Thursday, March 6, 2014

Science Fiction Tropes: Why Do We Keep Going Back to the Same Themes?

By. Survivor8

The first article alluded, as you were likely aware of, to science fiction as a deep, varied, and multi-tiered genre.  Though it may be considered an offshoot of fantasy, it has become a monster of its own right— big and ready to devour the weak. It’s okay, though we’re all weak when compared to it. The beauty of the genre is just how limitless it really can be. Sure, science is used as its backdrop, but the fiction part is where we shove science down a bottomless pipe. All writers can play god with their stories, but science fiction writers turn into malevolent and twisted gods attempting to seek the new and thrilling.

Despite its ongoing and revolutionary  innovations, the genre has a few themes or tropes it can’t shake off. Humanity continuously concerns itself with these topics and are sometimes stubbornly unable to move on. Leading them to pressure the writers, to have the main character save the day or write a spin-off.. Whether you want to write a great science fiction story or keep an eagle-eye out for the next great hit, here are a few ideas that tend to cling a lot.

The Apocalypse and the Ruins It Leaves Behind

Strangely, we as a whole seem to be consistently concerned with our eventual demise. This does vary according to when a story is written (e.g. the Cold War where the population was freaking out about a nuclear winter). Yet, there have been moments where we’re not seemingly teetering towards pressing the self-annihilate button. This was evident during the Bubonic Plague as it is now with North Korea, whose leader constantly threatens to bomb something new with every passing week. Due to events such as this there’s an older generation constantly lamenting the atrocities in their present lives, even though the state of everything was likely no different when they were young.

The fact is? People are not only seemingly-obsessed with the destruction of our society, but as well with its aftermath. When stripped away from our every day needs, how would humanity react? Judging from most stories that run with this trope, usually we devolve into anachronistic cannibalism. The trope remains popular because it’s an easy medium for writers to express how exactly they view human nature. Who are we really, when the smart-phones are gone and the responsibilities are swept under a rug? Short answer: we’re terrible, apparently.

Travelling Through Time

Time is not a thing. It doesn’t exist in a room. You can’t put a leash on it and call it George. It’s figurative at best and confusing at worst. Thousands of years of thought have been put into it, and the most scientists and philosophers can come up with to explain it is a shrug. This is another theme that is only a reflection of human thought.  In short, it’s our obsession with either fixing that one little mistake that cost us something dear (possibly whatever screwed over your new Flappy Bird high score) or seeing what lies ahead of us (perhaps preventing heartbreak or hangovers).

It’s a mix of curiosity and regret that makes us want to time travel. We can’t actually achieve this. If we could, what then? What if nothing can be changed and it’s all predetermined? What if your time travel escapades turn into a Simpsons Halloween episode and stepping on a twig means you destroyed humanity before it even got its start? Considering its immense popularity, maybe you just want to get on that London police box and go traveling with a handsome man of the medical profession. The topic has yet to abate in popularity, so might as well get used to it.


Aliens, man. 

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