Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

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Is 'science fiction' a bad word now?

Postby Adam Balm on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:16 pm

MSN has a new story up on the controversy that ensued in the SF community when the author of Children of Men and Alfonso Cuaron swore up and down that Children of Men was not "science fiction". It just has future exploration of biological and sociological trends and clearly science fiction has never dealt with any of that. But basically it's an old argument between those who are comfortably in the 'science fiction label' ghetto and those who aint. It reminds me of how Harlan Ellison fought his publisher tooth and nail to get the words 'science fiction' to never appear on any of his books....

When director Alfonso Cuarón was promoting his stunning, apocalyptic "Children of Men" late last year, he said in at least one interview that the movie was not science fiction, but a chase thriller with sociological overtones. Cuarón's position was similar to that of P.D. James, author of the novel on which the film was based. James, an esteemed mystery writer who made her first foray into writing about the future with her novel "The Children of Men," ruffled the feathers of other science-fiction writers by distancing herself from them. "P.D. James won few friends in the [sci-fi] community by whining about how her serious book wasn't science fiction, all the while rewriting an old Brian Aldiss novel, "Greybeard," says British author and film critic Kim Newman.


One interesting note is that no one ever is ashamed of the 'fantasy' label. Cuaron didn't desperately try to avoid Harry Potter being called fantasy. It seems an inferiority complex that is almost unique to the genre...

Read more here:

http://movies.msn.com/movies/sci-fi?GT1=7701
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Postby Nordling on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:20 pm

There was a similar argument about JURASSIC PARK. Steven Spielberg stated that the film was not so much science fiction as science fact. But come on, it's got dinosaurs, and as of 3:20 PM Central time we don't have dinosaurs roaming the earth again.

People shouldn't be embarrassed by sci-fi. Maybe they should call it "speculative fiction."
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Postby Lord Voldemoo on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:23 pm

Trek-o-phobia?

It's unfortunate. Science Fiction is still marginalized as a serious genre of literature and film, I wonder if that all relates back to the pulp sci-fi movies and magazines of the 30's, 40's and 50's, or earlier? I am not much of a student of SciFi literary history, I'll admit. It's still considered kids' stuff by many, which is a little ironic given some of the social, political and scientific topics addressed through the years in Sci Fi.

Frakkin' snobs.
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Postby Fawst on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:24 pm

Science Fact? Come on, Steve. It's a fictional tale of a theme park gone awry. It could almost be a 70's disaster movie. Had he said that that's what it was and not sci-fi, I could respect it. But really, JP is all about a scientific field (cloning) in a fictional setting. Sci-Fi. Fuckers.

Children of Men I can kind of understand. Truman Show is kind of sci-fi, but I can see that argument too. Star Wars? Fantasy.

Man I hate Spielberg more and more with every story he's involved in.
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Postby Nordling on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:26 pm

Hate's kinda strong. He's just selling his movie. Can't blame him for that.
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Postby Fawst on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:29 pm

Come on, next he'll say that Close Encounters was a Conspiracy Thriller. Honestly, he just irks me now.
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Postby Nordling on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:32 pm

...it is a conspiracy thriller. And a sci-fi film.
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Postby havocSchultz on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:33 pm

It's actually a conscifiracy thriller...
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Postby The Vicar on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:35 pm

I never saw sci-fi elements in Children of Men.
Or On the Beach.
Or 1984.

Just because in film takes place in some distant or not too distant future, does that alone justify calling it sci-fi?

If the story in COM had taken place now, would this conversation even be taking place?

There were no, for lack of a better term, "fantasical elements" in COM.
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Postby instant_karma on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:39 pm

Given his last few movies were A.I., Minority Report and War of the Worlds, I think it's safe to say that Spielberg isn't ashamed of the sci-fi genre.

I can see what they're trying to say about Children of Men. I think it comes from people having too narrow a concept of what science fiction can touch upon, and getting too hung up on the theorital technology aspects.

It's like trying to say 1984 isn't sci-fi.

Edit: Heh, clearly I hadn't read The Vicar's post as I was writing this...
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Postby so sorry on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:40 pm

Lord Voldemoo wrote:Trek-o-phobia?


Too true...

I can understand maybe how an author might not like his book labeled science fiction, cause lets face it, in any book store Sci Fi isn't front and center.... its on the shelf next to the D&D books and comic books (sorry, graphic novels).
But I can't see why anyone in the movie industry would have the same issue. Where is the stigma in Hollywood? I don't see it...



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Postby The Vicar on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:42 pm

1984 isn't sci-fi.

Sorry, its just not.

Ask any refugee from the olde Soviet empire about the events in 1984, and they'll tell you that that's what they'd been living with during the Stalin era.

Brutal, totalitarian government is not a sci-fi conceit - its a real world fact.

Ask the Tibetans, if you don't trust the russkies.
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Postby Fawst on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:45 pm

Actually, Sci-Fi is a really overused term. I know of plenty of Sci-Fi stories that aren't really based on Science at all.
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Postby The Vicar on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:47 pm

Fawst wrote:Actually, Sci-Fi is a really overused term. I know of plenty of Sci-Fi stories that aren't really based on Science at all.


We need a term between sci-fi & fantasy.
Or other than.

Speculative fiction?
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Postby so sorry on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:47 pm

The Vicar wrote:1984 isn't sci-fi.

Sorry, its just not.

Ask any refugee from the olde Soviet empire about the events in 1984, and they'll tell you that that's what they'd been living with during the Stalin era.


I just asked Yakov Smirnoff.

He said "In the US, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party finds you! "
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Postby The Vicar on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:49 pm

so sorry wrote:
The Vicar wrote:1984 isn't sci-fi.

Sorry, its just not.

Ask any refugee from the olde Soviet empire about the events in 1984, and they'll tell you that that's what they'd been living with during the Stalin era.


I just asked Yakov Smirnoff.

He said "In the US, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party finds you! "


Perfect Smirnoff blast.
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Postby Nordling on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:50 pm

1984 isn't sci-fi?

Yeah, it totally is.

The subject and themes may be pulled straight out of the then-current situation in Russia, but the tech in 1984 was very sci-fi. TVs that could watch the watchers? Many of the vehicles? Doublespeak? These concepts now may not be farfetched, but at the time there were people who scoffed at the novel, saying that much of that simply wasn't possible.

Plus, sci-fi isn't limited to tech. It's about the progression of ideas as well as science, and when Orwell wrote it he was not only concerned with communist Russia, he was concerned with fascism in England as well. 1984 portrays a dystopian future when it was written, and the extremes to which fascism could go. It's science-fiction in perhaps its purest form.
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Postby Lord Voldemoo on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:50 pm

Nordling wrote:
People shouldn't be embarrassed by sci-fi. Maybe they should call it "speculative fiction."


The Vicar wrote:We need a term between sci-fi & fantasy.
Or other than.

Speculative fiction?


Heh, was that coincidence?
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Postby minstrel on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:52 pm

Lord Voldemoo wrote:
Nordling wrote:
People shouldn't be embarrassed by sci-fi. Maybe they should call it "speculative fiction."


The Vicar wrote:We need a term between sci-fi & fantasy.
Or other than.

Speculative fiction?


Heh, was that coincidence?


So, spec-fic for short?
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Re: SF from page to screen

Postby Al Shut on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:55 pm

When director Alfonso Cuarón was promoting his stunning, apocalyptic "Children of Men" late last year, he said in at least one interview that the movie was not science fiction, but a chase thriller with sociological overtones.


Scociology is science. How is a fictional movie with sociological overtones not science fiction?
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Postby instant_karma on Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:57 pm

The Vicar wrote:1984 isn't sci-fi.

Sorry, its just not.

Ask any refugee from the olde Soviet empire about the events in 1984, and they'll tell you that that's what they'd been living with during the Stalin era.

Brutal, totalitarian government is not a sci-fi conceit - its a real world fact.

Ask the Tibetans, if you don't trust the russkies.


I don't think something being very close to reality bars it from being science fiction. He was taking current observations and extrapolating forward.

I reckon the very fact that a lot of the trends he anticipated are being borne out might make the work seem more and more like regular fiction with each passing year. The society of constant monitoring that he envisioned with the telescreens in every house and the hidden microphones is something we almost take for granted now.

I guess books like 1984, Children of Men and Brave New World all fall into the Dystopian catagory, which I think most people recognize as a sci-fi sub genre.
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Re: SF from page to screen

Postby instant_karma on Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:08 pm

Al_Shut wrote:
When director Alfonso Cuarón was promoting his stunning, apocalyptic "Children of Men" late last year, he said in at least one interview that the movie was not science fiction, but a chase thriller with sociological overtones.


Scociology is science. How is a fictional movie with sociological overtones not science fiction?


I reckon Cuarón's comments had more to do with the fact that sci-fi movies tend not to win so many awards...
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Postby havocSchultz on Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:09 pm

instant_karma wrote:
Al_Shut wrote:
When director Alfonso Cuarón was promoting his stunning, apocalyptic "Children of Men" late last year, he said in at least one interview that the movie was not science fiction, but a chase thriller with sociological overtones.


Scociology is science. How is a fictional movie with sociological overtones not science fiction?


I reckon Cuarón's comments had more to do with the fact that sci-fi movies tend not to win so many awards...


As opposed to Children of Men's sweeping of the Oscars this year...
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Postby instant_karma on Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:20 pm

I didn't say anybody would fall for the ruse...
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Postby Adam Balm on Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:21 pm

Lord Voldemoo wrote:
Nordling wrote:
People shouldn't be embarrassed by sci-fi. Maybe they should call it "speculative fiction."


The Vicar wrote:We need a term between sci-fi & fantasy.
Or other than.

Speculative fiction?


Heh, was that coincidence?


Yeah, what a coincidence. It's almost as if that term has been in use for over 50 years to describe exactly that... Hence why science fiction aficionados say 'SF' instead of 'sci-fi'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction

Which brings us to the question....which one of you has the time machine?
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Postby minstrel on Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:26 pm

Adam Balm wrote:
Lord Voldemoo wrote:
Nordling wrote:
People shouldn't be embarrassed by sci-fi. Maybe they should call it "speculative fiction."


The Vicar wrote:We need a term between sci-fi & fantasy.
Or other than.

Speculative fiction?


Heh, was that coincidence?


Yeah, what a coincidence. It's almost as if that term has been in use for over 50 years to describe exactly that... Hence why science fiction aficionados say 'SF' instead of 'sci-fi'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction

Which brings us to the question....which one of you has the time machine?


All of us, of course. Each in our own timeline, a microsecond apart. When you have a time machine, it's really easy to share.

:)
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Postby Wolfpack on Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:49 am

Widespread infertility = science fiction?
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:41 pm

Nordling wrote:and as of 3:20 PM Central time we don't have dinosaurs roaming the earth again.


What? The Dino, he's a not a dead YET, eh?
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Postby Adam Balm on Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:47 pm

Wolfpack wrote:Widespread infertility = science fiction?


No, you got it backwards.

science fiction = widespread infertility.
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Postby Wolfpack on Sat Mar 24, 2007 9:52 pm

There should have beem more shagging in that movie. Sex without having to worry about being a baby daddy? 'Course, there's being a herpes daddy to contend with.
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Postby unikrunk on Sat Mar 24, 2007 10:40 pm

Hmmm..

Science Fiction is a term comprised of two words, I think

Kidding aside, sci-fi for me is just a faster way to communicate a very wide range of ideas – It seems to me that the acceptance of the genre in academia waxes and wanes; in the 70’s poststructuralism was enamored with it, and there has been a recent resurgence in interest, specifically feminist theory and poststructuralists.

Feminist theory looks very deeply into the movement away from the female/male concept of procreation; look at Alien, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the works of Octavia Butler. Likewise, poststructuralists argue that some science fiction is literature, but then again, their argument covers more than just sci-fi.

Certainly there has been resurgence in the public awareness of the genre as being more than ‘Flash Gordon’ type material; there are many shows on television detailing the impact of the material on society and the insight of the creators.

Give it 10 years, and it will be back off of everyone’s radar again.
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Postby Wiccan Woman on Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:32 pm

Lord Voldemoo wrote:Trek-o-phobia?

It's unfortunate. Science Fiction is still marginalized as a serious genre of literature and film, I wonder if that all relates back to the pulp sci-fi movies and magazines of the 30's, 40's and 50's, or earlier? I am not much of a student of SciFi literary history, I'll admit. It's still considered kids' stuff by many, which is a little ironic given some of the social, political and scientific topics addressed through the years in Sci Fi.

Frakkin' snobs.


Personally, I think it's been relegated to "kid stuff" by the mundanes....because they don't get it, or they're too afraid to look at the possibilities. Look at the education levels of the populace back in the 30's, when finding food for the family took precedence over staying in school past the 8th grade. The 40's saw child labor abuse in the sweat factories. In the 50's, it was a huge deal to have your children graduate high school. SF was too much for many of them to grasp.

Frakkin' mundanes. Took me a while to realize that some people actually look up only ONE word at a time in the dictionary.
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Postby minstrel on Sun Mar 25, 2007 12:20 am

I say we should just start calling science fiction "fiction", and non-science-fiction "mundane fiction".

Mundane fiction is fiction that doesn't attempt to deal with any challenging scientific/technological or sociological or political or religious or otherwise interesting ideas. Mundane fiction deals with blah.

The New York Times Bestseller List should have a heading for Non-Fiction and a heading for Mundane Fiction. This will emphasize to the public that actual fiction doesn't sell well enough to appear on bestseller lists.

Disclaimer: It is Saturday night and nobody is posting and I've been drinking, so this post is perhaps more inflammatory than I really mean it to be.

Still, wooooah, eh? Woooah, eh? Wooooah!
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Postby Airstrike on Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:23 am

Here's why "Children of Men" is science fiction. The science comes from women no longer being able to have children for whatever reason this is - we know it's at the very least partially based in science. It's also fiction because it's all made up.... including the science.

No possible 'future' for mankind will end up like this - and that's why it's called science fiction!

However, none of this makes the film any less cool or groundbreaking.
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Postby Pacino86845 on Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:11 am

I personally don't see why we need to pick nits at the semantics of such a broad area of storytelling... I'd say that "science fiction" is a label that was sort of coined and used to categorize a large range of stories, but it's more that the term is defined by that group of stories rather than being an accurate definition for them.

I'd say all of the following are sci-fi:

1984, Slaughterhouse Five, Brave New World, Children of Men, and Fahrenheit 9/11...

Maybe stories like COM rely more on allegory, but COM is set in a fictional future, and the movie is essentially ABOUT the future. I don't know, Margaret Atwood, one of Canada's bestest all time writers, has at least two sci fi novels on her resume, and she's considered to be a literary deity (at least by me). One of them (The Handmaid's Tale) was very allegorical, thematically similar to COM, and the more recent Oryx and Crake was the result of her studying the state-of-the-ART in biological advances to try to depict a speculative future as "realistically" as possible (lots of speculation, but still, the science has some foundation in reality).

Funny thing is even Atwood doesn't like the term science fiction:

"Like The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians. As with The Handmaid's Tale, it invents nothing we haven't already invented or started to invent. Every novel begins with a what if, and then sets forth its axioms. The what if of Oryx and Crake is simply, What if we continue down the road we're already on? How slippery is the slope? What are our saving graces? Who's got the will to stop us?"

All this to say that I love sci fi, and will agree with some of the above comments that it's sad to see some have inferiority complexes with respect to sci fi as a genre.
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Postby tapehead on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:07 am

Farenheit 9/11? I'm not sure if you're japing about Moore or dissing Bradbury and Truffaut...

otherwise I agree entirely, it's a shame some writers and filmmakers baulk at a category that encompasses so much of the very finest film and literature.

As for COM, it's speculative and distopian, but it also has a few science fiction conceits - like all the women on earth becoming infertile, and the suicide kits being handed out to the general population, that place it closer to 1984 (with it's telescreens) than, say, A Handmaid's Tale.
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Postby Pacino86845 on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:15 am

tapehead wrote:Farenheit 9/11? I'm not sure if you're japing about Moore or dissing Bradbury and Truffaut...


It was a jab at Moore... I hadn't even made the connection to Fahrenheit 451 (well, not consciously anyhow)!!
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Postby Pacino86845 on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:17 am

"Like The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians. As with The Handmaid's Tale, it invents nothing we haven't already invented or started to invent. Every novel begins with a what if, and then sets forth its axioms. The what if of Oryx and Crake is simply, What if we continue down the road we're already on? How slippery is the slope? What are our saving graces? Who's got the will to stop us?"


Oh, I forgot to mention (for those who haven't read Oryx and Crake) that even though Atwood's latest foray into "speculative fiction" doesn't have Martians, it features blue humanoids waving their penises in the air during mating rituals.
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Postby tapehead on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:26 am

The Vicar wrote:1984 isn't sci-fi.

Sorry, its just not.

Ask any refugee from the olde Soviet empire about the events in 1984, and they'll tell you that that's what they'd been living with during the Stalin era.

Brutal, totalitarian government is not a sci-fi conceit - its a real world fact.

Ask the Tibetans, if you don't trust the russkies.


See, I don't think anyone will argue that George Orwell wasn't writing about exactly the things you mention and speculating upon the likely future path of English Socialsm (Ing Soc), but he also includes flourishes of Huxley's kind of Science Fiction - technological tools which at the time of writing simply did not exist - like the telescreens.
His book isn't about the old Soviet Empire, it's a speculation upon how something similar might come to pass in his Britain.
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Postby Fried Gold on Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:39 am

I wouldn't say Children of Men or Nineteen Eighty Four are full-on science fiction stories. They are both definitely dystopian stories. But they are both also future fiction, which leads them to inherit and feature science fiction elements just because of their setting.
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Postby tapehead on Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:02 am

Not necessarily - what you are saying buys into the idea of 'progress' - which is far from an arbitrary state of affairs - it's a constructed one. I think it's inherent in science fiction - the idea that the writer or filmmaker sees contemporary society and technology - both 'sciences' in a way, if you deal with socirty in a sociologicak sense, and extrapolate it into the future. Science Fiction is always about the now - but expressed as speculation as to what it might become.


I mean look at HG Wells' THe Time Machine' - it goes right into a distant future where there is no technology, or recogniseable humanity left. However this was based upon ideas he had about his contemporary society.
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Re: SF from page to screen (Is 'science fiction' a bad word?

Postby Nachokoolaid on Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:11 am

Adam Balm wrote:
One interesting note is that no one ever is ashamed of the 'fantasy' label. Cuaron didn't desperately try to avoid Grande Rojo Potter being called fantasy. It seems an inferiority complex that is almost unique to the genre...

Read more here:

http://movies.msn.com/movies/sci-fi?GT1=7701


Funny that you say that. I was about to come in here and comment that fantasy is regarded the same way. I remember Peter Jackson's speech during the Oscars that "Finally, fantasy wasn't an 'f-word' anymore." Until LOTR, I think fantasy was smirked upon, much in the same way that you are describing the reaction to science fiction.
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Postby instant_karma on Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:47 pm

Pacino86845 wrote:humanoids waving their penises in the air during mating rituals.


Sounds like a Dundee nightclub...
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Postby minstrel on Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:57 pm

Star Wars isn't science fiction. Science fiction takes place in the future. Star Wars takes place a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away).

Star Wars is a historical drama, like Shakespeare's Henry V.
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Postby Adam Balm on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:02 pm

minstrel wrote:Star Wars isn't science fiction. Science fiction takes place in the future. Star Wars takes place a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away).

Star Wars is a historical drama, like Shakespeare's Henry V.


SF always takes place in the future? I really think that's too much of a catch-all. Otherwise someone should tell HG Wells and Jules Verne, the twin fathers of SF. Nearly all their SF works were set in the present day at the time they wrote them, and you'd cut out nearly all monster movies, alien invasion stories, mad scientist tales and the like with your definition.
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Postby minstrel on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:10 pm

Adam Balm wrote:
minstrel wrote:Star Wars isn't science fiction. Science fiction takes place in the future. Star Wars takes place a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away).

Star Wars is a historical drama, like Shakespeare's Henry V.


SF always takes place in the future? I really think that's too much of a catch-all. Otherwise someone should tell HG Wells and Jules Verne, the twin fathers of SF. Nearly all their SF works were set in the present day at the time they wrote them, and you'd cut out nearly all monster movies, alien invasion stories, mad scientist tales and the like with your definition.


Oh, I know, I know. I was just bein' silly. Every so often I like to post something outrageous just to pop the pompousness balloons that can fill threads like this.

No offense meant.

:)
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Postby Adam Balm on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:17 pm

minstrel wrote:Oh, I know, I know. I was just bein' silly. Every so often I like to post something outrageous just to pop the pompousness balloons that can fill threads like this.


:oops:

:sniffle:
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Postby minstrel on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:30 pm

Adam Balm wrote:
minstrel wrote:Oh, I know, I know. I was just bein' silly. Every so often I like to post something outrageous just to pop the pompousness balloons that can fill threads like this.


:oops:

:sniffle:


Oh, don't be embarrassed! You still have the coolest sigpic in the Zone!

:wink:
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Postby Adam Balm on Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:32 pm

LOL.

Honestly, I'm just happy that this thread has gotten so much traffic. I expected this to drift back into obscurity like most threads in the book forum (Or at least garner one post from Voldemoo saying "Yeah!" or something...).

I'm all smiles right now.
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Postby Adam Balm on Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:41 pm

Wired now has an article up on this...

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is set during a nuclear winter. Two survivors walk south, breathing toxic air, seeking out the continent's last canned food while ducking bands of flesh-eaters.

Describe it as "post-apocalyptic," as most critics did, or as a masterpiece of dystopian literature. Just don't call McCarthy's novel "science fiction."

Even when clearly appropriate, film studios and publishers avoid the phrase "science fiction." So do the novelists, film directors and editors in their employ. McCarthy's book, which is about to become a blockbuster -- Oprah Winfrey will tout it on an upcoming TV show as part of her book club -- is just another example of how the powers that be dodge the term, especially when it applies to "serious" fiction or cinema.

You won't find the words "science fiction" in Random House's bio of Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author China Miéville. Instead, he's called the "edgiest mythmaker of the day." Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep? It's classified as comedy, drama, romance and fantasy, but not sci-fi, at Amazon.com.

Even Battlestar Galactica, the flagship show of (hello!) the Sci Fi Channel, keeps a distance. "It's fleshed-out reality," explains executive producer Ronald D. Moore in the sci-fi mag SFX. "It's not in the science-fiction genre."


http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/news/2007/04/scifighetto_0412
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