Skip to comments.Why is science fiction so hard to define?
Posted on 08/02/2014 8:55:22 AM PDT by EveningStar
A recent list of top science fiction films had some unusual choices and left out some well-regarded classics. But, says Quentin Cooper, that's part of the problem sci-fi is such a broad church it's often very hard to define.
Time Out, the weekly listings magazine, recently ranked the 100 best sci-fi movies of all time. They did it by polling 150 "leading sci-fi experts, filmmakers, science fiction writers, film critics and scientists" and getting them to each provide their 10 favourites.
As lists go it's a decent one. It's hard for me to take issue with a top three of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Alien. Especially as my not-quite-four-year-old is named Hal partly after the homicidal computer in 2001. If we'd had a girl it was toss-up between Pris and Ripley.
Once you begin to get away from the top though, things soon get less clear cut. With only 150 people voting, some of the films near the bottom of the chart will only have had a vote or two, so if you'd asked different "leading" figures you'd have likely got different results.
(Excerpt) Read more at bbc.com ...
I always thought Blade Runner was overrated, but perhaps I need to give it another viewing.
I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.
No, wait, that’s porn.
I HATE having to go to sites that make it a big long drawn out production of listing stuff. I hate it.
Where’s the ‘list’ with no interjections from some dweeb in short pants putting in his two cents?
they’re trying to maximize the number of clicks at their site.
It sucks plenty. I don’t even agree with what these experts picked.
Fiction written with some modification to known science
Generally, the fewer the better.
Faster than light travel, extra planetary Intellegence.
Write story about consequences of the modification
Using standard Fiction principles.
There, generally, the more modifications to known science
The more SciFi becomes fantasy.
Don’t try to define it, just enjoy it.
As a film seen simply as entertainment, Blade Runner is overrated. However, once you understand the secret of the movie, the depth of the story and how the story is handled because really fascinating.
The Sixth Sense, for example, reveals its secret at the end and so people will go back and see it again. Blade Runner never reveals its own secret. You either recognize it or have to be told the secret.
The only people who complain about this are FReepers. I don't see the problem here.
I just don’t like wasting my time.
Ah, but what about the “hard” science fiction, where there is no deviation from known science, but just an extrapolation towards the future. I’m thinking some of the Niven stuff, and maybe some Asimov, and such.
May need to expand definition to include engineering advances using known science.
Clicks = ad revenue
I may have a built in bias.
Dune pushes the limits into Fantasy
Sand Worms = Dragons
Spice = Magic elixirs
Instantaneous Travel = Teleporting
But still darned good writing
The movie was called Under the Skin and starred Scarlett Johansson as an alien femme fatale who lures young men to a bizarre demise, until she begins to feel something like compassion for her victims.
Kubrick fans might especially enjoy this movie.
As for the list being offered here, my only gripe would be that the original Planet of the Apes, which Charlton Heston, should be in the top 10.
“with” Charlton Heston.
The more accurate term used in the profession is “speculative fiction” - stories about things that could happen as logical extrapolations of things we know today. It covers everything from alternate history to space opera.
I am not arguing here. I really like your summing up. Especially the statement that the more modifications to known science, the more it approaches fantasy. Not sure I have seen it put that clearly.
While I enjoy the hard science fiction, and even some fantasy - think Asprin’s MYTH series - I don’t like the full out fantasy. At some point it crosses a line into fairy tale. Prefer 100% elf free stuff (now, where did that reference come from?).
The way I have described this to others is that “real” science fiction allows for one broken rule. The plot then examines the impact of that modification. I think it was Asimov that said good scifi does not predict the invention of the car, it predicts the traffic jam, or parking lots.
When reading a story or watching a movie I am willing to suspend my disbelief to a certain point. If you ask me to ignore too many things, then I stop enjoying the book or movie. And this applies to every genre, not just scifi.
And so, logical advancements in engineering or application of existing technology needs to be accommodated into the definition somehow. Maybe even logical advancements in culture. I certainly have read some scifi that justs assumes society continues as it is.
Then we need to add the alternative history stuff into the definition. It was ages ago, but I remember reading Gingrich’s story on WWII and Germany perfecting the jet airplane, and what that would have done to history. That was logical advancements turned into alt history.
Of course, then we approach towards stuff that is not considered scifi at all, like Clancy. I look to his stuff as scifi, alt hist category. But it is generally just considered a basic novel. Now why is that? Why is “action/adventure” not scifi in some cases?
Nice chatting with you.
I finally watched Blade Runner after hearing it praised for decades. It really did nothing for me. I didn’t understand what was going on and found it quite leaden. But, maybe I too should give it another try.
For me, if it is internally logical, I can suspend disbelief for the duration of the story. I think most readers may even skim the technical parts of some novels and simply accept the premises.
Think of the androids as humans, the police as angels, and Eldon Tyrell as God. Then watch it again.
I don’t like having to click through 20-100 pages to get the “names” (and some of the media sites love linking to umpteen dozen youtube clips, each of which then attempt to load).
Bloated page load and overhyped page clicks.
I can search for more info on films if I feel the need.
"Free Republic is here to continue fighting for independence and freedom and against the unconstitutional encroachment of ever expanding socialist government...
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Such as 1954's Them! not on the list while 1951's The Thing from Another World at 67 and The Day the Earth Stood Still at 31. These three should be in the top five, not for their special effects but for their plots and believability that survived across the 60 plus years since they were produced.
Today's sci-fi films are 99.9% special effects, .01% plot and no believability as the target audience are 10 to 14 year old boys & girls (and many of today's grown men & women with the same maturity level) who will come back to see the film over and over and over.
Some days I almost wish... Helen had never said "Klaatu barada nikto" to Gort--
See the final director’s cut on blu-ray.... far superior to prior versions even though the changes are small and subtle.
Bladerunner is a visual masterpiece, considering it’s one of the last of the “analog” sci-fi films, in that it had no CGI, all props and camera effects.
It has a few awkward spots, but all in all is amazing.
I like Primer. Filmed by a conservative for 7K
Worth the watch, again and again.
I always thought a good sci-fi story could come from everyone living in tall towers, shopping, restaurants, movie theaters, schools are all in the towers, all towers connected by bridges, some nice and some ghetto. Going outside being a very rare thing, might even be illegal depending on the story.
There were probably a lot of readers skipping the 7-page instruction on the inner-workings of how a tank fires a tank shell in a Tom Clancey novel too.
I made that up but some of his books had stuff like that in them.
Here is the trailer for PRIMER
More books to look up and put on the long long list
Terrific film. Loved it.
Have you read the Foundation Trilogy and his fourth add on? the fifth isn’t worth it.
Who can take seriously a list of the “best” 100 sci-fi films that includes dreck like Pacific Rim, Avatar, The Truman Show, The Prestige?
I did read the Trilogy at some point. I dunno about that fifth thing.
Yeah. Guilty. Pages in any novel that read like a Cabela’s catalog, complete with SKUs, are also skippable.
There are also a LOT of SHTF-type novels written by proud former military logistics officers and they include the spread sheets to prove it. These are the sorts of stories that presuppose that the survivors have millions of dollars to spend, are all Marines/Seals and had the foresight to begin their redoubts in 1980.
The scary side of all the above is even with every fictional advantage and toy, the potential survival rate is 50/50. And that’s if they avoid war with a still-functioning government.
So, bottom line, especially if you don’t have all this knowledge, equipment and training (and likely even if you do): embrace the suck.
You have to just read this stuff for entertainment, anyway. They aren’t tutorials.
Neil deGrasse Tyson?! I’m not surprised he likes the boring “Contact”.
I tried to watch that “Cosmos” show but he is soooooooooooooooo boring.
SciFi is many different sub genres. As far as the printed word, there were the pulp guys who started and continued writing in such organs as Fantasy And Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, and the like. Azimov, Heinlein and Bradbury got there start there. Guys like Kurt Vonnigut did not. His type of writing was not recognized by the pulp guys and was called by some Ghetto SciFi. Of course that was back in the 70s when I was still reading the pulps. I don’t know nor necessarily care what the dominant paradigm is in SciFi.
Which of the umpteen version of Blade Runner do you speak??
They present different realities.
DONT watch the directors cut unless you've read the book. Watch the theatrical cut. It is narrated by Ford and explains what's going on.
Unless you have read the book DONT watch the directors cut without the narration. Unless you’re a mind reader you will have no idea.
Foundation should have stayed a trilogy. Period
All versions have the clues to the secret, but the Director’s cut has them laid out best.
“Contact” was ridiculous. More like a comedy. The superrich crazy guy who can single-handedly build a launch pad/ship (and hide it, too !). The right-wing Christian terrorist (played by Gary Busey’s lookalike son, no less), because we all know how often they blow-up stuff, right ? Worst of all, we don’t get to see space aliens and civilizations, we just get to see Jodie’s dead father, the doctor dude from “St. Elsewhere.” And, of course, Matthew McConnaughey as the charming/romantic hippie-dippie rev.
If I had paid money to see this in a theater, I’d have wanted to make “contact” with the producers via a well-placed right hook.
I saw “Cosmos” over 3 decades ago as a kid, I had no intention of watching what was a pretty open leftist circle-jerk of a remake.
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