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Article - 'Science Fiction' by Xanqui

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 18, 2004

Blurb

Xanqui goes into detail about his favorite genre: Science Fiction

Body

I myself am a science fiction fanatic. I’ve spent years writing it, and they’re the only types of books I read. Science fiction is in the movies I watch and in the games I play. So I thought to myself: why not spread the experience I’ve had with science fiction to GamingWorld?

The first thing to discuss when it comes to science fiction is: Is it really sci-fi? The dictionary.com definition of it is this:

A literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background.

If you noticed, the word “typically” is bolded. This, I believe, is the biggest problem with this particular genre. Because of that word, it is difficult to tell what sci-fi is or isn’t. Based on the first part of that definition, regarding fantasy, The Lord of the Rings series could be considered a part of the genre. As a hardcore fan of the genre, I refuse to agree with this. The best way for me to describe it is this:

A literary or cinematic genre in which people fight with really cool unrealistic weapons, go on adventures into space, or other places that I’ll never go to, or a story about aliens.

You can argue all you want with that definition, but isn’t that what science fiction should be? Of course not, it’s much deeper than that. It’s not just about the setting.

The Future is a common setting for science fiction novels. Generally, these stories are about a dysfunctional world, and a man who needs to fix it. At the end of just about every futuristic sci-fi movie, we see massive explosions, lots of killing, and a great battle to destroy the corrupt government, or kill the man who has taken complete control of the world or country. Or whatever.

Equilibrium is the perfect example of this setting. This movie is like a low-budget Matrix, and has some amazing fight scenes. The story is an obvious rip-off of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, but it was entertaining nonetheless. John Preston, a “Grammaton Cleric” realizes that Prozium, a medicine that causes people to lose all feeling, has ruined society, and he wants to feel. But the government wants to maintain the control. So Preston fights against his own people, and in the end, saves the world…or whatever. But the movie focused almost entirely on fighting.

However, there was practically no science involved. It was all politics. This is, unfortunately, what most futuristic science fictions are about, in one way or another. While this may be an interesting topic, it’s been done a million times. It’s not original for a story to be about a single man or organization who causes the downfall of a corrupt government. It makes for a wonderful side story, though.

Space is another fun setting. Star Wars, Star Trek, Ender’s Game, Defender, BattleStar Galactica, and several other great stories have taken place in space, and each of them are quite unique to each other. It makes me wonder why people compare Star Wars to Star Trek, as they are completely different.

Space stories are my personal favorite. I love the whole concept of starships, battles between planets, massive weapons, and great pilots. It’s amazing how much you can do with this setting. Aliens can be involved too, and they can side with the humans, fight them, or you can combine it! Because space is so freakishly big, anything can happen.

The best part of space being so big is that it opens up the story maker to use any setting he or she wishes. Want a desert scene? Make a desert planet. Want to have your characters fight in the rainforest? Simple, make a rainforest planet. In fact, nearly every Star Trek episode takes place in a completely different setting, and in between, you’re show what’s going on in the ship.

But what makes space so sci-fi-ish is that there is a lot of technology involved. Technology comes from science, and when immersed in a world of fiction, you get science fiction. Never mind the logic, just understand that it’s sci-fi. But if you describe how things might possibly work, such as how your weapon that destroys entire planets works by firing a laser through certain crystals, which cause the planet to crack, then you’re even further along the path of the genre.

The Present is generally used for alien wars. Either that, or for movies about an asteroid or the core stopping. This is an excellent setting to use, because in order for everyone to realize that it’s science fiction, you need SCIENCE! Asteroids are a part of science, so destroying them with a nuclear bomb is a great story, right? Wrong, it’s been done. Find another fricken’ story.

While Armageddon may have been an entertaining movie, it didn’t have nearly the amount of science involved as The Core. Despite the cheesy storyline and awful music, I enjoyed this movie because everything was explained. The entire process of building the ship that could withstand extreme heat and pressure, the methods of restarting the core, and the effects the core actually had on the Earth were all shown in the movie. Armageddon didn’t go nearly as in-depth as The Core did. Whether you liked the movie or not, it’s a hell of a lot more sci-fi than most of the movies that say they are lately. I’ll get into that later…

Alien wars are another common thing for this setting. I’m sure that most of you have seen the 1996 movie Independence Day, which I thought was totally awesome. A lot of science was used and explained in this movie. The force field of the ship, the body suits the aliens wore, the effects the ships had on the satellites, and so much more were all big parts of the story. It even went as far as showing how today’s technology could help us win a war against aliens.

Now, before I go onto the next setting, I’d like to give a little input on a series we all know: The Matrix. The Matrix was an extremely philosophical story, and was only borderline sci-fi. While there was tons of technology involved, the story didn’t really focus on it. It focused on the characters fighting their way through an alternate reality. Basically, while it was in a science fiction setting, it was more of a philosophical story than anything. Because of this, I don’t want to go into any more detail regarding it.

The Past isn’t used very often in what I call “true” science fiction stories. Forget what I said earlier about The Lord of the Rings. For now, let’s just assume that it’s pure fantasy, and not sci-fi at all. But to be honest, I can’t think of any stories that take place in the ancient times. But I will say this: stories that take place in the past are generally about finding some sort of item that saves the world, or defeating a corrupt organization.

The problem with using this setting is that you have to go WAY back to before history was written, and try not to go against what the world is like today. For example, you couldn’t write a story about Earth blowing up, and every last human dying. Why not? Because we’re still alive. If you want to show the world back then being full of technology, and a perfect utopia, the story would have to end with the utopia falling and a battle so massive that technology is forgotten forever afterwards. It’s really better to just use a future setting, because no one knows what will happen in the future.

Another World such as the worlds in video games such as Final Fantasy allow for just about anything. More intelligent species, laser guns, massive buildings, and even advanced space travel can be used with this setting. But what makes these stories so fascinating is when they are tied in with our world.

Since the only game I can think of at the moment that isn’t Final Fantasy is Legend of Dragoon, I’m going to base this on Final Fantasy. Tactics was about the separation of church and state, which was based on historical knowledge of our own world. FFX was about a world that was destroyed by its own technology, which is one of the many possible futures of our world.

Most of the games that take place on other planets than Earth are generally fantasy, with just a touch of sci-fi. At least, the games that I’ve played.

Those are the four general settings of Science Fiction. They’re very broad, but I hope it gave you some idea as to what you’d like to try.

Now, a while after I had noticed that first definition of Science Fiction, and after I came up with what most people would consider sci-fi, I found a second definition for the genre:

literary fantasy involving the imagined impact of science on society

While for some science fiction, this is true, but as I stated earlier, stories that take place in future may have nothing to do with science, yet these movies are still considered part of the genre. It’s really up to you to decide what is and isn’t science fiction, and maybe this entire article was based entirely on opinion. But I’ve spoken to several people about this, and most agree that the term “sci-fi” has changed greatly in meaning since, say, The Matrix. Maybe it goes even further than that. Maybe A Clockwork Orange, or Logan’s Run don’t deserve the title. Is science fiction supposed to be a genre for the story, or the setting?