Saturday, January 08, 2011

Wherefore Art Thou Sci Fi?

I was recently talking to a fellow writer about our TV preferences, and he asked me the pointed question: “Do you watch a lot of sci fi?” It was a reasonable question, since much of my dramatic writing has a sci fi/fantasy/supernatural element of some sort. After thinking about it for a moment, I was forced to admit the answer was no.

It’s not that I’ve never watched sci fi, it’s just that I don’t watch much now, because, while there may be a handful of good sci fi shows that I’ve just missed, I don’t feel that the current T.V. landscape produces anything as appealing in the sci fi world as shows from the ‘80s like Quantum Leap, or Star Trek The Next Generation, or even the short lived War of the Worlds.
Why? I don’t think it’s due to any lack of talent among today’s TV writers. I just think it’s really hard to do sci fi well, and there’s very little payoff.

That is to say, it’s very easy for a sci fi world to appear unreal, farcical, or a parody, and even if you nail it, you have a limited audience.

I also think that it may be that our technology has become a little bit TOO advanced. There is a real way in which the 21st century is the future. Technology is advancing exponentially, and wild, fantastic science fiction ideas like electronic books (Isaac Asimov), wireless, handheld communication devices (Star Trek) and cyberspace (William Gibson) are now commonplace. Combine that with movies that provide digital effects that boggle the mind, and it just takes a lot to wow us anymore.

Finally, what I think people forget is that like all stories, science fiction stories are about relationships. About people and how we can relate to them. It’s possible to work so hard to make the science fiction world seem “real” that you forget that.

There’s a lot of great television being made today, and I hope that good sci fi can be a part of it. The critical success of a show like the reimagined Battlestar Galactica seems to indicate that it can. And of course, I myself have plenty of great ideas to contribute ; )

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