No tight jaw, no heavy perspiration, no comedown.
“What is this magical drug?”, you all cry.
Well, according to Arthur C Clarke, its science fiction.
Science fiction is a rare, precious world of endless possibility because it isn’t governed by conventional notions of, well, anything. As a literary genre, it mixes the fictitious with elements of truth to explore advanced science and technology and their possible impact on society. It is a brilliant testing ground for new, radical ideas that are too advanced for contemporary, rational thought and has been an important space for critiquing conventional concepts of race, gender, sexuality and politics way ahead of time.
One of its greatest pioneers, the late Ursula Le Guin, referred to the genre as a “thought experiment” because through total renouncement of notions of possible and impossible, it demands a true expansion of the mind. She anchors her imagined worlds in the fictional Hainish universe, which is a network of planetary systems governed by subjects of genetic experiments that lost contact with other planets and developed different types of societies on each one. This forms the backdrop upon which she creates societies governed by four-people marriage relationships, or in which gender doesn’t exist, or women outweigh men 16:1. Le Guin referred to science fiction as “a crazy, protean, left-handed monkey wrench, which can be put to any use the craftsman has in his mind” and used it to call into question culturally-accepted ideas about sex and gender.
There are many situations in which science fiction has been said to have “predicted the future”. Indeed, the credit card first appeared in 1888 in Edwardy Bellamy’s novel, Looking Back; portable audio, or headphones, were first described by Ray Bradbury in 1953 in his book Farenheit 451; and cyberspace, ‘a consensual hallucination’, was coined by William Gibson in 1984 in his book Neuromancer. These writers did not have crystal balls but instead show us the extent to which we can advance society and human thought if we abandon the contemporary, cultural script and expand our imagination to explore different ways of doing things. As a literary genre, science fiction enables us to do this because it serves as a blank canvas where we can fashion new worlds but based on current realities and rewrite the script.
There are many parallels to be drawn between these boundless worlds afforded by science fiction and the mini utopias constructed through small, DIY, music festivals. Built collaboratively and often in locations far removed from contemporary society, they provide alternative spaces where new ideas and innovation can foster – becoming real life arenas for Le Guin’s literary “thought experiments”. Camping is often a key element and strips people back to a basic, communal way of living with an appreciation for nature and the environment. Time, a purely social construction to which we can feel so tightly bound in our daily lives, starts to fade as a sense of anticipation and wonder of what is for the making seals this utopic world is its own bubble. Financial transactions give way for an cultural exchange of thought and music becomes the wordless language that provides common ground upon which to connect, feel and discover. It is through these special worlds reigned by freedom, we can expand our minds and create better worlds and new ways of thinking.
In the words of Le Guin, “as great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, compassion, and hope.” And here you have it from disco and house legend, DJ Rahaan.
Words by Amy Colville