Literature is not as one-dimensional as many people think. It is not a frivolous study for those who are poor at math and science. No, literature is a conduit that connects an individual to the vast, ever-expanding pool of human knowledge. In addition to connecting us to the past and improving our writing skills, literature widens our perspectives allowing us to explore the strengths as well as the faults of human individuals and societies. Some genres of literature are better than others when exploring human nature, and sciencefiction is one of the best. Darko Suvin, author of an analysis on science fiction titled Estrangement and Cognition, assets that all science fiction introduces a new idea, called a novum, that effectively challenges a reader’s worldview. It can educate us about other cultures and increase sympathies for those who we see as different from us simply by giving us exposure to what is foreign. Authors Octavia Butler and Philip José Farmer both use cognitive estrangement in this way to suggest and reinforce the idea that humans are too resistant to change, and are inherently xenophobic.
It is important to understand how science fiction is used to convey an author’s ideas. In a nutshell, Darko Suvin delineates science fiction as a literary genre that utilizes cognitive estrangement in order to build an imaginary, yet believable, world centered around a novum (Suvin 7-8). He further defines estrangement as the creative and fantastic side of the genre. The