My look at this work by Brian Stableford concludes.
Review: The Sociology of Science Fiction, Brian Stableford, 1987.
In Chapter VI, “Conclusion: The Communicative Functions of Science Fiction”, Stableford puts forth some theories on sf’s communicative functions.
Stableford notes that both Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell believed in the directive, i.e. didactic, function of sf.
Gernsback thought sf could educate people about science. Stableford says that goal was never really achieved. There is better evidence that sf did achieve Gernsback’s hope that it would inspire people to become scientists and inventors. It certainly did make more people interested in the future as Gernsback also hoped.
Campbell wanted people interested in realistic versions of the future. Stableford is not convinced this occurred. That’s not surprising. All other popular literary genres serve the maintenance and restorative functions. With the possible exception of rocketry, sf had no influence on the history of science and invention. (Post-William Gibson’s Neuromancer, it might be argued that computer applications and technology may have been influenced by that novel.)
Stableford thinks a case might be made that sf did change attitudes (at least among some people) regarding technological innovation. He specifically notes that it may have primed the mind of people who joined Scientology or the Aetherius Society. After all, he notes, why did UFOS become almost universally (at least for decades) associated with alien spaceships?Continue reading