Dystopian Science Fiction Can Save The World, According To You

If you want to save the world, you should study worst-case scenarios for the future, according to 20,000 science fiction fans. The Sci Fi Channel did an online poll, through its Visions For Tomorrow initiative, to find out the top "things to read, watch and do to save the world." And the winners were dark tales of a world gone to hell, including Blade Runner, 1984, Firefly, the new Battlestar Galactica and The Matrix. An exclusive first look at all the winners, below the fold.

Here are the top 10 books to read to save the world, according to Sci Fi's visitors:

  • 1. 1984 by George Orwell
  • 2. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • 3. Dune by Frank Herbert
  • 4. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  • 5. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  • 6. The Stand by Stephen King
  • 7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • 8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • 10. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
The dystopian message of books like 1984, The Time Machine, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World is pretty clear: don't be too quick to give away your freedoms, watch out for false utopias and groupthink etc. I'm not sure how some of the other books will actually help save the world. I can see most of these winning a poll for "best SF book of all time" but world-saving?

Similarly, the TV choices include a lot of paranoia, anti-authoritarianism and apocalytic narratives, with a dash of optimism further down the list:

  • 1. Firefly
  • 2. Battlestar Galactica (2004)
  • 3. The X-Files
  • 4. Heroes
  • 5. Stargate: SG-1
  • 6. Doctor Who
  • 7. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • 8. Babylon 5
  • 9. Star Trek
  • 10. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

And here are the top movies. I'm not sure what the world-saving message of Jurassic Park is, other than "don't clone dinosaurs." There's a definite optimistic strain in a couple of these choices, like 2001 and Close Encounters, but otherwise it's pretty much doom across the board. Science goes too far, humans ruin the Earth, we're too violent and ignorant, and we're likely to become slaves of machines. Or enslave our own creations.

  • 1. Blade Runner (1982)
  • 2. The Matrix (1999)
  • 3. The Terminator (1984)
  • 4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • 5. Jurassic Park (1993)
  • 6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • 7. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
  • 8. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  • 9. Children of Men (2006)
  • 10. Armageddon (1998)

So what do you think? Can 20,000 readers be wrong?

The 20,000 respondents in the Sci Fi poll voted "reading" the number one thing to do to save the world, so the Visions For Tomorrow initiative will partner with Booksfree.com, the internet's biggest paperback and audiobook rental service. If you sign up for Booksfree through Sci Fi's Visions For Tomorrow site, you get an extra 20 percent discount. The other activities that could save the world included recycling, giving blood, voting, eating healthy and being kind.

Visions For Tomorrow is the Sci Fi Channel's public affairs campaign, which aims to use the power of science fiction to inspire people and organizations to "meet the growing challenges of the future."