Why should you be reading more science fiction? Not just for the thrills or awesome science. You should read SF to explore ideas about society that academics and pundits won't talk about, writes Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest.
"Taken as a whole, the field of science fiction today is where most of the most interesting thought about human society can be found. At a time when many academics have become almost willfully obscure, political science is increasingly dominated by arcane and uninspiring theories and in which a fog of political correctness makes some forms of (badly needed) debate and exploration off limits, science fiction has stepped forward to fill the gap. In the work of writers like David Brin and Neal Stephenson there is more interesting reflection on America's place in the world than you will find, I fear, in a whole year's worth of reading in foreign policy magazines. Robert Heinlein's work brilliantly lays out the ideology of populist libertarianism and predicted the revolt against the welfare state that has defined American politics since the 1980s. Read C. J. Cherryh's foreigner novels for insight into international relations and her Cyteen novels to sharpen your wits about both international politics and the impact of technological change on human society.
The biggest single task facing the United States today is the unleashing of our social imagination. We are locked into twentieth century institutions and twentieth century habits of mind. Science fiction is the literary genre (OK, true, sometimes a subliterary genre) where the social imagination is being cultivated and developed. Young people should read this genre to help open their minds to the extraordinary possibilities that lie before us; we geezers should read it for the same reason. The job of our times is to build a radically new world; speculative fiction helps point the way."
Top image: Cover of C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen: The Betrayal, by Don Maitz