Socially Conscious Science Fiction with Victor Acquista M.D.

Socially Conscious Science Fiction with Victor Acquista M.D.

 

Sentient touches upon many social themes and provides an example of my attempts to call attention to certain societal and cultural issues. But how does one do that in the context of a science fiction novel? More specifically, what does it mean to write a sci-fi story with an underlying intention of raising consciousness?

Calling attention to social issues is a mainstay of literature. Name any particular social ill and there are probably dozens of books exploring the issue in order to raise awareness. Examples abound but here are a few:

  • The horror of war—Johnny Got Your Gun
  • Racial prejudice—To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Government control, propaganda—1984
  • Exploitation of immigrants—The Jungle
  • Class warfare—Les Miserables

I did not focus on science fiction in the list above other than mentioning George Orwell’s 1984. The dystopian future and apocalyptic sub-genres often expose or somehow incorporate social messaging in their plots. Robot stories, and in particular those dealing with artificial intelligence, might call attention to the dangers of sentient AI. Erewhon, published way back in 1872, had three chapters titled, “The Book of the Machines”, in which Samuel Butler raised the issue of mechanical consciousness. Fast forward to today where movies such as Terminator raise the specter of AI dominance. Genetic engineering is another area explored as a social theme. Brave New World comes to mind. Examples in many of the other sci-fi sub-genres are plentiful.

I intentionally used a movie as one of my examples above. Often movies follow as book adaptations. One particular recent standout movie about corporate greed exploiting the mineral wealth of another planet in disregard to the technologically inferior indigenous species came as a movie first. Here I am talking about Avatar, a movie calling attention to these and other issues such as militarism and imperialism along with social justice.

This post is not meant to give a comprehensive overview of socially conscious science fiction in film and literature. I simply want to get you thinking about how these art forms incorporate social themes. Lets not lose sight of the fact that lots of great science fiction books and films do not include social messaging. Nothing against pure unmitigated entertainment, but I want my writing to convey something more. In this regard, I am trying to emulate one of the best sci-fi authors of all time, a man referred to as the “dean of science fiction writers”. Here I am referring to Robert Heinlein (of course); I dedicated Sentient to him in memoriam. The Wikipedia reference states:

Within the framework of his science-fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.

What social themes am I raising in the novel Sentient? Isolation/separation and how this contributes to competition over cooperation, how we treat people with mental illness, and individualism vs. collectivism are just a few of the issues I touch upon. You would have to read the book or who knows, watch the movie someday (hey, a man can dream, right?) to get the complete gamut of social issues I am trying to raise awareness about. All of these enmesh in telling an engaging and thought provoking story. One of my readers said it all with the simple comment, “Great story! Somehow, I feel as though reading it has raised my consciousness.” Bullseye!

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  On February 19th, sci-fi author, Victor Acquista joined fellow authors Laura Mixon and Steven Gould at the Writer’s Series panel discussion hosted at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe. This monthly author spotlight series focuses on the art of writing. Dr. Acquista signed copies of his epic sci-fi novel, Sentient, following the panel discussion. The Jean Cocteau Cinema is the hub of science fiction and fantasy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Jean Cocteau Cinema is a historic movie theater located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States. It is owned by American author George RR Martin. In addition to films, the cinema hosts author talks and book-signings, along with a small display of signed books for sale; burlesque, magic and variety shows; art exhibitions and concerts.

Sentient by Victor Acquista

Survivors from an almost absolute genocide flee through space/time to make an attempt at propagating their species.

The architects of their race’s destruction realize that their mission was incomplete.

The resulting conflict will be waged on our home planet where a troubled physicist, his young neighbor, and an artificial intelligence may prove to be key in deciding the outcome.

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Sentient tackles the tough issues, such as homelessness and society indoctrinating violence, but it handles it with such humor and kindness that it is easy to digest. There were several times I had to put the book down just so I could ponder the questions and feelings that it had brought up. The best and worst of humanity are highlighted, but yet it does not feel as though it went too far to the extremes. This debut novel is witty, intelligent, saddening, and beautiful. This book is amazing, and I truly would love to recommend it to everyone. I look forward to more by Dr. Acquista in the future.

Reviewed by Lauren Stafford, San Francisco Book Review Star rating: 5/5

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