It is unfashionable to assert it, but the novel does, I believe, still have a socio-educational value. It is not just Miss Manners. Fiction can make us better, or at least, better informed citizens. In a technological age, for example, it is important that the population should know something about the machinery that makes modern life possible and how it works. Science fiction has done as much for the factual scientific education of the average reader as all the educational reforms introduced since CP Snow’s 1959 polemic The Two Cultures lamented his fellow Britons’ epidemic ignorance of the second law of thermodynamics. The fact, revealed in a survey by the magazine Wired in November 2005, that 40 per cent of Americans believe that aliens are in the habit of routinely visiting our planet and taking away sample earthlings for full body cavity probes, suggests that sf may also have a lot to answer for in dumbing down the citizenry.
This is also a post to say that my blogging frequency is likely to be somewhat reduced this month. I’ll be around, but I have some things I need to get written, the looming prospect of two weeks that are likely to be extremely work-heavy, and I really need to knuckle down on the Clarke reading front. When I get my life back: Spin. Or Twenty Epics. Or possibly the forever-delayed post on why “Magic for Beginners” is so wonderful. Bet you can’t wait.