December 25, 2017

Holidays in Science Fiction

Holidays in Science Fiction

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I wanted to spread some cheer today since I’m celebrating with lots of family.

Coming up to the holiday got me thinking about traditions—both those practiced widely by society and personal traditions carried out amongst just our closest loved ones. Growing up, we always drank hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows and candy canes while decorating the tree. I decided to try this with my kids this year, and HOLY SHIT they actually helped decorate the tree! Also, since they worked so hard getting all the ornaments on, they haven’t spent every waking moment ripping those ornaments back off.

Traditions are something fun to look forward to, something familiar that brings back fond memories. They highlight what’s important to us, whether that’s spending time with family, being charitable to the less fortunate, demonstrating our love for one another, or—in the case of our tree—making our homes beautiful when the weather is cold and dark.

Since I’m an avid reader, this reflection also had me thinking about holidays portrayed in books and movies. I’ve heard a lot about food in novels recently, and how adding unique cuisine to a fictional world can give it much more depth. Food is a huge part of our culture, so it’s interesting to see characters eat homogeneous, nutritionally optimize cubes, special treats made from unique vegetation, and opulent over-the-top feasts. Likewise, holidays in books add a ton of depth to a story.

These fictional holidays help demonstrate what’s most important to society. In Numbers Game by Rebecca Rode, Rating Day is when teens get their numbers. Their city prizes certain attributes including obedience, beauty, and intelligence, and each citizen has a number reflecting their score. Since their entire society is based on this competition for the highest number, it feels natural that they would celebrate when young people get their first rating.

In Aletheia by Megan Tennant, most of the human population died after a pandemic, so the city of Iris has an annual festival celebrating fertility. They believe it is their duty to repopulate the earth. The Harvest Festival is bad news for the unnamed, but I’ll try not to spoil anything. Similarly, in The Hunger Games, the government values obedience and vengeance so much that they host the annual hunger games both for entertainment and to show the districts their place in society.

To be honest, I haven’t read too many science fiction books which included some sort of holiday. I think it’s a missed opportunity since holidays give so much depth to a world. So to all the writers out there, when you find you’re stuck on what to add next to your story, instead of having a man come through the door with a gun in his hand, consider introducing a holiday.

My next post will be in the new year. I have a big announcement, so make sure to come back next week! Until then, enjoy the holiday!

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