Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is Science Fiction A Genre?

Let’s play the semantics game. Should science fiction really be considered a genre? Or is it just a setting? I know science fiction fans are probably gasping right now or grabbing their pitch-lasers, but hear me out. I think this is important.

Here’s my thinking. Before we call something a genre, it should be able to stand on its own terms. For example, a romance film/book is about a romantic relation. A war film is about a war. Dramas are dramatic. Comedies are funny (though the original definition of comedy was basically just a drama with a happy ending). And so on. The point is that each of these genres is capable of defining itself and it does not need help from any other genre to create a complete story. In other words, a drama does not need to rely on a romance or a war or an action story to come up with a complete story that is dramatic. Romances, action films, even Westerns need not piggyback on any other genre either.

But science fiction is different. Most of what passes for science fiction does in fact need to piggyback on other genres. Indeed, in most science fiction movies, what you really get is a standard drama, romance, war film, action flick or some other genre being acted out with science fiction trappings. And when you think about these films, you quickly realize that the film could easily be de-science fictioned with little change.

Now it’s true that not all science fiction falls into this category. For example, some science fiction stories are specifically about science fiction events, like the effects of time travel or cloning or alien visitation or films about the exploration of black holes, wormholes or other natural but not common phenomena. But those films are surprisingly rare and often inject subplots from other genres to make them watchable. So should science fiction be considered it’s own genre?

Why does this matter, you ask? Well, I think it matters in particular to writers who may be considering writing science fiction. Unless you’re writing a specific science fiction plot, like a time loop, then you really should learn the rules of the other genres you need to piggyback upon. I think it also gives us another way to look at science fiction and to consider why so many science fiction films fail.

Interesting, huh?


Individualist said...

I think that while science fiction has elements of other genres there are certain elements that must be incorporated into it.

Science fiction whether hard or soft have elements that predict the future. These predictions can be dystopian or utopain in nature or some level in between. This may be enough to classify it as a genre on its own. It must still be a horror story like Event Horizon, a fairy tale like Star Wars, a drama like Gattaca, an action film like Independence Day, a War film such as Wing Commander.

But the science fiction film de scienced is not the same film. It would lack the curiosity unique to science fiction. It would lack the part of the film that seeks to predict future events and the effect of progress and its pit falls. Because of this a science fiction film has the ability to provide us with unique philisophical takes that we can't get from the mundane.

In Star Gate we see the psychological effect of a race with ultimate power. In Gattaca we see the effects of racist, xenophobic and ethnosuperiority played out when in fact the cliches are now true because the tailored genome is superior. In Indenpendence Day we get to understand war where the enemy truly is inhuman and has no proclivity to respect our humanity.

These are concepts that can't be duplicated easily in a mundane film. Surrogagtes is a great example. The story could theoretically be told in a mundane plot. But it would not be the same film. You would lose the idea that robot bodies being animated over the internet to live our lives has on the characters.

So in a sense I agree. None of these films could be made without another genre applied as a template to drive the plot. But I disagree in this sense that the science fiction setting applies alterations to that plot that can't be made otherwise. Just my take on this.

Tennessee Jed said...

I think there is an old saw about there being only 37 or so plots. To me, it is a little like biology where you start with large groupings (Phylums) and work your way down to specific species. You can classify a story into fiction or non-fiction, romance, comedy, drama, suspense, thriller, etc. There can always be a little overlap. Science Fiction to me is similar to the western. In that respect, it is more descriptive of the setting as you suggest. Good science fiction brings a theme or concept into play that can only happen in the future. That said, it is probably wishful thinking that the genre will ever be amended to be more than the setting.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... interesting question!

I think it's worth noting, like Jed says, that there are multiple subgenres of science fiction, which overlap with other subgenres. You have war films, but you also have military science fiction, for instance. And as for Star Trek, I suppose there's a school of thought which says it's not even science fiction, it's "space opera."

And I think it can work both ways. There are many Star Trek episodes which work as character pieces that don't take advantage of any particular sci-fi trope or idea. But the story just happens to take place on a spaceship in the future.

And then look at something like E.T.. There's an alien and a spaceship at the end, but the setting itself is rather mundane.

(P.S. I caught most of the first episode of Hot Set last night on SyFy - since I know you like Face Off, I think you'll like this one.)

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting take, Indi. There are certain requirements to make a science fiction film. I'm just not sure if that is enough to really make this it's own genre? If we say that anything that requires the use of certain conventions becomes its own genre, then almost any type of specific film could be seen as it's own genre. For example, any film about the Mexican Revolution would need to involve the Mexican Revolution and certain elements related to it, but would that mean there is a Mexican Revolution Genre?

I'm not sure either way, but it strikes me that a better test is whether or not the genre can stand on its own without piggybacking on other genres.

BIG MO said...

Very intriguing, Andrew. I’ve thought about this before, too. I started writing my subjective criteria for what makes something "science fiction," but the task isn't as clear as I initially thought it would!

So, while specifying what is and isn’t sci-fi would be a huge task, let me offer just a few subjective criteria outside of the obvious time travel and most adventures-in-space movies:

1) Is the story’s future or high-tech setting merely an interchangeable location, or can the story only exist AS sci-fi? Movie examples of the latter are “2001,” “2010,” “Gattaca,” “The Time Machine” (both versions), “The War of the Worlds” (both versions) and 1980’s “The Final Countdown.”

And if the setting is interchangeable, is the story clearly one that must be considered sci-fi because of its other elements? Best example is “Forbidden Planet,” which is essentially Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in space, but because the way the “Forbidden Planet” story is presented, it can only exist as a sci-fi drama.

2) Does the story explore what it means to be human – or remain human – in an age of super science? Best examples are “Ghost in the Shell” and “Blade Runner.” Being human is central to both stories, and neither story could truly work outside of sci-fi. The first “Matrix” qualifies, too. (That movie owes much to Ghost in the Shell and William Gibson’s "Neuromancer.”)

You can argue either way on whether movies and shows about the zombie apocalypse or certain types of alien invasions truly depict people clinging to their humanity when everything goes to hell. Some belong more with horror than sci-fi: “The Walking Dead” TV show fits better with the horror genre, while the comics themselves belong more with post-apocalyptic sci-fi. The 1970s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” however, seems more sci-fi than horror.

3) Does the story attempt to portray space travel or futuristic planetary travel seriously or at least plausible? Best examples: “2001,” “2010,” “Sunshine” (great set-up but disappointing 2nd half), and “Deep Impact” for space travel, and “Minority Report” for planetary travel.

4) Is near-future or far-future science central to the story, or at least a prominent driver? “Minority Report” could go in the same action genre as “The Fugitive” except for the science of using mutants to predict future crimes. That alone makes “Minority Report” sci-fi.

Likewise, “Alien” could be considered horror instead of sci-fi horror, except the science and futuristic setting are important to the story. (Specifically, the android and the real reason why the crew is sent to investigate the planet.)

5) Is the setting so fantastical that it can only be “sci-fi” and would fall apart in any other genre? Doesn’t matter if it’s a “serious” film or light hearted adventures in space. Best examples include “Star Wars,” “The Fifth Element,” “Buck Rogers” (both the original radio & theater serials and the fun/campy 1980s TV show), and the “Jurassic Park” movies.

Of course, my criteria are totally subjective and can have plenty of exceptions. And meeting or failing to meet my criteria does not necessarily correlate with whether I enjoy the movie, book or show!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Clearly, whatever we decide here would not change the world. This is just a question to think about.

I've heard that too about there only being so many plots. And if you break it down further, my high school writing teacher said there were only three really -- man against man, man against nature, man against himself. That said, I do see the world much more broadly. I'm just not sure if science fiction is a true genre. And if it's not, then it would behoove any science fiction writers to think in terms of the other genres they are using even moreso than the science fiction part.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I saw "Hot Set" as well last night. I didn't enjoy it as much as "Face Off," but I did enjoy it and I will watch it again.

On the subgenres, that's my question though -- are we putting the cart before the horse by calling science fiction the genre? Or is it a subgenre of the others really?

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, You've done an excellent job of breaking out some of the elements. I've tried too to define science fiction and found it to be an impossible task. It's simply too broad of a "genre." And that's when I realized that very, very few of these stories didn't piggyback on some other genre. That got me wondering if this really was a genre or just a setting. There are couple story types that simply don't need to piggyback (like time travel stories) but outside of those few, most science fiction really is just another genre with a few futuristic or alien elements thrown in.

DUQ said...

Interesting topic. I don't really have an answer. I can see where you are right about it piggybacking on other genres, but I also think it's distinct enough to count as its own genre.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, That's what makes this such an interesting question, it can easily go either way.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Yeah, I suppose I simply re-asked your question, albeit in a roundabout manner. :-)

I don't have much of an answer at the moment. You might recall my recent comment about steampunk. If one submitted a steampunk love story to a studio, the first thing the bean-counters would ask would be, "Does it have to be in a steampunk environment?"

I suppose some people choose to set their stories in the future simply to take advantage of technology we don't yet have. Alien could've taken place today if you think about it. It's basically 10 Little Indians - it could've taken place in an isolated cabin or a stalled train in the middle of nowhere.

But we don't have interstellar space travel quite yet, so it takes place at a point in the future instead.

Then again, reading my comment a second time, it would be a horror movie either way, but since the film takes place on a spaceship in the future, it's "horror sci-fi."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's definitely horror sci-fi, and you're right, it could have taken place anywhere like a train or a cabin or a haunted house. It is totally a science fiction story as presented, but the underlying story didn't need to be.

Commander Max said...

I always looked as at sci-fi as defined by an idea. Normally within the story of a show, not the setting of the show. For me the look of the show is irrelevant(even though I'm an industrial designer), but this is the world we live in. People think because the show is set on a spaceship it must be sci-fi. Take STNG it was far more drama/soap opera than science fiction. As some friends used to call it "ship in a bottle", there were a few true sci-fi episodes. But most of those stories could be lifted out of the E, and placed in a contemporary setting, they would work the same.

To counter people calling Alien horror, I would call it sci-fi. The monster itself makes the movie sci-fi, for what it is a creature that was engineered to be the ultimate survivor. Like I said sci-fi is a plot element(part of the story) not a setting.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I agree that the ideas are how we classify films and there certainly are some ideas that are pure science fiction and nothing else -- like time loops and wormholes and clones.

I agree about Star Trek TNG as well. Many of those episodes could have been done in any setting without any of the science fiction trappings and they would have worked just as well. There was very little science fiction in that show. But it's the science fiction episodes people remember.

tryanmax said...

I wonder if maybe the question is backwards. It's taken for granted that romance, drama, comedy, etc. are genres, but really these are broad descriptions of the storyline itself. They tell nothing of the form of the story, only the direction in which the story will travel. But when told that a work is sci-fi, a western, a war film, etc. now some sense of the kind of story develops.

Moreover, I think the question stems from a common desire to reduce the number of categories of any given thing rather than to expand them. But this goes against the nature of categorization. It is interesting to note that the word "genre" arose in French originally to describe paintings that were not otherwise categorized.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, So you would recommend de-genreing anything that doesn't tell you something specific and kind of narrow about the story?

tryanmax said...

I'm just questioning the assumptions.

AndrewPrice said...

You are a cynic my friend! How about offering a solution to your questioning?

tryanmax said...

I think the solution is to allow sci-fi as a genre because it is useful. No action required.

AndrewPrice said...

So you're a cynical pragmatist... ;)

tryanmax said...

I aim to please while maintaining my own displeasure. LoL

T-Rav said...

So you're saying you're an altruistic masochist?

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I would say that science fiction probably is a genre. It's true that the most satisfying sci-fi works are those which aren't just about space travel or robots or whatever. But, to use two of your examples, the most satisfying Western films aren't just about cowboys and Indians, and the most satisfying war movies aren't just shoot 'em up flicks. They all are making statements about the human condition.

So does a genre have to be able to do that to be considered as such? I don't know. But if those latter two are genres, I think science fiction has to be as well.

Anonymous said...

Science Fiction has usually ended up relegated as a subcategory, because, as I have come to view it, plenty of sci-fi films are heavily en-meshed into other elements, especially action, fantasy, and horror. Take, for instance, the Terminator, it's science fiction in the sense that it deals with a character that is artificial intelligence, and also with time travel, both highly fantastic, and concepts that go where science has only cautiously gone before. Then there's also the fact that the Terminator is horror: you've got a "monster" that will kill anything from your grandmother to your neighborhood gang members, for reasons as mundane as being the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, combined with the horrifying concept that you have something that no matter how much of a beatdown you give it, it just won't die. Then I haven't even finished it with those three genres, because the film juggles even more than that...

There! you see what you've made me do Andrew!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax and T-Rav, LOL! An altruistic masochist! Nice! :)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I can accept that reasoning because there are some pure science fiction stories just like there are pure Western stories -- the shootout at high noon, Indians, wagon trains. So maybe the fact there are pure sci-fi stories is enough to rate a genre even if the better sci-fi stories ultimately need to piggyback?

AndrewPrice said...

obiwan, LOL! Sorry. It was just an idea! ;)

I definitely see the Terminator as mainly science fiction because its primary storyline is all about time travel and robots. But it definitely contains other elements that it pulls in throughout.

tryanmax said...

altruistic masochist? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Interesting implications... Could be a great sci-fi!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Somehow, I doubt that would make great science fiction.

Individualist said...

Big MO

I would classify certain Space Opera such as Star Wars and movies such as Fifth Element, Falsh gordon and Buck rogers (the old serials) as Science Fantasy and not Science Fiction.

The distinction being that the Fantasy Genre is different from Sci Fi in that we acknowledge it can not happen. Therefore all the philosophy that is in the story is pure metaphor.

The metaphor in a science fiction story is then a prediction of what might one day be reality. I think this distinction is key as I beleive all science fiction must make some attempt to show us where we are going.

Granted by Andrew's standard Fantasy is not really a genre either.

P.S. as an aside would not a Western be a subgenre of historical fiction.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I'm not sure if fantasy is its own genre or not. I would say probably. The idea of the quest seems pretty firmly ensconced in the fantasy genre, as do things like dragon killing or stories about wizards learning their craft. Those don't really rely on other genres and they seem to be staples of the fantasy genre.

I don't know if westerns would qualify as historical fiction or not? Maybe, except a lot of them have no historical content at all.

Individualist said...


If you check out the scinece channel for Stephen Hawking's Sci Fi Masters I think you might find a more precise example of shows that are true science fiction and not some other genre.

There is one show about a man who is defending himself from corrupt cops and is arrested for murdering one of them.

the setting is in the future where the brains of the deceased are linked to a giant computer to form a true artificial intelligence that banks the experience of several thousands of individuals. The machine however is still a computer with the drawback of straight logic no matter how advanced.

The accused is able to show he is innocent and this is apparent to the individual consciences inside the machine. However its mechanical efficiency forces him to be declared guilty. The man is able to thwart the machine by arguing successfully that since the attorney defending him used the same computer database it was not independent. He then was able to bring forth evidence by thwarting the rules.

In the end rather than a normal execution the consciences inside took over and extended a tube sucking his brain inside the database where he took over from the initial program so that the judge would have a more human standard.

The conflict of this story is a drama but only so much as we define drama very broadly. The conflict itself is so tied to the technology that is being used and the problem arises in how it has changed the human condition. This story to my mind is a traditional example of science fiction as a genre unique to itself.

I think the mistake is that we tend to assume any movie in a futuristic setting is science fiction by default. But unless the conflict arises between man and technology and is based in how the human condition will be changed by future progress then it is just some other genre of movie dressed up as a futuristic show.

I think this is the distinction to make.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, That would definitely be science fiction. I think by default that anything taking place in the future is science fiction because the assumption is it's futuristic. And truth be told, with few exceptions, the same stories could be told in the present unless the technology really matters.

T-Rav said...

I think one thing tripping people up is that, in general, the boundaries of science fiction are waaayyyy too broad. It includes a lot of stuff that is only part-fantasy or sheer fiction. Properly speaking, I'm not sure that all the comic books even fit in.

If you want an example, look at the yearly "Comic-Con" conventions. There is a lot featured there that is not remotely science fiction, such as "MythBusters" or, this year, that new Sherlock Holmes series, but because fantasy is somehow involved, it all gets chucked in. It's not exactly the same, but my point is we need a cleaner definition of what is and is not part of the genre.

Individualist said...

I think this is the test. Predator is a Horror movie. It is considered Sci Fi horror because the Predators are Aliens and have cool gadgets.


It is never explained how the gadgets work. The humnas never get hold of the gadgets so there is no introduction of technology mere mortals are not yet able to control.

There is absolutely no conflict in Predator that derives from the technology. They are aliens who hunt men for sport but could easily by rich people that hunt men for sport or demons who hunt men for sport. No conflict arises from the tech or its changes on humanity. Ths is just Joe Hero thwarting the big nasty monster.

This then is probably not a science fiction genre but rather a science fiction setting. I submit that there is a difference. A science fiction genre derives its conflict from the change on our world becuase of the technology. Whedon's Dollhouse is another example of this.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That's true. The category is soooo amazingly broad that it includes almost anything. In fact, I've seen films classified as science fiction where I couldn't even identify a science fiction element.

You're right about Comic-Con too, that's become more of Marketing-Con than anything strictly about comic books. It's the same thing with the artsy film festivals where they now screen summer blockbusters?? Really??

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, That's an interesting distinction, that some things are science fiction films and others are just set in science fiction settings.

I would disagree on Predator though because aliens are pretty much considered science fiction. Make him a demon or other unexplained creature and it would probably be horror.

rlaWTX said...

That's a hard differentiation to make. I veered off into fantasy from sci-fi books a long time ago. But when I think of straight sci-fi, I think of Asimov. But the argument can be made that in the Robot books, the ultimate story is man's struggle with his world - they just happen to have robots in this struggle. Which brings us back to whether there are really any "genres"...

I think that all stories need drama, conflict, inter-personal relationships. If those characteristics are along side something that can't happen in our world as we know it now, then it tends to be under the sci-fi umbrella. I also think that some type of "world building" needs to be involved. (depth of how that world is different - not just "they have ray guns")
*If it could happen with certain tech advances (that may or may not really be possible, but SEEM possible), that's "sci-fi".
*If it cannot ever happen period, but we are pretending that it could happen if only the universe were different, that's "fantasy".
* If you merge those 2, you get something that can't really happen, but the possible tech advances are as important as the parts that can't happen = "sci-fi/fantasy".

For me, Asimov is sci-fi. All of the things that exist are tentatively possible with enough tech advances.
McCaffery's PERN series is sci-fi/fantasy. Dragons are unlikely, but the reason there are dragons is a tech advance, plus the "back in time in the future" is possible because of the future war - tech breakdown.
Anything with vampires, werewolves, alternate histories, things that do not and cannot exist are fantasy.
There's a whole market of paranormal romance - there could be romance without the "monsters", but the conflicts would not be as unusual. If the paranormal sides - the world building - are the stronger elements in the story (what the story can't live without), this makes them under the sci-fi umbrella rather than the romance umbrella. (however, if the problems are mundane or the world is the same except one of the individuals is a "monster", then it's just a romance)
But that's just me...

rlaWTX said...

PS I think McCaffery's "Ship" books are more sci-fi because the machine/mind connections, while unlikely, are explained as possible through technology.

the fantasy element comes in when the "world is just that way"...

Clear as mud?

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, EXCELLENT ANSWER! I should have let you write the article! :)

I agree with everything you said, especially your distinction between fantasy and science fiction. Well done!

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I also see Asimov as science fiction in its most pure form because he seems to avoid fantasy as much as possible and stick with believable futuristic worlds.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I definitely agree on the sci-fi part about the Terminator, but the film, to me, anyways, tended to gravitate in the realm of action and horror, and shifted between these three throughout, which, ironically is exactly what made it entertaining, a great deal of the main themes in the Terminator weren't the first in terms of time travel or AI, however, making a "collage" of all these elements into one film, and managing to juggle all three genres, as I put it, made the film entertaining. IMO anyways, Terminator and T2 were among the best films James Cameron turned out, and I feel a lot of people could agree that they were among the better ones he put out.

Anonymous said...

Re: Comic-Con, I agree that it's turned into just another marketing opportunity for Hollywood. I can see why Mythbusters would be there but I swear Dane Cook was there a few years ago promoting some romantic comedy he was in and it's like, "That's not sci-fi! They're taking up valuable space!"

It's also the reason why, even though I'd love to go every year, I'm not exactly complaining when I can't. I'd rather not spend all that money to fly across the country just for the opportunity to spend more money!


Re: sci-fi and fantasy, the width of the line that separates the two can vary. I watched the Conan movies for the first time a few years ago. I liked them enough but, watching them, I realized sword/sorcery just isn't my genre at all.

It sounds like such an arbitrary choice but when it comes to this stuff, I simply prefer entertainment where the characters use phasers and lightsabers instead of swords. It's also why I haven't watched Game of Thrones, despite everyone I know recommending it. If it took place in the future on some distant planet, I might be more inclined. In this case, it's the setting that's a turn-off, not the stories.

Patriot said...

Andrew......this thread is why I love coming to this site and offering my perspective!

The intelligent design of the comments and responses is entertaining and thought provoking. Hey, maybe that should be the definition of science fiction....!!! Fictional stories, set in space or the future, that are both entertaining and thought provoking.

I like scifi because I want to be entertained while questioning if this could be a possible future for mankind. Leave the weeping women and broken hearted men to plain fiction. Give me aliens, space and the future and you've got me sold..... "Now that's science fiction!" (Master and Commander thankyouverymuch)

AndrewPrice said...

obiwan, I agree with that. The premise is science fiction without a doubt, but the film itself is plays out as action or horror and it never really goes back to the sci-fi premise once it starts.

I agree about Cameron, T1 and T2 were his best films.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I agree about things like Comic-Con. If I want to go somewhere with a supposed specific purpose, that is what I'd like to see, not whatever marketer can squeeze in.

I'm a fan of both sci-fi and fantasy, though fantasy has RARELY been done well. It's usually very poorly done.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I'm glad you approve! I like questions like this as well because they bring out some really fascinating responses.

I agree about science fiction. What I like best is when it's thought provoking and when it gives you a glimpse into a possible future.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I haven't read the other comments yet, so forgive me if this was already covered.

To be fair, romances also often piggyback on other genres.
For example, comedy or action is the only way men can bear to watch romances.
In most cases that is.

I contend a "pure" romance is possibly more rare than "pure" SciFi.

Now, Action films are often very successful but it's rarely due to the writing.
Don't get me wrong, good writing is still important to action/adventure films but let's face it, If the action film has enough specatacular explosions or amazing stunts, it's likely to make a profit regardless of whether the writing is bad. Or just throw a cool looking monster in the film.

I could go on about other genres and make many if not all the same points you made, Andrew. But I think (hopefully) I made my point.

In fact, Drama is usually the only genre that doesn't need the other genres (assuming the writing is good, of course). Obviously, explosions or spectacular stunts, etc., won't save a dramas since it wouldn't be a pure drama if it had that in it.

Having said that, good, "pure" dramas are damn rare in modern times.

Genres have gotten more mixed up than they used to be. Like rock n' roll. What is it? It used to mean even beats in 4/4 measures.

Now I have seen everything from rap to soul called rock. Films are even harder to classify.
If a drama has comedy is it considered a comedy drama?

I would say no, because a drama, by it's very definitine, can have comedy, or indeed, any other genre within it.

Anyways, something to think about.

The biggest problem I see for SciFi suffering from lack of creativity and quality is this:
most producers and studio Big Kahunas don't "get" scifi and many simply don't care too.

It's arguably the most difficult genre or idea to write.
Because it's extremely hard to come up with something that's not already a cliche.
Certainly the writer needs to have a love for scifi and at least a basic knowledge of science before coming up with credible ideas.

And even then, it's still very tough to come up with something that ain't derivitive.
Derivitive ideas don't bother me, or, I presume most of the audience IF the story is good.
But does the scifi ideas place scifi in a positive light?

Are folks thinking or talking about those ideas after the film is over?

I'll probably have more (or less) to say after reading the comments.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Excellent point about studios not getting science fiction. It is definitely the one genre a lot of studio heads will openly disdain in interviews. In fact, the head of the Sci-Fi Channel in the 1990s (Bonnie Hammer if I remember correctly) said she hated science fiction, but didn't think she needed to like it to run the network. Not a good time for the Sci-Fi Channel!

I think the problem with science fiction is that it's risky. A lot of people see it as kids stuff and won't go see it. So you lose part of your audience there. Another part simply don't have the imaginations that lead them down that path. Further, so much of sci-fi is derivative these days because so much of it has been done. That makes it hard to seem fresh. Moreover, studios are looking to dumb films down for foreign audiences and sci-fi works best when it's truly intellectual in its ideas.

So getting a science fiction film made is difficult unless it's just a blockbuster action flick masquerading as science fiction.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In short, dramas, comedies, etc., will usually do well with good stories, but scifi must have a good story AND good idseas that are credible and not just silly fantasies.

I think that's why we don't see more, good scifi films.

When I think of the best scifi, I will always put the original Star Trek as the best.
Good stories, likeable characters and good ideas.

In my lifetime I have seen some of those ideas come to fruition.
Communicators/cell phones is just one example.

More importantly, ST almost always got me thinking about it long after the show was over.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur. Andrew. Of all the genres scifi is the most risky to make. Real scifi that is, not just a monster/alien thing shooting sparkles out of it's a$$. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Are you suggesting that only monsters can shoot sparkles out their butts? I thought everybody could do that? ;)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

tryanmax said...
altruistic masochist? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Interesting implications... Could be a great sci-fi!

AndrewPrice said...
tryanmax, Somehow, I doubt that would make great science fiction.

Unless...tryanmax travelled to the near past to do unto himself as he would have himself do unto him.

Add Time Cops who go after tryanmax for possibly altering the future by doing unto himself which may dramatically change tryanmax's future self and perhaps the future of the entire human race and it starts to get more interesting.

Or, you could also go with: all those people who claim they were abducted by Aliens...and...and... their future selves,, thanks to tryanmax and his altruitic masochism and setting the tone.

Or, tryanmax is really Skynet using psyops on us (or sciops, if you will piggybacking on a psychological thrilla! How cool would that be?
Maybe cool enough to forgo any...PROBING!

Or not, their definitely a market for...PROBING!
Not that that's what tryanmax was implying. I'm in no way implying that.
He could be, I dunno, but I can't speak for tryanmax...unless I get paid then all bets are off.

We can even throw some Critters (crites) into the mix and go hog wild. The most feared aliens in the universe...besides tryanmax.

I could add more...if I was paid. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, yeah, but some aliens are better at it than others and biologically make their own sparkles which saves on a bundle on the film budget.
Have you seen the price of sparklers lately?

This is why old scifi films used to use the same footage over and a Hanna Barbera cartoon (vice versa actually, since HB came after the idea had already been used).

The audience loves sparkles. It's a well known fact. Although sparkly vampires are more of a fading fad. Besides, those weren't real sparkles, that was glitter and glitter has no place in scifi. Ever. Everyone knows that.

rlaWTX said...

Ben: "glitter has no place in scifi" so true!!!

Andrew: Thanks for that compliment! High praise indeed.

I read a LOT. And most of what I read falls in the general sci-fi/fantasy genre. (Mainly because I get enough reality in my real life!!! YAY Escapeism!!!!) Therefore, I have given this a little thought.

I think it might be harder in movies than books. Movies are often more visual, and "seeing" romance or action or chases, etc on the screen - they look alike regardless of whether the love interest, attacker/defenders, or chasers are human or "monster" OR whether they have high tech gear OR have "other-wordly" reasons for their actions.
Books can have greater "world-building" depth that gives you the real difference between "other" fiction and "sci-fi/fantasy".

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, You're welcome! It really was a fantastic answer. :)

I agree, films tend to start looking alike a lot. Books give you much more breadth.

I also agree about escapism. That's why I want to write science fiction next! I am good at legal thrillers, but they're too real for me. :(

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