Science Fiction and its Types

"Television is medium because it is neither rare nor well done."
-Earnie Kovaks
 "The purpose of this blog is to look in detail at the things that people often glance over without a second thought. Larger topics may come up from time to time, but the goal is mainly to get your minds moving."
-Jared Curry (To Overthink, or not to Overthink)
Exercise is not something that builds up your muscles. At least, not directly. In reality, it tears down your muscles. The reason this makes you stronger is because your muscles build themselves back up to be stronger than before. If they were designed for fifty pounds and you lifted sixty, for example, your muscles would eventually "learn" that they need to be strong enough for sixty pounds. But while consistent exercise would be good, constantly pushing them to their limits would give them no time to build themselves back up. So today, we're going to be taking a slight break from all the depth to analyze science fiction and its types. Many people think of science fiction as, simply, science fiction. But looking closer at science fiction, we can see that in reality, these people are practicing the habit of placing labels on what they don't understand. I'll be looking at a few different types of science fiction, with the hopes of showing that even within a category, you can't judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, a show by its ships.

First let's look at Star Trek. This could be considered "standard" science fiction. A ship, a crew, aliens, and space travel. Transporters, robots, laser guns, the works. And, as any Trekkie will be able to tell you, they're not laser guns, they're phasers. The important characters always survive. The only people who die are unnamed, or, if they feel like throwing in a twist, named, but not a regular character. Basically, the point of this science fiction is to have all kinds of cool tech that we don't have (yet?) in real life. This is the classic form of science fiction, that everybody knows about. And, while I personally find it to be entertaining, I also make fun of it at the drop of a hat. Sadly, I believe that it has given science fiction a certain reputation. But it isn't the only kind of science fiction.

Next, we'll take a look at Babylon 5. At first glance, this seems to be some more standard science fiction. We meet the cast of main characters, we learn their jobs, we have plenty of technology, and the security crew carries phasers. Of course, as any Babylon 5 nerd would be able to tell you, they're not phasers, they're PPGs (short for Phased Plasma Guns). But there's a line in episode six that hints at bigger things ahead.
"No one here is exactly what he appears."
-Ambassador G'Kar
Indeed, this is the truth. Each character is different, and we get to know each of them on a deeper level than we ever would in Star Trek. The characters grow, and change, and sometimes, even die. Each episode is connected as a story. Each episode, a chapter, and each season, a book in a series. In something like Star Trek: Voyager, there is a common theme, but each episode is still mainly its own story. Not so with Babylon 5. The story is what makes the show, not the technology. And the characters will grow to fit the story, even to the point of death. This is not the shallow science fiction that we previously saw.

Babylon 5 is not a well known show. Doctor Who, however, is. And while Doctor Who does have some level of storytelling involved, the characters come before story, rather than story coming before characters. Each episode, they find themselves in a new time and place, thanks to The Doctor's time machine, The T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). Because of this, everything revolves around the people, and who they are. We watch them grow, we watch them learn, and we see who they are. Every once in a while, The Doctor will take on a new companion, leaving the old one behind for one reason for another. And since he's an alien, he changes his face and body whenever he's mortally wounded, calling it "regeneration." His personality tends to change as well, meaning that, although he's still The Doctor, we have a whole new personality to get used to.

Looking further, into something like Star Wars, we see yet another type of science fiction. This is because Star Wars isn't a single story; it's an entire fictional universe. While the six movies focus on a general time period, looking into the books, we can find stories about any place and any time period. I personally have enjoyed reading about Darth Bane, as well as the Mandolorian Wars, although the New Jedi Order is also interesting. Anywhere you look, you can see a universe in motion. You can look into a character, or you can look at a crew. And if you want technology, they even have PPGs. But as any Star Trek nerd will know, they're not PPGs. They're called blasters.

At this point, various nerds and geeks will most likely be thinking to themselves that laser guns, phasers, PPGs, and blasters aren't just different names for the same thing, they're entirely different weapons. If you caught that, good for you. It hurt to refer to them as the same thing, so I'm glad I'm not the only one that noticed. But not all science fiction has aliens and what we would call futuristic technology. Let's turn to my final example, Fahrenheit 451.

Fahrenheit 451 is a masterpiece novel written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1953. Flat screen TVs and small devices that let people listen to music in their ears are some of the fantastic innovations you can find in his tale of wonder. While not science fiction in the sense of what we would consider today, for 1953, this was indeed technology of the future. But this technology wasn't the purpose of the story. The story was told with specific intent, not merely to tickle the imaginations of those who cared for such styles. This was a story of what would happen in the future of reality, if we continue down our present path. "Hogwash," say some. "This type of technology is only for stories. It could never exist in real life." And yet, how many things do we have now that even Star Trek didn't imagine? Couldn't our modern-day smartphones easily replace both their tricorders and their communicators? While some inventions, such as teleportation, may be a thing of fiction, other ideas of theirs are things of the past. Fahrenheit 451 is written as a warning.

Through looking at these different stories, we can see that science fiction, though often having common themes, is not something that can be dismissed. I often hear people say, "I don't like science fiction. It's just not my thing." I don't like pirate stories. But I do like Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire, both by Wayne Thomas Batson. I don't like historical fiction, but I do like Crime Through Time by Bill Doyle. I don't like thrillers, but I like Blink by Ted Dekker. I do like science fiction, but I don't like Star Trek: Enterprise. Each story is its own, regardless of category.
"Once you label me you negate me."
-Søren Kierkegaard

1 comment:

  1. Ummm.... So, if I understood correctly, you wrote about types of science fiction because you can't lift 60 pounds?? ;-D

    ReplyDelete