Freedom and the Zombie Apocalypse

 

I recently had a conversation with a family member who has just started watching the Walking Dead series. She said she finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about and ended up getting hooked, and she told me that she wished real life was like the apocalyptic world of the show. I understood what she meant. There is a kind of freedom and simplicity about living in a post-apocalyptic world, zombie or otherwise (although recently, mostly zombie). Our present consumerist society encourages pursuit of wealth and accumulation of stuff, and as we jostle for position in the rat race, we might feel we are in a never-ending competition with no meaningful goal. But in an apocalyptic setting, life is stripped down to the essentials- survival. Life in an apocalyptic world consists of finding food, shelter, safety. We are forced to live by our skills and our wits and everyone must pull their weight to survive; an apocalypse can be a social equalizer- at least temporarily.

 Zombies represent the most monstrous part of ourselves- hungry, ravenous, mindlessly consuming and never satisfied. And if zombies embody our unsatisfiable need to consume, which in turn consumes us, then bashing a physical embodiment of the ugliest part of ourselves is profoundly satisfying.

But while I certainly do not relish the idea of living in a world filled with flesh-eating zombies (especially the terrifyingly fast variety from 28 Days/Weeks Later), there is something appealing about a quiet, empty, bureaucracy-less, low-tech, traffic-free, suit-and-tie-less world. If it weren’t for the zombies it would be utopia.

Apocalyptic and hellish images by Zdzisław Beksiński below:

How Science Fiction has Secretly Become Mainstream

So, I will be honest here. I do not read a lot of science fiction. I mean, I have read some, and I grew watching Star Trek and Star Wars, and I think my mom has made me watch Galaxy Quest at least a dozen times, but I’ve never really gotten into Science Fiction on my own.

 

However, ever since we defined what Science Fiction is in the first couple of classes, I’ve realised that it’s actually everywhere. I went to see The Maze Runner a few weeks ago and guess what? Science Fiction. I finally watched Captain American: The Winter Soldier and realised that all of Marvel was Science Fiction (we then had the presentation on it two days later), the movie Lucy, and, as someone pointed out in a previous blog, YA novels, such as The Hunger Games trilogy and Divergent trilogy are also Science Fiction. I guess I always thought it had to have aliens.

However, despite the fact that these are incredibly popular, there still seems to be a stigma against Science Fiction that it is “nerdy.” As it turns out, I have watched and read many Science Fiction movies and novels without even realising it, and I’m guessing many others have too. I’m sure if I asked many of my friends if they liked Science Fiction they would say no, but I also know many of my friends religiously watch, and love, Doctor Who (for more on the genre of Doctor Who, read this).

Why does this happen? My guess would be that people, as I did, have a very narrow view of what Science Fiction is. Movies and TV shows are cast into different genres to make them more mainstream so that people won’t just disregard it because it is Science Fiction. Film trailers will tend to focus on the fact that it is action or comedy instead of focusing on the fact that it is Science Fiction.

What do you guys think? Has Science Fiction slowly been integrated into mainstream society without people noticing, or is it still a land for the “nerds”?

Post-Apocalyptic YA Novels

As someone born in the mid ‘90s, I grew up with the knowledge of climate change, excessive pollution, lack of sustainability and other issues of human existence that have to do with our relationship to the earth. (Meanwhile, other such issues are still prevalent, such as inequality, disease ect.)

Unlike generations before whose fear was rooted in more human-focused ending points (Wars, famine, disease ect.), this generation is burdened with the seemingly unavoidable reality of an end to our current way of life. And because everyone has at least a passing interest in the future, the current rise of Post-Apocalyptic stories in YA Novels, movies, and even TV shows is a way for youth to find some degree of hope (if not in an explicitly happy future, at least a future).

I think the most well-known is the Hunger Games trilogy, where both the books and movies seem to be quite popular (and also have an awesome female protagonist, yay!), in which the dystopian state of the world comes from the divide of classes, as well as the terror tactics employed to keep people complacent. The criticisms in this story are more socially fueled than, in say, The 100, in which humanity has had to flee Earth after nuclear war. I didn’t get very far into The 100, but the messages that were appearing in the first few episodes were interesting. Then of course there are the other two SF recent book-to-movie adaptations, The Maze Runner and Divergent, which also focus on dystopian themes.

All of these stories place at least some blame of their dystopia on the actions of those who came before, yet even in these terrible situations the people are able to rally and make some progress in their world. So in a way, each of these relatively easy-to-follow stories gives a young(er) audience a way of exploring what could be, criticising what we are currently doing wrong, and hoping for a chance at fixing it.

http://culturefly.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/the-100-episode-1.jpg

We read and watch and consume, experience a warning, as well as experiencing the potential for righting a wrong, making a change, and moving forward into an even more distant future.

Viewers Fault that Books are Ruined through Moviefacation?

I would like to wage the argument that the producers ruin books on purpose, and it is the fault of the viewer. In order for the producer, now a days, to feel they have made the largest project possible they need to emphasize certain aspects of the tale. Stories such as H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” have the action aspects heightened (I am discussing the most current adaptations of these movies). John Carter also has the romantic relationship between John and his Martian princess Dejah Thoris very clearly established throughout the movie. I am suggesting that this is because more people wish to watch movies that involve Tom Cruise being chased by aliens in order to save his children then the depictions that Wells created of less alien and more avoidance. Wells’ novella discusses more of the aftermath and internal ideas then the movie shows. Unfortunately, this allows the science fiction reader to feel slighted by the creation of this style of film because it is not a true representation of the story, it is a recreation that only slightly deals with the actual issues presented throughout the novel. While it is the screen writers and producers that allow for this filtration, it is with the viewers in mind that they produce such creations. Therefore, while it is these people who recreate the stories, it is ultimately the viewers fault they are being recreated in the first place, after all the creators of these movies are highly motivation by how much money they generate. Now having presented this argument I do not in anyway suggest that all movies are created in such a fashion, just that some recreations are done for the audience rather then for the original story. Some recreations are done with close regard to the original novel, however, those are not the focus of this blog.

You’ll create a Time Paradox

light-years-movie-poster-1988-1020204196
From Rene Laloux, the creator of ‘Fantastic Planet’ and Isaac Asimov, the most renowned Science Fiction writer of our time, comes an epic vision of the future.

“My quest began with a riddle. In a 1000 years, Gandahar was destroyed. 1000 years ago, Gandahar will be saved. And what can’t be avoided, will be.”

I hope you like time travel and paradoxes because this might get confusing. Now, the above quote is from the opening narration of  Light Years, the English release of the French film Gandahar and it is weird.  I could write several essays on the film but for now, I’ll be focusing on the mechanics of time travel and paradoxes.

I’m going to avoid as much summary as possible. If you’re curious, the ever accurate wikipedia provides.

What you need to know for the context of this post is that the protagonist averts a bad future and returns to the present and lives happily ever after. Anyone familiar with time travel stories will be able to spot the paradox. If the bad future never occurred, then the protagonist had no need to time travel which means they never averted the bad future which means the bad future happens again. So on and so forth, ad infinitum with the universe stuck in an eternal cosmic loop.

Offhand, there are a few ways to avoid this.

  • A reality shattering paradox occurs and ends existence until another big bang or theological equivalent. I don’t like this one; it ruins the narrative by killing everything ever.
  • Don’t write a story with time travel. I also don’t like this one; what’s the fun in that?
  • Create an alternate timeline. I don’t like this on either; the original time line happened and there is no changing it.
  • My favorite and the one I will be focusing on. Ontological Inertia. In other words, things will keep existing until a physical force acts against them, like a gun or a bulldozer.

  If someone travels back in time and shoots the inventor of time travel, there is no reason for the time traveler to cease existing unless there are time police or some embodiment of time that will erase them. People do not maintain their existence because they were born by their mother. They maintain their existence by eating and sleeping and doing human things. Simply because someone stops having an origin, they don’t stop living.

Now, this argument is discredited in a few different ways.  Firstly because it is built entirely on logic and philosophy as opposed to mathematical principles and quantum theory. Secondly, this doesn’t work if the future can be observed. By definition, the future doesn’t exist but if it can be known, then the entirety of the future was planned out before life even began. That means any time travel shenanigans had already been accounted for and the future would be redrawn accordingly. If the future has already happened from something’s perspective, then it cannot be changed because all that time travel has already happened and made its impact resulting in one continuous, unblemished timeline.

Clarifications? Counter-arguments? Comments?

Sources:

http://www.moviepostershop.com/poster/light-years-1988.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandahar_%28film%29#cite_note-1

How Science Fiction represents Consciousness

Hey everyone, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the concrete detail of what science fiction says about the nature of human consciousness. I am familiar with science fiction and it’s general conventions and and what the idea of human consciousness is. What I’m having trouble with is viewing the nature of consciousness through the lens of science fiction.

So far as I understand it science fiction uses consciousness almost as a subtle convention itself. The embodying idea of the state of consciousness is argued through different monsters or landscapes that enter in through either the writer’s decision or some manifest of his subconscious. This sort of thought leads me to the discussion in class on the tentacle monster from H.G. Wells TheTime Machine. I understand that it represents the sort of changing illusory nature of our subconscious and how you don’t really know what it is until it is upon you. I also remember Prof. Simpson lecturing about how consciousness is often portrayed as a great sea, that it is a divide between what we know and what we do not know. That when you would look into the water it would be pure blackness that would greet you, and a lot of thoughts regarding horror and unknowingness would come out of that.

In regards to all of that, I can see examples of the ways consciousness is portrayed in science fiction, but what I struggle with is the purpose in which the message of consciousness is placed. For example, it is interesting the way that Wells uses the illusion monster and it pertains to the nature of consciousness, but what is he trying to say about the nature of consciousness with the monster’s existence in his story? I am trying to wrap my mind around this and any further explanation on how science fiction portrays the nature of consciousness would be greatly appreciated. So, thoughts anybody?

Necessity of Growth in Science Fiction Sub Genres?

I have recently worked with a lady who is a self proclaimed “reader”. She is important because she said taht she enjoyed the genre of science fiction but that she did not often find a novel that she made it more than partially through before deciding that they story was to “out there” for her to enjoy. Having realized this point she decided that she enjoyed the movies more than the novels but was not against trying to read further novels.

This conversation, and the previous blog entry, made me think that perhaps people do not realize there is a difference between fantasy and science fiction, and that both of these catagories also have sub genres. Perhaps the reader should disreguard the genre of science fiction and decide what other genre they enjoy; of course leaving the interest in science fiction as an underlying truth. This notion would allow the “interested” but “deterred” party to better identify which novels the intended reader would make it all the way through. For instance China Mieville’s The City & The City can be read as a detective fiction novel; H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds,  granted as somewhat of a stretch, could be read as a romance, on the idea of a man going through horrendous feats to get back to his wife; and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars can be read as either an adventure or a romance, this romance is not such a stretch as it involves a man falling in love and rescueing his fated love. While I am aware that scientific romance was a term used instead of the term science fiction when H.G. Wells was writing his novels, it is not the same as the sub genre I am purposing.

Therefore, I feel more readers would benifit from the all inclusion of sub genres, in this I mean the inclusion of romance, detective fiction and so on to influence the prospective readers. This would disuade the idea that science fiction is merely about space and the aliens humanity would discover there.

Star Wars: Fantasy in Space

As a reader of both fantasy and science fiction, an idea I like to think about a lot is combining the two genres into one. Is this possible? Both can certainly be combined with third genres, like the Western genre; Firefly puts Western plots in space, and Brandon Sanderson inserts Western devices into his fantasy world in The Alloy of Law. However, sometimes it seems like fantasy and science fiction are too far apart to be combined. Lord of the Rings is definitively fantasy, with not the slightest amount of plausibility.

No plausibility!?
No plausibility!?

Similarly, novels like Ender’s Game have the necessary elements of science-fiction such as plausibility and technology, with all its elements different from our world easily explained with “science.” Nothing is left to “magic” or fantastical elements.

I love this book!
I love this book.

Another Orson Scott Card novel, Pathfinder, is set up like a fantasy world at first, but (spoiler alert) later on the reader discovers the world has originated from space travel in the distant past. From that point on, the novel reads more like science-fiction than fantasy; while the two are present in the book, they are separated, unable to merge in the reader’s mind.

However, there is one work that is seen as central to most people’s ideas about science fiction that is actually a combination of both fantasy and science fiction: Star Wars

cue theme music
cue theme music

Think about it: both magic and technology are used to explain elements in the movies. Space travel is achieved through hyperdrives and other technologies, but the source of Jedi power is from a mystical force called…the Force. While the movies that don’t exist prequels try to give the Force a scientific grounding with the invention of midichlorians, the Force is basically a magical source of powers that is neither explainable with science, nor plausible.

Maybe the prequels aren't so bad
Maybe the prequels aren’t so bad

If these are two of the most important concepts to keep in mind when considering what makes science-fiction science-fiction, does this make Star Wars something else? I personally like to call the series “fantasy in space,” which, considering my interests in fiction, makes me quite content.

What do you think?  Is Star Wars its own genre, mostly fantasy, or simply all-out science-fiction?

 

Video sources:

Firefly, Season 1 Episode 14, “Objects in Space.” (2002)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. (1977)

Spaced, Season 2 Episode 1, “Back.” (2001)

Photo sources:

Gollum, from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Ender’s Game cover

Original poster for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Yoda, from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Trek Vs. Star Wars

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

Know Your Enemy

I have been introduced to the idea that true Star Trek fans do not appreciate Star Wars. Therefore, I would like to pose the question: Why do Star Trek fans have such a dislike for Star Wars? I understand both of these shows on a basic level, which may influence my confussion. My understanding is as follows. Star Trek revolves around space travel and the helping and investigating of new or unknown worlds and the civilizations that inhabit said worlds. In this structure humanity plays a role but it works with other civilizations and is not always the main race, having said that however, I have notices that humanity is not the “evil” race in the majority of the episodes and when it is the “evil” that needs to be destroyed it is either a rogue being or a misunderstanding. Star Wars, on the other hand, seems to be more movie based then television show based, although plenty of novels were written in which these movies base themselves off of and Star Trek has old and new movies. Star Wars deals with all races on the same level, there doesn’t seem to be a favorite race even though Luke, Han Solo, and Leah are human in appearance. The fight is not between races but between “good” and “evil”. Where Star Trek wants to discover new worlds, Star Wars wants to free the worlds from tyranny. These two are quite close in story lines and themes which is aprt of why I do not understand where the dislike stems from, unless the problem is that they are so similar. Perhaps this hatred has developed from the idea that Star Wars is taking away some of the fame entitled to Star Trek, or perhaps because Star Wars was named one of the best special effects movies of it’s time. My aim is to understand why Star Trek fans would disreguard and dislike Star Wars as much as I have been led to believe, why can’t we all just get along and be fans of both? Why is there a need for the hatred of Star Wars?

Can’t we just get along?

star wars vs star trek