Somebody – it may have been one of my high school English teachers, but I can’t remember at the moment – once told me that a person can’t learn anything valuable from reading science fiction, or from watching it on television or at the movies.

Who says? 

If, indeed, my old college professor Dr. Bill Finger was correct in observing that there are lessons to be learned at every stop we may make along the way in this life, then it stands to reason that popular fiction in general – and science fiction in particular – must therefore be chocked full of all kinds of valuable information that can serve one well during that voyage.

By way of example, here are just a few of the lessons imparted to me through watching and reading science fiction which I have taken the time to jot down to share with others over the years: 

• Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

• Humans are highly illogical.

• On the other hand, do not make the mistake of underestimating technology. Someday the computers will become smarter than us, and unless we play nice with them now the outcome will NOT be good.

• Always keep an eye on Dr. Smith, or there is bound to be trouble.

• Anger, fear and aggression may lead to the Dark Side... but always keep your phaser set on “stun,” just in case.

• Even here upon our own world, sometimes we are the aliens.

• Always let the Wookiee win.

• In seeking your destiny, patience is your ally.

• When your logic fails, trust your hunches.

• Traveling through hyperspace isn’t like dusting crops.

• If you’re ever attacked by renegade Apaches and left to die in an Arizona cave, remember to look up in the general direction of Mars or you’ll miss your chance to meet a really good-looking red-skinned Barsoomian princess with very little clothing and no belly button but who can handle a sword with the best of them. 

• Insufficient data does not compute.

• If you really like to read and you think there's any chance whatsoever that you might somehow end up being the last man on earth, make certain you have an extra set of eyeglasses.

• It isn’t really necessary to be fluent in over 6 million forms of communication.

• Never, ever accompany the captain down to the surface of an unexplored planet if the uniform shirt is red. The odds of your making it back just aren't that good.

To Serve Man is a COOKBOOK!

• Time travel is generally not such a good thing, and is more likely to cause problems than fix them.

• If, on the other hand, you do become a chronic argonaut and return home in your time machine long enough to grab three books off your bookshelf and bring them back to the future in a foolhardy and almost certainly doomed attempt to rescue the Human Race, make sure you leave your housekeeper a note telling which three books you brought so that dummies like me won’t lay awake all night wondering what three books you brought after watching the blasted movie!

• Never go anywhere without your sonic screwdriver.

• If you’re going to be part of a miniturized scientific expedition into the human body, it certainly never hurts to bring along another crew member who looks like Raquel Welch.

• In space, no one can you hear scream.

• They can, however, hear you when you phone home. If you’re lucky enough to be found by and receive help from the right little boy, that is.

• Short green guys with big ears and a Muppet voice are usually far more than they appear to be on the surface.

• Never assume Ming the Merciless is dead simply because you saw him die at the end of the last episode; there’s always the next serial, you know.

• Bacteria may well be the humblest things that God in His wisdom has placed upon the earth – but never underestimate their ability to bring down a hoarde of invading Martians!  

• Being the only human with the power of speech in a city full of talking apes is almost never a good thing.

• Soylent Green is people. But Howard is a duck.

• Knowing the answers usually is not half as important as knowing the question. (The answer, by the way, is 42. Or so I've been told...)

• Assume the speaker is being sincere when he tells you “We come in peace” is just plain stupid!

• Think before dismissing someone else’s beliefs as being just a “hokey religion.” You may just end up eating your words and sticking around to help save the day.

(Copyright 2012 by John A. Small)