I've been considering the idea of SF/F as a lens through which a world is viewed. It came to mind as I was working up a description for a game I want to run later this year and having to explain the setting that I'm using for it. I've seen it a lot with game settings that have been put out over the last few decades, but I see it in other mediums as well. It doesn't take a lot of effort to think about how SF/F differed over the course of the last century. (And it's not always just SF/F. Look at how film adaptations of Raymond Chandler books differ in feel depending on when they were made.)
So I've been mulling around the idea of using the genre as a lens. Most fiction seems to function as a lens of some sort, though often it's either a lens that gives a peek into the author's psyche or the culture they live in. But some fiction uses the genre as a tool to look at their own world. Sometimes it's just an exploration of our own humanity. Sometimes you get some political commentary. And, really, the best speculative fiction is often about something besides what the material comes off as. It's not just a story about robots or strange emotion-eating parasites. It's a reflection of our own world, highlighted through the use of the strange.
As a writer I'm always a little iffy about trying to make some sort of message or statement with my works. I have the attitude of, "Don't follow me, I'm lost too." My belief systems still tend to influence my writing and even my gaming. And I've used some stories to highlight the absurd at times. (A key example is, "A Tale of Two Bureaucracies.") And with some games I've made a point of trying to make villains of my heroes in order to challenge my attachment to them.
I've been struggling with what to write for this upcoming anthology I'd been invited to submit to. And so I've been trying to think about whether I can use the piece as a lens to look at my own world. The current idea getting pushed around on my plate is the notion the idea that heroes are relative, and what can be a point of hope for one group can be the face of tyranny for another group. I don't have a proper plot yet, just the barest bones of setting and theme. But I'm liking this idea. I'll post more as it comes to me.