very easily slip away in the future.
Haraway, D. (2013) SF: Science Fiction, Speculative Fabulation, String Figures, So Far. Ada 11(3). https://adanewmedia.org/2013/11/issue3-haraway/
Butler, O. (1998). “Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction. https://www.blackhistory.mit.edu/archive/transcript-devil-girl-mars-why-i-write-science-fiction-octavia-butler-1998
Chiang, T. (2014, April 29). Exhalation. Lightspeed, 47. https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/exhalation/