What I think is lacking in most sci-fi stories

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by ahigherway, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    Hi everyone,
    I grew up and was influenced greatly by Star Wars (1977) and Dr. Who. I was fascinated by the concepts that were futuristic, and still today, I think sci-fi is our window towards the future. 30 years ago, we thought cell phones were unbelieveable. Now, everybody has one!

    However, there is one thing that sci-fi lacks in, and it is this:

    We see fast spaceships, time travel, high-tech medicine, etc. But, when conflict arises (as it must in order for a story to grab our attention), what is the response? Destroy!

    And destruction/warfare is about as primitive as we can get.

    Star Wars spoke of "the Force." It was wonderful! And Ben Kenobi gave his life willingly, and declared that he would "become more powerful than you can imagine." WOW! Cool!

    But that was it. More recent episodes always boiled down to battles of armies against armies. Think: civil war, but in the year 4,000.

    And as I see it, that is not sci-fi. Everything else in the show/movie might be super-advanced, but when it comes to conflict resolution? War!!

    Imo, it's time for sci-fi to start to REALLY think futuristic. Develop futuristic ways of "defeating" the enemy. Conflict can be resolved in many exciting ways, without resorting to what primitive man has always used: destruction.

    Anyone feel the same way?


    Brian
     
  2. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Monthâ„¢

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    I know what you mean, but with Star Wars the clue is in the title ;)

    Bernard Wolfe's Limbo (1950s) tried to address this point from what I know of it - I have it but have yet to get an urge to read it.
     
  3. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    I think you're right! and it's not just SF. Just think how much better some of the great classics of world literature would have been without all that fighting. Just think how much shorter the Illiad would have been if Agamemnon, Helen, and Paris had gone to some guidance counsellor and come to an understanding of Helen's polyamorous nature. :D
     
  4. phil_geo

    phil_geo Rat Thing

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    Check out Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman. He had an itneresting take ont he end of mankind's warring ways.
     
  5. odo

    odo Registered User

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    Exactly what I thought when I read this thread.
     
  6. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check out the titles and see what they're like.

    Remember Close Encounters? There was no war going on there. Man would have been stupid to start any type of war with those beings. After all, they were much more advanced, and would probably have reacted to violence by just sending out telepathic signals that would have fried all our technology! :)

    Those who have "progressed" or become "advanced" shouldn't need the barbaric tactics of war and destruction to defeat their enemies. After all, they have higher intelligence! :)


    brian
     
  7. livens

    livens Registered User

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    Cool topic!

    I for one like the wars/fighting in scifi, I especially like a good space battle!

    Its human nature to fight, more than that its the nature for all lifeforms. From bacteria to elephants having to fight sometimes to keep on living is just part of being alive. But its even more so for humans. I dont think we will ever become so homogenized as a race that we all agree on everything and have nothing to fight about.

    Fighting is part of progress, without wars we would never have become the technological society that we are today. Peace makes us complacent, lazy; war makes us passionate and industrious.

    But back on topic a bit, I just finished reading Iain M. Bank's Surface Detail. Awesome book BTW. In it he describes fighting wars in virtual environments, and groups in the 'Real' world agreeing to accept the outcome of what happens in the virtual. In the Culture universe virtual environments came be just as realistic, sometimes more, than real life. Fighting wars this was eliminates 'real' people from dying, and real stuff (cities/planets/systems) from being destroyed. Also time can be made subjective, 20 year war in virtual can be less than a year in real, so you wouldn't have to wait so long for an outcome.

    Honestly I'm not sure if completely violent free ways of conflict resolution would work, as long as people still have free will. That saying that you have to 'Fight for your Freedom', I think that will always be the case.
     
  8. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    I think it's safe to say that if man didn't have emotion, there would be no war. Any two groups that are in conflict would not result to war when considered in a rational way. It would not be rational for human beings to kill others of its own race. Only when emotion gets involved, then people do "irrational" things.

    Advanced beings would have developed other ways to "conquer" or "defeat" an enemy, or thwart its aggressive approaches, than just to destroy them.

    When Obi Wan said that he would become more powerful if he died, I was curious to see and learn more! Unfortunately, we never really saw any of his "powers beyond imagination." -Maybe Lucas couldn't even imagine them! :D

    I think psychic/telepathic/spiritual/rational powers all have the ability to defeat the barbaric ways of war. Star Wars (indeed a war) should have been fought on this "higher level" of conflict, if it wanted to be truly "futuristic."


    Brian
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2012
  9. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    You are talking about movies and TV. They are both much more expensive to produce than books and MUST attract a larger audience. So the demographic that the creators must affect what they produce. For more variety you need to check out sci-fi literature.

    Player of Games by Ian M. Smith
    Deathworld by Harry Harrison
    http://librivox.org/deathworld-by-harry-harrison/
    Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster

    psik
     
  10. Caedus

    Caedus Registered User

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    I'll put that on my to read list. I think that idea has flitted through the mind of any person who's into video games (the fps' at least). That would be so awesome if it could actually be implemented in real life. I wanna read that book and see how the author drew up the logistics. Thanks for hipping me to this lol.
     
  11. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    To be honest I think humans will always see war as a form of valid reaction to certain events. I detest war greatly, but something of that nature that has been around for thousands of years does not disappear over night. I can see a world where people see a much lesser need for it, but the absolute absence of war I do not. Violence, whether we like it or not is ingrained in the human biological and psychological drive and is glorified in the ritualistic paradigms our cultures have built around it. As long as humans exist they will kill, they will steal, and they will commit other morally offensive acts. Humans will always have a choice to resist these urges, and perhaps one day that resistance will become so strong that people will hardly even threaten each other with war and violence, but I doubt that the drive will ever be extinguished in full.
     
  12. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    Thanks for the links, psik. Just reviewing some of the sci-fi material out there, I see that there is a depth and complexity of thinking within the sci-fi (book) arena that doesn't get explored in the movie/TV sector very much. (Maybe sci-fi tends to attract a slightly more "intelligent" crowd than other genres?) It's a shame, and doesn't do the sci-fi world justice. It seems like most sci-fi today is about killing and blowing up as many aliens/humans as possible. Only a few, like Close Encounters, ET, AI... were able to move beyond that banal tendency. I'd even dare say that there was something particularly "eery" about the lack of conflict. It made a kind of tension all its own..

    It would have been so cool, imo, to have seen Obi Wan and Darth in "battle" but on a deeper level: love vs. hate, patience vs. impulsivity, courage vs. fear.. Or, in a battle of intelligence.
    I don't know the how's of what would be required to show such a battle, but I think audiences would be able to appreciate it if it wasn't done in a "hokey" way..


    Brian
     
  13. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    Yes; but isn't that where sci-fi should step in and give us a vision of a humanity so advanced that it
    a) understands what violence is, and the consequences, and
    b) has developed a new way to deal with conflict which is more powerful, yet without the bad consequences?

    War is primordial, and primitive. That's why it really doesn't "fit" in a future context, imo. If man was purely logical, he would not war, because in war is the risk of death. He would use his intelligence to avoid war and seek peace for the purpose of improvement. His purpose of existence would be constructive rather than destructive.


    brian
     
  14. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    Ah,but humans are not creatures of pure logic. Beings possessed of logic yes, but it is not the sum of our being. Some times, it is good to throw logic out the window, however, it is also dangerous. All things must be balanced. Logic must balance emotion, and emotion must balance logic. To me it is the existence of illogical thought that some times allows for leaps of the imagination that lead to wonderful things. However as I said it can lead to terrible atrocities and other evils. To paraphrase Metropolis as dated as the film may be, the mediator between the mind and hand must be the heart.
     
  15. MoonDoggie

    MoonDoggie New Member

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    Very interesting thread, Brian. Do you have any thoughts on how to defeat an enemy without violence?

    I suppose we can look at the civil rights movement. While both sides were not completely without violence, the use of peaceful protests and education/exposure certainly made a huge difference.

    The issue of slavery and the differences between how England and the US chose to deal with it could be used, too.

    I don't think the movies that have been cited (ET, AI, and Close Encounters) really work as there really wasn't any major conflict. Same for Contact, they are SciFi, but there isn't major conflict at the center of the stories. Independence Day showed how trying to be friendly and non-violent can get you dead quick.

    Suppressing emotions makes me think of Equilibrium. Humans are emotional, get rid of our emotions and are we still human? There was the failed attempt by the Alliance, in Firefly/Serenity, to suppress violent behavior which failed miserably.

    Spock once said, "Where there is no emotion, there is no motive for violence." Logical, I suppose. But as Ulysses Everett McGill said, "It's a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart."

    I think self-preservation and protection of others makes it hard to not resort to violence after a certain point. I'm still trying to think of ways to stop an enemy without violence. Perhaps mind control or destroying the enemies ability to wage war (food supply, ability to travel, removal of weapons)? Violence without blood shed?
     
  16. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    If you remember the aliens of Close Encounters, or the meccas at the end of AI, both of these were examples of beings with extraordinary powers, and probably powers sufficient to defeat any enemy without violence. And yet they were "puny" and "skinny" and "wimpy" in appearance. Very paradoxical. Brawn is not always might.

    I could imagine these beings, upon facing an aggression from another group of beings, merely raising a daintly hand, and transmitting a power that would lock up weapons, and/or stun the aggressors into a type of dazed suspension. It would be quite impossible to attack them, actually.

    Without getting Biblical, I have always been curious as to how Jesus was able to "pass through" a crowd of people who were wanting to throw him off a cliff. Or, when the Roman guards came to arrest him, he responded, "I am he," and the guards fell to the ground. Again: no violence, no bloodshed, just a type of telepathic/supernatural power that the "primitives" couldn't withstand.
    That's the type of power that would be fascinating to explore. Raising the dead, or other strange things.

    I honestly don't know where I stand regarding human emotions. They can perhaps stir good things like compassion, yes; but they also stir hatred that leads to war. Even world war. Or consider women who remain in abusive relationships. Logic and reason would tell her to leave him. But because of emotion, she is stuck with him, sometimes to the point of her own death.

    It is a "natural" tendency to react with emotion when someone does us wrong. But reason would tell us to deal with conflict in the least harmful way. Thinking again of a biblical perspective (but also common in other religions, too), there is a saying that "by giving food and drink to your enemy, you punish him." (paraphrased) I think it is this type of power that is more futuristic than weaponry. And a good sci-fi story would be able to explore this territory, I think.


    brian
     
  17. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    John Sladek had fun with this idea in the Muller Focker Effect - an incredibly funny book which, in my opinion, should be read at least once a year. (Iain M Banks and Ramsey Campbell among others have listed it at one time or another in 'favourite books' lists).

    In the book a General hits up upon the scheme of having infantrymen dressed in pink, wearing tu-tus, skipping and prancing round the battlefield. The enemy, the theory goes, would be so disgusted, demoralised, and embarrassed that they would just give up and go home.

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...QXFneG9Bw&ved=0CFwQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  18. ahigherway

    ahigherway Registered User

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    :D

    I heard a similar story, perhaps a true historic account (but I don't have the book anymore where I first read it, so I can't say for sure) where an invading army, once it reached and surrounded the castle it was planning to attack, was "received" by a dead animal carcass thrown over the castle wall (apparently the last of the food that the poor people within the castle had). They too, were so disgusted by the gesture, that they called off the invasion and left.

    I was also really surprised to learn that at Christmas during WWI, the germans and french stopped fighting, met, exchanged gifts, shared food and drink, etc.... and then resumed fighting the next day!!

    Brian
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  19. kennychaffin

    kennychaffin Man of Ways and Means

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    Boys will be boys. Humans will be humans. Maybe in a billion years if we survive...

    also much of the point of science fiction and speculative fiction is to reflect on current affairs.
     
  20. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    A great deal of Man's predilection to combat comes from two things: Need; and Discomfort. Need is obvious--I need something you have and won't give/share with me. Need breeds greed and desperate measures, hence, combat.

    Discomfort is more psychological--I don't understand you, I don't trust you, I think you are capable of harming me, etc. Discomfort breeds fear, and fear triggers the fight-or-flight response; and if one side refuses to flee and leave behind their possessions, you have combat.

    Understanding these two things tells us that the way to end most wars is to wipe out Need and Discomfort. Is that impossible? I don't believe so, given a serious effort by Mankind. But we have a long way to go to achieve that.

    Most media SF is designed to elicit a response from the largest common denominator in order to make big sales, which is why movies like Star Wars pull in big money, and movies like Solaris and Moon get ignored (See; there are examples out there, you just have to look a bit deeper). It's also the reason why books like the Honor Harrington and Ender's novels get the most press, while books like Beggars In Spain or Chindi get overlooked.

    There are many sources of conflict besides war. But war is big and flamboyant, so you have to do a bit of work to get past it and find the other conflicts out there.