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Science Fiction is a disaster waiting to happen

1/09/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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You must have had one of those magic moments of realisation and wonder why it never occurred to you before and then realise an inner truth had been revealed that youíd never considered before. Imaginary light bulbs should now be pinging on over all your heads. Well, at least if youíve ever had such times. Hereís one of mine. It should work for you.

Hello everyone

You must have had one of those magic moments of realisation and wonder why it never occurred to you before and then realise an inner truth had been revealed that youíd never considered before. Imaginary light bulbs should now be pinging on over all your heads. Well, at least if youíve ever had such times. Hereís one of mine. It should work for you.



Take one of the books I was reviewing last month. In ĎThe Philosophy Of Science Fiction Filmí edited by Steven M. Sanders and specifically, Alan Woolfolkís piece, ĎDetachment And Rebellion In Alphavilleí. In his introduction, he makes an interesting observation that Science Fiction is less about science but more about disaster and often on a broader scale.

Whether this is a generalisation that applies to all Science Fiction is going to need some thinking. Iíve reasonably well-read but couldnít guarantee that there might be an odd story without some disaster happening. Then again, you also have to define what a disaster is. It can be personal, a small group of people, a city, an empire, a world or even galactic scale or across dimensions. Whatever it is, itís a break in the status quo and things are going wrong whether itís caused by nature, people or machine, it will be something that is out of control that needs being put right and restoring order to chaos. Itís not exactly a plot but a story expectation. Even an anarchist would want some order in his or her life, just to have some downtime.

I suspect disaster would be true of other genres as well but from a lesser level. Romance stories tend to rotate around some sort of disastrous relationship. Crime stories obviously has been tough for someone. The closest to the scale and range that SF can reach is war stories but you know what to expect from them.

As Iíve pointed out in the past, Science Fiction tends to encompass all the other genres in some form or another, only the potential danger can be greater. It can also deal with the aftermath and certainly have expert rather than amateur characters who might possible prevent or reduce the worse happening. SF can surprise you with every story and unless you read the back cover or pay attention to something like a review prťcis, youíll never know quite what to expect. A strong parallel to general fiction surprisingly.

Now, thereís a fair bet that Science Fiction fans have probably seen more SF films and TV series than the number of books available, so weíll use that as a starting point. Have a ponder over what youíve seen and if there isnít one that doesnít revolve around some kind of disaster, then include it in the SFC Forum or email me as to why it doesnít or to see if someone can prove you wrong or even disagree with me.

If youíre going to do it with books, then be sure to include the relevant details. I donít expect this to be completed in a month flat but Iím sure many of you will be wracking your heads over discovering any SF than is non-disaster.

Just so this doesnít seem like an editorial just to get your heads scratched, Iíll ponder on some myself that you might be considering and probably are thinking would qualify.

ĎClose Encounters Of The Third Kindí (1977) is at the top of my list. After all, there isnít exactly any violence, just aliens doing a human exchange program and bold enough this time to let human officials involved even if they didnít explain it was for their choices. They even returned their abductees with little more than jet or should I say space lag. No real disaster there as they did get one of their Ďvolunteersí. However, for personal disasters, a breakdown in at least one marriage.

If Roy Neary was one example of marriage breakdown, no doubt similar things happened to the other Ďvolunteersí. It was probably a disaster for those who werenít picked up, let alone the chap left on the light side of Moon when he got dusted who slept through the entire thing unless we didnít see all the activities of those aliens smaller spaceships picking the others up. On a disaster level, itís probably personal and pretty low and hence top of my list.

ĎCocooní (1985) could be regarded as reasonably safe as well. After all, itís more a puzzle as to what is rejuvenating the elderly people at an old peopleís home and then co-operating with aliens wanting to get home. No disaster there. In fact, what happened to the pensioners was beneficial from the start and they, in good turn, helped the aliens rescue their hibernating brethren.

ĎStarmaní (1984) is in the same category as ĎE.T. Ė The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)í in that the alien is actually benevolent in nature, just not the actions of members of the human population. Keeping the comparison up, neither the twain met, it isnít really a complete disaster other than the human failure to apprehend them and the Starman never had to really worry up them. Unlike the aforementioned, E.T., he wasnít getting ill from his time on Earth but knew the limitations of living in a human body for a short period and being on time for his pick-up.

Itís interesting that my three choices involved benevolent aliens and an element of feelgood factor but if you dismiss natural disasters, military entanglements and battles the number of choices diminish quickly. As with any genre, good news stories rarely do the viewing figures that an utter disaster does. The measure of success against disastrous odds leaves a measure of optimism.

Please remember that this has nothing to do with picking favourites, just SF films that arenít based around disastrous events. If you think Iím wrong on my three choices, Iím sure youíll let me know. I think if you tried to find ones that are totally disastrous then you would be spoilt for choice. Thereís far too many and Woolfolk is probably right. Science Fiction does have more mojor disasters going on but at least there are the attempts to sort it out by the people involved in them.

Thank you, take care, good night and remember, disasters happen in real life, too. Be prepared to help the needy.

Geoff Willmetts
editor: SFCrowsnest.co.uk

PS There should be a poll on this in the new Forum. Join up and express your thoughts. Isnít there always? Equally, you could just be a guest and look around but the more the merrier.

Speaking of the Forum, if you want up-to-date info of book signings and such, have a peak. You donít have to sign up to have a look as to when these things are happening and Iíve yet to hear of a flash crowd turning up for such things but thereís always the first time. Weíre not libel if you do such a thing, just to keep my boss happy.

Donít try this at home: I tried out of the Legion Of Super-Heroes flight rings the other week. It didnít work and I had to neutralise gravity effects myself to land.

A Zen thought: Life is the fire of the soul.

Donít forget, Iím always on the lookout for new reviewers as well as articles, interviews and stories and after some recent changes, letís see if the full details about that appears below. If they donít then look in the new Forum or on the link line at the top of the main page. For potential book reviewers in the UK, itís a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. If you donít think youíre up to scratch, youíll discover why Iím the dutch uncle.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and arenít likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

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