Alistairm's Blog

Genre Case Study – Sci-fi

Posted in Uncategorized by alistairm on November 9, 2009

Sci-fi, or science-fiction, is a genre which is difficult to characterise due to the immense variations in the genre, Damon Knight summed up the difficulty by stating that “science fiction is what we point to when we say it”. Generally, sci-fi films depict an advanced frontier of knowledge or time which the present day has not yet reached. Realistic speculation contributes to the iconography of the genre such as portrayals of future civilisations and of outer space colonisation, such as Dune and the Star Trek franchise. Other common depictions include technological advances such as time travel (Time Traveler’s Wife), Seemingly impossible space travel, such as ‘lightspeed’ depicted on Star Wars and highly advanced common day amenities such as hover cars (The Fifth Element) and nanotechnology such as identity chips, of which are portrayed regularly in dystopian sci-fi’s. Psionic abilities, such as telekinesis and  telepathy is a recurrent theme in sci-fi; The Shining being an example of extraordinary powers.

Sci-fi is easily recognised as a genre through the quasi-scientific iconography, an enhanced or distorted depiction of reality or even a present-day natural disaster. Dystopian societies such as the film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four and A Clockwork Orange are less easily recognised as sci-fi but are attributed as social sci-fi which concerns itself with human behaviour and development in the long run rather than technological and astrological advancements, this deviates from the commonly displayed Hard sci-fi however shares similarities with Soft sci-fi which, rather than having speculative ideas of the future, use less evidence based facts.

Science-fiction protagonists are often portrayed as heroic (Armageddon), Rebellious(The Matrix) or just curious (The Time Machine). Heroic protagonists are commonly depicted as an anti-disaster force or a figurehead of a revolt in a dystopian society, similarly to that of a rebellious protagonist. The Time Machine hosts a typical soft sci-fi protagonist, a scientist whom creates a time machine to try save his late girlfriend.

Authors of sci-fi often incorporate social themes into the plot line. An example of this is global warming, which was depicted in The Day After Tomorrow as a result of increased social alarm of the situation. A more recent example is the 2012 conspiracy being incorporated into a film. These immediate apocalyptic sci-fi’s are criticised by scientists, claiming that they contribute to common anxiety.

Sci-fi is generally a more open genre that has seen large commercial success (2001 Space Odyssey). The genre will continue to expand with new concepts deriving from fundamental sciences and social studies to amaze, shock and scare the viewer

ufo

Common depiction of UFO

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