The quest for original science in Science Fiction. An Editorial.

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

It’s hard to find anything original in mainstream media these days. It’s even harder to find something original in Science Fiction too. We can play tribute to the classics all we want, but getting an original concept – not a story, just a concept – really must be buried deep in the realm of independent authors.

I remember the first time I tried to absorb Ridley Scott’s movie Alien. Swiss artist H. R. Giger came up with such radical concepts as the Xenomorph, the alien ship, the space jockey. Imagine a creature which starts as a facehugger that comes out of an egg, which will find another species to incubate a larvae that mutates inside the human body which results in the now well known Xenomorph… Think of all the concepts explored in that movie alone. Now give me a recently released work of fiction that has come up with as many new ideas as that first film.

Nowadays, films and TV rehash old concepts again and again. We can all hope for new aspects in the execution, but the concepts are all recycled. I haven’t seen an original alien in years. There’s original work out there. Not all spaceships have to look like a freaking bubble. Do a search for concepts and you will find some original ideas out there. It just gets difficult to go to the movies or read a book or watch TV without seeing the same things over and over.

Reboots are million a plenty, but I always feel some concepts have been done to death or they were done so well to start with that trying to do a remake cheapens the original idea or makes it rather fragile. Not to mention it when it’s so poorly implemented that it causes ridicule.

We’ve also caught up so much to what people thought of Sci-Fi that it doesn’t faze us anymore. I did enjoy the original Star Trek reboot, but nowadays does it really feel modern to have a bunch of people in uniform working on iPads? No more. Holographic Heads-Up-Displays are just standard nowadays.

Yes, this all comes because I saw Elysium (my review here, sorry not a fan) and everything seem so unoriginal that at some point I was almost pissed off. At least they could’ve taken some risks in the look and style. Nope.

There’s hope. Check out some of the designs in conceptships.blogspot.com. Not all of them are winners, but they’re trying to innovate at least. Nowadays, I feed my hunger for original stuff on anime. Yes, I know there’s good and bad. I’m currently watching Attack on Titan which you might argue is not actual Sci-Fi, but I find it imaginative and innovative.

Perhaps I am not looking hard enough. If you’re reading this and have recently read something that will blow your mind, let me know. I really want to be proven wrong on this, but I can’t stop thinking from that quote from Sherlock Holmes in Sir Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet: “There’s nothing new under the sun. It all has been done before.”

I am dreading the movie adaptation for Ender’s Game because although I loved the book, I don’t know what the execution is going to look like. And to top that, the author has made controversial statements aplenty regarding his personal beliefs (he’s very conservative about traditional marriage). No, I don’t agree with him but I do love the book. Can you put aside the author’s personal beliefs and appreciate the material? A subject for another time, perhaps.

That will do for now.

Update! I’ve changed the title hoping that people catch my drift a little better. I’m considering a follow up.

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

(Sources: conceptships.blogspot.comCrunchyroll)

  1. #1 by Joachim Boaz on August 28, 2013 - 8:07 pm

    I couldn’t disagree more with your sentiment — there is plenty of original SF being produced. What this rant illustrates to me is a lack of knowledge about what is new (and what is old)…. Movies often pull on order [older] concepts.

    • #2 by The Editor on August 29, 2013 - 1:31 am

      Just took a look at your last review post on your site. I read Darkover Landfall when I was a teenager. Thendara House was my favorite novel from Marion Zimmer Bradley. I know The Shattered Chain was considered the defining novel for the saga of the Renunciates but Thendara House was the first novel I read from her. The Mists of Avalon is a very close second. Nice blog you have there.

      Let’s say it’s about CURRENT works of fiction – like something produced this year or last year. I know there’s plenty of work in the 40s up to the 70s (and probably the 80s) as well, but I’m not trying to pit “classic” against “modern” SF. I’m talking something produced recently. I think our chances might lie in independent works. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  2. #3 by Tom Elias on August 29, 2013 - 11:45 am

    I think it depends on how you look at it all. I’ve had many writers tell me there are a few basic plots that genre and imagination twist into new stories. On the other hand, I’m also frustrated with the entertainment industry (film+tv) and their fixation on low-risk, high-payoff formula movies or series. I guess I’m on the fence here.

    • #4 by The Editor on August 29, 2013 - 1:01 pm

      That is actually my same frustration. However, I’m talking about concepts in particular. There is originality in characters, plot points, settings. However, it’s been a while since new science fiction concepts have appeared, specially in mainstream SF media.

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