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Reading SF can be an escape from reality. Those with boring work or family
lives, can, for example, imagine leading an exploratory mission, whether in a
mediaeval world or interstellar civilization.
But SF serves multiple purposes. It explores ideas in fictional worlds. It
explores facts too dangerous or unbelievable to be studied in factual books.
But I believe that most people use SF as an escape from reality. Because in the
fantasy world, you can be the hero who defeats the villains, and gets the woman.
SF plots can be much more complex, but you get my point.
Back in the 1960s, this was a very live topic.
The kind of science fiction that explored ideas - overpopulation, destructive
weaponry, new powers to control the mind - and their consequences was seen as
the justification for science fiction, while escapist kid stuff was responsible
for the low repute of the genre.
Today, John W. Campbell has passed away, and the glory days of science fiction
publishing have passed as well.
So the fact that there are very different kinds of books still called science
fiction is no longer much of a big deal in our 500-channel universe.
As for preferring fantasy to reality... well, why not? Right now, reality isn't
looking very promising.