Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers: Science Fiction

ModifierScience Fiction
StrengthHigh (Literature, Comics) Medium (Movies, TV)

For many people, the genre of Science Fiction conjures up images of spaceships, aliens, and futuristic landscapes, but really it encompasses a wide range of possibilities:  time travel, alternate history, psychic abilities, mutations, extrapolations of scientific theories and concepts, etc.  There's "hard" Sci-Fi, where all of the scientific principles are grounded in cold, hard fact -- at least as understood at the time of writing -- and then there's the branch where the laws of physics are treated more as suggestions.  At its core, Science Fiction is about conjuring up a world different from our own, in ways both large and small. 

One of my pet peeves is hearing a writer/actor/director/producer/etc. claim that a Sci-Fi project they're involved in isn't really a Sci-Fi project, but instead something "serious."  You know, the typical "Oh, sure, we're a series set in outer space that involves sentient robots hunting down a fleet of spaceships bearing the last remnants of humanity, but we're more of a Tense Character Drama than a Science Fiction show" type of comment.  This always infuriates me, as it ghettoizes the genre in a way that not only insults its fans, but also ignores the fact that Science Fiction has long been a genre which lends itself to introspection, philosophical musings, political commentary, satire, and examination of the human condition.  And no, not all Science Fiction is concerned with such lofty intellectual goals, but to suggest that adding literary merit automatically removes a text from the genre is asinine.

Much like with Horror, my love of Science Fiction stems from the inventiveness and departures from the norm inherent in the genre.  At the same time, Sci-Fi is the flip side of Horror in terms of which media I'm willing to cut more slack. For Sci-Fi I'm much more forgiving of the printed word than I am film; also, the MST3K Effect comes into play much less often.  I believe this is because, for me, Science Fiction is largely a genre built around ideas, and when those ideas are lacking or poorly executed, the work loses me.  I have low tolerance for lapses in internal consistency in Sci-Fi works; I don't care if your work plays fast and loose with science, as long as your world's rules don't contradict each other.  And while Horror can often win me over with its tone and atmosphere, for Science Fiction that's a much rarer feat; yes, I can be swayed by cool visuals or effects, but they have to be well-executed, or else I'm drawn out of it.

Another aspect of Science Fiction that appeals to me is the concept of world-building. I love discovering the details of a society and culture vastly different from our own conjured up out of whole cloth, whether it be an alien world or a future shaped by radical technology shifts or a past where key events happened in vastly different ways; watching these details unfold and admiring the imagination that fuels them is one of the things that makes Science Fiction one of my favorite genres. 

Audience Participation Time: Do you love all things Science Fictiony, or does anything with an out-of-this-world flavor kill your interest immediately?  If you are a fan, are there any particular sub-genres you'd like to see me tackle?  Comment away below, and then join me next week for a look at Sci-Fi's chaotic sibling, Fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. I have yet to dislike anything Sci-Fi. It's my favorite genre.