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- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

Science fiction can't have character drama or awesome action in it?


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny
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MOON might be the first genuine hard sci-fi film since 2001.

Do you mean the Kubrick film or the year itself? Hahaha.

Moon was hard for me to categorize at first because it's such a intimate and low-key character drama full of emotion. I'm not used to a hard sci-fi film feeling that way.

Yeah, that means I'm not a fan of Blade Runner. Hahahah.


- stelios - 12-30-2009

Hard sci-fi should probably only contain technologies extrapolated from what we already know today. Soft sci-fi uses technology that may be plausible but requires jumps instead of a straight progression from today's technologies. Clones and AIs are hard sci-fi. Time travel and warp drives are soft. And a story can easily have elements of both, like Avatar and the huge majority of sci-fi movies. In fact the only movies I can easily recall that could be categorized as hard sci-fi would be Blade Runner and Moon.


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2009

Gataca?


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Science fiction can't have character drama or awesome action in it?

You know, it certainly seems like that's what I'm saying. And maybe I am. I certainly don't want to say it can't. For soft sci-fi stories, that is. It really seems like a tricky 'give and take' balance a film has to strike in order to hit those character/action sweet spots while still maintaining its sci-fi concepts.


- stelios - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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Gataca?

That too.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Science fiction can't have character drama or awesome action in it?

Of course it can. No offense, but are you deliberately ignoring the points we're making?


- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

Nope. I just find your definition of what constitutes a science fiction film to be far to restrictive for my tastes.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by stelios
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Hard sci-fi should probably only contain technologies extrapolated from what we already know today. Soft sci-fi uses technology that may be plausible but requires jumps instead of a straight progression from today's technologies. Clones and AIs are hard sci-fi. Time travel and warp drives are soft. And a story can easily have elements of both, like Avatar and the huge majority of sci-fi movies. In fact the only movies I can easily recall that could be categorized as hard sci-fi would be Blade Runner and Moon.

See, a lot of people think this, but I disagree. One can make up completely new fields of science (Asimov) and still create science fiction. Imaginative concepts and "magical" technologies that may be fantastical can work extremely well in a science fiction story. 2001 is a great example. Explanation of the science does not make something science fiction. This is still fiction, after all. The interaction of that science with humanity - the developments, the implications, and the outcomes - are what makes something science fiction.


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Nope. I just find your definition of what constitutes a science fiction film to be far to restrictive for my tastes.

We're really talking about HARD sci-fi film, I think. But as a few choice examples show, a hard sci-fi film can have character (MOON) and action (BLADE RUNNER). It's simply not something we see too often.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Nope. I just find your definition of what constitutes a science fiction film to be far to restrictive for my tastes.

I don't understand how it's restrictive. I'm not saying Avatar shouldn't be made because it's not science fiction. I'm simply saying that I don't think it should be called science fiction. I wouldn't call Star Trek science fiction either. Doesn't mean I didn't love the shit out of it.


- greg clark - 12-30-2009

If A.I. isn't hard sci-fi, I don't know what is. Also hops this line of being a character piece at the same time.

I guess where I disagree with Malone is his rigid description of sci-fi, realistically, can't exist outside of the super low-budget independent films (or when they do, they bomb hard). Science Fiction also is the place where ideas are presented, however fantastic they might be. It's not just "what is this was", but also "what if we could?" Avatar presents a lot of ideas--a living earth, a natural networked ecosystem, remote controlled bodies--while encasing them in a story that can be swallowed by a large audience. That's a given when you're dealing with a movie this big--it has to play wide. I'm sure Cameron felt that simply putting forth the idea would be enough for people to chew on, while still keeping the average Joe interested. None of these ideas are unique, and I'll agree, they're not explored to their full potential, but the ideas are still there, and they're unquestionably sci-fi. Same as Star Trek got people thinking about portable communicators and teleporters, but it's really Horatio Hornblower in space and served as an allegory for modern day issues. Is it not sci-fi, then?


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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We're really talking about HARD sci-fi film, I think. But as a few choice examples show, a hard sci-fi film can have character (MOON) and action (BLADE RUNNER). It's simply not something we see too often.

What started this whole thing was my contention that there shouldn't be a divide between "hard" and "soft" science fiction. That divide began way back in the 40's and 50's when novelists started making the jump from pulp crime and fantasy writing to space adventures. Their output got lumped in with actual science fiction novels and short stories, and caused an uproar among many actual science fiction writers of the time.


- alan "nordling" cerny - 12-30-2009

I guess CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND could be hard sci-fi too. Doesn't feel pulpy in the slightest, even though the main character's an Everyman. It's genuinely speculative as to how first contact might take place.


- ryoken - 12-30-2009

I cant help wonder where THX-1138 falls in the hard/soft sci-fi divide.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Greg Clark
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If A.I. isn't hard sci-fi, I don't know what is. Also hops this line of being a character piece at the same time.

I guess where I disagree with Malone is his rigid description of sci-fi, realistically, can't exist outside of the super low-budget independent films (or when they do, they bomb hard). Science Fiction also is the place where ideas are presented, however fantastic they might be. It's not just "what is this was", but also "what if we could?" Avatar presents a lot of ideas--a living earth, a natural networked ecosystem, remote controlled bodies--while encasing them in a story that can be swallowed by a large audience. That's a given when you're dealing with a movie this big--it has to play wide. I'm sure Cameron felt that simply putting forth the idea would be enough for people to chew on, while still keeping the average Joe interested. None of these ideas are unique, and I'll agree, they're not explored to their full potential, but the ideas are still there, and they're unquestionably sci-fi. Same as Star Trek got people thinking about portable communicators and teleporters, but it's really Horatio Hornblower in space and served as an allegory for modern day issues. Is it not sci-fi, then?

No, it's not. I understand the point you're making - that films can inspire science and innovation. I'm not arguing against that at all. I'm simply saying that I wouldn't call Avatar science fiction, for the reasons I've already outlined.

Again, that doesn't mean I'm passing judgement on the content of the film. It's just not a science fiction story.


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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What started this whole thing was my contention that there shouldn't be a divide between "hard" and "soft" science fiction. That divide began way back in the 40's and 50's when novelists started making the jump from pulp crime and fantasy writing to space adventures. Their output got lumped in with actual science fiction novels and short stories, and caused an uproar among many actual science fiction writers of the time.

Ah. Understood. I will say though... what I'm calling soft sci-fi is really just the same thing video rental stores do to categorize their shelves for stuff with robots and pew-pew lasers.


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2009

I've always seen the distinction of "science fiction" for more science and speculation based stories and "science fantasy" for the gee-whiz adventure in space stuff. Dune would be science fiction while John Carter and Lensman would be science fantasy.


- ryoken - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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I've always seen the distinction of "science fiction" for more science and speculation based stories and "science fantasy" for the gee-whiz adventure in space stuff. Dune would be science fiction while John Carter and Lensman would be science fantasy.

I find your ideas interesting and I would like to suscribe to your newsletter.
Isnt Hard Sci-fi esentially the ones where everything is explained in detail and with scientific rigor, disregarding suspension of belief or fictional scapegoats?
At least, thast what i thought it meant.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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I've always seen the distinction of "science fiction" for more science and speculation based stories and "science fantasy" for the gee-whiz adventure in space stuff. Dune would be science fiction while John Carter and Lensman would be science fantasy.

I'm there with you. Although I had an extensive and heated debate with a friend last year about Dune. I don't think it's science fiction at all. It's a dressed up analogy to the political/social landscape of the Middle East. Extremely well done - I love all the books, even the slogging middle ones - but I'd put it on the "science fantasy" shelf.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by ryoken
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I find your ideas interesting and I would like to suscribe to your newsletter.
Isnt Hard Sci-fi esentially the ones where everything is explained in detail and with scientific rigor, disregarding suspension of belief or fictional scapegoats?
At least, thast what i thought it meant.

That's, unfortunately, what it's come to mean in modern fiction. There's no room for stories like Close Encounters or Childhood's End in today's modern crop of "hard" SF. The imaginative and speculative side of science fiction is slowly being drained away (with a few exceptions) for what amount to laser shoot-em-ups and fastidious essays on quantum theory with dialogue.


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2009

I don't know, there's too much "meat" to Dune for me to dismiss it that easily. There's a ton of environmental science in it, plus the idea of the ban on Thinking Machines and their replacement by the Mentats. Plus, it takes place so far in the future, it's hard to point to a lot of the science in it as "wrong". It all seems like plausible progress thousands of years into the future. And it takes itself a lot more seriously -- it's not The Amazing Adventures of Paul in the Desert.


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

Can I also throw in a thought?

What happens once we catch up with a certain sci-fi story's future/technology/environment? At what point will it lose its 'sci-fi' qualities? Or will it keep them because the story is still about what such a future/technology/environment means and says about humanity?

What about some of these high concept comedies? Could Groundhog Day be seen as a form of sci-fi? I actually wouldn't see it that way primarily because the story is so focused on the growth of a VERY specific character (Phil Connors). It's why I think the film is so strong compared to another high concept comedy like the recent The Invention of Lying.

It's hard to articulate, but I would actually consider Gervais' film to be a bit sci-fi. It's a bad bad film. But it feels sci-fi because the film takes focus off of Gervais' character and tries to explore (badly) what this concept means for humanity.

Am I full of it? Tell meeeeee!


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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I don't know, there's too much "meat" to Dune for me to dismiss it that easily. There's a ton of environmental science in it, plus the idea of the ban on Thinking Machines and their replacement by the Mentats. Plus, it takes place so far in the future, it's hard to point to a lot of the science in it as "wrong". It all seems like plausible progress thousands of years into the future. And it takes itself a lot more seriously -- it's not The Amazing Adventures of Paul in the Desert.

I'm having deja-vu to last year

I agree that Dune explores such ideas and does it well. Herbert was great at that. But the essential story is simply, "foreigners are fighting over our oil, and we are the chosen people who will protect it and drive the foreign devils out." That's the focal point of the story. It's even got the "white nobleman goes native" plotline.

Although the Fremen are considerably more badass than the Na'vi.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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Can I also throw in a thought?

What happens once we catch up with a certain sci-fi story's future/technology/environment? At what point will it lose its 'sci-fi' qualities? Or will it keep them because the story is still about what such a future/technology/environment means and says about humanity?

To me, the dates aren't important. 2001 is still science fiction. From the Earth to the Moon is still science fiction. Just because we've already done it doesn't negate the essence of the story.

Quote:

What about some of these high concept comedies? Could Groundhog Day be seen as a form of sci-fi? I actually wouldn't see it that way primarily because the story is so focused on the growth of a VERY specific character (Phil Connors). It's why I think the film is so strong compared to another high concept comedy like the recent The Invention of Lying.

Very interesting. Yes, I would classify Groundhog Day as a sort of science fiction. I never thought of it that way before, but it certainly fits the bill. Great thought!


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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But the essential story is simply, "foreigners are fighting over our oil, and we are the chosen people who will protect it and drive the foreign devils out." That's the focal point of the story. It's even got the "white nobleman goes native" plotline.

I think throwing familiar tropes into more technologically advanced situations, and exploring how technology would affect those tropes, is the very essence of science fiction.


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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To me, the dates aren't important. 2001 is still science fiction. From the Earth to the Moon is still science fiction. Just because we've already done it doesn't negate the essence of the story.

Completely agree. That's what I'm asking though. Is that what it would take for other people to realize that a story isn't really science fiction? To catch up to it and then suddenly label it as 'contemporary drama/action/comedy?' What does it take for a film to stay sci-fi even when we surpass its vision of future and technology?

I think we're agreeing that when it comes to labeling something sci-fi, it comes down to the core story that's being told. Everything else being window-dressing. I completely agree that the story of Avatar is not sci-fi. But with the world Cameron built, there could certainly be sci-fi stories told within it.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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I think throwing familiar tropes into more technologically advanced situations, and exploring how technology would affect those tropes, is the very essence of science fiction.

I agree, but the story in Dune is not changed in any way by removing the futuristic technology and replacing it with, say, 20th-century technology. For God's sake, the climax of the novel hinges on the use of atomic weapons!


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2009

The climax of Dune hinges on a genetically bred messiah who has taken control of the source of the only thing that makes interstellar travel possible.

EDIT: I don't buy the "take the science fiction out and it's the same story." It's not. Dune without Mentats and the Bene Gesserit breeding programs and spice isn't the same story at all.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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Completely agree. That's what I'm asking though. Is that what it would take for other people to realize that a story isn't really science fiction? To catch up to it and then suddenly label it as 'contemporary drama/action/comedy?' What does it take for a film to stay sci-fi even when we surpass its vision of future and technology?

I would say once sci-fi, always sci-fi.

Quote:

I think we're agreeing that when it comes to labeling something sci-fi, it comes down to the core story that's being told. Everything else being window-dressing. I completely agree that the story of Avatar is not sci-fi. But with the world Cameron built, there could certainly be sci-fi stories told within it.

I 100% agree with that.


- Richard Dickson - 12-30-2009

I would say a story of the first landing on Pandora and first contact with the Na'vi would be a science fiction story.


- ryoken - 12-30-2009

You know, the whole "time catches up with sci-fi" is an interesting thing to ponder.
Hell, if we ever get invaded and decimated by an alien race, would most sci-fi films be in bad taste then?
On the other side, look at comics; no one bitchs that radiation doesnt make you superpowered or evolution cant just pop up in one genration, as long as its fun and doesnt insult your intelligence.


- ryoken - 12-30-2009

Well, you guys are right; hell, "Avatar" would work just as well without science fiction adn space related ideas; its pretty much a "tehcnological humans vs wood elves" story.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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The climax of Dune hinges on a genetically bred messiah who has taken control of the source of the only thing that makes interstellar travel possible.

EDIT: I don't buy the "take the science fiction out and it's the same story." It's not. Dune without Mentats and the Bene Gesserit breeding programs and spice isn't the same story at all.

Yes, it is. Rival kingdoms maneuver politically, militarily, and socio-economically to take control of a primary resource that the civilization needs to maintain itself. At the same time, a feared and misunderstood tribe of indigenous people use their superior fighting skills and tactics to wage a geurilla war against the invading kingdoms, while at the same time taking in an heir to the kingdom as their prophecy-fulfilling "chosen one", who then takes the lead in the war against the invaders. The story climaxes when the chosen one fulfills the prophecy of the natives and siezes control of the invaders in a spectacular assault on their stronghold, while using the harsh environment and indigenous creatures to his advantage. The End.

That's Dune. No mention of the weirding way, shields, CHOAM, the navigators, stillsuits, mentats, etc. Those things are not essential to the basic story.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Now, lets do the same thing to Blade Runner. The story of Blade Runner: A cop who specializes in tracking down and eliminating androids is confronted with questions of how life is defined, what rights should be attributed to intelligence created by mankind, and whether destroying that which you create is immoral.

Take out the androids. Here's the story: A cop kills some criminals.