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8/9/2014 11:49:10 PM
26

Does Sci-Fi lose its allure when it can't happen?

I'm a Science Fiction fan. You're a Science Fiction fan. We're all Science Fiction fans of some sort if we wound up in this forum. Over the last two days, I've been watching the reboot of the show 'Doctor Who,' one I'm sure most of you are familiar with. I've never seen it before, nor do I know a thing about it aside from what I've already watched and the fact that the Doctor comes back each time he dies. But the thing is- some of the stuff in this show... can't happen. In one of the early episodes, in 2005 or 2006 (I believe it was) there was a mass panic attack in London over an alien ship crashing. Those were two really entertaining episodes. But the thing is, the entire time I was watching them I was aware of the fact that it cannot happen. Why? Because we are already past that point, as it is 9 years later. So the entire time I'm watching these episodes (I'm on episode 9 as of now), while I do find them funny and entertaining, I am aware the entire time that I am watching a television show. I compare this to shows such as Stargate SG-1. In that show (my personal favorite of all time), due to the very nature of the show everything in it is kept secret from the public. So it is conceivable that the stuff in the show actually happens (aside from different political leaders and the likes... I'm focusing on the Sci-Fi bits, here). I haven't watched it, but Battlestar Galactica also takes place far, far in the past, right? So it could conceivably happen. Meanwhile you have shows like Doctor Who, or even the movie Back To The Future which says we should all have hoverboards by next year. Clearly that isn't happening, so we're very aware of the fact that it is a movie. Now, what we have to keep in mind is the distinction between Science Fiction, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy. A series like Star Wars could obviously never happen, but it is not solely Science Fiction so that is acceptable just like any other fiction. The same even goes for Destiny. I can get drawn into a fantasy world because I go in not expecting it to be possible. But Science Fiction... well, what defines Science Fiction is largely the fact that it has futuristic technology that can conceivably be created at some point in the future. So I'm curious if anybody has any thoughts on this matter. Looking back, even if you didn't at the time, do you see that maybe when you are actively aware a piece of Science Fiction cannot happen it made you less attached? Does this distinction exist at all to anybody else? I'm curious.
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  • There's a threshold where sci-fi is realistically plausible. The more a science fiction film strays from said threshold, the less believable it is. I favour realism.
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  • Edited by NotCarnus: 8/10/2014 6:55:03 PM
    Unless it's specifically identified as Hard Sci-Fi, I don't go in with any expectations of the science in a Sci-Fi work being grounded or realistic. Some books are a pleasant surprise and seem relatively realistic ([i]The Martian[/i], [i]The Expanse Series[/i]), but to me, a piece of Sci-Fi doesn't get knocked because it's not realistic. I'm more into the genre because it's cool; if I want hard science, I'll read a scientific article or watch a documentary. [i]Guardians of the Galaxy[/i] is one of my favorite Sci-Fi series (both the comics and the new film), and it's completely absurd in terms of plausibility.
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  • it's a question of circumstance, at least to me. if you have something like, say, stephen baxter's work which is [i]obviously[/i] outlandish as all hell and basically has no hope of ever coming to fruition [i]but[/i] is tonally grounded in a "future where this stuff is possible" type thing, i don't think it loses its allure at all. basically as long as it has a solid and "grounded" backing for the impossibilities within the story, and it [i]embraces[/i] them, i don't think it usually loses its allure. look at john carpenter's "the thing." it's actually a silent middle finger to thermodynamics as the titular creature is able to assimilate every cell of a body within seconds [spoilers(?): see when windows is transformed], but even though i realize that something like that could never happen, the fact that it's an alien creature means that it's something that may have an explanation, but is something that can have one. the trick, then, is not to rule out impossibilities, but to introduce them in a way that plays up the fact that we can't possibly understand the way that they've been brought to the realm of possibility within the context of the universe. call it an advanced suspension of disbelief. and then there's proper tone. like, if you brought magic into the realm of sci fi it'd look stupid, as magic is something that's simply impossible. treating it as an element of the story without contextualizing it within the grounds of reality and science would undermine the suspension of disbelief that sci fi requires. but if you take the same exact abilities that magic grants and contextualize them in a way that plays up on how science itself would react to discovering the ability it sounds fine. because as impossible as it is, it still gives off the tone that the mechanic in the story has indeed gone through a scientific process of discovery within the bounds of the story. take a look at biotics in mass effect. "what the hell is element zero? eh, who cares, it's obviously something scientific." and even then i believe that the greatest sci fi works are usually based more on philosophical conflict lying at the core of the story. jurassic park has always been my favorite piece of fiction ever created, and i can tell you that when the inevitable discovery that DNA can't be readable after 1.5 million years showed up the novel didn't lose [i]any[/i] of its appeal to me.
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    • Nah. Actually, that sometimes increases the thrill for me.
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    • My suspension of disbelief can only go far. Asking me to suspend insanity is too much. A show like futurama is meant to be funny and not taken seriously. But when a show like doctor who comes along and is super serious and saying "This could actually happen". Wait what? Also we're one year from 2015 and.. yeah there's no flying cars yet. I don't expect there to realistically be flying cars anytime soon either.
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    • War of the worlds is still an amazing work of fiction even though there was never an alien invasion during the late Victorian period. 2001: a space odyssey is a cinematic masterpiece and a sci-fi work of genius. If it helps just think of anything past it's date as alternate history sci-fi. Oh and Back to the Future is still one of the greatest movies ever made.
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    • everything is possible
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    • Sometimes
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    • So the concern is that the continuity doesn't line up with reality, or that the events and technology are completely unfeasible?
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      • I think I have a similar problem with the show 24. It just doesn't seem realistic that all of that could happen in just one day. I did the math in the first six episodes I think 13 or 14 people died in the show. And not just thugs like in "normal" action/dramas. Now the normal part may be good or bad but the point is I couldn't believe all of this was happening in a day. It takes [i]time[/i] for things to happen like that. And now after watching the first half of that show the biggest problem I have with movies is the timeline (which usually is absolutely terrible) so that ruined a lot of things for me.
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        • Kinda. I remember seeing this analysis of if Godzilla was actually real. It pained me to see that he couldn't survive on land :(
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        • I'm sorry I don't understand. Is the problem that since you're watching old shows you know everything is going to be alright because the show continues on, or since we are at or past the time the futuristic sci-fi takes place so that stuff isn't accurate?
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        • [quote]The best definition of science fiction is that it consists of stories in which one or more definitely scientific notion or theory or actual discovery is extrapolated, played with, embroided on, in a non-logical, or fictional sense, and thus carried beyond the realm of the immediately possible in an effort to see how much fun the author and reader can have exploring the imaginary outer reaches of a given idea's potentialities. -Groff Conklin[/quote] I don't think science fiction must remain within the realm of total possibility. There are small things you could nit-pick from any sci-fi story that make it impossible, or maybe improbable. I find that noticing these impossibilities in stories from other genres frustrates me more than it does in sci-fi. To make something science fiction, to me, it has to take a certain idea (whether it be technological or not) and ask "what if?". For example, Ghost in the Shell takes the idea of artificial intelligence, cybernization, robotics, (and plenty other ideas) and asks 'what if' an AI were to claim self awareness. Would that robot AI be well received? Would people believe that it has the same consciousness that humans do? What separates a machine from a human? I found it very strange that you used Star Wars as an example of impossible science fiction. I'm assuming you mean that 'the force' is impossible. But I think the force is partially what makes star wars sci-fi. 'What if' there was an energy source men could harness simply using their minds and wills. That, and of course the obvious space ships and laser weapons make it science fiction. Keep in mind, star wars takes place 'a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away'. And I imagine in such a galaxy, the path of technological and natural evolution would be different from ours, like it is in star wars. Also, one thing that does annoy me about sci-fI is not the improbability of the technology, but the timing of it. I love Halo to death, but we will be much more advanced than they are 500 years from now. Same with Firefly, another piece of sci-fi I love with all my being. But we will have begun space colonization missions much earlier than 500 years from now. Good post, OP.
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        • Yeah having worked on a bunch of science fiction and fantasy shows and I can say we always tend to go with what's entertaining. For example in space matte paintings we always tend to push what looks cool than what is accurate. Milky Way doesn't look that big? Who cares! It looks awesome! Haven't worked on Dr Who or Stargate (lol) but it's probably the same.
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          • 1
            Duck duck DEATH
            Duck duck DEATH

            irrelevant elitist - old

            In terms of chronology, I really find it amusing. It's the same as the notion in fictions where the [url=http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law]-godwinslaw!-[/url] won WWII, and we have some sort of dystopian [url=http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law]-godwinslaw!-[/url] society to juxtapose against our own. Scientific hardness is another matter. There are many things I'll put up with if they're borderline fantasy; however if a show tries to explain something falsely using current scientific terms or pretends to be accurate and does it incredibly wrong I get upset. For instance, the movie Gravity was meant to be a serious movie; however there's a number of significant scenes where the Laws of Motion and basic mechanics seem not to apply.
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            • As long as it's cool, fun, or interesting, I don't give a -blam!-, and neither should you.
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            • Good sci-fi is either scientifically accurate, or it tells a great story.
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            • Game of Thrones sucks. I might be safe here, but just in case... *zips up Flame Suit* >.> <.<
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              • We get it, space magic doesn't belong in destiny. The game is geared towards kids anyway, you really shouldn't care.
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                • 1
                  Not at all. If probability and reason were at the forefront of my mind with several genre's, I'd probably have to stop watching everything I enjoy. I know some folks hold the genre as some sort of odd combination of fiction and documentary, but I just don't put that much thought into it.
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                • Well, if you remove the science part, it's just fiction. At that point it pretty much just becomes Fantasy.
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                  • 0
                    Gasai Yuno
                    Gasai Yuno

                    benis - old

                    Nah, it's still good. Makes me wonder.
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                    • No scifi is the best
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                    • If it can't happen I guess it's just plain fiction.
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                      • [quote]I am aware the entire time that I am watching a television show.[/quote] And you didn't realize this the first time you watched it?
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                      • 0
                        I've always hated rules on good stories and such. But I can be super picky at times though too. I guess I like it all, but if the entertainment (books, movies, games. ect) tries to be serious sci-fi then I expect it to have boring established ideas and not really steer into the impossible stuff without giving a damn good explanation. Sci-Fi, Sci-fantasy, w/e. btw, This is the best thread ever, there is no right answer.
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