As I was browsing Twitter today, I ran into a heartwarming article concerning one of my favorite book series and TV shows, The Expanse.
A humanitarian worker who has worked in the Congo, Sudan, Chad, Somalia and many others recently reached out to us with an inspiring story. She told us of the hardship and suffering she has seen, and described how her retelling of stories from The Expanse brings a ray of light to the children she works with.
There are many, many things I appreciate about The Expanse, both the books and the show. But perhaps the one that truly stands out is its roots in actual science that - as proved time and again - is art by itself. Science can inspire us the same way only art can otherwise.
(Which is pretty unfair, when you think about it. Whereas art is tremendously important, that being the very point of this post, science is both art and not. Like light being both a wave and particle, so is science art and... well, science.
So unfair for us artsy types. Heh. )
The article, short as it is, is interesting on so many levels it'd be pointless to list them all here. Here's the one that grabbed my attention.
We tell stories to entertain others. It's so easy to get all locked up in our echo chambers, be them the relatively small ones of personal beliefs or politics to the large ones fueled by culture and shaped by forces grander than any one country or political movement. Still, the same stories resonate largely the same way.
As if they tapped into the same shared (un) consciousmess of humanity itself. And yet, based on some purely self-imposed classification, great stories can fall into the (still existing) disrepate of such labels of "pulp" or "make-believe". The term 'science-fiction' grants you no respect in most cases.
Yet, it's often among science-fiction stories we find the inspiration that translates into feats of science that alters the course of our entire race.
And it's fascinating to see African children (who don't know what a screen is!) aspire to go to space. It's interesting to watch them learn about a world not only beyond their own but beyond even that of ours. These children, who live in famine and ravaging diseases and a by-and-large escapeless and hopeless existence in a part of the world that has been, seemingly, abandoned by the rest of us, are becoming part of our 'make-believe' culture through this shared experience.
That is amazing to me.
I can only hope that someday my writing ends up in the hands of someone like these kids. I stand on the shoulders of giants of the mid-twentieth century's space programs, and do my best to fill their achievements with my own little dreams. Because, in such an unfair way as I pointed out earlier, they made not just science but art.
But ultimately our highest hope and aspiration in storytelling can only be to entertain - and the only way we can do that with the most precision is to tell stories that tap into that shared wonder that unites us more than country or even planetary proximity.
As a side note, let me just say that this is why the outrage at the Neil Armstrong movie (and the comments made by Ryan Gosling) are such a nonsense. Landing on the moon, although done by Americans, was and forever will be a fundamentally human achievement. Just as the Voyagers's journey around the solar system and eventually into interstellar space is a human, not an American, mission.
Denying that is standing in front of those children in Africa, and denying them the enjoyment of The Expanse. One can do it, of course, but it'd be more about one's morbid perspective of what constitutes 'human' than anything else.
We're all in this together.