The golden age of science fiction

There is an old joke about science fiction, in the form of a riddle:

Q: What was the golden age of science fiction?
A: Twelve

The joke is not only funny — it is also profound. When you are twelve years old you are uniquely positioned between two worlds. There is a part of you that still thinks very much like a child, but for the first time there is also a part of you that thinks like an adult.

Which is really the sweet spot for science fiction. The child in you marvels in wonder at the fantastical worlds opening up to you. Yet the adult in you is starting to think critically about the real subject of science fiction — the human condition, with all of its attendant complexities and moral failings.

When you are twelve you are uniquely able to comfortably inhabit both the child’s view and the adult’s view. And if you are lucky, you continue to retain some of that beautiful mix as you grow older.

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