Perhaps the hallmark of the great sci-fi novels is that they always tell stories in service to a fantastic idea, an idea that often comes to fruition in the future. For instance, in 2001 the idea is that an extremely powerful alien intelligence is responsible for the evolution of apes into men, and soon in the future will be ready to guide men on the next step. The idea in Dune is that far into the future we will have the ability to mold planets to our will using the tools of conservation ecology, and mold mankind to our will using selective breeding and psychedelic drugs. To achieve status as great literature, however (and not just great sci-fi), a novel must tell a compelling story, with interesting characters that undergo meaningful development. It is the very rarest achievement in the genre to fulfill both of these requirements, and also to simply have well-written narrative, without terribly affected descriptions and dialogue. H.G. Wells, probably the father of modern science fiction, saw the genre as a modern vehicle for telling the 'fantastic tale' in a way that could be believable to modern generations. That is, aliens and scientific achievement now take the place of fairy-tale creatures and magic, but the form of the story remains. Men like Frank Herbert and George Lucas saw science fiction as a way of fulfilling the epic form, to create new myths that, like the old myths, teach us virtue and morality, whereas someone like Philip K. Dick saw it more as a way to raise mind-bending questions that didn't have the easy answers of epic morality plays. Many great works of science fiction critique the present by satirizing it in the future (1984 and Brave New World). What do you think is the highest aim of science fiction? What do you think makes a story of this genre great? Do you prefer when it leans more toward social critique or epic fantasy? Optimistic visions of the future (Contact, Star Trek) or dystopian views (Bladerunner, Terminator)? Or what about that rarest of rare achievements - social critique and epic fantasy mixed together within a dystopian, but hopeful, view of the future (The Matrix)? Heck, for that matter, what are some of your favorite sci-fi tales and why do you love them so much?