Sci-Fi and Psi-fi?

#1
I've been mulling over this subject for years: it seems to me that psi has, in recent decades, been chased out of Science Fiction or, at best, included but with a materialist veneer. The thought cropped up again while I've been watching the 10 year old US Sci-Fi series "The 4400" on a local streaming service.

Without giving too much away the premise is that a group of 4400 abductees are returned to a place near Seattle one day in 2004. These people turn out to have certain abilities which we would usually categorise as psi, including PK, pre-cognition, telepathy and a host of others. There is also a prominent character who is shot and killed but who later returns as some kind of resurrected messiah (his initials are - you guessed - JC).

Yet throughout, we have a pseudo-scientific, materialist overlay so that we learn that these abilities are somehow enabled by some advanced neurotransmitter called Promicin. We have science nerds working in the basement of this FBI-like centre in Seattle. These guys seem to be experts in everything from software engineering to genetics to psychology - anything remotely sciency. The paranormal pervades the show but is never once mentioned!

Now, to get to the point, I remember reading science fiction in my youth which had no qualms about including psi abilities without the need to include a materialist explanation for them. Phillip K. Dick used psi abilities in his stories while my favourite was a story by Theodore Sturgeon called More Than Human.

The writer of this review says something similar:

Parapsychology something many were equally optimistic about, it features in numerous works of the era.Alfred Bester put it to wide use, as did Jack Vance, Frederik Pohl, Phillip K. Dick, Harry Harrison, (early) Robert Silverberg, and others toward telling stories of the mentally possible, and in turn popularizing the idea.But the pinnacle of psi-power’s sanguinity is certainly Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human.


I stopped watching Dr. Who when it became clear that the then showrunner, Russell T. Davies was promoting his atheist ideology in the story lines. Anything ghostly, for example, was eventually debunked by the science-hero Doctor. Ironically, at the same time, the so-called science fantasies became ever more far-fetched (what that screw-driver could do was beyond fantasy). It seems to be policy across the board in British TV that psi should be avoided or explicitly debunked although some gems have made it through (the supreme example being the superb Life on Mars).
 
#2
I've been mulling over this subject for years: it seems to me that psi has, in recent decades, been chased out of Science Fiction or, at best, included but with a materialist veneer.
Probably depends on what you are reading/watching. Star Wars has psi. Xmen has psi. Lots of manga has psi.

Hard SF usually follows scientific materialism, but pop culture has lots of psi.
 
#5
Probably depends on what you are reading/watching. Star Wars has psi. Xmen has psi. Lots of manga has psi.

Hard SF usually follows scientific materialism, but pop culture has lots of psi.
Possibly my particular focus at work noticing the kind of psi-bashing that goes on in some fiction. I would mention, however, that the original Star Wars is over 40 years old and that Lucas was influenced by the writings of mythicist, Joseph Campbell. I think Spielberg has been more open to a spiritual dimension in his films too. However, this article in The Atlantic certainly does seem to be at odds with my observations so maybe I should reserve judgement and see how things develop. I'm not sure that I'm reading that article correctly but I get the impression that the writer thinks there may be some kind of backlash to the kind of materialist bias that I had noticed.

It’s always a tricky thing to propose the existence of a storytelling trend when that trend is abstract and eternally relevant, but it does seem fair to say that certain sci-fi obsessions ebb and flow: In some recent years, apocalypse and/or zombies have seemed the relevant preoccupation, and in others, it’s been aliens. Zipping through dimensions or waking up to perceive a new reality are by no means new ideas—see Sliders, The Matrix, or even Alice in Wonderland. But the recent multiverse musings, taken together, start to feel like a boomlet.

Which means it’s tempting to offer theories for why now. The tenuous but seductive current-events explanation is easy enough. 2016 was a rough ride for a lot of people, and so just as certain portions of the entertainment world may have become ever-more-realistic, other portions have started to indulge the hope that this existence we’re all living in is not the only one. What’s more, thanks to this political moment, there are lots of mini-examples of simultaneous realities. Just today, The Washington Post is running two news stories telling competing versions of the same event in Congress, perhaps out of an attempt to pander to separate reader groups.
 
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