A Living Fire

Speculative fiction…I read it. I write it. I crave it. There are Very Good Reasons for this.

Now, I’m not going to go all dictionary on the world, but I have been thinking about specifically what speculative fiction means to me. Speculation has its roots in an interesting etymological place…viewing, but not up close. Looking out as if from a watch-tower, from an observatory. It’s high-up, big picture seeing. It’s “what’s out there” stuff, and “what can I see if I push the limits of my vision” stuff.

I go to speculative fiction to know what I cannot know where and how I am–in reading, in writing, in movies and even in games (I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite galaxy in the universe). I go to speculate about life in other worlds or states of being.

I want to wander. This short film by Erik Wernquist sums up this desire stunningly:

Wanderers – a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.

I am an explorer, if only instrospectively. I ache to go, to know, to ask, to see for myself. Sometimes it feels like my awareness could burst from its human state and wend away to inhabit a distant nebula or be at the heart of a quasar for a few hundreds of centuries. I want to know more about this universe–why it functions the way it does, and how–and if I am not careful, my humanity starts to feel like a too-tight winter coat on an unseasonably warm day. Such ill-at-easeness doesn’t serve me well. In the end, I must be be okay with the unknown, with ambiguity, with my limitations. Speculative fiction helps me do this. I read about the amazing breakthroughs in science and, for filling in the blanks that empirical data and educated conjecture cannot fill, I dive into good, mind-blowing fiction and I think deeply, and I speculate.

I go to happy places like this:

An earthbound wanderer must make do with the tools she possesses and speculative fiction and poetry occupy an important place in this arsenal. Sci-Fi, fantasy, space opera…these things allow me to search and think and question. They push my mind to test its limits and cut loose my spirit to go where it yearns to be. Speculative narrative keeps me aware of the enormity of the unknown, of human potential and possibility. It’s important to me that, when writing or reading of human potential, I am included as a woman reader and writer and human-er. It is important that we all are included in the potential for discovery, for understanding the secrets of the universe, for the expansiveness of our consciousness. All of us—every gender, every race, every age.

Speculative fiction allows for this. Madeleine L’Engle, whose books shaped my fifth-grade mind and set it on its present course, says it better than I can.

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

I’d go so far as to include, along with books, games, music, movies, and poetry in this universe of stars.

What is your living fire? What do you read, write, play, or listen to that lights the darkness and rockets your awareness into the unknowns that surround you? What makes you speculate?

I will continue to occupy my place on the watchtower, and I will write about what I see from there. I’ll read the reports from others’ observatories. And maybe, in the process, I’ll learn more about myself and the universe I inhabit.

Happy 2015 to all readers and explorers out there! May it be a year of beautiful discovery. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite things of all time, courtesy of the delightful Melodysheep and his Symphony of Science videos.

“How lucky we are to live in this time…the first moment in human history when we are, in fact, visiting other worlds.” -Carl Sagan