Part I: A New Thought“And now you will witness the full power of this station….” General Tarkington, Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope
As a science fiction writer embedded now as a science writer at a northern research station, I thought my job was pretty clear: bring northern science to a larger audience through whatever means were at my disposal. Blogs, Facebook, press releases, radio series. But then I found out that a few people there had not seen Star Wars. Suddenly, my best, natural personality came to the fore. I had a new mission: Bring science fiction to scientists.
While science fiction might be easily dismissed by those working in scientific fields, it is often the first place that the average person learns about scientific concepts like graviton waves, geodesic folds, Dyson spheres, and quantum mechanics. It can also be a first introduction to Shakespeare, to history, to world cultures, and to understanding the alien—those different than us. But it is also a huge asset when it comes to igniting the imagination about science and about the future. In this way, fiction about science, or even science writing, aids the cause of science—by compelling the average person to both think about science now, and think about science as part of our future.
Star Wars: a New Hope was aptly named. In 1977, it transformed the movie industry, making possible special effects that matched our imaginations. And it also introduced science fiction to the masses of non-science fiction readers—making science fiction mainstream. Star Wars was nominated for 10 academy awards, and won six of them, including Best Musical Score. Of course, everyone reading this knows this. We grew up with Star Wars.
But Bronwyn Goodwin, age 8, did not, and neither did her mother, Sian Goodwin, both raised at a Research Station.
This is hardly to their disadvantage—imagine having brilliant scientists traipsing through your living room on their way to amazing science exploits, and having your dad be the pilot that takes them up to many of the highest peaks in North America. But they missed what turned out to be a seminal cultural event in Western Culture. Star Wars entered into our collective psyche in the eighties and has re-emerged in many forms—whether it’s Reagan’s Star Wars defense system, or the idea of being “turned to the dark side” as a reference for negative behavior. The characters are well known to us—Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2.
But there was a certain glee in bringing Star Wars to two people who had never been exposed to it. And eventually, the audience at the research station grew…
Continued in Part II….