I remember the first, bonafide adult books I read: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. They changed me irreparably and began a lifelong addiction to science fiction. Kurt Vonnegut helped me understand the trauma of war and apocalypse. Octavia Butler showed me the racial intersections between history, present, and future. Frank Herbert’sDune illustrated for me the intricate politics of empire and its discontents.
A friend of mine recently responded to my praise of science fiction by suggesting I read academia instead, because history books and biographies, like science fiction, directly confront similar themes of politics and culture. But science fiction—and any form of storytelling—has the power to involve readers in an experience. It doesn’t deliver theses or propositions. It accesses the soul.
Science fiction provided me with a means of understanding the rapidly changing world around me, of what it meant to be a Dominican Pakistani Muslim in post-9/11 America. Science fiction stories often revolve around the subject of social change, but it wasn’t this alone which drew me.