I’ve noticed recently that there is a misconception about the genre of “science-fiction” that has become more and more common over the years.
In essence, I believe what sets science fiction apart from other genres can be broken down into two characteristics.
I was taught that science-fiction presents ideas, concepts, technology and tools within the plot that, although imaginary, are rooted in scientific principles and are at least partially conceivable.
In fact, concepts developed in works of science fiction are often the source of real inventions or at least resemble technology developed years or decades later.
For example, who can forget the communicator used in Star Trek: The Original Series. Aren’t cell phones awfully reminiscent of the hinged gadgets first appearing in 1966?
That’s only the beginning as technology has moved forward and developed cloaking devices for soldiers and virtual reality machines that, although not quite a holo-deck, are still impressive to say the least.
The second is that conflicts within the story are resolved using science, technology or scientific method as opposed to supernatural solutions or pure happenstance.
This aspect is what I feel confuses many people these days.
Anyone who has read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy will understand exactly what I mean.
Whether it be a person against person conflict or person against environment, beast or technology, the point is that a solution is found through the use of science and deductive reasoning.
In true science fiction there is very little deus ex machina to get the protagonist out of a bind. That person, or persons, must use some knowledge or technology (or both) gained at some point in the story to solve the problem, defeat the bad guy and save the day.
A perfect example of this is “The Fifth Element.”
Now, I’ll start by saying that this is without a doubt one of my favorite movies of all time. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and some of it is down right corny, but there’s humor, action, romance and all of the other elements that can simply take a person out of this world and transport them to another.
However ... (Warning! Here be spoilers ... ) at the end of the movie, the ultimate evil is not conquered by technology, science or deductive reasoning. It’s the power of love that saves the day which I believe moves this movie into the realm of fantasy and not science fiction.
Although the movie has many of the elements of the first criteria I mentioned i.e. spaceships, hovercars, blasters etc., the theme of the entire film is ultimately about faith in each and love that can conquer any foe.
Again, this does not detract a thing from the movie (although it’s really kind of those love it or hate it type of films) but does need a change of genre.
Final thought: Crocodile Dundee is totally science fiction, think about it ...
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