Guest Post: Social Science Fiction By Robert Eggleton

Rarity from the Hollow integrates serious social issues into its narrative. An off-world and an Earth setting are used for scenes. The Earth setting is a microcosm of the universe called a hollow and is located in West Virginia, U.S. A hollow is a relatively flatter crevice on the planet’s surface with hills on both sides, and which is often fed by a river or creek. Typically, hollow residents experience relative isolation from centers of culture and adopt values based upon local tradition. In comparison, the 2014 science fiction film, Appuchi Gramam, used a rustic village as a setting.

The characters in Rarity from the Hollow express strong beliefs about right and wrong from a sub-cultural perspective, as do I by the inclusion of social commentary in the story. Today, whether or not consumers will buy stories that are more than simple escapism is a question being asked by writers, publishers, and filmmakers. Young adult and romance stories dominate fiction. The success of the upcoming film, Paani, a dark science fiction drama, may, in part, answer that question for Hindi speakers.

Historically, speculative fiction has fueled social activism, debate, and the adoption of evolving or devolving social policy depending on one’s values. In 380 B.C., Plato envisioned a utopian society in The Republic and that story represented the beginning of a long string of speculations: ecology, economics, politics, religion, technology, feminism….

The impact of speculative fiction on my personal world view began in the 1960s when Ellison, Aldiss, Herbert and others wrote about the stuff that many American teens at the time were reflecting upon – social and political issues at a tumultuous time. Protests against increasing militarism during the Vietnam War were fueled by the writings of Ellison and Vonnegut. Speculative fiction back then was more than escapism, as evidenced by Ursula Le Guinn, who is commonly attributed with coining the term, “social science fiction,” winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.

More recently, again focused on America because that’s the only place that I’ve ever lived, and I’ve only seen a little piece of it, please consider the social / political / economic issues related to same sex marriage. Did the GLBTQ titles increasingly being released, and the popularity of television shows such as Modern Family, influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right? Of course, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do believe that speculations sparked by artists in every venue have at least a subliminal impact on each of us, an impact that transcends our own prejudices, traditions and belief systems.

Rarity from the Hollow is speculative fiction written in colloquial voice that satirically and comically addresses the (1) need to improve systems for the prevention of child abuse, not only in America, but world-wide; (2) duty to internationally recognize that war trauma can cause PTSD for which veterans, out of respect for their service and irrespective of which side of the battle, deserve mental health treatment; (3) moral obligation to research the medicinal use of marijuana for the treatment of mental health problems as an alternative to pharmaceuticals produced by big drug companies; (4) advantages of creating economic options for workers living in impoverished communities to enable self-sufficiency.

Think about peanut butter and Rarity from the Hollow will make more common sense. At the 2013 International Skoll Forum, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, born in Bangladesh but he travelled extensively in India, reportedly said something like, “We have science fiction and science follows….” Muhammad Yunus heads a company that loans money to entrepreneurs who live in impoverished areas and who would not otherwise qualify for financial assistance.

Again consider the concept that speculative fiction can fuel social activism and apply it to the big problem of malnutrition in the world. Dr. Mark Manary of America headed a scientific breakthrough in the processing of peanut butter that is having a significant impact on the social problem of child malnutrition. It’s called a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and is made in Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. The lives of thousands of African children have already been saved by RUTF.

Reading Rarity from the Hollow is like eating peanut butter. The story is a little sticky with issues and tissues at times, but it nourishes, and tastes good.

 

About Robert Eggleton:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state of the U.S. for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia,U.S., where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

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