When I was young pup growing up in the backwater woods of East Texas, I had three primary forms of escapism that I indulged in: fantasy, horror, and sci-fi… and cartoons… and building forts in the woods… and you know what lets just say that I was an incredibly imaginative child with many creative outlets.
One day I was a gallant knight fighting a dragon (neighbor’s incredibly ugly buick), another day I was a monster stalking my prey through the park (a city water mutated squirrel) and my personal favorite, Lord High Commander of my Space Soldiers of Doom ruling over the stars from my nigh impregnable asteroid fortress (a particularly large rock in my front yard).
Science fiction, like Horror, has always fascinated me. I grew up on a healthy diet of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate: the sci-fi trifecta (Battlestar Galactica is our red headed stepchild that I would discover later) and thought each new installment was simply the most amazing spectacle of exploding lasers and incomprehensible technobabble that ever graced cinemas. And yes, this included: Star Trek the Motionless Picture, Star Trek 4: Save the Whales, Star Trek 5: They Shot God in the Face, Star Trek Generations: Dropped a Bridge on Him, Star Trek: I wish they had made a good movie instead of Insurrection, Star Trek Nemesis: Tom Hardy’s Near Career Suicide… and every Star Wars prequel.
I was barely a teenager when I watched these, and had no idea about concepts like story, plot symmetry, and characterization. All I could see was Yoda jumping around and having a lightsaber battle with the Emperor. I didn’t care if Anakin’s fall to the dark side took place over the course of three seconds, or that the Force was “revealed” to be microscopic doodads living in bloodstreams, or even that dreaded attempt at comic relief that will forever live in the annals of worst decisions ever made: JAR JAR BINKS. I just wanted to see Jedi fights and ships get blown up in spectacular CGI.
I’m older and wiser now and my tastes have gotten more refined when it comes to science fiction. Not only have I dabbled in writing a few stories myself, but also my exploration of this genre has split off into realms that don’t have the prefix of “Star” before the rest of the title. It is through my examination of several different helpings of science fiction that I’ve noticed a wonderful thing about this genre… its variance.
You have your traditional space operas (Star Wars, Dune, and the Expanse), massive sweeping tales on far-flung worlds that don’t even necessarily have anything to do with us on little old Earth. There’s military science fiction (Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, Independence Day), stories that are focused entirely on the military and their war on whatever the designated enemies are. Space Western’s (Firefly, Cowboys and Aliens, Defiance) take the trappings and themes of the wild west and apply them metaphorically or literally to the story at hand.
I could go on and on about the variance and that’s the beauty of it… sci-fi can be added to virtually any genre.
A wonderful time for Science Fiction, to be sure, because I believe that we are beginning to enter into a Sci-Fi Renaissance. Star Wars has swooped back into theaters along with a new helping of Star Trek (may the eternal war between Trekkies and Lucas Hounds forever be waged), but that’s just tradition at work. If you want a good science fiction movie specifically tuned the space opera section of things, look no further than the recent Marvel helping: Guardians of the Galaxy.
It had everything that a Star Wars movie had, just with Marvel’s traditional style— aliens, spaceships, and an intergalactic war. It’s less a superhero film than it was a space opera and it showed. I was entertained throughout the entire and my only criticism lay with the bland villain and even he had a moment where I choked on my drink in the theater from laughter.
Of course these are all space opera examples. Sci-fi doesn’t always have to be aliens, space battles, and strange mysterious worlds. It can take place right here on good old planet Earth and run the gamut on concepts.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of the more recent science fiction novels that I’ve read and I have to say it might just go on my list of top ten best books I’ve ever read. It was engaging, the characters were sympathetic, and it left me on the edge of my seat while reading it. The best way to describe the plot is Willy Wonka meets the Matrix (This is the blurb on the back and what can I say it is accurate), and follows a teenager named Wade Watts who exists in a world where the Oil Reserves are next to gone and the subsequent world has gone to hell. The only pleasure can be found in a massive simulation called the Oasis that has absorbed every aspect of digital society from Video games to the Internet itself. In this world the designer of the Oasis left a prize called the Egg (named after the popular video game term Easter Egg) which will give ownership of the Oasis to whoever finds it… a race against time for control of the only thing that makes life in the world bearable. This is only one example with the Matrix itself along with such offerings as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Stephen Spielberg’s masterpiece), 11/22/63 (Stephen King’s Time Travel story), Blade Runner (arguably one of the pioneers of the Cyberpunk genre), and the list just goes on.
Of course science fiction is not just about what stories it can give us, but about what concepts it can give us. Science fiction has been pushing forward concepts that at the time seem impossible but give or take a few decades and an impressive amount of saying “that’s cool, I want to make it happen”, it has often given society the very things that at the time they were conceived would have seemed impossible. You need look no further for proof of this than the cell phone you hold in your hand (especially you Mom, since I know you’re reading this on your phone).
Star Trek premiered in 1966 and most of the time its vision of the future was hilariously camp and inaccurate. That is until you look at the Communicator, which looked freakishly like an early 2000’s cell phone including that cover that flipped open. You all remember the flip cellphones… mine was a black Razor and I thought it was the coolest improvement of technology since satellite TV. That little black phone survived a pool, my car tires, and a fall off a balcony with little more than a cracked screen to show for it.
It was eerily accurate even down to “no reception” zones that prevented the intrepid crew from calling the Enterprise to beam them away when something went wrong and that’s not even getting into Star Trek the Next Generation which gave their crew a freaking iPad about twenty years before that was a thing.
This concept has been going back since the beginnings of science fiction such as H.G. Wells’ book The World Set Fire that predicts the atomic bomb and was written in 1914, more or less accurately describing a nuclear explosion and coining the term “atomic bomb”.
And then there was legendary science fiction pioneer Jules Verne, whose novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (published in 1869) and From the Earth To the Moon (1869) predicted diesel electric submarines and the moon landing before either of them were even conceived of as reality.
This gives me hope for Godzilla as a reality… it’s been 60 years since his first movie. Any day now a giant radioactive lizard is going to come and defeat the terrorists and stomp his way to victory as the G-Party’s candidate for the Presidential Election.
#GodzillaforPresident2016, Slogan: Ain’t no party like a Nuclear Party.
I digress but only a little.
As for myself and my own forays into science fiction writing, it has been a journey in and of itself. I’ve had a series called the Last Aspect that I’ve worked on and off on for years; a dark gritty universe full of existential terror and chock full of more space Nazis than you could shake a finger at. You can take the writer out of horror but you can’t take the horror out of the writer. Still I’m little more than a journeyman apprentice in science fiction compared to author Seth Eaves. I met Seth a few years ago and we grew from fellow colleagues into great friends, both slaves to the muse.
He is primarily a military science fiction writer and I have to say that his style is suspenseful and keeps you invested. We discovered that our two styles of writing meshed incredibly well, one of the reasons we decided to co-write a story entitled the Thirteenth Sign, a space opera set in the future that answers the question that Seth and I asked each other… what if the Zodiac Constellations each harbored an alien race and what if there was a way to get to them… it gets worse. (Seth I promise my chapters are coming I’ve been busy).
This brings me to my quote of the week that involved both Seth and I discussing what we had come up with when we had one of our all to infrequent meetings. We had each decided on taking 6 of the 12 zodiac signs and making alien races out of them… it was then that we really discovered the distinctions in our writing styles.
Wile E. Young: So what’ve you got?
Seth Eaves: I call them Rhynocs they are from the Aries constellation, I thought they would have a Meritocratic society based on how many people they had killed in combat, the more kills under their belt the higher they are in their society. I imagined them fairly reptilian like, but maybe crossed with some goat features considering that the Aries Constellation is a Ram… what did you come up with?
Wile E. Young : Ummm I call them Viriloc, they’re from the Virgo constellation…
Seth Eaves: What do they look like?
Wile E. Young: (nearly manic with glee) Floating black bug things with the bodies of women fused to where a head would be but instead of a lady face on the woman’s body, it’s a baby face crying black goo that gives religious epiphanies…
Seth Eaves: I worry about your mind sometimes.
We’ve had quite the adventure fusing our minds together for this little experiment.
I was able to sit down with Seth and get him to answer some interview questions so that you would be able to get know his writing and views on the subject as well. It will be posted along with this blog post as an exclusive interview. Go over there and check it out because every time you skip an exclusive interview a small child is forced to sit through an M. Night Shyamalan marathon.
I sit looking out the window at the coming evening, the first of the stars beginning to wrench places for themselves in the Heavens, and it has me musing on the concept of infinity. As I’ve hopefully explained and shown to you, science fiction is practically infinite… ironic because I consider science fiction the exploration of the future, the potential for humanity, application of pioneered concepts, and understanding of existence itself— a direct comparison to the concept of infinity.
Because after all, what is as infinite as the universe?
So tonight when you forsake the sun because the stars burn brighter and you see a meteorite, send me a wave because that’s me streaking through the night chasing the Roadrunner and its race across the infinite.
And as my friend Seth Eaves says, “See y’all somewhere far beyond.”
Bonus Wile E. World News
So this past week was the Democratic National Convention, if you’ve read my feelings regarding Trump on last week’s blog post, then you’ve read my feelings regarding Hillary.
We need a true candidate to believe in…