Science Fiction has always had a dark side. There has been a touch of the irrational and absurd in the genre from the very beginning. Consider Hugo Gernsback. In photographs he looks like he might have been your grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s high school vice principal, but he started off publishing old subversives like H. G. Wells and 19th century degenerates like Edgar Allan Poe. Gernsback was an optimist who preferred to spend his time predicting future inventions like Google glass (he once called a TV antenna box he’d strapped over his eyes during a Life Magazine photo shoot “TV Glasses”) and describing how radar works, rather than bothering with social or psychological questions.
But when Gernsback started Amazing Stories back in 1926 he inadvertently turned his attention to just these kinds of problems. It turned out that wireless radios, energy beams, and space travel weren’t merely fun ideas—these things came with a price. What it cost us was our sense of connectedness and meaning, and we’ve been trading away our tradition of connection—trading away what we think of as human nature—for gadgets, blinking lights, and a fleeting sensation of power and speed for a long time now.