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Sci Fi versus Fantasy?


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#1 QueenTiye

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 07:42 PM

Well, I'm not sure that this belongs here, and if it doesn't, I apologize (please do move it where it belongs!), but after watching (for what reason, no one knows) A Rev De-furred, I conclude that the industry has made a clear choice to favor fantasy over sci-fi.   There was, after all, no plausible scientific reason for what happened to Rev, and many applauses to Christopher for pointing out the theological nightmare that was passed off as wayism in this episode.  In short, neither the hard nor the soft sciences were given ANY thought... in place was a whole bunch of feel good fantasy which was so poorly executed that is significantly failed to feel good....

What do people think?  Any other examples of sci-fi shows turning their backs completely on science?  Any other examples of networks and hollywood studios leaning more towards fantasy, and turning their backs on the whole sci-fi genre?  

Any thoughts on WHY this is happening (if you agree that it is?)

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#2 Ilphi

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 08:18 PM

Well, Fantasy can certainly look more appealing to the producer... achive what they see as similar results without having to put the same effort into research and thinking out a problem. They think that the viewers won't care...

...however...

Everyone I talk to does. They may not understand the science, but they sure as hell know when they are being BSed. It's nice to think you might be able to learn a little real science when watching these shows, and I think as long as they carry the name "Science Fiction" you should be entitled to a little credit.
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#3 DWF

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 09:00 PM

In many ways all science fiction is fantasy of a kind, so a great many TV shows, do cross that line from time to time. But, no I don't think the industry is making any kind turn. But I do think some PTB think that, with fantasy you don't need to explain things happening onscreen in a realistic manner, like technobabble, or something like it.
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#4 Bad Wolf

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 09:18 PM

I  refuse to blame the utterly crappy story telling that has marked much  of Drom season three as a choice of fantasy over sci fi.

I've been reading fantasy and science fiction for like, more than 30 years at least and the bottom line is that  crappy and lazy story telling is crappy and lazy story telling, regardless of whether you're talking science fiction, fantasy or soap operas.

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#5 Christopher

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 09:25 PM

I think this discussion does go here, because it ties into the earlier thread on "Science Literacy in SFTV."  In fact, I might merge this into that thread, but I've just found that the thread got mixed up in the move, so I'll leave this where it is, at least until I get the other thread fixed.

EDIT: No, I guess I won't merge, since that would apparently put the merged posts in chronological order, and these posts were entered before my reposted version of the other thread.  (For a moment I wondered if merging the Science Lit thread with something else would put it in proper order, and I tried it, but no such luck.)

Edited by Christopher, 02 March 2003 - 11:53 PM.

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#6 Chipper

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 10:05 PM

I'm beginning to think that its not that there is preference, but that writers aren't doing their hw properly.  DROM did its homework the first season and a half (and some small parts later, depending on who was writing), and it was Sci-Fi.  However, it is being sloppy this year, and Deferred shows this.  The writers don't know the science they are using.  They just go with whatever works for their story.  ONly Ash and Zack have considered the science behind the fiction.
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#7 jodihopper

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 12:42 AM

:wacko: Just curious as what your definitions of fantasy are?

I lean more toward "fantasy" than Science Fiction.  The "fantasy" that I read and  is very structured with logical cause and effect relationships.  A science and/or art that has developed along different lines.

This is good fantasy and at times great.  The participants are just as studious of the laws and behavior of their particular "science" as real life participants of the sciences and arts contemporary to us..

What I have seen in television to me does not qualify as fantasy because it has no structure no cause and effect.

Edited by jodihopper, 03 March 2003 - 04:12 AM.


#8 Delvo

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 02:25 AM

I don't think the Queen's question can be answered unless the answerer first decides on what meaning(s) for the words (s)he is using.

For example, if you think of "fantasy" as the category for stories in which odd events just happen out of nowhere and have no explanation, then Rev Deformed fits. But then you're excluding many stories that most people would consider to be obvious fantasy pieces, because their events are magical but work within some kind of consistent, sensible structure and rules.

If "fantasy" is where you'd dump any story in which things we already know to be impossible happen anyway, then Rev Deformed fits. But then you're including a bunch of shows that are tyipcally considered science fiction anyway, so you're not making much of a point about Rev Deformed in particular. Most science fiction actually postulates future technology that we either have no reason to think can work, or even have reason to think of as impossible.

If you figure "fantasy", in order to really be that, must be based on legends, myths, and fairy tales that have traditionally been told in past eras, then Rev Deformed doesn't fit at all.

If you call "fantasy" a category in which odd events are allowed by magic while science fiction allows them by technology, then you expose why Rev Deformed feels so wrong; the show is supposed to be science fiction, in which anything that can't happen in our world is enabled in theirs by technology, but that particular event LOOKS so much like magic that it's hopelessly out of place.

I could be perfectly happy reading or watching a science fiction story in which some person or people were established as having the technology to do such a transformation. I think I already HAVE read fantasy stories in which altering living things was some magical entity's specialty, and this was the explanation for the existence of certain "mythical" animals and plants. I think what the Queen is talking about here isn't a matter of science fiction and fantasy, but a universal problem that can plague both genres and all others: just plain being sloppy and bad.

#9 QueenTiye

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 06:03 AM

Ya!  that's it exactly, Delvo...  And thanks for the clarification, everyone!

Yes, Fantasy stories that work work because of the inherent logical structure that allows us to make sense of the universe, even though science is not the tool of choice... and sci-fi works because of the inherent logical structure that allows us to make sense of the universe, using plausible science as a tool...

And I think that the industry is largely bailing on sci-fi in general, because they WANT to be lazy and sloppy, and because they CAN'T when the tool of choice is science.  There is always SOME science buff who will call them on it...

And while the sloppy mess that we are seeing with Drom (Deferred being yet another painful example) is clearly fantasy - it is nevertheless BAD BOTH because Drom USED TO BE Sci-Fi, and because it has no inherent structure or logic to speak of, even as a fantasy element.  The Drom universe simply has no place for talking stars that perform miracles, while talking Trances babble incoherently about believing...

Oy... I can't talk about this objectively yet... carry on without me... :(

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#10 Christopher

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 04:17 PM

QueenTiye, on Mar 2 2003, 11:39 AM, said:

What do people think?  Any other examples of sci-fi shows turning their backs completely on science?
Oh, there are examples.  Just about every show that's started out trying for a modicum of scientific literacy has ended up abandoning it when the producers changed.  Star Trek, SeaQuest DSV and Sliders are the main examples aside from DROM.

Babylon 5 maintained basically the same mix of plausible ideas (mainly having to do with spacecraft propulsion and rotational gravity) and fanciful ideas (psi powers, godlike aliens, ludicrous medical "science") throughout its entire run.  And Stargate SG-1 has also maintained a pretty consistent mix of fairly good physics, Treklike pseudoscience, ancient-astronaut silliness and a rather poor grasp of world history, sociology and anthropology.  I think what sets these shows apart is that unlike the others, they've maintained the same creative leadership throughout their runs.

As I mentioned in the "Science Literacy in SFTV" thread, I think the problem is that only a small percentage of TV producers is interested or knowledgeable enough to make scientific credibility a priority.  So if a show that starts out with such producers doesn't hold onto them, it's guaranteed to go downhill in scientific terms.

No, let me amend that.  An equal part of the problem is that too many SFTV producers are TV producers coming to SF from the outside, many of them not really grasping what it's supposed to be.  Like SeaQuest -- its first-season producers did a hard-SF show (mostly) and claimed it wasn't SF, while its second-season producers said they were going to start doing SF and ended up doing inane B-movie nonsense.  There's just too great a cultural prejudice and misunderstanding about what science fiction is.  Most people don't seem to recognize the first half of the label.  Because the public perception of "science fiction" has been dominated by the space fantasies of the mass media.

Also there's a tendency to assume that if something isn't realistic, then you can just make up whatever you want and it doesn't have to make sense.  This is a mistake -- the more a story departs from reality, the more important it is that it be told as believably and realistically as possible.
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#11 Delvo

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 05:11 PM

The phenomena Christopher describes might be at their worst in comic books and the movies based on them. I just recently caught the first X-Men movie on TV. Overall, X-Men was a good idea: put a bunch of superheroes and supervillains in one story together (even if they were originally separate), say that the existence of such people with such wacky superpowers at about the same time in history not a coincidence, but is a part of a general trend beginning, a change taking place in society at random... and then put all of their battles of good and evil in the context of their trying to determine how (and if) they'll fit into society, while society also tries to figure out how to deal with these people who have scary powers but still are people with rights.

Of course the powers are fanciful, and comic-book fans accept that. But the "explanations" in some cases make no sense. First of all, the people are called "Mutants". And in the movie, apparently, "Mutations" granting superpowers can be induced in non-Mutants with a machine that casts an energy field that looks like a giant luminscent jellyfish around the subject... the machine's power source being Magneto himself instead of standard electrical/magnetic equipment for some reason (maybe so nobody'd notice the power drain on standard power systems?). And there are other little treats along the way that have nothing to do with the Mutations, like Wolverine's skeleton and blades being made of a miraculous metal called "adamantium" (done surgically, which he survived because of his Mutant superpower to heal).

The Mutations could have been explained in terms of some magical idea instead of called "mutations", or they could have been left unexplained. Wolverine's blades could have been similarly explained as magically blessed, or not even made out to have such ludicrous physical properties in the first place (since most of the plot points using them don't require anything more than what steel can do, and those plot points that do require it could have been changed somehow). Sure, calling it magic might be a cheap way out, but it's better than using "scientific" explanations that aren't scientific. What disturbs me is the question of how much of the population might actually accept the given explanations as being real; this would mean science, as a concept in their minds, has no boundaries and can be made up as you go along, to cover any story idea you could ever imagine.

Blade is another good example. At one point in the first movie, the hematologist that Blade had met had figured out a cure for "turned" vampires, but couldn't reverse-turn somebody who was born a vampire to vampire parents, making him/her human. OK, fine... but then came her explanation to the question of whether it would work on Blade, because he had only some vampire traits and not others and was sort of a member of both vampire categories, his mother having been bitten shortly before he was born. You see, the cure for turned vampires is to rewrite the victim's DNA with a retrovirus, because it's a genetic defect that's been passed on to them... but it can't work on those born with it (including Blade) because it's a part of their genetic makeup? Come on now, can you alter a living patient's DNA or can't you? Pick one, and I'll take it, but don't cnotradict yourself on it with two statements made in the very same minute!

#12 tennyson

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 06:35 PM

Actually Wolverine's skeleton isn't made of adamantium, it is just coated with it using a variant electroplating process, although he needed the healing factor to survive it anyway. Pretty much his difference is the healing factor, the ehanced senses, higher than normal strength and the claws which were there before the adamantium showed up.
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#13 MuseZack

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 09:28 PM

DWF, on Mar 2 2003, 05:57 PM, said:

In many ways all science fiction is fantasy of a kind, so a great many TV shows, do cross that line from time to time. But, no I don't think the industry is making any kind turn. But I do think some PTB think that, with fantasy you don't need to explain things happening onscreen in a realistic manner, like technobabble, or something like it.
...which in itself is utterly bogus.  Because fantasy in its own ways adheres to just as rigorous a set of rules as SF does.  It's just that the rules of a fantasy universe aren't bound by the laws of physics as we understand them.   The hallmark of bad genre material isn't moving from SF to fantasy; it's deciding that the words "sci fi" or "fantasy" mean "anything can happen," rather than realizing that a dramatically effective genre universe needs to have its own set of rules under which the characters operate.

Zack

P.S.  And it is irritating that many writers who operate in genre movies and television get annoyed by the insistence on obeying the rules one has set up for a fictional unvierse, whether it be light speed communications lag or the number of times a wizard can use his powers, while they'd pitch a fit if one decided that anasthetic was unecessary for surgery on an E.R. episode or that defense attorneys shouldn't give a closing argument on The Practice.
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#14 Christopher

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 10:17 PM

MuseZack, on Mar 3 2003, 01:25 PM, said:

And it is irritating that many writers who operate in genre movies and television get annoyed by the insistence on obeying the rules one has set up for a fictional unvierse, whether it be light speed communications lag or the number of times a wizard can use his powers, while they'd pitch a fit if one decided that anasthetic was unecessary for surgery on an E.R. episode or that defense attorneys shouldn't give a closing argument on The Practice.
Good point.  One of the innovations Gene Roddenberry brought to TOS was the policy that the writers/producers of an SF show should approach it using the same tools and principles they'd apply to writing a doctor show or a lawyer show or a cop show.  It's still about people interacting and facing problems; just because the setting and paraphernalia are different doesn't mean the rest of the rules go out the window.

In a sense, so it's been argued, all fiction is SF.  It all depicts unreal, speculative situations; it's just that the unrealities are usually rather basic: certain characters exist who don't exist in reality, certain events happen that haven't happened in reality.  And various other contrivances for the sake of the drama.

Look at the alternate reality of The West Wing.  In this universe, the US President is a Democrat named Bartlet.  There are a number of nations which do not exist on the real Earth, such as Qumar and Kuhndu, and a variety of international and domestic crises which did not occur in reality.  Indeed, the presidential election cycle in this universe is two years displaced from ours.  All in all, it's substantially divergent from the universe we inhabit.  (On top of everything else, most of the people in this alternate universe can spout glib, witty dialogue at any and all times.)  How is this not speculative fiction?
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#15 QueenTiye

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 10:37 PM

Um.... pardon me while I have a fangirl moment of gushing over having Delvo, Christopher, tennyson AND MuseZack all in the same thread...  


THUD!!!!!!!!!... (What can I say?  Intelligence is sexy... :D)

O.k. Refocusing here... Yep.  Thanks Zack for drawing that parallel... It really does help to think of things that way.  In fact, it just doesn't work when the viewer can't count on some sense of consistency from a show!  And truly - the easiest way to stay consistent is to insist on following the rules set up at the outset... {Speaking of which, Zack, can you finally comment on the whole Niet Matriarchy theme?  Was there EVER a plan?  Caitriona and I went on whatever little tidbits we could find and built our own universe, which I'm convinced now bore no real resemblance to what was going on onscreen - but was there ever supposed to be a matriarchy?  Or was that Keith's wishful thinking? Or, WHAT?}

tennyson... you make a good point about Wolverine's skeleton, but I don't think it quite answers Delvo's point about the implausibility of this metal in the first place, and the total lack of a need for it...

LOL w/Delvo about the selfcontradictory statements in Blade...  looks like someone just thought that up as a plot fixer-upper...

LOL w/ Christopher...it would indeed be an interesting world if all conversations were that well-paced and brilliant! LOL!


QueenTiye goes off to contemplate what next ETU-equivalent of an exposed-leg-on-an-open-highway move she can pull to draw the fellas... LOL!

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#16 QueenTiye

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 10:41 PM

jodihopper, on Mar 2 2003, 04:39 PM, said:

:wacko: Just curious as what your definitions of fantasy are?

I lean more toward "fantasy" than Science Fiction.  The "fantasy" that I read and  is very structured with logical cause and effect relationships.  A science and/or art that has developed along different lines.

This is good fantasy and at times great.  The participants are just as studious of the laws and behavior of their particular "science" as real life participants of the sciences and arts contemporary to us..
Just wanted to come back and say... AMEN!  

Yes, that's about my definition... and I would agree that a lot of what we see on TV just doesn't cut it.  I'm just wondering if there is a perception in the industry that goes by another interpretation of fantasy, that allows for the fantastic to occur for no reason whatsoever (other than the writers/fx people/directors/but most likely EXECS think it will be cool and draw a certain demographic...)

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#17 tennyson

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 01:40 AM

Hi Queen Tiye, I wasn't really trying to answer Delvo's critique, I was just showing a weakness in the example that was picked.  I was never really an X-men fan as a kid(G.I. jOE, Transformers, and a little later Iron Man were my favorites) but I just seem to absorb information wether I want to or not. I could have commented on adamantium but I have no idea when it entered the comics other than it has been in the Marvel universe since 1963 at least. It is supposed to be the hardest metal known and that's pretty much all I remember the comics ever saying.
But this does bringup something, before Hasbro started directly introduing new characters and teams into the universe, the G. I. Joe comic was a vastly more realistic depiction of the military and the then current state of the art than either the carton or movie. They had accurate slang, weapons and generally used them pretty well except for lateron when things took a turn for the strange with Serpentor and they got stuck with all kinds of wierd stuff.
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#18 Corwin

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 02:15 AM

Hmmm... Where to begin......  

I have to agree with several of my fellow posters here.... sci-fi/fantasy or any other type of fiction....  doesn't matter much..   If you put junk in, you get junk out.. Period..  This is normally attributed to lack of thinking things through, I believe.   This occurs in ALL types of media (not to mention real life).  

As far as comic book movies, I'm going to get a bit critical  :hehe: ... They are based on comics... Whoever said comic book heroes have to make sense.... Look at superman....  Our yellow sun gives him his strength, but he goes offworld to other planets all the time and still has all his powers....

I think that Adamantium is a man-made alloy out of several different elements including Vanadium and Titanium... (I'm going off of comic book memory here, so I could very easily be wrong).  I do remember that Captain America's shield is a composite alloy of Vanadium and Titanium.  Except for the mutant-making machine (plot contrivance), I think the X-Men movie was extremely well done, even though it mixed the X-Men team timeline up quite a bit.

And as Tennyson was saying, the original GIJOE comics were great and realistic up to a point.  After that I lost interest.  And FYI,  I started off on comics like The Phantom, John Carter: Warlord of Mars, X-Men, and Star Wars, The Fantastic Four and Detectice Comics.
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#19 Christopher

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Posted 05 March 2003 - 06:42 PM

QueenTiye, on Mar 3 2003, 02:34 PM, said:

Um.... pardon me while I have a fangirl moment of gushing over having Delvo, Christopher, tennyson AND MuseZack all in the same thread... 

THUD!!!!!!!!!... (What can I say?  Intelligence is sexy... :D)

...

QueenTiye goes off to contemplate what next ETU-equivalent of an exposed-leg-on-an-open-highway move she can pull to draw the fellas... LOL!
Meep!  Gee, thanks... it's a novel experience to be called sexy for my mind.  (Not that women haven't called me sexy before... it's just usually been while I was walking away from them....)
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#20 RangerColin

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Posted 06 March 2003 - 12:10 PM

Hi There.Babylon 5,Stargate Sg1
and Space Above And Beyond (which i thought was a great programme)stuck with beleivable
tech.The Scifi Channel is slowly becoming the Scifright chanel over here! Colin.<*>.


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