August favourites #13: science-fiction story

August 13, 2018

The Fun They Had

It’s by Isaac Asimov, one of the masters, and was written in the 1950s. It’s quite short – a couple of pages – and gets its power from imagining a future where children were taught not together in schools but individually in a room at home, and not by a human but by a mechanical teacher, which occasionally broke down or malfunctioned. One child finds an old book in an attic, which tells of school in the past where children were taught together and played together… It’s a marvellous tale, for a number of reasons. Firstly, Asimov imagined a future, our future, but his picture drawn so long ago now clashes with our reality, there being so many things he could not know or imagine. And his story is set in the year 2155, and we are already way past his imagined future world in so many ways. Secondly, there is accuracy in his picture of what the children of the future would have lost. And finally, the children themselves are convincingly, if a tad naively, imagined. The whole, as a story about a possible future, contains lots to make a reader think, as all the best SF does.

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

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