Since the release of Dune (highly recommended if you have read the book; not sure otherwise, and I don't recommend much in the way of pop culture because of varying tastes and pocketbooks) I have decided to get up to speed on sci-fi.
I read Ursula LeGuin's Lathe of Heaven on one weekend after getting the COVID Pfizer booster and not feeling like facing the world (such ennui bordering on depression!) Probably not her signature work but a good read, quick one for me, and probably a good introduction
Then I got Hyperion, the 1989 novel by Dan Simmons which has a set of sequels, like Dune. So far I have gotten to "The Poet's Tale" section, where I'm bogged down in the dirtiness of it (he's foul-mouthed at every turn--I'll go back to it eventually, but I'm taking a break). "The Priest's Tale" was brilliant, reminding me of Shusako Endo's Silence; "The Soldier's Tale" seemed overlong, but he is a powerful writer regardless.
However, it is very, very dark compared even to Dune. The central figure is a supernatural being, the Shrike, that brings untold suffering to the world but still attracts a cult following. A metaphor for his version of Christianity? Or for mankind's mistaken worship of what is not the good of God? Much there, theologically, but not positive. The world building is exquisite but very complicated and I haven't figured it out yet.
(By the way, the photograph is of a Chihuly glass sculpture I saw at the Cheekwood in Nashville last year. It sort of looks like the Shrike, although I know that wasn't his intent.)
Sci-fi is not considered real lit by some, but that is nonsense. There is good sci-fi and bad sci-fi, just like any other genre of literature. These I consider good. Sci-fi borders on horror in many cases, telling us what our societies will be like because of technology: it will either lead to destruction and isolation because it releases our worst intentions, or it will dehumanize us in a different way--because we think we can solve our basic humanity by technology, we take away freedoms and agency and autonomy because doing so, and thus total control, is now possible with surveillance, robots, etc. Star Wars at least is realistic about the fact that technology will not make us better. Star Trek's failure was that, supposedly, people had lost their "sin natures" because all problems were solved on earth. Yeah, right. "Sin" was no longer systemic because the social structures had been perfected; only individuals might go awry and then have to be set right.