Science fiction can be either really awesome, really boring, or really hokey, depending on the decade and the writer. Nowadays its easy to get bored by space travel, annoyed by scienctific inaccuracies, and to let yourself wonder if the future of scifi really is just a bunch of superpowered white males blowing up New York city every summer. But it doesn’t have to be! Here are some things to get excited about the next time you want to tackle a science fiction project.
Physics make the world go ’round. From Newton to Hawking, physicists are trying to figure out the laws that hold the universe together. This is exciting because not only do they have no idea what they’re doing, they often come up with equally workable contradictory models. Why fumble around trying to make up fiction? Physics provide all the loopholes to reality you’ll ever need. Everything from wormholes to parallel dimensions is possible–just don’t try to do both at once! This comic should give you a good idea of why physics can be used for a get-out-of-jail-free card in just about every plot scenario.
I am, and always have been, an opera buff. I understand that people of my generation who enjoy listening to twelve hours of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen are few and far between, but at the same time I think it is a cultural experience unlike any other and that if you’re not willing to give it a chance (an honest chance, not an “I’m only doing this to prove you wrong” chance) then you’re missing out on some of the most amazing music the universe has to offer. And nothing makes me happier then to see science fiction combined with that relic of the musical renaissance–opera. Think it hasn’t happened? Think again. From concert performances at conventions to delightful interludes at TED conferences, to the unforgettable opera sequence from the Fifth Element, music can be a powerful aspect of science fiction and futuristic world building.
I’ve been doing a lot of research into Cyberpunk lately, and the more I learn about it the cooler it gets. -punk fiction is, as you know, rebelling against social norms, overthrowing the regime, liberty, equality, and brotherhood, etc. Cyber refers, of course, to cyberspace–computers, algorithms, VR, AI, hacking, etc. So cyberpunk, as well as being a totally awesome genre of science fiction, has a host of real world examples to draw from such as the invention of the internet, the struggles to develop robotics, the drone controversy, Edward Snowden, Anonymous, the Sony hack…you get my drift. Cyberpunk was very popular as a genre back when computers were new–everything from Tron to Robocop to Blade Runner qualifies. Now that it’s more commonplace we seem to have lost our sense of wonder at the world of hacking–but not entirely! Cyberpunk works by novelists such as Neal Stephenson and Ramez Naam are brilliant examples of science fiction that is new, familiar, and exciting all at once.
4. Joss Whedon
He’s the master of television, the god of nerds, and the grandmaster of Marvel. But besides his propensity for killing our favourite characters in sudden and unexpectedly brutal moments, most of his stories have a common theme–strong female characters. Well yes, okay, that too, but I was going to say Science Fiction. From Firefly to Dollhouse to Avengers, Joss Whedon knows how to invent high-tech plots that take us to galaxies far, far away and yet intimately close to home. He’s not afraid to tackle hard subjects, break social norms, and dare to ask “What if” about questions like mind control, apocalypses, superpowers, alien invasions, space exploration, and betrayal. (Mostly betrayal.) So the next time you’re worried that your scifi story has too many common tropes, is basically a Star Trek rip-off, or conforms too much to social expectations, sit down with a season of Whedon and start taking notes.
5. The Universe
From microscopes to telescopes there is more in the universe waiting to be discovered then we can possibly dream of. From the stunning photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, to the startling new data sent back by the Rosetta mission, to the breakthroughs being conducted in nano-technology, to the way that 3D printers are worming their way into the workshops of every maker and tinkerer in the world, the universe, inspiration, ideas, and ingenuity is just waiting for someone to stop, pay attention, and weave it into a new and exciting story world. Just as Murphy’s Law dictates that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, the mysteries of the universe make it possible that anything that can exist, will exist. So let your imagination loose in the galaxies of the unknown, and draw startling conclusions that no one has thought of before. This is the wonder of science fiction, and definitely something to get excited about.
What are some things about science fiction that you get excited about? What are some of your favorite scifi elements? Seen/read any good science fiction books/movies lately? What did you like about them? Dislike? How are you working these elements into your own projects?