Tag Archives: science fiction

The Chances of Anything Coming From Maaars: A Clash with Classics Part 6

My first experience with H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was not the Victorian novel itself but the Jeff Wayne concept album, which my parents have on vinyl, and must have had on tape as well because I have a distinct and deeply-lodged memory of listening to it on a long car trip and lying in bed that night gripped by the terror that tentacley aliens were going to ooze through the ceiling vent and eat me. It was… with some trepidation and assurances to my eight-year-old self that it couldn’t be that bad, we’ve moved past this by now, come on, that I picked up the original book to read for a class on genre fiction.

I was wrong. To both the credit of Wells’ story and my eight-year-old self, this crap is terrifying.

The War of the Worlds is the grandfather of the modern alien invasion story as we know it today, or at least, carries all the hallmarks that the alien invasion story as we know it today loves. Being more familiar with the Men From Mars!! plotline as it appears in (parodies of) pulp 50s and 60s sci-fi and its later, grittier incarnations like Independence Day, it was a little odd to see it transplanted so naturally into 19th century England. There are still horses and carts trundling around, steam power is in its heyday, and the lush, quaint landscape of a country town and its quiet heath forms the stage for the beginning of a terrifying alien conquest that will make mankind question everything it knows about itself. Continue reading

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Filed under Alex Reads

Fantastically Racist and Scientifically Offensive

"Why are you white?" - Mean Girls

In fictional worlds of boundless possibility and imagination, why are they so often riddled with the prejudices of the real one?

Fantasy and science fiction have a serious problem where it comes to equal representation… which, from my humble point of view, is offensive first of all but mostly just bizarre. I mean, the definition of fantasy is that anything is possible, and science fiction shows us a world that we can strive towards in the future. So why are we so limited to the thought processes of the modern (and the not-so-modern) world?

The most obvious example of this is that fantasy worlds are commonly very, very white. This is a topic of much discussion all over the Intertubes and beyond, and a pretty prickly issue. It’s also really weird if you think about it. If the world itself is completely made up, you can do whatever you wish with it. You can have floating mountains and creatures with six heads and people turning each other into frogs. Your main characters could live in a world covered in volcanoes or hanging over the cliff to different portals of existence, your fantasy landscape designed with any level of implausible ridiculousness in mind. The same goes for the people who populate it… yet most of them seem to look overtly European.

Well, there is some solid reasoning behind this: first of all, if you make your world and its populace too bizarre it won’t be relatable and it will be more difficult for your audience to connect with, whether through a question of empathy or just them going “This is silly” and tossing the book aside. This, and a combination of the infinite inspiration lying wait in history, leads to the Fantasy Counterpart Culture, fantastical or alien civilisations with traits we can recognise in societies that exist or have existed in the real world.

The most common example is the fantasy landscape based on Medieval Europe. This is basically Tolkien’s doing, when it comes down to it, seeing as The Lord of the Rings and company were the first books to really make the fantasy genre cool, and thus authors that followed have looked to their master for example. The fantasy archetypes that we’re comfortably and stereotypically used to all come from Tolkien, from the landscape to the Orcs to the armour to the big dangerous faceless force of evil.

And that’s okay. Let it never be said that The Lord of the Rings isn’t amazing. However, with everyone following Tolkien’s archetype we’ve ended up with a market swamped in Europe-esque fantasy worlds, leaving things suspended in a rather absurdly Caucasian persuasion. Continue reading

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Wibbly-Wobbly Degrees of Separation

You’d think fantasy and science fiction would be the two most widely different genres on the planet, but weirdly enough you’d be wrong. They kind of have a Tiger and Dragon thing going on, like those two characters that bicker all the time but everyone knows it’s really because they’re secretly uncomfortable with how similar they are beneath the surface (and someone somewhere is utterly convinced that it’s just repressed sexual tension).

Riddle me this: one of the great staples of fantasy is dragons, right? You can’t have an epic fantasy without them. Not even if you’re a hardcore deconstruction like A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, because even then they appear sitting on naked people.

Baby dragons from Game of Thrones

How cute…?

So you have dragons moseying around your fictional world, breathing fire and stealing maidens or providing cryptic wisdom, or whatever you wish, and so it is definitely a fantasy. But what if it turns out that dragons are aliens, or the highly evolved, mutated form of the common iguana?

Then it would be science fiction.

Brain hurt yet? Mine certainly did. Continue reading

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre

Genre Snobbery is Like Racism to Books

"You're all just jealous of my jet pack"

Credit to Tom Gauld

Snobbery irks me in its own right, but if there’s one thing I really can’t stand it’s snobbery of interests.

That thing you like is the wrong thing to like! Really, it’s just silly. Especially when it’s within fandoms, for crying out loud. You all watch/read and enjoy the same series. Why can’t you just soak that up instead of finding things to disagree on and excuses to bicker?!

That is not what this post is about. This post is about  genre snobbery, which is a hell unto itself. Basically, books are books, and the notion that the grouping they come from changes their quality somehow is a troublesome one. If you think about it in a roundabout enough way, it’s kind of racism to inanimate objects. Continue reading

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