Inspired by science fiction and fantasy – article roundup

Even though science fiction can be predictive, its greatest power is that of inspiration. Fantasy has the power to inspire, too. And, truly, all stories have the potential to set fire to the imagination. Below I’ve collected some links to various articles, academic and popular, about science fiction and fantasy stories that have inspired people.


Vedantam, Shankar. “Does Reading Harry Potter Have an Effect on Your Behvior?” NPR, 1 May 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“New research suggests that school kids who read and identify with Harry Potter display more positive attitudes toward people from disadvantaged groups.”

Ulaby, Neda. “Harry Potter: Boy Wizard … And Real-World Activist?” NPR, 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“Stories like Avatar and the Harry Potter series might seem like unlikely starting points for civic engagement, but they speak a global language, and they stir something in people.”

 Science Fiction

Gunn, Eileen. “How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future.”, May 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“But the task of science fiction is not to predict the future. Rather, it contemplates possible futures. Writers may find the future appealing precisely because it can’t be known, a black box where “anything at all can be said to happen without fear of contradiction from a native,” says the renowned novelist and poet Ursula K. Le Guin. “The future is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in,” she tells Smithsonian, “a means of thinking about reality, a method.””

Purdy, Patrick. “From Science Fiction to Science Fact: How Design Can Influence the Future.” User Experience Magazine 13(2). Web 12 Mar. 2016.

“Gene Roddenberry could never have imagined that a prop from his TV show would change the world, but that’s exactly what happened when he introduced the communicator on the first episode of Star Trek in 1966. Just six short years later, in 1973, Martin Cooper made the first public cell phone call from a handheld device. Afterward he acknowledged that Star Trek had inspired him to develop the technology.”

Bassett, Caroline, Ed Steinmueller, and George Voss. Better Made Up: The Mutual Influence of Science Fiction and Innovation (No. 13/07). NESTA Working Paper, 2013.

Why society needs science fiction.” The Star Garden. 3 Apr. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“Science fiction is important for at least three reasons. Firstly, by considering worlds that are logically possible, science fiction can be used to explore our place in the universe and consider fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of reality and the mind…Secondly, science fiction can inspire more people to become scientists…Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, science fiction is the only genre that depicts how society could function differently.”

Kahn, Laura H. “The science fiction effect.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 6 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“[I]f the scientific community wants to engage and inform the public, science fiction is an excellent strategy. Stories captivate people, they survive the test of time, and they become part of the popular culture. So, if any scientists with a creative-writing affinity want to captivate the public and inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science and technology, perhaps they should put pen to paper and start writing. The world needs more stories with scientist-heroes, not more scientist-villains.”

Cheatham, Dennis. “The Power of Science Fiction: exploring sci-fi’s relationship to real-world innovation.” Design Research Theory, Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Hon, Adrian. “Science fiction isn’t just fantasy: it changes lives and can change Britain.” The Telegraph, 20 Sept. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“But what is it that inspires young people to have a love of discovering how the world works, and how to make new things based on those rules? The Apollo missions were hugely influential for a whole generation of children, but what inspired the Apollo engineers in the first place?”

Sydell, Laura. “Sci-Fi Inspires Engineers to Build Our Future.” NPR, 21 Aug. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

“Search engines, virtual worlds, the Internet — ever get the feeling you’re living in a science fiction fantasy? Well indeed you are. For more than a century, inventors have been driven to create what sci-fi writers have boldly imagined before.”

Milburn, Colin. “Modifiable Futures: Science Fiction at the Bench.” Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society. 101 (2010): 560-569.

“Science fiction remains an alien dimension of the history of science. Historical and literary studies of science have become increasingly attentive to various “literary technologies” in scientific practice, the metaphorical features of scientific discourse, and the impact of popular science writing on the social development of scientific knowledge. But the function of science fiction and even literature as such in the history of scientific and technological innovation has often been obscured, misconstrued, or repudiated owing to conventional notions of authorship, influence, and the organic unity of texts. The better to address those close encounters where scientific practice makes use of speculative fiction, this essay proposes that we instead analyze such exchanges as processes of appropriation, remixing, and modification.”

Sterling, Bruce. “Science Influenced by Science Fiction.” Wired. 22 Sep. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.