Recently, I was sharing some thoughts on science fiction with Republibot 3 and the conversation started to sound like something that viewers of this site might find interesting, or at best, amusing. I ran the idea of stringing the comments into an article, and he said it was OK by him, so what follows might be titled "Men are from Mars, And Women Just Can't Understand SF."
Mama Fisi: I was thinking about doing an op-ed article on "Comedy and Science Fiction." It seems to me that SF takes itself way too seriously, and most of the films I've seen seem to think that they've got to have some kind of Profound Message, which is usually phrased in Obscure Terms. This is why SF comedies are such rare and precious jewels. And I'm not talking about the
unintentionally funny movies, either--I mean movies like "Galaxy Quest" and "Men In Black," "Back to the Future" and "Quark," that not only give us some good, creative laughs, but have some honest-to-goodness SF chops behind them.
I bought my husband "100 Great Sci-Fi Movies" for our anniversary. The box had Gamera and Galaxina on the cover, and said the movies included "Mark Hammill! Bill Paxton! James Earl Jones!" ...but probably not in the movies you think. Scott's got a vast collection of SF movies, most of them painfully unwatchable unless you're stoned or comatose or both. He says that there's at least one good or interesting thing in every SF film, no matter how bad--be it a costume, a space ship, a set, a concept, or some chick with great hooters.
I find that my tolerance level for ridiculous premises accompanied by junk science and wooden acting has a far, far lower threshold than his does. I've tried reading SF, and in my opinion, too many stories get lost in the
pedantry. Remember when I needed advice from you when I was writing "Star Sheep...?" Now I realize that the stories I enjoy reading don't get too heavy with the
science aspect, they pick you up and carry you along with the narrative. A friend of ours recently sent us the anthalogy "Escape From Earth." The title story was very engaging, told from the perspective of a teenaged boy who stumbles upon some cadets from the future who are trying to steal depleted uranium so their training ship can make the hyperspace jump back to their own
time frame. There's also one, "Mars Girl" which is narrated by a teenaged girl whose parents were selected to colonize Mars, and she's a rather reluctant passenger. The first few "chapters" were pretty good, realistic SF, but she went for a walk outside the colony and fell through a sink-hole and I think she's now being rescued by a Martian native, so it just went off the
reality-rails. I haven't finished reading it yet.
I think the big problem is that many people don't quite understand science to begin with, so science fiction starts off sounding incomprehensible to them; this motif has been expanded upon so that "it ain't SF if it doesn't leave you going 'Huh?'" This may be why the original "Star Wars" was such a huge hit--it was a story most folks could undertstand, the good guys won, and the ending was totally unambiguous. How many other SF movies can say that?
R3: I actually agree with Scott: every SF movie has something good in it, no matter how awful. That's part of the fun of pre-21st century SF: you have to *Look* for the good. It's more interactive. Yes, the special effects in Forbidden Planet don't look realistic, but they're gorgeous! Yes, 2001 is possibly the most boring english language film ever made, but it's got that great centrifuge set. Yes, Superman 1 eats ass, but it's got that great scene where Reeve almost drops the dead Margot, then catches himself and looks terrified, and it puts me on the edge of tears every time. Also there's that lovely piece of music, "Leaving Home" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXYj8nChItw (2:16 on)
I actually agree with YOU about most SF sucking. My repeated head-against-the-wall conversations about the need for literary criticism in SF are pretty much all about that. You got people like Clarke who can't write their way out of paper bag. Then you've got people like Asimov, who can, but choose not to. Then