Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by minstrel, May 3, 2014.
I came across this article.
What do you guys think? I'm inclined to agree with this.
It's like saying 'Lord of the Rings' ruined fantasy.
Yes, I do think it did in a way, because it standardized the genre. Now in fantasy you get a load of people trying to play in JRR Tolkien's playground, which uses a backdrop and includes references to Norse and especially Scandinavian mythology and poetry most people writing in the Fantasy genre are completely ignorant of.
Just like fantasy, what is the first thing you think of when Sci-Fi comes to mind, chances are it has something to do with Star Wars or Star Trek.
Yes. I believe it has ruined science fiction because people believe that's the only type of science fiction available, the same with fantasy and LotR. So while it captures children's imaginations, it also limits them, because it's the only thing that's being hurled at them by the media, especially with this new trilogy and several spin-off movies. It probably doesn't affect kids and adults who read, though, because they know what else is out there.
The thing that always annoys me (and I'm not exaggerating, it genuinely annoys me) about both Star Wars/Star Trek and Lord of the Rings is that the stuff in both those genres that came before are much more varied and imaginative, and are thus much more interesting. What is Sci-Fi if it's not set in the distant future these days? Not like the Sci-Fi that was being experimented with in the early days, like Mary Shelley, or (oh hell, I'll give him a break) Lovecraft. What is fantasy if it's not in this silly, neo-Nordic world of elves and dwarfs and dragons?
It annoys me, because it's fucking BORING! And yet, that's what most people think the genres are, and not without good reason either.
Replace Star Wars with Dune and I'll read the article.
It's an interesting article. But in my mind, Star Wars isn't sci fi. It's fantasy set in space. I think that if you analyse audiences, especially of massively commercially successful 'art' (book, movie, painting etc), you'll find a Bell curve distribution. The small minority will be well versed in the genre, will be viewing it intelligently etc, small minority would have simply gotten lost somewhere along the way and they don't even know why they are there, and the vast majority in the middle won't be entirely clueless, but they might not be interested or care at all about the genre and all that. They're primarily interested in entertainment, some of them can find meaning, others might enjoy the visual or special effects, and so on.
I'd sooner say that Lucas destroyed Star Wars with all the stupid sequels, he nearly did the same to Indiana Jones, but these are greedy commercial decisions 20 years after the original films gained fame, I wouldn't even put the old ones and the new ones in the same group, personally.
re: Dune, first Dune is perfection, one of my favourite books. I actually loved it so much, I never read the sequels because I didn't want to spoil my impression. I'll probably read them one day, but I'm not ready yet.
I'm having trouble seeing the pieces of the argument. Is it that Star Wars invented the adventures-in-space aspect of science fiction? It didn't, of course. Even if I ignore books, there's a whole lot of video adventures-in-space that predate Star Wars: Doctor Who, Blake's Seven, Star Trek. The original Battlestar Galactica, and the original Hitchhiker's Guide radio play, are each only a year newer.
Is it that Star Wars was successful? Well...few video works set out to be failures.
Is it that Star Wars has destroyed all video science fiction since it was created? Well, I guess maybe we would all like to have been protected from the horror that is Firefly, and Babylon 5, and the new Battlestar Galactica, and Alien with all those nasty awards it got, and Andromeda, and Moon...
OK, my own sarcasm is annoying even me. I'll just summarize with the fact that I don't get his argument.
I think this article takes the matter a little too seriously. It has a very in-fandom feel of prickliness. I've dipped my toes in a couple of fandoms and been surprised at the fervor that the paradigm can evoke in people. I've seen someone argue with true passion as to why it should be completely legal to burn M. Night Shyamalan at the actual stake because he didn't bother to find an Asian actor with real golden eyes (dime-a-dozen, right?) to play Zuko or a pair of blue-eyed Inuits (they're practically GWP) to play Katara and Sokka. Seriously, I could feel the passion-induced spittle flying from the screen at me as I read.
I was 7 when Star Wars opened and I saw it here in Puerto Rico at the theatre on PR-2 in Aguadilla, within walking distance of my auntie's house. I remember the entire night. I'm 44 today. That's the impression it made on me. Two years later, in 1979, my mom took me to see Alien and the addiction that had begun two years prior was firmly cemented by what is still the #1, all time best sci-fi horror movie ever made in the history of history.
The fact that outsiders see Science Fiction as only Star Wars and Star Trek doesn't really rub me wrong. There are plenty of people who "get it" with whom I can share my love for the genre, my parents included. At 64 and 67, they're both Sci-Fi junkies which makes dinner and a movie at the 'rents house an awesome thing.
Star Wars was never science fiction.
John Campbell Jr. sums up the difference:
The major distinction between fantasy and science fiction is, simply, that science fiction uses one, or a very, very few new postulates, and develops the rigidly consistent logical consequences of these limited postulates. Fantasy makes its rules as it goes along...The basic nature of fantasy is "The only rule is, make up a new rule any time you need one!" The basic rule of science fiction is "Set up a basic proposition--then develop its consistent, logical consequences."
And before someone asks, "Don't they make up a lot of the rules in Star Trek?" you should know,
The only postulate in Star Trek is: What if space ships explored the galaxy?
Every technology, every philosophy, every character's choice is made out of that one simple concept. And it's beautiful that science fiction could create such a rich and developed world from one simple postulate.
Blake's Seven was 1978, post-SW, and initially had some quite adult plots. Star Trek had a lot of hokey plots, but tried to be more intellectual than Star Wars. I don't remember much of the pre-SW Doctor Who, but it was a kids' show that at least made some pretence of trying to tell intelligent stories now and again.
I'm not convinced that Star Wars was responsible for the disappearance of intelligent SF movies, because I'm not sure they really existed before it (e.g. the big SF blockbuster of that year was supposed to be Damnation Alley, which is a complete train-wreck). But it certainly didn't help.
You're right; I had the date wrong. I'm not clear on the relevance of the adult plots, though? Are you saying that Star Wars forced it to eliminate the adult plots?
Here I assume that you mean that the goal that it aimed for was higher than the goal that Star Wars aimed for, not that it was trying to transcend Star Wars, since it came before Star Wars. I'm not trying to nitpick here, I'm just not quite sure what premise you're arguing?
Would you argue that the post-SW Doctor Who reboot doesn't do so? I'd say that it tells some pretty intelligent stories, and that Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica do as well. And Firefly. And so on and so on.
I still don't see it.
(Hmm. Off topic: When "Star Trek" above was in italics, I couldn't get it to sit inside the same quote as the rest of the sentence. I had to change it as non-italics to fix that. I wonder if that's related to the does-it-exist-or-does-it-not quote bug?)
Firefly is also definitely not sci-fi.
I was saying that it started out with some interesting SF plots, and didn't succumb to StarWars-ism for a while. But I remember the initial hype for the show often compared it to Star Wars, because B7 was about rebels fighting an evil government. I'm sure that contributed to the decline.
I thought I was fairly clear that Star Trek tried to include some intelligent SF stories rather than just shootouts and explosions. Most TV SF in the Star Wars boom of the late 70s/early 80s did not.
The first season did. But it degenerated so fast that I stopped watching a couple of years ago; I don't think that's Star Wars' fault, just bad writing ('And then Cybermen! Millions of them! And Daleks! Everyone's going to die! Explosions! But River Song tells the Doctor to press the Reset Button, sweetie! And everyone is saved!').
I'd note that those shows came out at least twenty years after Star Wars, and after TNG had proven successful at rebooting Star Trek.
I was also primarily considering the impact of Star Wars on movies, not TV. Once the movie industry decided that SF meant big-budget effects with shootouts, explosions and action figures, any other kind of SF movie became hard to finance.
I've been trying to tell people that for years, but they're still convinced that it is. It's really just a western with a few SF influences, which is why I never got into it.
Well, I could try to assemble an argument that it is science fiction, but given that I keep trying to tell friends that hate science fiction that they'd love it...hmm.
I'm fairly sure that I still disagree, but if you're going to (reasonably, I admit) shift backward in time to somewhere closer to Star Wars, I'd have to do more research. I strongly suspect that that isn't going to happen.
How can one piece of fiction ruin a genre? I don't understand the concept. If people like it enough that it has a serious impact on the genre as a whole, then it has done something right.
I mean, If thats what it means to ruin a genre, I seriously want to ruin one too...
This is exactly how I feel. I started reading the second one, felt like it wasn't going well after the first 20 or so pages, and decided to wait on it because the first one was so amazing that I did not want it to be ruined by mediocre sequels.
To be honest, I've been trying to think of intelligent SF movies made before Star Wars, and having a hard time coming up with any. Not that there weren't intelligent movies that claimed to be SF, but were they really SF?
Solaris probably was, and 2001, but was The Man Who Fell To Earth really SF? Was Slaughterhouse Five SF? Stalker? The Day The Earth Stood Still? Many of what are considered intelligent SF movies seem pretty debatable genre-wise, with the only claim to SF-dom being that they contain aliens... but I guess they would still have been a hard sell after Star Wars.
It only really applies to forms that require large amounts of money to produce. Star Wars certainly created a flood of space fantasy novels, but it didn't destroy the genre in print because a book only cost a few thousand dollars to publish. It spawned a lot of bad TV shows, but TV could still afford some experimentation because budgets were lower than movies. But when you're spending $10,000,000 of 1970s money on making a movie, you follow the latest fad rather than take risks.
Edit: an interesting question might be, what would have happened if Alien or CE3K had been the big SF movie that showed the world what the new effects technologies could do, not Star Wars? Both were decidedly more adult, even if Alien is just a monster movie in space.
When I was younger, I thought science fiction was nothing but Star Wars and Star Trek. Now you could understand that because that's all kids really see in Sci-Fi now these days, but really. Just ask an average Joe on what the first thing that comes to mind when he hears the words "Science Fiction" and Darth Vader, Captain Kirk, etc is going to pop in mind first.
Half of my short life was me thinking SciFi is just a bunch of cool guys on a spaceship going to different planets and fighting aliens and such. Then I actually explored much more serious SciFi, book and movie form and realized how much it has to comment on the contemporary world and extrapolate on possible futures.
So no, I don't think Star Wars really ruined science fiction although it tends to overshadow what the mainstream considers Sci-Fi. Any true Sci-Fi fan knows theres more to it than Star Wars or Star Trek. Then again, I wish mainstream Sci-Fi was smarter than it should be. Especially in the cinematic medium.
I mean has Science Fiction been really good in cinema lately? Despite Science Fiction elements, I can't really consider The Hunger Games Sci-Fi. And Elysium another recent film was barely passable. And a few years before, some lame alien invasion movies such as Battle Los Angeles and Skyline.
But there has been some improvements for Sci-Fi movies. District 9 (2009), Looper (2012), Inception (2010) and maybe Avatar (2009). The plot for that movie wasn't too good but if you actually go on Pandorapedia, the science for the flora, fauna of Pandora and the human technology was all scientifically explained. It just couldn't be exposited in the film.
But anyways, as I said before, SW may have demanded more action-heavy Sci-Fi but it hasn't really ruined it. I consider SW to be Science Fantasy anyway.
Blade Runner. A sci-fi movie I loved. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I'd consider both of these to be 'real' sci-fi, and both of them came out after Star Wars. 2001, A Space Odyssey—which came before. And Gravity, and other more recent films which are also sci-fi, and not fantasy.
Other movies and TV series did deal with aspects of 'real' sci-fi, including Babylon 5 (which dealt with humans living on space stations rather than 'other planets') Star Trek (in all its incarnations) that based its core concept on exploring the universe to discover what's 'out there.' And Farscape, which dealt with how humans might view the discovery that we are not alone. And the new Battlestar Galactica, which—before it swanned off into the realm of religion—dealt with artificial life forms and our responsibility for creating them. (Very like Blade Runner in concept, actually.) These shows also contained a certain amount of fantasy, or at least stretching, but I think at the core they were all serious sci-fi. They all anchored their stories to Earth as well, which Star Wars did not.
I loved Star Wars—and people need to remember how fun, unusual, and out-of-the-blue that movie was, when it first appeared—but I never mistook it for real Sci-Fi. It was just a fairy tale set in space, rather than in some medieval world. But it rocked!
It's true that it sparked off quite a number of imitators. But I think the problem comes not with the movie itself, but the fact that it was classified as sci-fi. Maybe that's a classification that needs to be reworked.
I'm curious as to whether people would include or exclude Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, and Gattaca as science fiction movies? (As I search for movies that have no space opera feel.) I would think "include", but my definition of science fiction isn't very strict.
There's not a lot I can add here that hasn't already been said. I will throw in that Star Wars is not science fiction and it certainly did not "ruin" science fiction as a genre. It amazes me that when someone is trying to vilify someone else's work, they quite ironically give that work more press than it deserves by making it the sole source of all evil.
Of course Star Wars was a commercial success and it's in the public eye even more now than it was in the 70's. Who cares? Michael Crichton is the first science fiction writer who comes to mind when you ask me who is my favorite person to handle the genre. He's been dead for seven years now and he's still publishing books, which makes him ten times more successful as a science fiction writer than George Lucas will ever be as a producer and film maker.
Oh and I say that with loving respect to George Lucas as I am still a fan of the Holy Trilogy and I even daringly admit to loving certain aspects of the Prequels, as well as the original 5 minute long version of the Clone Wars that aired late night on Cartoon Network. But my love of Star Wars does not overshadow my respect for science fiction as a genre.
@NateSean, I don't think anybody is trying to vilify someone else's work here. It isn't George Lucas that's the problem; it's Hollywood. They see the mighty success of Star Wars, and, being Hollywood, start pumping out clones. Maybe not literal clones, but kind of spiritual clones, like Battlestar Galactica - space opera stuff with pure-hearted heroes fighting unmitigated evil in space in the far future, with lots of spaceships and special effects and planets being destroyed and so on.
George Lucas did not ruin sci fi. It's how Hollywood producers reacted to his success that has (partially) ruined it, at least on the big screen. I'm well aware that there are still intelligent sci fi writers writing sophisticated and challenging novels in the sci fi genre that do not follow a Star Wars blueprint. The point of the article, though, was that these novels are not being made into movies. (And I don't want to get into a debate over whether smart, in-the-know people consider Star Wars sci fi or not. Hollywood does, and a big part of the movie audience does, and that's what I think the article is talking about.)
Separate names with a comma.