Science fiction does weird things to peoples’ faces. If you’re not on my side of the book shelf, chances are when you hear I love sci-fi your eyebrows try to hide in your hair line, your smile has cracked into a mosaic of pained surprise and you are trying to disengage from the conversation as quickly as humanly possible.
No, I don’t wear Star Trek uniforms. No Star Trek or Star Wars pyjamas either. No, I am not a teenage boy. No, I don’t want to meet your neighbour’s unemployed son who lives in their basement playing Halo “because he likes spaceships too.” I am a thirty-six year old, forklift driving, dessert loving, make-up wearing mother of two who adores science fiction – it’s my favourite genre.
I love science fiction because it takes big themes and ideas (like identity, race, friendship, family, responsibility and courage), strips all the familiar atmosphere away (like houses, and cute suburbs, the 21st century, gardens, denim jeans, shopping centres and Christmas parties – even oxygen) and says “Well, what would you do?” It then asks, “Why? And why do you think they are doing that over there/to us?” and demands a solution. Science fiction is all about change of thinking, living, circumstances, head-butting stereotypes and cultural expectations, and even shooting things that may or may not deserve it.
In John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, the only way to get off Earth is to leave as a colonist (but only if you are from a poor third world nation) or – when you are 75 years old – by joining the Army. That’s right: the Army wants YOU… and your arthritis, your prostate cancer, your faded eyesight and other indignities of age. The only catch if you enlist: you won’t be coming back. Ever. We follow John up the beanstalk (literally), and through the upheavals, ethical pains and friends he makes along the way. It is one funny, brilliant and clever ride through the unknown universe, and will leave you wanting a BrainPal of your own.
Even in sci-fi, some things never change. Windows still get dirty, and still need to be cleaned. But what if you live in apartments 35 kilometres (21.7 miles ) above the earth?