Compare and contrast the Other/Alien and the Human. What is a human? Is there such a thing as a "superior race"? Texts to consider: Ursula Le Guin’s "The Left Hand of Darkness", China Mieville’s "Embassytown" and A. E. van Vogt’s "Black Destroyer".
I have been taking a science fiction literature course at Uni and I feel that a great novel to discuss is the War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and the discussion that the "other" are those who were under the thumbs of the British military during resource wars. The novel comments on cultural atrocities committed by the British Empire and the demonization of many countries, in order to rule them and replenish the Empire's need for resources. The novel uses Martians that invade Britain and relentlessly attack the human race in order to take over. That's all I can say without spoiling it but if you need any notes please let me know. – Esme949 months ago
The relationship between audiences and science fiction films have changed over the century. This has been affected by the political struggles of each era. How have the focus of these films changed over the decades. How similar or different are our fears between the 1950’s to today.
It is interesting to see how Sci-Fi has gone mainstream. Why is that? How did sci-fi become part of pop culture? Has it lost anything or does it mean that audiences are more open than in the past? This is a good topic. – Munjeera2 years ago
This may be relevant, since it deals with political issues. In a film class, we discussed James Cameron's Aliens and American films' (primarily action films, but Aliens is also sci fi) portrayals of masculine action stars (counting women, i.e. Ellen Ripley and Vasquez) and how they were influenced by Reagan's public persona. This may be taking allegory too far, but Ripley is essentially a hard body using violence to go up against an Other, which is in this case actually aliens. American sci fi tends to deal a lot with a fear of the Other/invasion (Red Scare, hostage crisis), but that's just one take to potentially explore. – Emily Deibler2 years ago
Specifying a certain countries' sci-fi films could help focus this article, since sci-fi is often used to explore and speculate on social issues, which change depending on where the movies are being made. – chrischan2 years ago
The Matrix was a very good "fear of technology" movie, made just as the internet was becoming omnipresent in daily life. – Tarben2 years ago
Interestingly enough, the sci-fi stories themselves have changed through the years with new and advancing technologies in the real world, but I feel as though the overall drive and goal of the genre has remained the same: To give humanity hope for the future. – Bluejay2 years ago
The "science" in movies nowadays is more ridiculous and at the same time believable as compared to those Sci-fi flicks made .30 years back – DevanshSharma1 year ago
Talk about various science fiction series and the types of technology or concepts which were once thought to be unbelievable, but have become reality, today.
An example of this is how Star Trek and other shows would have holographic projectors or screen talking which enabled the ability of sight in long-distance communications. Nowadays we have various means of video chatting with people from around the world such as Facetime that seem to have been encouraged by shows like Star Trek.
The movies Johnny Mnemonic and Back to the Future 2 are good movies to look into.
– JennyCardinal2 years ago
Look at some of the cyberpunk genre like Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash and William Gibson's Neuromancer and compare their use of the internet with the reality it's become. – Tarben2 years ago
Could the writer of this piece also examine ways we've sidestepped expectation? For instance, in older films we often see "the year is 2015, we have a permanent colony on the moon" or Back to the Future's infamous hover boards (not hand-free exploding segways we call hover boards). There are more extreme examples of cultural ideals, like assuming that we might have achieved world peace, have evolved beyond the discriminations of gender and race. I think examining how we've achieved Sci-Fi and how we've failed it would be a nice contrast. – Piper CJ2 years ago
To Piper, yes! That gives the article a more diverse viewpoint for readers. I feel by showing what has been done, what we have yet to accomplish, or attempted acts to resemble concepts in science fiction would help give more insight. Also Jenny and Tarben, those are all definitely some great resources for the article! – Kevin Mohammed1 year ago
I think Samsung used a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey in court when Apple sued them, claiming that they had ripped off the basic design of the iPhone touch screen. Their argument was that the idea had already existed in the sci-fi imaginary, and therefore was not an original idea from Apple. – TKing1 year ago
There's at least one then-futuristic film I've seen that had personalized street and, I think, train station advertising change as each person passed. Personal advertising has been on the internet for a while, and might soon be here on the street. It's always the love of amassing even more money by the already-mega rich that drives these advances, so when it'll really piss them off when I refuse installment of their microchip so they can market me. I'll be laughing at them from my prison cell. Take that. I've read that Gen X has been written off by marketers as too difficult to predict (read, "lead like sheep"). Good work, Gen X'ers. Make 'em work for it. – Tigey1 year ago
Discuss sci-fi’s use of technology to build "the perfect woman." Why are androids given a gender in the first place? Do androids have a sense of autonomy or are they content to be used as a semi-sentient sex toy? Is this a fetish or a case of misogyny? Why are male androids in film rarely given the same sexualized treatment?
Good question. It is like asking why GPS and computer voices are female. Probably because the creators were male. Male androids like Data are rarely sexualized. – Munjeera2 years ago
Like Munjeera said, a person's creations are often based upon their own ideal. Therefore it's more than likely that the original concept comes from a guy trying to be ambitious about his own personal desires. – Kevin Mohammed2 years ago
You can even go further back than The Stepford Wives. A great starting place would be Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis, which also features a sexualized female robot.
Also, if you're going to discuss these films, you must address that most of them were made to critique misogynistic views. Ira Levin, William Goldman, and Bryan Forbes have all gone on the record to stress that The Stepford Wives was intended to parody views of "the ideal women" upon being accused of sexism by people who didn't understand its satire.
In Ex Machina, it's important to note how the film acknowledges the very tradition that you're addressing. Nathan specifically designs Ava to be sexually attractive to Caleb (even drawing inspiration from his porn searches), but the expectation is subverted when Ava uses her sexuality in tandem with her superior intelligence to outsmart both men and escape from the confides of their narrow patriarchal viewpoint (symbolically manifested as Nathan's mancave-esque research facility).
Just because a female robot is sexualized, it doesn't mean that it's necessarily just to satisfy the sexual fantasies of the presumably male spectator. The films that endure are often those which were ahead of their times in addressing the social disparity between men and women. – ProtoCanon2 years ago
With science fiction being popular enough in the American media to have it’s own channel on most cable/HD tv services, it’s become quite the commodity, but a lot of this science fiction is based around America or European powers, with a few exceptions, but there is actually a rich history of using science fiction to depict political unrest and situations under dictators and during war. I’d just like to throw out a list with some interesting stories with their summaries and maybe a bit of analysis.
Several films, shows, and other media have posited the idea of Clean Energy for all and an advancement for the future. This is quickly is shown to be false when all that potential for energy becomes a WMD. Destroying the weapon and returning to the status quo (traditional energy sources) is usually the happy ending. Solar and wind don’t seem to be picked out (although apparently I should see Sahara, it’s got something with concentrated solar); rather, it’s usually something new, sci fi-fantasy, and explosive.
I have a few theories to talk about: the dark turn of saving the world, the fear of the unknown, the possible connection to nuclear power’s "betrayal," do we just want more epxlosions, etc. But I’d like to sample more work. Here’s what I have so far, with spoilers in the list: The Dark Knight Rises – fusion reactor made bomb Spiderman 2 – "mini sun" made bomb The Legend of Korra – spirit vines The Flash (comics) – Speed force for public transport/energy, starts tearing up time Sahara – Concentrated solar power used as a weapon (Bonus: Snowpiercer’s attempt at derailing global warming causing an ice age)
More suggestions are super welcome!!
How about clean energy in TV with Scylla in Prison Break in the final season 4? This is a good topic. Also, make note of a new battery powered by an energy source in Arrow that helps Felicity walk again. – Munjeera2 years ago
Adding cosmic cube to list (an obvious "too much power..." one). – IndiLeigh8 months ago
Discuss the difference between what "sci-fi" and "science fiction": that is, what differentiates a Star Trek, Star Wars, or Stargate from Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick? Is one inherently a better art from than the other? Does inaccurate or fantastical science somehow negate a potential "science fiction" work and downgrade it to "sci-fi"? are these designations warranted, or even altogether accurate? Can cover the literary, film, and televised examples of each genre, and examine if one is more commonly found in one dramatic form than the other (e.g., is "sci-fi" more common to film and TV, and "science fiction" to the written word?).
This seems to be a similar question as to what are the ill-defined differences between the popularized term of "Indie" verses the proper term "Independent?" Is an "Indie Film" or an "Indie Game" something that is produced by a young up-and-coming artist(s) who wish to make it big in the industry without the help of a big studio production? Or is that what the term "Independent" means, and "Indie" is in fact a term coined by the Industry to make smaller independently studio funded films and games sound more cool? Also, I would argue that the term "Science Fantasy" ought to be included in this discussion, because "Science Fiction" is a term meaning a fictionalized tale that uses current scientific facts and theories to spin an intentionally pseudo-realistic story that has a percentage chance of actually happening at some time in the future, or could have happened some time in the past under the right conditions. "Science Fantasy" chooses instead to only coat the surface and setting of a story in "technological" advances and gadgetry, or it perhaps takes place on another world or in another dimension, but it does not bother to base it's world in anything accurate or scientific. It's all just for looks, not for logic. So then what is "Sci-fi" supposed to mean? It seems it is intended to mean a science fiction tale that may or may not be based in scientific facts, but is nonetheless a more sensationalized story that does not go down the same thought provoking, philosophical, and psychological routes that a more "well-crafted" science fiction story might. Perhaps a discussion in definition of terms would be in order before a discussion of labeling and association of certain stories with such terms can begin. – Jonathan Leiter2 years ago
I agree with Jonathan in regards to his comments about "Science Fantasy" vs "Science Fiction" and I think it would not only be extremely interesting, but extremely helpful if you share what you find to be the difference and where there may be a misunderstanding or interpretation of these in regards to literature and media. The questions you are asking are perfect, but I think it would be quite a bit more tangible for the audience if you provide the "answers" (opinionated or expository) as the bulk of your writing instead of potentially perpetuating the questions and merely bringing them to the forefront (which can be a great part of it as well). I hope this helps. – EvanWebsterWiley2 years ago
I have found ideas recycled in the movies from science fiction classics. One example is a plot twist in James Cameron's Avatar, with the twins at the beginning having to exchange places was straight out of Heinlein's Time for the Stars. If you read enough science fiction it is possible to find where writer's of screenplays have "borrowed" from science fiction authors. I guess it's inevitable because the screenwriters probably were avid science fiction readers before they became sci-fi screenwriters. I think a well set up sci-fi or science fiction universe has a set of principles like – Munjeera2 years ago
Look into why movie goers can actively disregard "scientific problems" in films such as Star Trek and Star Wars, but grow exceedingly less forgiving during films like "Gravity", "Interstellar", and most recently "The Martian".
"Star Wars" is gritty and more honest with it's depiction of an "aged" and "well-used" future, or past, compared to other earlier depictions of space. However, at its heart, it is entirely a fantasy set in a technological environment.
"Star Trek," on the other hand, wants to be more believable with it's well-researched details based in scientific fact (or at least it used to be), nevertheless it has always been too far beyond our modern limitations to really bother taking issue with anything it gets wrong. It's too perfect, too streamlined, too clean. Barely anyone ever has to wear a space suit, and only if they need to do outside repairs, which isn't often. All of the other films try to handle space in a more gut-wrenching, tension-filled, anxious, terrifying, and life-changing way. Their space craft are based directly on current designs and understandings with regards to cost and efficiency. And artificial gravity in space still requires rotational inertia to work (eg. The Hermes from "The Martian, and The Endurance from "Interstellar"). The stakes are high. Death is a very real possibility. If you aren't smart and clever enough you could lose all your air, fly out the hull and into the void, burn your skin off, lose a limb. And there are no warp cores, phasers, or photon torpedoes to save you. So if the script for these films takes a short-cut, or doesn't portray something accurately, then it looks like a cheat. Whereas "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" can get away with such a cheat, because their narrative drama does not hinge on the scientific accuracy of the details and numbers, and whether or not somebody can patch up a breach in the hull with duct-tape, or find out how to swing around a planet just right to get back to Earth faster while conserving the most fuel. – Jonathan Leiter2 years ago
I love this idea. I think as we drift closer to becoming more technologically advanced, as we discover more about space, society is becoming more fearful of the future therefore films like Gravity and Interstellar are less favored by the audience. I am interested to see where someone takes this! – emilyinmannyc2 years ago
"Although it was on the air for only one season, The Jetsons remains our most popular point of reference when discussing the future." (Matt Novak, smithsonianmag.com)
Since The Jetsons "promised" us flying cars more than 50 years ago, we continue to refer back to the show as one of the only mainstream depictions of a future with a positive outcome. Granted, cinema in the 60s still included the larger-than-life conflicts (literally) with movies like Mothra vs. Godzilla, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, it seemed like the depiction of the Jetsons is the only piece that prevailed in a technologically relevant way. But to pose the question of why The Jetsons has continued to be arguably one of the most influential "science fantasy" cartoon depictions is to pose the question of whether optimistic depictions of future shape the way we innovate and live our lives.
The day I’m writing this is a date that the 1989 film, Back to the Future, predicted the sorts of technological advancements we will have made, and they were relatively close. A CNN article, "What did ‘Back to the Future II’ get right?" by Todd Leopold illuminates what was and wasn’t correct about the film’s predictions ((link)
However, around the same time as Back to the Future, we were beginning to see movies like Mad Max, depicting a sort of "post-apocalyptic" future, along with movies like The Terminator, The Matrix and Blade Runner depicting a sort of "dystopian" future. In a different way, these were becoming more common and more mainstream, possibly due to the advent of affordable visual effects and digital imaging. Regardless, it seems that the rising generations are growing up with zombies, apocalypses, and a fear of artificial intelligence or government totalitarianism. Maybe it didn’t help that The Terminator came out the year that George Orwell warned the world could be approaching a totalitarian system of constant war and surveillance.
In summation, assuming, for now, that the influence this media has can determine our course of progression and innovation as a world, than should the media industries be sharing a sort of responsibility in reenacting optimistic outcomes in future-set movies and TV?
Media, definitely has its own impact on our lives..but assuming everything displayed to
be the real future is kind of stupidity..it is a source of entertainment..with people bringing out their fantasies on screen. Media has its fair share of optimism being screened. – reb242 years ago
This is definitely a good topic to cover especially with all ''post apocalyptic dystopian society'' story book, movies and Tv shows there are being thrown around. It's getting old and watered down, and frankly plain pessimistic. If media plays such a heavy role in terms of representation, why does it lack such sense of futuristic optimism?
– ArianaDeedeen2 years ago
I like the idea of exploring optimistic, or at the very least honorable themes in film and TV. Nowadays, most stories that are released in both those mediums are really dark and helmed by despicable characters (e.g. Nightcrawler, House of Cards, Gone Girl) and it'd be nice to see an article dealing with themes that, through the power of storytelling, could better people. – August Merz2 years ago
There is optimism featured in many modern works, but the popular trends tend to focus on pessimistic takes on the future, such as in dystopian universes. The popularity is determined by the audience's desires. Would more widely reported positive news events rather than constant tragedy shift the demand of media to focus on the optimistic? – sarahdoner2 years ago
I'm not very well versed on the Star Trek universe, but I always saw it as an optimistic portrayal of the future. As far as reenacting solely, or mostly, optimistic outcomes, I think that might be exactly what could propel us into an Orwellian type situation (attitude policy of control by propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past). – TrevorNewsome2 years ago
Watching/ researching the movie Interstellar might help forward your argument a little. The story line is particularly interesting because an optimistic outcome prevails for the future of humanity, but only after a global travesty and near-apocalyptic events. Perhaps it is a reflection on how society feels hopeless about our future today that the movie's positive outcome was from sheer luck and after much loss. – rnoelw2 years ago
Love the idea. I would probably steer away from the notion that it is media's responsibility to show us a better future, though. The dystopian outlook in films will only die down once they stop making money, a responsibility held by the viewers. – Austin Bender2 years ago