Is Sci-Fi a Religious Experience? Adam Savage Thinks So

Adam Savage is known as the long-time co-host of MythBusters, and he currently helps run the science and technology website Tested. His latest project is a science fiction interview show called Syfy25: Origin Stories, which he produced in partnership with Syfy.

“Science fiction has meant so much to me over the years that the minute it got mentioned to me I was like, ‘Yeah! I’m in,’” Savage says in Episode 276 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Guests include showrunners like Ron Moore and David X. Cohen, authors like Neil Gaiman and Nnedi Okorafor, and media personalities like Chris Hardwick and Kevin Smith. The show celebrates the rich history of sci-fi across various media, and also explores the power of science fiction stories to make people think.

“It acts as a Trojan horse,” Savage says. “This was a constant refrain that my guests kept mentioning, that science fiction can bypass people’s normal partisan filters.”

Sci-fi has always faced hostility from people who don’t understand it, and its reputation has sometimes suffered from an association with low-budget films and TV shows. But Savage says the current state of the genre is very strong, and that first-rate productions like Blade Runner 2049 are sure to broaden its appeal even more.

“[This movie] is as lyrically allegorical and metaphorical as any piece of literature I have ever read,” he says. “It’s an amazing script, the performances are phenomenal, and the directing is as good as anything I’ve seen in film.”

He also notes that one of his guests, Kevin Smith, describes pop culture narratives like sci-fi movies and superhero comics as his “religion”—his source for meaning and moral guidance. So could science fiction evolve into something akin to an actual religion?

“I’m not positive that literature could satisfy that deep need for the transcendent, but I hope it can, because for me it really has,” Savage says. “I’ve gotten a tremendous amount from it over the years, not just entertainment, but also thinking about the ways I am a person, a father, a husband, a friend, a citizen.”

Listen to the complete interview with Adam Savage in Episode 276 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Adam Savage on Blade Runner:

“I think that one of the ladders that human beings have been climbing for their entire existence is a ladder of understanding how precious consciousness really is. When we realize that there’s a full consciousness in front of us, our morality changes. … I think of the original Blade Runner as a terrific meditation on what it means to view the other, and to realize that the other might have a full consciousness, where we didn’t ascribe it. The wonderful [scene of] Harrison Ford saying, ‘She’s a replicant,’ and then immediately shifting to, ‘How can it not know what it is?’ He has to revert back to his innate racism about the replicants. And that allegory is still extant in the new film.”

Adam Savage on The Expanse:

“I will tell you one example of how great a family The Expanse is. I had traveled to Toronto to spend a week on the set of The Expanse, and I forgot—I can’t even remember what it was, it was like a razor or something like that. And I mentioned that I didn’t have it and didn’t have time to get it before I got back to my hotel that night, and one of the writers, Ty Franck, mentioned this to Steven Strait, the star of The Expanse, who turned out to live across the street from my hotel. And so half an hour after I got back to my hotel room, there was a knock on the door, and there was Steven with the thing that I needed. And I was like, ‘That’s a family, right? That’s beautiful.’ And that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

Adam Savage on Star Trek:

“I’ve been seeing the response to the new Star Trek: Discovery, and I’m really excited about it. I got to spend some time with a few of the writers when I was at San Diego Comic-Con. But I think I will get to watch the new Star Trek in probably two days, that’s how busy I am right now. But look, the more Star Trek there is in the world, the better the world is. Because I think that Gene Roddenberry’s original vision still holds—a utopic vision of humanity in which our needs are met and we can use the extra mental space given by the fact that we’ve answered hunger and shelter and safety for all the citizens of the Earth to explore other cultures. [That’s] beautiful.”

Adam Savage on politics:

“My goal is to express myself politically in the politest way possible. I want to speak only in the way that I would if the person I am responding to was standing in front of me, and I compare everything that I say to that. I probably send one tweet for every 10 that I compose, because in my anger and my ire, I write lots of things that I don’t tweet, because I can see that I’m being—in my emotional response—divisive or exclusionary, and I don’t want to be. So I work really, really hard to be inclusive. I know that a lot of my fans from MythBusters don’t agree with me politically, I know that a lot of the Tested viewers that watch me online every week don’t necessarily agree with me politically, and that’s OK. I like to imagine though that if we were sitting at dinner we could agree on some basic precepts of how we take care of each other.”

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