Science Fiction Is for Slackers

This post by Jacob Brogan originally appeared on Slate on 5/26/15.

It would be a mistake to say that science fiction as such is “about” laziness—no genre reducible to such a singular point of significance can flower long—but it is uncommonly good at animating fantasies about avoiding labor.

On a desert planet baked by two suns, a young man contemplates the sky, dreaming of a life beyond the workaday tedium of his family farm. He imagines that the robots his aunt and uncle have recently purchased—apparently sentient beings that work without compensation—will take on his burdens. You know his name as well as I do, and you know as well as I do that he will spend the weeks and month ahead on the run, fleeing this world of tasks and troubles as much or more as the evil empire that chases him.

Science fiction is a genre of dreams, and Luke Skywalker may be the most emblematic of all its dreamers, emblematic not because he longs for the stars, but because of what those stars represent. Above all else, Luke is a slacker, and when he looks to the heavens, he imagines release from the obligations that bind him to the surface of Tatooine.

Luke is not alone in his aversion to work: As a rule, science fiction may be the laziest of all genres, not because the stories themselves are too facile—they can be just as sophisticated and challenging as those of any other genre—but because they often revel in easy solutions: Why walk when you can warp? Why talk when you’re a telepath? Technology in such stories typically has more to do with workarounds than it does with work.


Read the full post on Slate.