Monday, November 4, 2013

After Contact: The Future of Storytelling

I had to wait a few days to answer the first assignment for The Future of Storytelling, which asked me to write about a favorite movie.  (With over 70,000 classmates worldwide, I doubt my response has been missed just yet.)  But while favorite movies may come along once in a lifetime, in a sci-fi focused family like mine, when a book series you've read all your life becomes a movie it can complicate things. 

My favorite movie is Contact, and my son's was, too, until yesterday. We saw Ender's Game and it was epic. Also it was true to the story, thanks in part to the young adult series author Orson Scott Card's heavy involvement, including rewriting the screenplay six times. 

When Carl Sagan's novel Contact was made into a box office hit film, it answered the second question of sci-fi, "Are we alone?" You cannot help but be inspired by Jodie Foster's intelligence and tenacity as Ellie Arroway, the scientist who holds out her father's hope that other beings exist and may be trying to make contact with humans on Earth. 

When my son was 8, we viewed the film together. That began an important conversation with my son that has lasted his lifetime thus far. 

That year I bought him the first book in the Ender series. Ten years later, Ender's Game was made into a film to answer the third pertinent question in sci-fi, "What happens after contact?" That's my son's favorite question, with possibilities as endless as the imagination. 

The military focus of Card's story arch peaks with the emergence of Ender Wiggin, a young boy who games his way to commander of an elite fleet set on destroying the alien enemy who has attacked and been defeated in a previous Earth battle. 

Every effort to isolate Ender fails, as the genius misfit wins over bullies to miscreants with his emotional intelligence and battle savvy. 

Spoiler alert: Eventually he connects with the leader of the alien enemy and creates a strange diplomatic solution to the genocide for which he was unwittingly responsible. 

Science fiction is always about connection in the story. More than any other audience, sci-fi fans want to relate deeply with their heroes, who are typically  misfits. One may conclude the need to belong bonds the genre, and in an age of arguably less real  human connection, sci-fi engages young and old alike around good storytelling. 

By creating alien nations, these stories cure the alienation of humanity and bond humans under the cause of survival and exploration.  

Perhaps Contact will remain our family's top film, but we have made room at the top for a story about young adults of the future who hold the future of Earth in their hands as part of Ender's Game.

3 Questions Sci-Fi Answers

  1. What is the future like?
  2. Are we alone?
  3. What happens after contact?

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