It’s been a while – it seems that stint with the WordPress servers really interrupted my “flow” a few weeks back and bungled up my creative process with this blog. I’m not going to bother giving rhyme nor reason for it and put it down to creative laziness and move on.
Up and over, so to speak. So what’s new?
I went away for the week with some lovely people and returned yesterday, having done some thought into what I’m actually doing with myself and some thought into what I’m actually writing. Of course, an awesome soundtrack helps so for this blog entry I’m listening to the Kill Bill soundtracks.
Thar she blows, enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl90FYBX-1g
So what’s this research? Other authors tips at how to write a novel, the “Snowflake Theory” and asking a few delightfully intelligent people what, to them, makes a good science fiction. It was a universal question concerning the creative medium, so their answers came from mostly television and theatrical influences (with Firefly, Star Wars, Bladerunner and District Nine making the list of course).
The answers came as I’d expected, more or less, but you can image the faces of some of the people whom I’d asked. 😛 Most of us who are science fiction fans can tell you what our favourite sci-fis are, but how often do we look at what makes those sci-fis appealing to us in a way that we can actually say that this or that aspect of this or that science fiction is why we like it without leaving the focus of the actual question? You wouldn’t really be answering the question unless you link it to science fiction in your reply.
The general answer that came from my little farm of thought-monkeys was that what makes a good sci-fi is the display of humanity in all its forms being placed into what we can see is an almost alien landscape to ours, yet still retaining what we find utterly familiar. An example of this is the yellow taxi cabs of New York in The Fifth Element.
Looking at this concept art (since the actual images I searched on Google just weren’t clear enough) you can see the tell-tale yellow, the classic shape of the circa. 1950s taxi cab is intergrated into the more stylised (almost retro) sci-fi aesthetic, and despite the lack of wheels we can still see the body work of the old taxi cab still holding the old design that would have covered and housed the wheels. Looking at the cab in a sci-fi view, we can see that old design despite the hover technology beneath the vehicle, and the sleeker appearance of the vehicle yet the whole thing still appears familiar to us.
This is just one example of many many familiar items in sci-fis. I could go on about the various appearances of law enforcement in the movies that appear with their red and blue flashing lights, or their slight retrofitted sheriff’s star on their chest (have I ever mentioned how much I love Wild West style science fiction?), and all the brilliant stylings of sociological marketplaces and bizarre bizaars that are sprinkled about the genre.
Look at the cantina in Star Wars Episode IV.
I imagine that at some point in your life you’ve been to a bar of sorts. If you haven’t, go to one now and take a look around. Feth, sit down, buy a drink and peoplewatch for a few minutes. Go on, I can wait.
Honestly! I’ll wait for you!
Now that we’ve all acquainted ourselves with the microcosm of a church of alcohol, savoury crisps and salted nuts, I’m sure that you’ll have noticed that every person, despite being human (on the outside) can look so variable from the person next to them that they people can look so utterly alien from each other.
I’m sure that you’ve often looked at another homosapien during your time on this planet and thought that they might not be “of this world”. What I love is that every person in that bar that you’re thinking of, despite being human, could in some cases pass as an extra terrestrial.
Take this concept and apply it to a sci-fi and you instantly have a familiar location, a familiar concept, and a familar den of people and creatures that are so wildly diverse from the other that despite clearly being alien and not always homosapiens, it is so utterly familiar that you can clearly understand what is going on in that scene.
The other answer which I’d like to touch on is the cultural evolution of humanity in science fiction. I will leave this for another entry.