One commenter on yesterday’s post noted that science fiction “can also be used as a formidable stock of thought experiments, with profound philosophical implication.” I have hardly read any science fiction (I am currently working on Lewis’ Space Trilogy) yet I have no doubt this is the case. Another commenter made note of Ray Bradbury. Kurt Vonnegut and Aldous Huxley also come to mind as well as Jules Vernes and H. G. Wells as early practitioners. It seems to me that Mary Shelley deserves recognition at least as a forerunner. I’m sure those familiar with the field can fill out the list quite a bit.
Hannah Arendt, writing in the mid-twentieth century, appears to be one of the few intellectuals of the time to have recognized the value of science fiction. Writing in The Human Condition she notes that the “respectable newspapers” were only just then catching up on implications of science which,
up to then had been buried in the highly non-respectable literature of science fiction (to which, unfortunately, nobody yet has paid the attention it deserves as a vehicle of mass sentiments and mass desires).
Perhaps someone can correct me on this, but it seems the most profound science fiction also tends to be of the dystopian variety.