What Science Fiction Means To Me

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Science Fiction Means To Me

If you know anything about me, and you don’t for I am unknowable.  Then you would know that I am the rustle in the leaves when you walk by.  I am the shadow across your window when you try to sleep.  I am the face behind you in the mirror when you haven’t put your contacts in yet.  I am the night, I am acquainted with the night.  And I also wear stupid costumes for money if the cause is right.

But if your brains could understand me then you would know that there are two genres of science fiction I don’t care for.  The first is pulp.  I never cared for the type of novel where the hero was using his space TV to watch space sitcoms when his space alarm clock let him know it was time to go to space work, but first he needed to use the space toilet…you get the space idea.  But on his way home he ran into Persius Arachnia Five-Armed Queen of The Blue Rat-Spider People of Venus.  Together they will overcome the tyranny of the Space Government and maybe find love and have the author describe a painfully detailed zero gravity sexual encounter between them.

Isaac Asimov Edgar Rice Burroughs Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov are both guilty of this style of writing but are both undeniably masters of the sci-fi genre.   Burroughs for his Barsoom and Venus series and Asimov for far too many series and independent stories to list here.  Now don’t get me wrong, I cut my teeth on this style of writing, but as I got older so did it and I wanted less reminders of how everything in space was different and needed to be distinguished by it being Space [insert noun].  Not that I wouldn’t love to have the time to devote to reading all the John Carter or Foundation series.  But what really aggravates me is the second item on my list.

I need to explain how my process works.  Tomorrow morning I will start researching what I am going to write about next Tuesday, I have some idea what the rest of this week and most of next week looks like when it comes to articles and subjects of my tirades and those plans go into Outlook Calendar for reference.  In the course on my research I come across movies that although IMDB says are of a certain genre are either most definitely not or so vaguely connected to that genre it is laughable.  That is what would be the thing that annoys me the most.

As an example, according to Amazon.com - Fatherland is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War.  It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday.  Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich.  And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth -- a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history. 

Now according to IMDB when this was adapted into a movie for HBO it became a sci-fi movie because of the alternate history plot element.  But that is all it really is, a plot element.  This is a dramatic thriller that happens to be set in a world where Germany wasn’t defeated in World War 2. 

A second example, excerpts from Wikipedia -  Never Let Me Go is a 2010 British dystopian science fiction drama film based on Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel of the same name…The film begins with on-screen captions explaining that a medical breakthrough in 1952 has permitted the human lifespan to be extended beyond 100 years…

But after watching this because my daughter coerced me into it, I thought about it and yet again this isn’t really sci-fi.  This is closer to a dark young adult fiction story that makes reference to a sci-fi element that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot.  It was part of the exposition of how we got here and never spoken of again.

Are both of my examples good stories, yes they are.  Are either what I would call science fiction.  No, at least no more than saying Ripley and Cpl. Hicks stealing glances at each other in Aliens makes that a romantic movie.  I’m sure I could go on further but it’s late and bed is calling my name.

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