The Mystical Roots of Science Fiction
Here is a teaser of an audio clip interview with Jeff Kripal, author of the upcoming Authors of the Impossible (due out in early 2010). I've read an advance copy of that book, and I think his take on why people have always been drawn towards the paranormal is exactly right. As the blurb about his book says on the EnlightenNext website:
[It's] about the relationship between mysticism, pop culture, and the paranormal. Weaving together an interesting combination of sources--from Philip K. Dick to the human potential movement to the UFOlogy of French astronomer Jacques Valle—he describes why he thinks that our general cultural obsession with science fiction, as seen in the popularity of TV shows like Heroes and movies like The X-Men, is a modern expression of the same spiritual impulse toward the “supernormal” that lies at the heart of all religious traditions. But as Kripal points out, these new sci-fi mythologies are distinct from the traditions in that they are oriented toward the future rather than the past, allowing us to see our present-day culture as a more primitive version of what has yet to evolve.Unlike many scholars who dismiss our impulses towards the supernormal as mere fantasy, Kripal recognizes that these impulses reflect something that is quite palpably real, meaningful, and important.