Why is it banking?

There’s an interesting post at the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination about science fiction convention, necessary and unnecessary.  As the post indicates, there are good reasons for conventions in science fiction writing.  The famous Turkey City Lexicon calls the issues at hand “re-inventing the wheel” (going to enormous lengths to create a science-fictional situation already tiresomely familiar to the experienced reader).  Rather than spend a lot of time on exposition, it is sometimes better let some tropes fly and get on with the story.  But the thrust of the post is to caution authors against relying too heavily on convention.

While I am sympathetic to the idea that authors shouldn’t get complacent,  I’m not sure I agree with the notion that science fiction in general is in danger of relying on tired convention and allowing the genre to stagnate, though,.  Science fiction writers are as likely to focus overmuch on some thrilling new idea that blows the hell out of convention (The “Steam-grommet factory,” as the Turkey City Lexicon calls it) because generally speaking, that’s the whole point of sci-fi.  Certainly, there are plenty of sci-fi stories that simply use a pile of tropes as a backdrop to tell a character-driven story or what have you.  Those don’t exactly push the bounds of science, but they don’t do much harm either.  And I suspect there will always be plenty of “Hey, check out this idea!” stories to keep the genre moving and give scientists ideas.

To me, the problem is more around the edges.  For instance, the ASU post brings up the dogfighting spacecraft in Star Wars as an example of a convention that helps tell the story.  Personally, I think they could have kept the dogfights without the convention of having them act like World War II planes flying in an atmosphere.  Having x-wings and tie fighters move like they are actually in a vacuum wouldn’t have added to the genre, but it wouldn’t have hurt, and it would have added a bit of “realism”.  There are many examples like that, I think, where authors do some big interesting thing, but perhaps forget the little things.  But that isn’t a problem for the genre as a whole, just individual stories.

~ by smwilliams on June 11, 2013.