For as long as science fiction has been around, there have been visionaries who have used this genre as a medium to show us our humanity: the truth of it and the potential of who we could be.
This week, I’d like to tell you about a man whom I admire (even if I don’t agree with everything he believed), and am thankful for his existence.
In 1966, a visionary with a dream started an empire.
Gene Roddenberry, was a man of many talents. Having served our country faithfully in WWII, Roddenberry first saw a television during his days of flying for Pan American World Airways. Roddenberry saw a medium that he realized would go further than anyone at the time could have guessed.
Having already started writing while in the service, Roddenberry decided to return home to Los Angeles and try his hand at breaking into this new business. As a newbie, he wasn’t immediately accepted, so at the behest of a friend, he took up his father’s mantle and became an LAPD officer. This gave him experience that he was able to infuse into his writing.
When he first wrote the pilots for Star Trek, the networks thought it was too cerebral. It took some convincing, and finally NBC took a chance on him. The rest, is history.
One of the wonderful aspects of this bold futurist, was that he believed in the best of Humanity. Roddenberry was one of mankind’s biggest cheerleaders. This was evident in many of his episodes which dealt with showing how, once we put aside greed, wars and racism, we as a species could literally reach the stars.
These stories weren’t naïve, however, Many of the episodes (across all 5 series) dealt with the realities of our avarice, racism, religious apathy and manipulation by showing it to us in the guise of aliens (and sometimes ourselves).
Roddenberry was one of the first producer/directors to place a black woman in a prominent role on a TV show. The main characters were made of up an international cast, and almost anyone wearing a red-shirt was fair game for a death scene regardless of race or gender.
A Humanist, Roddenberry believed that wars and most human suffering was caused by religion, However, he also believed that if we were all to purpose to treat each other with respect, purpose to be honest and enjoy the pleasures and passions of life, we could achieve more together than we could apart.
In Star Trek, the “world” he envisioned for humanity did not have a place for greed, jealousy or promiscuity. A man of great future vision, Roddenberry saw humanity for the good that we all could accomplish if we so chose.
Like him, I firmly believe that when we as a whole begin to accept one another for who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly, and stop allowing hypocrisy, greed, envy and hatred to permeate our hearts, then we as a species will be capable of greater things than even Gene Roddenberry imagined.
Let’s get a discussion going. Which side of the fence are you on? Do you believe Humanity is heading toward a dystopic future, or one more akin to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of our future? Will we destroy ourselves, or will we spread out among the stars and bring humanity to a better future?
Tell me what you think, and at the end of this 6 week series–to be announced on December 17–one lucky commenter will win a $25.00 Amazon Gift Certificate.
Join me next week when I discuss Jules Verne’s vision.
Until then, here’s a bit of sage wisdom from Octavia E. Butler.
Or at peace,
More people die
Of unenlightened self-interest
Than of any other disease”
― Octavia E. Butler