The oil spill, as shown on the As if the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico weren't bad enough, some people are trying to drag science fiction into the mess. In an op-ed article for The New York Times, Maureen Dowd writes: "We are trapped in a science-fiction nightmare we can't wake up from, possibly because of a dead battery in the control pod connected to a dead man's switch for the blowout preventer, whatever that means." (Emphasis added.)

Dowd spews forth outrage over "government officials charged with protecting us [who] were instead enabling greedy corporations." I don't have any problem with her strongly-worded opinions; I agree that the entire situation is "nauseating." But why is this particular nightmare a "science-fiction nightmare," exactly? Is it because only people who read and write science fiction could have conjured up this scenario? I will readily admit that sci-fi movies have specialized in nightmare scenarios; I even compiled a list of the The Top Ten Sci-Fi Nightmares.

But Dowd's tone is dismissive of science fiction as a whole, as though it consists entirely of fan-boy fantasies with no relationship to reality and/or real-world science, when many of the best works of science fiction are extrapolations of known facts. Not to pimp my own work, but check out that list of nightmares, or, better yet, think about your own favorite sci-fi movies, TV shows, and books that deal with disasters or bleak futures or apocalyptic aftermaths. Don't they have a basis in reality? Isn't that why they're scary, because they could happen? Maybe if more people took science fiction seriously, they wouldn't be so dismissive.

[ Via NPR's The Two-Way ]