Episode 178: On importance and important science fiction

With a new season of the Coode Street Podcast well under way, Gary and Jonathan connected up between the icy wilds of Chicago and the sunny streets of Melbourne, to discuss “importance” in science fiction. What does “important” mean anyway, what works are “important” and so on.

As always, we hope you enjoy the discussion!

2 thoughts on “Episode 178: On importance and important science fiction”

  1. I’m a few weeks behind* so I don’t know if you’ve covered these as examples of sf that actually had an impact on public policy, but:

    It’s very well-documented that Ronald Reagan saw an advance screening of the 1983 tv movie “The Day After” and found it so moving and horrifying that he became a nuclear abolitionist, in defiance of the standard GOP stance. While this belief didn’t actually lead to abolition, it did lead to his willingness to work with Gorbachev, whom he saw as a fellow abolitionist, and resulted both in some specific nuclear reduction treaties and a broad support for Perestroika.

    Also, I can’t remember the details right now, one of Richard Preston’s books about ebola-either his non-fiction The Hot Zone or the sf thriller based on it, The Cobra Event-lead Bill Clinton to improve the US’s disaster response readiness.

    It’s also clear that the racist utopian novel The Turner Diaries has had a significant impact within a small but dedicated group within the US and were certainly part of the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy.

    I remember back in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, there was some speculation that Osama bin-Laden had drawn inspiration from Asimov’s most famous trilogy; one possible translation of “al Qaeda” is “the foundation”. (There was more evidence to the theory than that coincidence.)

    And CSI (and its offshoots) have had a definite effect on the real world: they’ve arguably made it worse! There’s a definite observable “CSI effect” in juries, who seem to believe that if the cops don’t have Gil Grissum-level certainty in their physical evidence, they must be making it up. Now, I believe that increased jury skepticism of police is a good thing, but holding the real world to the standard of (a well-intentioned) fiction is probably not the best way to go. They’re still not as harmful as judge shows or Nancy Grace, though.

    *Doing a lot of work-from-home during the horrible winter cut sharply into my listen-to-podcasts-while-commuting time….

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