Science Fiction and Mental Health:The Lost Opportunity

In the course of writing my book, I made an assumption – one which I would ultimately find to be incorrect: That mental illness and science fiction would be very popular subgenres. They are not. I’ve been surprised by this. In fact, thus far, I’ve only been able to find one other book which intermixes mental health, science fiction and young adult – Portals by Kristy Acevedo. That’s a REALLY great book, by the way – if you liked Redemption, you’ll like Portals – Kristy Acevedo was kind enough to do a blog interview with me. That’s here.

I thought the two genres would go much better together. The reason? The sheer freedom of it. I’ve written two books now – Tweets and Consequences (which was a non-fiction look at social media, politicians and epic failures) and Redemption. Obviously non-fiction is a little bit more limiting. But, even fiction can be very constraining. If you write a regular YA book, for example, you are limited by the realities of the genre. For example, It’s not a good or consistent book if your YA character suddenly grows wings and flies away.

Science fiction and fantasy, of course, are different. All bets are off. You set up your world, it’s limits, and then you go from there. In Redemption, I created a Lord of the Flies-like world – on a space ship – and we were off to the races. The extremes of the world in Redemption allow me to explore the mental illness of the main character, Ash. Clearly, it’s science fiction, but the constraints of the world are still pretty similar to this one. As such, I get the opportunity to explore mental illness in a whole new light, but one that is simultaneously interesting/entertaining (at least, I hope!) and relevant to the reader.

Portals does a similar exploration – it creates a fantasy world with aliens from the future who are trying to save the world. The main character has debilitating anxiety issues, and the extreme stress of the world has major impacts on her mental health, her limits, and what she learns about herself and those around her.

But again, I’ve been surprised. I haven’t seen a ton of interaction between these subjects, and that, in my estimation, is a lost opportunity. Science fiction allows you to break traditional boundaries. I’ve actually always thought that the best science fiction just takes advantage of the weird elements it creates. Star Wars isn’t about space, it’s about good vs. evil. Star Trek (which one reviewer on the Amazon page was kind enough to compare Redemption to!) isn’t about the damn United Federation of Plants, it is about social justice and an exploration of the galaxy and the human psyche. It seems like mental illness and it’s related topics would be a perfect fit for this universe, but alas, unless I have been mistaken, this is not a topic which has seen much interaction.

Am I wrong? I’d love to be wrong. If I am wrong, please correct me – leave your best book recommendations in the comments below!

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