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I’ve always felt more drawn to sci-fi as a genre than fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid fantasy fan. However, these days it takes a lot more to get me interested in a fantasy setting. The typical swords-and-spells save-the-princess story doesn’t really do it for me any more. Maybe it was the Legend of Zelda series, which I played from a very young age, that spoiled the “standard” fantasy world for me. It basically set the bar so high that a fantasy story has to really pull out all the stops to get my attention.

I’m not writing about fantasy today, though. At heart, my allegiance belongs to science fiction. Granted, most of the credit for this belongs to Star Wars, which is more accurately described as science-fantasy, but come on. Laser swords. It’s really hard to top that, you guys. Coupled with mystical psychic powers guarded by a fallen monastic order, I was hooked.

I wasn’t the only one. The Star Wars series spawned a literal legion of followers who are deeply loyal to the series, whose numbers are only rivaled by similar fandoms such as Star Trek and Harry Potter. What it did for popular culture can’t properly be measured, but it did so by playing on the twin fetishes that would be characteristic of our generation: technology and the paranormal.

Now I’ve read enough Asimov to know that Star Wars is not even close to being hard sci-fi, and the psychic powers featured get the same surface-level treatment. In fact, not much about Star Wars is deeper than surface-level; but then, it really didn’t have to be. Like most good stories, it was driven by its characters and their relationships and struggles within a world that relied on our fascination of the unexplained to give it substance.

That fascination persists. This is due in part, I think, because of the mounting (albeit mostly anecdotal) evidence for paranormal phenomena in the real world. Since the dawn of time there have been stories of spirits and ghosts and monsters, but as our society has turned ever more toward the importance of the mind, so too have our ways of explaining the unexplainable. The mind has become our temple, and on our shrines to it burn the incense of learning. It’s no wonder that our methods of dealing with the more mystical aspects of the universe have become so mind-focused.

Just take a look at the past ten years of media. Movies such as Next, Chronicle, and Push. Television shows like Firefly, The Dead Zone, and even Doctor Who. The many incarnations of the X-Men. Psychic powers draw a lot of attention in the realm of fiction. Isn’t it curious, then, that they are so often scoffed at when people are asked to take them seriously? Well, not really.

Because we live in an age that worships the mind, people are quick to dismiss anything that cannot be understood by the mind. We even do this in our daily lives. There are still people alive today in the United States who do not know how to use a computer, and will never learn how to use a computer, some of which who actually hate computers, not for any rational reason like a computer killed their mother or something, but simply because they don’t understand.

Now, though, we’ve reached the point where things like lucid dreaming have been scientifically proven, and scientists draw ever closer to being able to successfully map and navigate a human brain. It may very well be that we are on the precipice of understanding the true nature and power hidden within our minds, truths that would vindicate the scores and scores of people who have had experiences that simply can’t be explained (myself included).

I think our culture is fascinated by the unreal for a reason. I also think that our exploration of such concepts in fiction has served to prepare us as a culture for an inevitable awakening of sorts. I’ve heard it said that “Man brings forth what he sees.” I think the closest interpretation of that thought would be “If it can be imagined, then it is possible.” For now, I am patiently awaiting the day when the supernatural becomes the supernormal.

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