On the philosophical importance of Science Fiction

There are two types of SF (science fiction) novels that I like. The first kind, practiced by Frank Herbert or George Orwell for example, uses alien, fictional environments as scenes that exacerbate current social issues. Their books serve as fictional laboratories that blow all humans convention out of the water thus allowing them to take current philosophical trends to the extreme.  Herbert, for example, does this with religion and cult-building as Dune, his famous sand planet, offers him the perfect environment to isolate the issue for literary exploration. Similarly, there is little intrinsically spectacular about the world that Orwell creates in his "1984"masterpiece, but his dystopian setup serves him as the foundation for an unsettling exploration of totalitarianism. Philosophers are well known to have used fictional words to explain their philosophical perspectives. Plato's Republic proposed a utopia society based on Sparta's values. More recently, Moore's utopia depicted a fictional isolated island that allowed for the investigation of different societal values. The industrial revolution liberated our imagination and gave us the means to take this practice beyond the limits of this world. Literally! 

The second kind is the one exploring the meaning and purpose of scientific advancement. Isaac Asimov or Liu Cixin are two authors of this type that come to mind. They start from the realization that science is "just" an explanatory method that lacks any embedded meaning. Novels in this genre thus become exploration of ethics or political systems brought about by technological development. Asimov, for example, deals with morality in the age of robots. Liu Cixin explores the notion that morality evolved from biological constraints and imagines a universe where different ethical systems clash. 

Science Fiction 

...is letting you be a bit of a pop philosopher without being didactic.

Both are equally fascinating. They are even more revealing if you subscribe to the idea that these books act as a barometers of the current generation's dreams and aspirations.