Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Science Fiction anyone?

So, the other day I was perusing somewhere on the web (can't really recall where), and I saw some mention of Science Fiction needing a revival similar to what Fantasy is experiencing. And that got me to thinking about a couple of things.

First of all, could I write some good Sci Fi? I think so. In fact I have several projects underway in that genre. Granted, the majority have been "underway" for literally years. But I have experienced enough Sci Fi that I think I could write something passable. I considered trying my hand at some established IPs like Star Trek or Star Wars, but abandoned that right away. For one thing, there seems to be a glut of those two, especially Star Wars. Plus I'm that guy who is never happy with how someone else sets up their sandbox. I invariably want to change or add to the rules. So, I am probably better off working with an original setting. Of which, I have plenty in my head.

After I went down that road for a while, I also started to think about Sci Fi in general, and whether it really needed a "revival." Unlike Fantasy, Sci Fi has kind of always been around, even if only on the fringes. There have usually been scads of TV shows that run the gamut of Sci Fi, from the hardcore things like Star Trek and the Stargate shows, to the more sublime stuff like Fringe and Doctor Who. Heck, for a long time there was a whole cable channel devoted to the genre (until some clueless executives got ahold of it).  And I know that I have only scratched the surface of the sheer amount of Sci Fi that has always seemed to be present.

In my opinion, what Sci Fi needs is not a revival, per se. Rather it needs a power surge, a shock to the system, a jolt of adrenaline. And in this day and age, that means a really high-profile movie, in my opinion. Something that will spark the public's imagination in a way that the Star Trek TV show did in the late 60's and that Star Wars* did in the late 70's. Something that is (perceived as) pure Science Fiction. Comic book superheroes, while generally utilizing many Sci Fi tropes and ideas, is not what Sci Fi needs. We need a movie with alien landscapes, fleets of starships, desperate heroes, hi-tech gadgetry; all presented with with high production values, and good acting. Characters who are both real and extraordinary. Aliens who are plausible and relatable, yet vastly different than humans. Technology that looks and feels just beyond what we know now, but still attainable.

We almost touched it with Starship Troopers, but alas, while I love that movie to death (never saw part 2, and part 3 was pretty good, but went direct to DVD), it had weaknesses and plot holes you could pilot a cruiser through. 2009's Star Trek did a very good job of refreshing that franchise. But that franchise is so ingrained in our psyche now, that it kind of exists in a void. Avatar, while very entertaining, and one of the most beautiful films in history, had its faults as well (mainly criticisms of the rehashed plot and overly PC tones).

What we need is something new. Something we haven't seen before. And there are literally thousands of books that would make good movies, if only they could be handled properly.

I don't know, what do you think? Is there a book or series that you think could really get people excited for Sci Fi again? And do you think a good movie is the best way to go?
*For the record, I understand that Star Wars is not strictly Sci Fi, but rather Space Opera.  But, in my book, it still qualifies, as it has some pretty solid (if extraordinary) Sci Fi elements, mixed in with some mysticism, and a very operatic plot and characters.  However, it should be noted that it inspired several other shows and movies, such as the Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers TV shows.


Paul R. McNamee said...

Big topic :)

You're right, I wish there were more throwback scifi shows and movies available - especially on cable.

I guess it is still thriving in books?

I always preferred space opera over the hard science stuff.

'Babylon 5' was great because it tickled your brain and gave you action - but the tickling wasn't science stuff, it was drama.

I know Baen favors action, adventure and character first, then the science, if any. They are still the go-to publisher for adventurous scifi, from what I've heard.

I probably should read more in the genre, but I got away from it years ago. The closest I come now is sword-&-planet and some stories from RayGunRevival online. The occasional David Drake "Hammer's Slammers" story.

Tom Doolan said...

Yeah, after some discussion on Facebook, I realized that what I am looking for is most likely considered Space Opera, even if it has a hard sci fi bent.

My favorite sci fi show has always been Stargate SG-1. Not really sure why. I guess it's the fact that it's a blend of modern military and sci fi.

And I need to read more in the genre too. but right now I am trying to write so much fantasy that I don't want to derail that. Which happens quite easily for me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avatar was really more of a fantasy to me. I tell you though, I haven't been impressed with a lot of recent SF. I prefer reading older stuff in general. Terra Nova might spark something.

John said...

Space Opera to Hard Sci-fi is like High Fantasy to Grim Fantasy. Same basic genre, but one is grounded in a more "realistic" setting.

I'd love to see more sci-fi on TV, but it probably won't happen, unless you count the silly (Eureka) or the overly dramatic/angst-y (Farscape etc.).

What I liked most about Babylon 5 was that you could tell that the entire script was written ahead of time and wasn't subject to the whims of the TV gods.

If Niven/Pournelle ever started to write scripts that made it onto the screen, I'd be an instant, slobbering fanboy.