I am a big fan of speculative fiction — and I could easily write a long, long post about the rabbit hole of internet fascinations that appear when you google that term — but long story short, it’s because books and films and television set in another world or time give us a chance to step out of our actual lives and engage our imaginations. When we do that, we open up to possibilities in our present, actual world that we could not see before.
Or, as TV Tropes eloquently puts it:
One of the greatest strengths of Sci-Fi and Fantasy is that they can convey real-life situations in a new context by showing everyday problems, humanity’s greatest challenges, and even social commentary that’s ostensibly free of the prejudices and preconceptions that weigh them down in Real Life, giving us a more detached view of a given problem… as if we were aliens visiting Earth, or rather Earthlings visiting World of Weirdness.
In a way, it’s similar to why I got into acting when I was a kid. I was shy, but when I stepped onstage I could step into another persona (for instance: this one), and access parts of myself that had previously been unknown. That’s something any actor does: they put on a costume and do their hair and step into a heightened space, and become someone else for a while. I think this is something we could all benefit from doing.
In fact, we all do it a little bit: we get a radical haircut to jumpstart a big change in life, we apply darker, bolder makeup for going out at night, or we step into one persona for work, and then another one when we get home and change out of our work clothes.
I thought it would be fun to take this a step further, to stretch our brains and bodies and see what might be hanging around in our unconscious. So on Sunday I’m leading a workshop exploring alternate worlds and alternate lives. We’ll draw pictures of our alter egos, imagine our superhero and supervillain selves (and more importantly, their outfits), recreate/revise a seminal moment from our past, create a new world, and apply sci fi tropes like “gone horribly right” or “the [adjectival] man” to our personal lives.
I am very curious to find out what happens. It raises so many questions and I can’t wait to see how we answer them on our feet: if you could invent a new world, what would it look like? What keeps us from inventing that world now? What can you learn by embodying your opposite self? What can you learn by embodying your worst or best traits, by taking them to their furthest extreme? If you changed one thing in your past, what else might change?
Come by and find out with me! Details are here.