Jeff Rients's recent post reminded me of a post I'd been intending to make for a while now. You see, even though the bulk of this blog's content is focused on fantasy roleplaying games, particularly Dungeons & Dragons, it's science fiction that's my true love. From my earliest youth, my imaginary worlds were far future ones. My favorite movies, TV shows, and books were science fictional, not what we today call "fantasy." I daydreamed of being Captain Kirk and Han Solo, not Sir Galahad or Conan. Then, as now, I played fantasy RPGs because, while I did (and do) enjoy them, they were what other people wanted to play. But when I had the opportunity to choose, I almost always chose a science fiction RPG.
Of course, when I say "science fiction," I'm generally talking about older strains of the genre, some of which are called "retro-futuristic" in certain circles. My notion of what science fiction is was forged in the 1970s, reading stories and watching movies and TV shows that were made in the 50s and 60s. That notion doesn't comport well with most of the sci-fi that's come about since the late 80s, which is why most contemporary examples of the genre leave me cold.
For me, science fiction is about adventure. It's about exploring new worlds, dealing with inscrutable aliens, and discovering new knowledge, all the while keeping the focus very much on the human beings who are doing these things. My sci-fi preferences are keenly humanistic and, for that reason, deeply old fashioned. I have no truck with transhumanism/posthumanism, for example, which I find no less silly a notion than space princesses and whole lot less fun. And, ultimately, fun is what I want out of science fiction and I find that I get a great deal more of it out of "retro" visions than I do out of the contemporary stuff.
Wow, James likes older stuff better than newer? That's quite the shock, I know. I mention it only because, as I explore the history of this hobby, I realize that probably its most successful SF games drew inspiration not from contemporary speculation but from older strains of it. Traveller was already "out of date" even in 1977 and yet it went on to become a powerhouse of the hobby. Why was that? What was it about Traveller that made it so appealing and successful as RPG? Why does it, more than 30 years later, still have a larger and more devoted fanbase than, say, something like Transhuman Space, which is arguably more "realistic" a depiction of the future than Traveller's 57th century?
These are questions I'll likely be discussing here over the next few months. I've been feeling the SF itch a lot lately and not just because I'm in the midst of revising my own SF RPG. I think there are some interesting avenues of investigation here and I intend to take them up.