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Sunday Reading: The Allure of Science Fiction


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Sunday Reading: The Allure of Science Fiction


In the mid-seventies, when the screenwriter and director George Lucas was attempting to sell movie studios an idea he had about a space odyssey, even his friends thought the concept was a bit far-fetched. “What’s this thing called a Wookiee?” a fellow-screenwriter recalled Lucas’s friends wondering. “What’s a Jedi, George? You want to make a space opera?” In 1997, John Seabrook visited Lucas at Skywalker Ranch, in California, and spoke with him about his original vision for the now iconic films and his thoughts on the future of the franchise. With “Star Wars,” Seabrook observes, science fiction took a leap into the commercial mainstream, and the public’s perception of the genre was forever changed.

This week, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces on the enduring appeal of fantasy and science fiction. In “The Spider Women,” Margaret Atwood recalls the sci-fi story that sparked her imagination as a child. In “Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian,” Joyce Carol Oates examines the compelling fiction of Ted Chiang, whose novella “Story of Your Life” was the basis for the film “Arrival.” In “A Psychotronic Childhood,” the novelist Colson Whitehead recounts his early love of B movies and monster flicks. Finally, Julie Phillips visits the fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin and explores how her work has transformed the world of fantasy. We hope that these pieces inspire you and ignite your imagination.


Why Is the Force Still with Us?

The Star Wars trilogy touched audiences around the world in ways that no other movies ever have. George Lucas discusses the making—and marketing—of an American myth.


The Spider Women

The realities of science fiction.


A Psychotronic Childhood

Learning from B movies.


The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

The literary mainstream once relegated her work to the margins. Then she transformed the mainstream.


Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian

In Ted Chiang’s new collection of stories, technology can be a force for human—and robotic—good.



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