Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sci-fi Needs More Love

Okay some time back I very vaguely and broadly defended speculative fiction by defining it as any type of fiction had fanciful elements that did not particularly correspond to real life and saying that punishing a story just for that, limited what writers could write and readers could read.

But now I try to do something hard define and defend science-fiction, which is haaaaard. Hell even science fiction writers have no clue what science fiction is though I guess you could consider me a science fiction writer, nudge nudge wink wink read Game. (Game has no ending, Miles. Shut up!)

Anyway what actually got me to write that short pitiful defense was the growing feeling that in my medium of choice there was a dangerous attempt to disavow the very thing that defined speculative fiction, its fanciful elements.

"Oh it's not really science fiction see because we have characters and plot and..."

See while as I got older I rediscovered science fiction in books and movies but what actually got me interested was the science fiction television of my youth, the mid 90's and early 2000's. Stargate SG1, Farscape, Andromeda, The New Outer Limits, Sliders, Firefly, X-files, Seven Days, John Doe, and  Roswell (Alien is still on my list of things to watch though.) What had happened for movies two decades before had finally happened for television, the effects and costumes had become inexpensive enough to practically make up for the fact that the genre requires a higher suspension of audience disbelief.

Ultimately I think this problem stems from people confusing science fiction elements with science fiction. Let me put it like this. Action movies are defined by having action so anything with action scenes can be defined as an action movie, but the purpose and execution of those action scenes serve as the basis of judgment for the movies success as an action movie. Now the purpose will vary from movie to movie but broadly generally it's to create a visually exciting experience. Thus can the purpose of the action movie be summed up, to create a visually exciting experience.

But what is the purpose of science fiction. In my mind at least it's high concept.

In film the term high concept is used as the short pithy pitch made to explain a story, but in science fiction the concept is often the point. Many consider the zenith of television science fiction to be the Twilight Zone, as an anthology series, especially in the early seasons when it had a half-hour, the point of each episode was the concept. I'm not going to list episodes because I also liked the Outer Limits and my brain might cross an idea or two, but it was the same way.

People confuse science fiction tropes for science fiction not realizing that most of those tropes got their start as the high concept basis of a story that got retold, deconstructed and reconstructed so many times that it is ingrained into what people think of when describing the genre. But the tropes themselves do not necessarily make "good sci-fi". Nope it's the concept and the execution of the concept. Of course the same could be said for speculative fiction making this whole post moot. Damn it writing ideas in my brainskull at 2 in the morning.

You know what I'll go back to what I originally said, having fanciful elements in fiction is not automatically a bad thing.

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