Or “Why I watch TV shows.”
I watch a lot of TV shows on Netflix. I argue that reading is better than movies, that Television is the biggest time waster ever, and that I have better things to do besides play computer games, and yet I go through a new show about every month. Today I am here to defend this practice to the world.
I don’t just watch TV shows, I watch scifi TV shows. Star Trek, Stargate, Firefly, Dollhouse, Doctor Who, and Sherlock, to name just a few. My favorite movies are scifi: I, Robot, Tron, Tron: Legacy, Antitrust, etc. I have never seen the Lord of the Rings movies. My fantasy TV picks are limited to Robin Hood and Once Upon A Time. I enjoy very few fantasy films.
I am a writer of both fantasy and science fiction. So how come I prefer to partake of fantasy in written form, but science fiction visually? The first question needs to wait for a future post, the second question is coming up now.
The grand masters of fantasy are Tolkien and Lewis, but also Rowling and Paolini, and dozens of demi-master, and writers of smaller fame but equal quality. The acknowledged grand masters of science fiction are Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. I, Robot and 2001: A Space Odyssey are possibly the most well known works of science fiction, with the possible exception of the works of Jules Verne. These writers are fifty years out of date. No one has risen to challenge them. No author has achieved their status, or equaled their work. How hard can it be to trump science fiction so old that we laugh at their future predictions? And yet, when you think of science fiction, what comes to mind? Star Wars. Star Trek. Stargate.
Oh, there’s Ender’s Game, perhaps, or the works of Jerri Prunelli, but they’re still small players compared to the grand scale of the fantasy genre. Face it, in written fiction the science fiction genre nearly doesn’t exist. When you do read a science fiction novel you can’t expect a fun adventure story of life on a space ship. Science fiction writers wrestle with deep questions like atheism, and life after death. Many science fiction is more fantastical then the highest of high fantasy. Many of them read like a doctorate thesis disguised in a plot.
If an aspiring SF writer wants to learn about things like warp drive, hyperspace, spacial distortions, and other fictional science, where is she to go? To novels like “Revelation Space” where the plot centers around the idea that stars are sentient? To “A Pebble in the Sky” that simply tries to prove that environmentalists are right about radiation from the sun? What if you don’t care about the politics of today in relation to what you’re writing? What if you want character driven stories with SF elements?
Television doesn’t have an agenda. Television can only be profound for a few moments, because then the episode is over and the characters go on. Television has the chance to put a lot of truth into just a few minutes, because they’re on a time schedule. Sometimes they skip the meaningful content altogether and just get back to shooting aliens.
From “Firefly” I learned how realistic science fiction can be.
From “Dollhouse” I learned how quickly technology can change.
From “Star Trek” I learned how alien characters can affect the plot.
From “Stargate” I learned a whole lot about physics, and the lack thereof.
From “Star Wars” I learned that a fantasy plot can become scifi with just a few twists.
From “Antitrust” I learned that science fiction doesn’t have to be futuristic.
From “Tron” I learned how extraordinary ordinary modern technology can be.
From “Doctor Who” I learned that there’s an explanation for everything.
From the written world of science fiction I learned that for a good writer, the sky is the limit.