The Most Important Subject

Part of my day job is preparing students for Oxbridge applications.
Once they have researched their courses and written their personal statements I arrange practice interviews.

One of the questions I always ask is “Why have you chosen this subject? Why do you want to study English or History or Computer Science?”

The answer is nearly always the same: that theirs is the most important subject, it’s the only one reflected in all the different disciplines, and it’s the only subject that can explain everything. They all believe it to be true, I can see it in their faces.

And the thing is, they’re all sort of correct. This is the subject that they love, this is how they see the world, they look at everything through the lens of Maths or Politics: that’s how they understand the world.

Many adults are the same. They think that their job or their interests touch all of life (I’ve heard both writers and teachers say the same thing, and I suppose I believe it myself.)

It’s the same with stories. Stories inevitably describe the world through one point of view: that of the author.

In the golden age of SF, science was seen as the cause or solution to all problems.

In the 60s and and 70s they wrote about society and the environment.

I’ve written about robots and AIs, I’ve described the world in terms of information.

I think it interesting that in the 40s and 50s Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch enemy was an evil scientist. Later on, he became an evil businessman.

It isn’t an original thought to state that points of view tend to reflect the current times. This isn’t a problem. You can always read a range of books from different authors.

I’m going to end this post on a rare political note: I write this as the pound is crashing. I can’t help thinking our current problems are down to people who see the world solely in terms of money. They really need to read a more diverse range of books.

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