Yesterday I met a friend for hookah. Among other strange things at this hookah bar, the shop had the sci-fi channel on playing for ambiance. There was this show on that I’ve never seen, called “Defiance” I believe it was. Well, as someone who enjoys fiction/sci-fi (but doesn’t keep up with it) I could tell off of the bat that the show was interesting and the costumes were awesome.
However, it was right when the villianous alien with no ears shot off his phaser and tried to escape in a 1996 ford tempo that it occured to me just how depressing images of a supposed future have become in the last 7-10 years. Slowly, we have seen images changing from the nice pasteled, automatic food generating, clean environments of the Jetsons and Star Trek - into the scavanging, post Apocalyptic world of all the most recent films where we drive around in unreliable (1000 year old) American cars.
It seems as though subconsciously, and shown by the art we’re creating or consuming; we are accepting that the future will be pretty shitty. If there’s a future at all.
Fiction revolves around conflict. What good is a book where the future is bright, everybody is happy, and there’s no conflict?
I don’t know if you read any alternate history, but even in those, the “future” is pretty bad. I can’t recall reading a one where the eventual results are better than what we currently have. Kill Hitler? Somebody more pragmatic comes along, sues for peace, allowing the Nazis to hold onto vast swaths of Western Europe. Bring penicillin back to Roman times? Overpopulation in a world incapable of handling it. Have the South successfully secede from the US (as some here wish would happen)? WW1 and WW2 have an American front.
For every Jetsons “bright shiny future” we had a Flintstones post-apocalypse “scratcing in the wastelands trying to recover or rebuilt a technological civilization with no resources” scenario.The Vernesque utopianism has been contrasted with Wellsian disasters since science fiction was born.
Of course I would agree, but they’re different forms of conflict that can be explored. People can run for their lives, or fight for the queen, stage a coupe in generally civilized cities. Or at least one where everyone isn’t eating rats.
I think we have accepted a post apocalyptic state is inevitable.
JohnT, your comments made me think of criticisms that have sometimes been leveled at Star Trek (mainly TNG).
Or, as I call it, the Roddenberry Conundrum (which almost sounds like a Trek movie title in itself, doesn’t it?).
The Roddenberry Conundrum can be summed up thus: it’s Trek’s optimistic vision of the future that attracts many Trek fans. Especially when it came to TOS, which aired in the sixties during a time of turmoil. It seemed to be saying that yes, there have been problems, but we will overcome them to have a decent future.
But as time went on, Roddenberry started overdoing it. During TNG especially, he flat-out stated, “These people are perfect” and tried to forbid any negative aspects to them. Which, if Gene had had his way all the time, would have made for no conflict and therefore no drama. He disliked STII (one of the best Trek movies) because it made Starfleet a little too militaristic. He disliked STVI (Undiscovered Country), another good one, because it showed anti-Klingon prejudice among these “perfect” Terrans. (Shouldn’t the point be that they OVERCAME it?) He didn’t even want to show characters grieving over the death of loved ones because “by the 23rd century, death is accepted as a natural part of life.”
As I said…completely overdoing the optimistic angle. We’re supposed to be identifying with these people, and through them, questioning our own attitudes. By wanting them to be too perfect, Gene was closing off that angle…making it seem as if only the OTHER societies had anything wrong with them. Which is a whole bunch of unfortunate implications in itself.
Nonsense. It’s just that in fiction utopias are boring, while dystopias can be interesting. I don’t think you can draw any conclusions about what’s really going to happen based on a bunch of Hollywood movies.
The best ST episode ever, “The City on the Edge of Forever”, originally had a member of the crew dealing drugs. Roddenberry couldn’t cope with that, and had Ellison rewrite the script to make it an accidental overdose.
Perfect characters and societies are boring to read about, or watch. Ending a story with “And they lived happily ever after” is for little kids, who need this reassurance. Human people are not perfect. I like to think that we have become more aware of what’s right and wrong, but even on this message board we’ve got examples of extremely Neandertal thinking…and that might be slandering Neandertals.
I like the way the Culture books deal with this - there is utopia, but the interesting stories happen at its fringe where it meets other civilizations. Only the few chosen ones are involved in conflict with most of the citizens doomed to live a life of mostly carefree fun.
Isaac Asimov famously set out to bury the Frankenstein idea, building short stories and novels around the idea that we’d of course program robots to never ever EVER kill anybody, and to obediently follow all instructions until and unless that “never ever EVER kill anybody” thing comes up, and so on, and so on, because we can and would solve that problem in advance.
And then, as someone – possibly Asimov himself – noted, the guy just couldn’t help but write it so they plausibly rise up against people anyway.
The problem isn’t that Sci-fi is depressing, it’s that, currently, depressing is what people want. Take a look at nearly all the mainstream media being released now- the bright and cheerful have uniformly given way to the dark and gritty; people don’t like it unless it’s bitter and sad. The truly creepy part is how vigorously it’s defended; take a look at some of the posts in this very thread and you’ll see what I mean.
The good news is, it’s just another fad. It’ll pass.
Recusant is right. Depressing and dark and violent and bloody is how people want their entertainment. It’s not just SF movies; it’s cop shows and thrillers, too. For some reason, Americans – most of whom live comfortable lives and have never been anywhere near a life-threatening situation in their lives – think this makes it “realistic.”
There are many reasons for this and I won’t go into the causes. But that’s what people want, so it’s what they get.
if you read science fiction in about 1970, especially Galaxy and If, every single bloody story was set in the world of 2000 where the world was heavily overpopulated, polluted, we were running out of room, and, as in ** Make Room, Make Room** people were sleeping on stairs. The actual world of today is a paradise compared to the consensus world of 2013 back then.
It is easier to find conflict in a dystopia, but Roddenberry may turn out to have been more correct than his critics.
That’s just my thoughts on the matter. I’m certain that…the media…(or who ever else) has created this “need” to see us tearing each other down. There’s some quoute from a news head that essentially says “We’ll give them what we want to give them”
While I don’t think that the world will ever be utopion, nor would I want my fiction to always reflect it - I also don’t want the current generation of dreamers only exposed to a world where they will be harvesting water from nuclear ponds.
Can anyone name a sci-fi /fiction environment in the last 6 years that wasn’t devastating?