Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired!

This is a two-part post. Read Part 2 when you’re done!

If you read or watch a lot of science fiction, you may begin to notice certain themes that constantly crop up. Some of these, like the ridiculously sexy female scientist/alien/robot/whatever, detract from the realism — but no one is complaining about it. Not me, anyway. Hooray for Jeri Ryan!

But some of these overused cliches really need to go. I’ve collected a long list, which I have split into two parts. In no particular order, here are…

Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired!

The Pinocchio Syndrome

Mr. Data has a skin condition.This is the non-human – robot, artificial intelligence, alien, alien-hybrid, etc. — that wants to be more human. This gives the lazy sci-fi writer an opportunity to explore that age-old chestnut, “what does it mean to be human?”

Star Trek has been the worst offender in the overuse of the Pinocchio Syndrome, giving us Mr. Data (the robot who wants to be human), The Doctor (the A.I. who wants to be human), Mr. Spock (the alien-human hybrid who wants to be less human and more alien), Lt. Commander Worf (the alien raised by humans who wants to be alien), Constable Odo (the alien raised by humans who wants to be human) and even Seven of Nine (the human raised by aliens who wants to be human).

And let’s not forget Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Andy the Android in Bicentennial Man, Boomer (and perhaps all the Cylons) from the new “Battlestar Galactica,” Annalee in Alien Resurrection, and the T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

And that’s just robots. For aliens, there’s the Starman from Starman, Kal-El from Superman franchise, and all the characters from Third Rock From the Sun.

How about a robot who’s happy to be a robot, like Gigolo Joe in A.I., or Bender from Futurama? I’d like to see more of that. And what about Valentine Michael Smith from Stranger in a Strange Land, the human raised by Martians who wanted to be more Martian? Or Agent Smith from the Matrix films, who was perfectly happy to exist only as a program and couldn’t stand the stench of humanity? Then there’s Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who desired to become less human, if he could. Or at least less miserable.

I’m guessing that in this incomprehensibly vast universe, there are many things to be that are more interesting than “human.” Let’s give it a rest.

Ignoring the Butterfly Effect

Might as well stay in 1955 and found the Beatles.There are people who don’t like chaos theory, but that’s just because they don’t understand it.

If Marty McFly goes back in time and prevents his parents from meeting, there is no way to fix it. Even if Marty gets George and Lorraine to kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, and they get married, and buy the house in the Lyon Estates, and have three kids, and buy a 4×4, Marty and his siblings will still never be born. The sperm that makes Marty will never be joined with the egg that makes Marty – too many details have changed. No Universal Cosmic Force will ensure that Marty is born, and the McFlys will give birth to a different son, perhaps one with the good sense not to hang out with crazy old inventors.

If humanity founds the evil Terran Empire instead of the good and pacifistic United Federation of Planets, there would be no starship Enterprise, no evil Kirk, no goateed Spock. These people would never have been born, and a different Imperial starship with different officers would have encountered the Kirk, Spock et al from our universe (except that the two ships would not be conducting identical transports on the same spot at the same time). Contingency requires that as the histories of the “mirror” universes diverged, they would become increasingly different. People in one universe would not have “counterparts” in the other. It might be a cool plot device to see how beloved characters would behave if they were evil, but it makes no sense and it’s old and tired. Better that Kirk is split into good and evil halves by the transporter.

If you have a time travel story, feel free to experiment with immutable timelines (Michael Crichton’s awful Timeline springs to mind). But any change in a timeline has to produce universal change over time. “Fate” has no place in sci-fi.

The Wish-fulfilling Alien

Q Bear is SOOOO cute!What’s the name of that movie where a spaceship encounters an alien entity that grants the protagonists anything they want or desire, thereby demonstrating the dangers of getting what you wish for?

Oh yeah, it was Forbidden Planet (1956). And Solaris (1972). And Event Horizon (1997), Sphere (1998), and the other Solaris (2002). Then there are all the Star Trek episodes, such as “Shore Leave.”

If we could have anything we wished for, we would have nothing to live for. Or it would be too much power. Yeah, we get it.

Humanoid Aliens

Excuse me, do you know where I can get my weird head polished?There are two reasons to make your space aliens humanoid. The first, common to both dramatic productions and literary fiction, is to make alien characters understandable and relatable. Some stories even have thoroughly alien characters transform themselves into humanoids, or create humanoid proxies, for the sake of communication (think the Tymbrimi from David Brin’s Uplift Universe, or the Starman in Starman).

The second reason, a plague upon film and TV sci-fi, is financial. It’s a lot cheaper to create a Bajoran by placing a lump of putty on the bridge of an actor’s nose, than it is to go with CGI or puppet-based aliens. Some TV aliens are less “alien” than perfectly real human beings with deformities. Star Trek didn’t invent the cheap-and-lazy alien, but it certainly perfected it.

I don’t have the space here to go into the reasons why an alien life form, even an intelligent one, is unlikely to be an upright bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical, four-limbed, endoskeletal, pentadactyl, binocular and binaural chordate.

Anyway, it’s lazy, it’s done to death, and we have cheap CGI now.

On a side note, if an alien can reproduce human speech, is mentally capable of doing so, and bothers to learn English, it’s going to speak in Received Pronunciation, aka the King’s English. Why would an alien learn a provincial dialect like American English? They’d speak it correctly. All aliens should sound like Hugh Grant.

Grey Aliens

Great!  Now he'll never have to star in 'Krippendorf's Tribe!'Done, done, and done. Grey aliens were cool in 1977. By the end of the credits roll in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, they were over. Whitley Strieber needs to make up some original shit. Move on.

Gigeroid Aliens

This is the single most overused visual concept in all of science fiction; more played-out than alien grays, saucer-shaped UFOs, and office-building-style spaceship interiors combined. Aliens are about as likely to look like giant, acid-spewing, face-hugging, vaguely humanoid black cockroaches as they are to look like a TOS Klingon with the blackface and the bandito mustache.

H. R. Giger hasss sssent hisss lawyersss?  I ssshall lay my eggsss in their chesssts!When H.R. Giger’s “xenomorph” debuted in 1979’s Alien, it was absolutely brilliant, and maybe the scariest thing anyone had ever seen or imagined ever. And of course, the “Alien” sequels had every reason to repeat and improve on the same design. (Not that Giger saw a dime for it.)

But I remember when Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men introduced The Brood, and even as a teenager I thought, “Oh come on – can’t you guys be original?” Since then about one gazillion TV shows, movies, comic books and novels have ripped off the xenomorph alien. Giger even ripped himself off in Species.

Enough already. If you can’t be original (and there are plenty of underused alien concepts out there – get a copy of Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials), then just use Ewoks. Imagine a cute little teddy bear bursting out of someone’s chest.

Vertical Spacecraft

Bringing a supply of tasty treats to LV-426!There’s no up or down when you’re in free fall. No north or south, either. All directions are arbitrary. Objects don’t have a top or bottom unless you stamp “This End Up” on one of the sides.

Unless a spacecraft is designed to enter an atmosphere and land, there is no reason for it to have a top and bottom. It should be designed functionally, to take into account acceleration, or free fall, or whatever relativistic situations the crew will find themselves in. (And if there’s no crew, all bets are off.)

There are two reasons sci-fi spacecraft are often portrayed as flying office buildings, with a top, a bottom, elevators, and unnecessary bottomless pits down which Darth Vader can throw the Emperor. The first is financial; TV shows and movies can’t or won’t spend the money to portray space travel accurately. (Props to those that do, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and… um… that’s it.)

The second reason is what I call “The Nautical Paradigm.” Space travel is represented as an allegorical equivalent to ocean travel. As with so many other things, Star Trek stretched this idea as far as it would go, to the point of presenting space travel and space combat as taking place on a 2-dimensional plane, as on the ocean’s surface. The movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn even turned this trope into a critical plot point.

Vertical spacecraft always have universal Earth-like gravity. This is usually explained as “artificial gravity,” a fun idea with absolutely no scientific basis whatsoever. (No, gravitons do NOT work that way.) This is often coupled with Trek-style “inertial dampeners” that prevent the ship’s inhabitants from being flattened into goo against the hull, but inexplicably do not prevent them from being thrown about, or injured, or from falling to their deaths down unnecessary bottomless pits.

As science and technology progress, manned space flight becomes less likely, rather than more; the future of space exploration, for better or worse, belongs to the robots. But if we’re going to present images of biological humans exploring the stars, let’s try to do it marginally realistically. If you want “gravity,” at least spin the ship, or have it accelerating at one gee. And please, design spaceships like spaceships, and not like clipper ships or oil derricks.

Slow down there, Missy!Slow-Mo in Zero Gee

God, this pisses me off. Things do not happen more slowly in zero gravity or microgravity. How do we know this? First, there is no basis for it in physical law. Second, there’s tons of video out there of real astronauts in real microgravity. Unless you slow down the film, they’re moving at normal speed.

In fact, sometimes things move a bit faster in microgravity. This is because they don’t weigh anything, and aren’t rubbing against the ground. Of course, objects without weight still have mass, and it requires energy to get them going and to slow them down again. So motion in microgravity is different from motion at the Earth’s surface. But not slower.

A person who is unaccustomed to low or zero-gee might move more cautiously until they got the hang of it. One may freely assume that trained astronauts are not such people.

Remember the slow-mo free-fall battle on the underside of the hull in the otherwise-entertaining Star Trek: First Contact? It made me want to tear my hair out. (And does the Enterprise’s artificial gravity field stop right at the hull? Really? How does that work? And why not extend it?)

Now be sure to read … Part 2!

203 Comments

  1. Great article! Thanks for taking the time to write this. It’s time that TV/Movie SF writers had better standards.

  2. And what about English-speaking aliens? All of whom apparently understand American English colloquialisms? Puh-leeeze. Daniel Jackson was brought into the Stargate mission because of his facility with languages. So what happened? On one planet in the galaxy, they happen to speak ancient Egyptian, but on every other planet, they speak modern Canadian?

  3. re: Time Travel

    This one only bothers me when the creators set up the time travel rules of their universe, and then contradict themselves. Star Trek is particularly guilty, breaking their own rules within single episodes as well as treating it entirely differently in separate episodes and series. I give Twelve Monkeys major props for handling time travel in a new way.

  4. On the subject of gravity and “up/down relation”. Yes unless you have some sort of artifical spin gravity (MechWarrio GravDeck anyone?” there isn’t a need for any sort of “up or down”. But you need to understand how the human brain works. Sure you could have computers lining the walls, ceilings and floors of any given zero-g room. But the moment a human goes into said room they’re going to be confused since our minds are programmed with gravity in mind.

    Also, fighters would still need to “bank turn” in space. If you spin an object around it’s axis at high speed, even in space it’s still going to create G-forces for whatever is inside it. So if you spin a fighter around it’s central axis at mach 5, the human inside is going to be turned into a pile of goo.

  5. I just can say Amen to that.

    By the way, maybe we need cyberpunk (a genre I think has fallen into oblivion or even worst, mutated to a different kind of sci-fi) again, where things are dirtier and way worst than now, instead of future evolving to a “all white, clean and polite” kind of future society.

    Loved to see how someone other than me (and from other country/culture) did wrote the very same thoughts that I have had for many years 🙂

  6. Wow. Some you the commenters are taking this waaaay too seriously.

    I like your list although I disagree with some and there is a special place in my heart for most of the cliches.

    I think the fan(atic)s are getting a little worked up because you criticised their fandom.

  7. you are stupid and your blog is the worst waste of time I have ever endured. Your opinions are flawed in almost every way because of the lack of intelligent thought processes in your brain.

  8. How about the space travel through hyperspace that looks like going through a dirt road short cut? battles inside hiperspace where you can only use some wheapons but not others ? LOL

  9. Some points are good, but others are just lame…

    a) Time Loop plots, often the concept is that the going back to fix is in fact a part of the original sequence and just goes unnoticed. Such as occurred in Babylon 5. (But yes, Back to the Future had a number of inconsistencies. Like why didn’t Marty’s mom recognize that he looked a lot like that guy back in high school.)

    b) As for all the ships being flat planed in space. Well, this is because there IS in fact an up/down in space. Nearly all space occurrences happen in the milky way galaxy (few take place elsewhere, and when they do it’s usually another spiral galaxy). Spiral galaxies are polar.

    Your argument is akin to saying why do they say the ship is sailing west. There is no west. And there isn’t. It’s just a rational concept we’ve created utilizing the polar nature of earth.

    So why would you think mankind would not do the same based on the galatic pole? Have such a universal line would greatly aid in navigation in numerous ways.

    Babylon 5 did actually break this in numerous ways. Ships docking into the station would actually enter in a rotational orbit. Star Furies finally showed us zero-G maneuvers. And Whitestars often broke the planar movements when in combat.

    All very realistic to me.

    Regarding the Pinnochio theory. Well, remember Spock and T’pal (whatever the Vulcan on Enterprise was called) had anti-pinnochio syndrome. In that they were fighting becoming more human.

    Also, there are number of great plots and that’s about it. Star Wars is no different than King Arthur. Young knight, magic sword, old wizard, princess trapped in fortress, black knight, friendly rogue assistant, and talking steed (R2-D2 – which most people do not realize when in the X-Wing makes the simile for Luke’s “talking steed”).

    But the stories can be done well or done really bad. And that said, even a bad story can be done really well so as to provide a lot of fun. (Case in point: “Back to the Future” it was a great fun flick for all it’s flaws. Much more entertaining than say a flawless documentary.)

  10. < <“Star Trek” has been the worst offender in the overuse of the Pinocchio Syndrome, giving us Mr. Data (the robot who wants to be human), The Doctor (the A.I. who wants to be human), Mr. Spock (the alien hybrid who wants to be human), Constable Odo (the alien raised by humans who wants to be human) and even Seven of Nine, the human (raised by aliens) who wants to be human.>>

    The Doctor doesn’t want to be human, just artsy. Spock despised his human side. Odo never wanted to be human, just hook up with a Bajoran. And 7 of 9, well, yes: everything on Voyager was recycled.

  11. I laughed out loud at this. I’m a big Trek and Star Wars fan, and some things you listed I had thought about, but others never occurred to me.

  12. http://www.amazon.com/Firefly-Complete-Nathan-Fillion/dp/B0000AQS0F/sr=8-1/qid=1159401915/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-6396966-6336135?ie=UTF8&s=dvd

    No aliens, no sound in space, excellent character development. Not even all the humans speak English. Only problem I have with it is with the gravity on the ship, which persists even without power, somehow.

    http://www.amazon.com/Battlestar-Galactica-Edward-James-Olmos/dp/B000AJJNFE/sr=1-3/qid=1159402042/ref=pd_bbs_3/102-6396966-6336135?ie=UTF8&s=dvd

    No aliens, just robots that look human because humans created them. All fights occur in three dimensions. All ships are designed to move in 3 dimensions. Again, no source of gravity. Although it is the ultimate manifestation of the pinnocchio principle, it is brilliantly done, and well-reasoned.

    I agree with most of your points, except with time travel. Infinity is infinity. By simple mathematics, the probability of any possible event, with an infinite number of attempts, becomes 1. If there are infinite universes, which we have to grant them because it’s their world and we can’t disprove it, then regardless of how remote the possibility of an evil Spock with a goatee, at least one of the universes has one. Sure it’s mind-bogglingly small, but that’s the point of infinity.

    Also, those universes supposedly are created by all the possibilities occurring of every possible choice. That’s inherently a chaotic system. Minute changes in input creating great and unpredictable outcomes. Therefore the concept of Lorentz attractors applies. In such a complicated system, in fact, strange attractors are practically inevitable. Thus, though unlikely, it is possible that the likelihood of a Spock-like creature in the 23rd century is extraordinarily high for no good reason. And the only way to know for sure is to figure out the equation (impossible) and simulate a vast array of inputs (doubly impossible).

    Now, having trumped the geeks in thei geekdom, I’d like to point out that despite being the biggest geek that ever geeked, I do most of my farking while my fiancee sleeps off sex. You don’t have to believe me any more than you have to believe in evolution, but I have enough evidence to convince me.

  13. I very much agree with the author, science fiction themes have gotten rather stale. There is lots of room for inventive social/sexual ideas. How about exploring different family structures among alien races? Look at life on earth, there are all sorts of strange sexual reproductive arrangements. Fish changes sexes; some are all born one sex and then change to the opposite sex at mid-life. Fish also have super males and bees have super females (queen bees). How about tri-sexual families where there is one hetrosexual male and two bisexual females? There are many many possible variations, why not expore the possibilities in science fiction?

  14. Pointy spacecraft irritate me more than vertical ones. The sensible design shapes are: square, because it makes room-packing trivial; spherical, because it balances forces and inertia; linear, to keep the crew section away from the radiation of the drive.

    For small, manoeverable craft (far more probably maintainance scooters than fighters – space distances make fights a capital-ship business) the proper shapes are: spherical with six arms towards the corners of a cube, spherical with four arms towards the corners of a tetrahedron. Bab 5 style, spherical with four arms in an X, is close but only really makes sense if they plan to spend most time boosting straight “forwards”, for which I can see little use.

  15. I think your blog has a lot of substance, but it makes a lot of assertians that are still unknown. Many people mentioned the time travel ones and some mentioned space ship stuff. I am going to make one further note on the space ships and their shapes. Space is not empty or frictionless when you travel in it. There are particles, but they are magnituded upon magnitudes less common. However, if a space ship can travel at speeds approaching the speed of light, this friction may no longer be meaningless. Also, shapes can affect the way forces are acted on them, so a ship that can open a hole in spacetime may desire a certain shape. Again this is all speculation. I think that you jump to conclusions a little quickly.

    I also would like to argue against your assertion that fate does not have a place in SciFi. Fate most certainly does have a place because it is a scientific theorem. Their are 2 schools of philosophic thought on the matter, those that believe in predetermination and those that believe in randomness and unpredictability. Th former being fate-believers and the latter being fate-non-believers. I think that some of the best Scifi is born out of the argument of these two philosophical theories.

    I do, however, agree with the essence of the blog, that being that scifi has become monotonous, routine, and dumb. I think smarter more real cutting edge science based would be more interesting to people. Also, I feel that CGI has killed the quality of the scripts that are being written (i.e. original Starwars vs new Starwars). I think movie makers have lost sight of the fact that the script is the most important thing in a movie effects are extra.

    Overall, good blog though.

  16. some eejit said in a comment that the american/ british accent was no more correct than any other type. That is wrong.If english is your mother tongue ,its valid (scots ,welsh and irish come to mind)

    if english is a second language ,you just got to try to speak more clearly.

    it pisses me off that aliens/humans in scifi seem to be linguistic savants.

    if polish,french ,indians etc muck up english why not klingon,vulcan and borg?

  17. A theoretical physicist, I’m blanking on his name, worked out the mathematics of time travel and came up with something different, and supposedly proved it right. The basic idea is that there is only one timeline, period, and everything will stay consistent even with time travel.

    Imagine a pool table, with a little wormhole. The billiard ball going through the wormhole will go back a few seconds in time, come back on a path that intersects its path to the wormhole.

    Now roll the ball through, at such a speed that it will come out the wormhole, and knock itself off course, so it never enters the wormhole in the first place. Paradox!

    What this guy proved is that the ball will come out of the wormhole slightly off course, and strike its earlier self a glancing blow that allows the earlier ball to go through the wormhole after all.

    And why did the ball come out of the wormhole off course? Because, before entering the wormhole, it was struck a glancing blow…

  18. Uh, I agree with a lot of this, but – Received Pronunciation? Are you joking? Listen, if you’re under the impression that RP is inherently more “correct” than American English, you need to take an introductory linguistics class. Whichever dialect is most widespread will be the most useful – and American English is all over the place, these days.

  19. To complain and pick at everything shows a lack of appreciation for the creativity taken to produce what they have. Question: Have you, the publisher of this 2 piece whining piece of garbage produced anything that comes near the creativity of the pieces you’ve taken such care to tear down and criticize? If not, then shut up! The same way people who don’t vote really shouldn’t complain, people who don’t create shouldn’t tear down those that do.

  20. Well, I guess at this late date I only have three things to say:

    1.) Some people have adopted this bizarre idea, that one should not be able to criticize something without being able to produce better. I do not understand this at all. I won’t bother to go into my own history as an author of science fiction, because it’s irrelevant. Of course I can criticize. The only question is whether I do it WELL or not.

    These are the same people who say you can’t criticize the War in Iraq without coming up with a better plan. The War in Iraq is unfixable. Progressives DID have a better plan: Don’t have a War in Iraq.

    2.) The Butterfly Effect is not a theory that needs to be proven. It is an observed effect, the natural consequence of mathematics. The only way their could NOT be a Butterfly Effect is if a supernatural being imposed arbitrary fate on the universe.

    Fate is not a scientific concept. It is a supernatural one, and has no place in sci fi, or even literary fiction. It belongs only in fantasy.

    Any time travel theory MUST take into account contingency. Any story whatsoever must take into account contingency. In a non-sci-fi story, the audience will notice when the plot does not make sense. But if the plot makes no sense in a sci-fi story, as in BttF, they will write it off as “just” sci-fi. Not to pick on BttF — it’s a great movie — but this is just lazy.

  21. 3.) There is no way to predict how aliens will communicate with us. Most likely, as suggested by CE3K, they will be UNABLE to communicate with us normally — they are alien, after all.

    My comment about Received Pronunciation was pretty arbitrary. I am assuming, quite arbitrarily, that an alien who bothers to learn English will want to learn it correctly.

    There are only two ways to determine what is “correct” English that make any sense. (1) There is no “correct” version, just regional and temporal variants. (2) The correct version is the version spoken by sophisticated, educated residents of the language’s culture of origin.

    As an alien, I choose (2) — Received Pronunciation.

  22. wow. i had fun reading both parts. and then i glanced through the comments. man, why the hell did you get so many flamers? most of them obviously don’t give a crap about anything sci-fi, why the hell did they bother reading this? idiots..

    anyway, props dude for writing this

  23. You really have to broaden your thinking. Not to say you haven’t made a few points, but the flaws in sf that are created by budget issues/pandering to unintelligent audience/haste and laziness, can also be ascribed to greater causes invented by someone else (such as me) to defend them 🙂

    “The Pinocchio Syndrome” – May be worn out, but consider that the definition of human doesn’t have to be exclusive to US…maybe that robot just wishes it could be an intelligence that is capable of reasoning, but also of identifying with other lifeforms and feeling emotions. A desire to be Homo Sapiens is just the analog we use, because let’s face it – the bridge to interesting, purely intellectual sf may never be crossed, and those crowds who lined up to watch Luke Skywalker battle blue people and lizardmen don’t want to watch the relationship unfold between two AIs with baffling motives for existing.

    “Ignoring the Butterfly Effect” – Now really. Chaos theory might say that an event can happen in any which way according to a squintillion variables or even no understandable variable at all, but in the realm of possibility isn’t there a 1 in a googol chance that Marty’s past will unfold the same way? Well look at that, it happened! Don’t we love chance? There are also those who hold that time is unchangeable – a perfectly tenable position. Maybe Marty’s parents only met because he time traveled in the first place.

    “The Wish-Fulfilling Alien” – Science fiction wasn’t created to explore reality, or it would be called science. While I myself would agree with you, and take the purist’s route, let the fantasy element of sf continue to enchant the loving masses.

    “The Theme Planet” – What if a world was a tiny bit closer to its Main Sequence sun than Earth is. Not a Mercury-sized gap I’m talking about here, just the right few thousand or million kilometers that would make the planet somewhat hotter than ours. Now maybe this planet, Dagobah, had a large water composition, and during its early ages there was a lot of outgassing through tectonic activity, which is typical of terrestrial planets. So a huge amount of water vapor gets in the atmosphere. Eventually carbon-based life occurs (and let’s not get into HOW, it happened on our planet so let the topic rest) and this life is largely jungle plants. With more sunlight, and more water vapor in the air, not to mention Dagobah might have had a very high content of C02 or other greenhouse gases, these plants proliferate and cover the globe. This is possible because even at the 30-60 and 60-90 degree latitudes, it’s still damn hot. We can even allow for wide temperature differences…70 Fahrenheit way up at the poles, and 100+ at the equator. The jungle biome perpetuates itself, and what we have, after billions of years of modulation and variation, is ‘present-day’ Dagobah. Hey, didn’t Earth have a time when everything was jungle, even the poles? Unless you want to believe the mighty Bible. So you see, there are a dozen solid premises for the theme planet.

    I could do all of these, but I’ve already OCD’ed over responding to this blog for the last 20 minutes, and I’m tired. A lot of them are cliched as you say, but that’s the only thing wrong with most: they’re overused. Not that they’re based on impossible reality. Cheers.

  24. Actually I care more about plot, characters and good writing that about make up, cgi or things lik “why they suposse to be like that and not like a fish with 6 legs?”
    Sometimes Sci Fi is just a fantastical way to say some things.
    And anyway, lol, it’s just entertaiment, not a scientist thesis

  25. I liked Part 2 much better. One issue I do have with your summations is, you are a science snob. I think you write very well, and most of points are nicely articulated, however, you ignore that this is entertainment and not science theory. Talking of creation doesn’t insinuate the 7 Earth Day Biblical description. The idea that a technologically superior race could manipulate a less advance race that they had cultivated in the first place leaves the door open for discussions of the supernatural, or supernormal. To say it has no place is Science FICTION, is just insisting that your own world view is unchallengeable.

    Pinocchio Syndrome. Agreed this is a tired concept. As was said before, however, most of your examples are in my estimation inaccurate. Roy Batty just wanted to live, no be human, he had a superiority complex, he viewed himself better than humans. Spock, likewise, didn’t want to be more human. And T-800 only started acting human because he was “adaptable” and his source material was teenage boy.

    Ignoring the Butterfly Effect: Let’s start with time travel is not possible. As was stated above, taking spatial position into account, there is the matter of entropy. Just a small example, what force on earth can make Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullet travel back into the barrel, re-assemble the exploded particles.. ect. etc.

    Vertical Spacecraft. While I see you point, I’m sure you realize that everything we do in life is not based purely on practicality. Ergonomics and aesthetics. At the end of every decade it seems there is no shortage of those predicting how we will live in X number of years. One I find comically is the continued insistence that we all take pills for our meals. As I heard one British Journalist say, “these prognosticators fail to take into account that we like to eat” So, given that gravity and atmospherics don’t play a part, then other things, like comfort, will. Human are happier in familiar surroundings, some design concepts are simply pleasing and safe.

    Lastly, artificial gravity. I know this seems to be a sore spot with you, but let’s face it. Muscles atrophy, if we as a race ever branch out to the stars in a serious way, we are going to want gravity. How will it be invented, we don’t know, but speculating on it’s existence is hardly worth the vilification it recieves.

  26. Good one, very funny… although I did pick up on the “um, spock was looking at it the other way” but same theory, just a different side of the coin.

    A lot of the comments are entertaining too 🙂

    As for the negative comments: sheesh, you people took the time to read what you consider to be crap and *then* take the time to reply along the lines of “get a life”: to those people I say take a look in the frickin’ mirror!

  27. | Banking? Hey buddy Inertia still exists even in a vacuum. So you want the ships to waste fuel not only turning but compensating for your forward motion? Not practical if your small fighter has limited fuel.

    If you do not compensate for forward motion, the forward motion will continue. Flight surfaces do not work in vacuum; there is nothing for them to push against. Banking would do nothing (except cause your craft to be at a different angle, and waste fuel in the process).

    | fighters would still need to “bank turn” in space. If you spin an object around it’s axis at high speed, even in space it’s still going to create G-forces for whatever is inside it. So if you spin a fighter around it’s central axis at mach 5, the human inside is going to be turned into a pile of goo.

    Your velicity does not amplify the effects of rotation, else your head might fly apart when you turn it to look at the droolicious gal across the aisle from you on an airliner travelling at 500 knots (at least not the big head). Nor does your velocity relative to some other reference point affect your accelleration. (You have to open the throttle more to go faster on the highway in your car because of wind drag—which is annoyingly exponential)

    In your spacecraft, you rotate (at a reasonablly non-destructive rate) to position your thusters in the direction of the desired change of velocity (which includes changing direction), and fire them to revector. Within your inertial frame of reference, you would simply be rotating, then accellerating. Your velocity relative to other objects is not relevant. Yes, changing your direction by expending reaction mass (according to Newtonian mechanics—the whole action-reaction thing) is expensive; but that’s just the way it is. That is why real space craft do as little revectoring as possible.

    | unless you have some sort of artifical spin … gravity … there isn’t a need for any sort of “up or down”. But you need to understand how the human brain works. Sure you could have computers lining the walls, ceilings and floors of any given zero-g room. But the moment a human goes into said room they’re going to be confused since our minds are programmed with gravity in mind.

    Space shuttles and manned space stations have consoles at peculiar angles and positions. The crew deal with it just fine—often working side by side, but upside down to each other.

    But, granted, a cinematic audience (vidience?) is, another matter (as is a stage set).

    (Oh. Someone suggested prescience on the part of Clarke, regarding velcro. The stuff did exist well before 1968, and was already in use on spacecraft, keeping all manner of things from floating about the place.)

    üR

  28. I will say this, it sounds like you expect all science to stop at this point. The simple fact is that even what you say should be retired may in fact one day become reality. how many imagined the internet fifty years ago? Personal computers that fit in ones hand? Cel phones, MP3 players, fact is that we’re at the very beginning of mankinds space travel.

    (There is nothing that stats aliens can’t be humanoid in nature either?)

  29. I also disagree with the “End of Science” types. While it’s possible that a Theory of Everything would tie a nice little bow around Physical Law, I doubt it.

    But you can’t just put magic in a story and label it “far future science.” Well you can, but it’s tired.

    As for humanoid aliens, there is something in science that states alien won’t be humanoid: probability.

  30. I have to say that these are some very good points and quite amusingly written.

    Short point though, giger didn’t rip off the xenomorphs when he designed the creature for species. He just used the same idea. The same designs and ideas that he uses throughout his art. Take a look at it. You’ll see ‘xenomorph’ heads and tails everywhere, melded with human forms. For those to films he just…alienned them up I guess…

  31. This was great. It reminded me of all those great movies and T.V. shows that I’ve seen and liked. Although I’m deeply involved with a great new fantasy book, science fiction is another of my favorites. Without imagination, our world would be but a microscopic speck of dust void of the limitless possibilities awaiting us.

  32. “I don’t have the space here to go into the reasons why an alien life form, even an intelligent one, is unlikely to be an upright bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical, four-limbed, endoskeletal, pentadactyl, binocular and binaural chordate.”

    Dude, it’s the internet, you have all the space you want. Go ahead, because frankly some of these features are very much expected in alien life forms.

  33. Oh, and butterfly effect is something else than simple causality. I agree with your point, but you label it as a “butterfly effect” incorrectly.

  34. “Oh, and butterfly effect is something else than simple causality. I agree with your point, but you label it as a “butterfly effect” incorrectly.”

    You are correct. However, from the Wikipedia article on the Butterfly Effect:

    The term is sometimes used in popular media dealing with the idea of time travel, usually inaccurately. Most time travel depictions simply fail to address butterfly effects. According to the actual theory, if history could be “changed” at all (so that one is not invoking something like the Novikov self-consistency principle which would ensure a fixed self-consistent timeline), the mere presence of the time travelers in the past would be enough to change short-term events (such as the weather) and would also have an unpredictable impact on the distant future. Therefore, no one who travels into the past could ever return to the same version of reality he or she had come from and could have therefore not been able to travel back in time in the first place, which would create a phenomenon known as a time paradox.

    Which is exactly what I was saying.

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