View Full Version : Popular Culture References in fiction
July 28th, 2006, 04:56 AM
Hello to you all, in a language im sure you won't understand!
whilst i am no longer a post virgin, i still am rather inexperienced, so be gentle with me :)
i was wondering how such great writers as yourself feel about Popular culture references into fiction, especially into such genres as sci-fi, and to some lesser extent, fantasy.
Of course, science fiction has more scope for inserting references and namechecks;
eg: Earth, post apocalyptic setting, team of explorers happening upon an all but destoryed library and happening upon the works of (insert name of writer, musician or artist here)
But i was wondering how leniant one can be when inserting such references as either metaphors, comparisons and merely as prose, i mean, could it be considered to perhaps destroy the illusion of the world a writer had created, or give the reader something relateable; something that can be really important in connecting with a character through metaphor.
It is something i use quite often in my writings something that is quite obvious should you happen upon the first part of my story, "40 days with..."
So in short, Popular culture references in fiction> good/bad :)
Thanks in advance :)
July 28th, 2006, 07:12 AM
There's nothing wrong with the Church of Dylan, where they worship ants, and sing the ancient hymn "The Ants Are My Friends (They're Blowing in the Wind)", and abhor the coming of the Hard Rain to wash all their little friends away.
Or First Contact with lizard aliens, making a diplomatic breakthrough when they discover Kermit singing "It's not easy, being green".
No problem at all with pop-culture references. Just bear in mind that which ones you use, and how you implement them restricts the type of reader that "get" them, and/or "like" them.
And - if you think of publishing - be careful when quoting copyrighted material. You'll probably need permission, and often you'll be charged. (The Dylan-thingie above should be okay, as it's parody, which usually constitutes "fair use"; but don't listen to me on legal matters - I'm no expert).
July 28th, 2006, 07:45 AM
*giggles for a second before realising my place*
i figure your right, i mean, the only real problem with it is perhaps the danger of alienating some of your audience :)
that of course coupled with the obvious dangers of libel or just plain copyright breaching :)
parody and satire aside, i was also wondering if anybody heavily used popular culture in stories heavily rooted in sci-fi or fantasy, i mean, the alternate reality is a problem in implementing any possible reference perhaps? :)
i spose im just curious :)
thanks for the opinions, they are more than appreciated by both myself and this utopian society surely :)
July 28th, 2006, 10:55 AM
Christopher Stasheff in his 'Her Majesty's Wizard' series uses all kinds of culture. Especially poems and lyrics as the spells cast by his wizard. His stories are SF-F mixes.
July 28th, 2006, 11:52 AM
Pop culture references are no problem. The problem is that they are a little trickier to do in sff sometimes. A lot of sf is set in the future, and pop culture references change fast, so you can risk looking dated. Same problem for contemporary fantasy. But pop culture is also a good way to orient readers in the story's unfamiliar circumstances, since it's a short-hand between author and readers, and because it can help with character development and relationships (since we all use the things.)
As a big fan of Buffy and films like "Galaxy Quest," I'm all for pop culture references. Just figure out clearly how they're going to work in the story. And yes, the use of song lyrics and other printed materials requires permission and often a fee for that permission, so consider also how badly you want those types of references.
July 28th, 2006, 09:37 PM
Poor little things, blowing in the wind....
If you really want to put it in there are ways to do so, even if it means digging through companies and receptionists who answer the phone but don't know anything etc.
The big problem is how it dates your work. If you'll get published next week or so, you're probably okay, if it's months, who knows. I had a character in a story who loved to quote movies, now he quotes movies from fifteen years ago.
I remember watching a movie which was supposed to happen in the future, and when they went to the ruinous New York city, there's those two towers...
I try to aviod using popular culture too much these days, unless the character insists.
July 29th, 2006, 01:08 AM
A referance to a fad puts limitations. If it is something that is only a craze, and eventually will be forgotten, don't bother writing about it since by the time its published, people will move on. Thats not to say you cannot make referance to your favourite musician or movie star, just keep in mind that it should be one who is going to go down in history otherwise by the time its published, no one will know what you're talking about.
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