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Why-Fi? How Did Sci-fi Become Such Big Business?

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Sep 08, 2013 | 2:00pm EDT

ElysiumTriStar Pictures

As any cultural historian will attest, sci-fi has always reflected our collective anxieties. Like how the Red Scare is the agreed-upon subtext of Cold War-era classics like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

But the hands-down bugaboo has always been Science Run Amok, and its big brother, Technology Out of Control. Nuclear penance, clones gone wild, evil robots, planets built by machines...you get the picture. But something happened on the way to the 21st Century. Let's call it Star Wars Syndrome. FX, it turns out, is irresistible.

Effects-driven extravaganzas captured the zeitgeist in a whole new way. They're sexy, and sex sells. Besides, by the time mainframes were replaced by Macs, our cultural anxieties about technology were melting away. How scary can technology be when you're under under the same roof with it?

So thank you, smart phone, tablet and laptop for calming our cultural nerves. And hat tip to Industrial Light and Magic, for illuminating our path to the Apple Store.

Sci-fi, it would appear, is here to stay. At least until somebody is attacked by a demonic iPad.

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