Top 5 Things I Want To See Done In Science-Fiction

I have high hopes for the science-fiction genre, more than just for fancy gadgets and galactic adventures. It’s the best genre to be writing in, and with its zoo of sub-genres there’s really nothing to hold us writers back from reaching for whatever we want—and then pumping it full of dynamite and blowing it straight into a higher dimension. BAM! Next level of gameplay, next level of awareness, next level of science-fiction!

That’s what I want to read, and that’s what I want to write. Hopefully I can manage my life-time like a pro and get that done before I feed the planet with my transient mass. So what I’d really love to see done more often, and strive to do myself, are the following major things:

 

1. Larger-than-life aliens

It’s usually the hero or villain that bask in the glory of being called larger-than-life, and that’s because they are, duh, the hero and villain of the story. They drive the plot machine and the reader invests a lot of energy in them (either positive or negative). If one of them is an alien, the unforgettable quality is still usually there because they are the hero or antagonist in the first place, not because they are fascinatingly, awe-inspiringly and unforgettably alien.

I want to see larger-than-life aliens, creatures that are remembered for their hair-raising and mind-boggling alien-ness. Characters that stick with us because they are so unique and unmatched that it’s completely irrelevant what their role in the plot is. We’ll remember them for the unmeasurable sense of wonder they awakened within us until we’re old and gray and blissfully senile.

 

2. Glitches and bugs

Not that kind of bugs, although I always love to see multi-legged multi-eyed creatures roam free and undiscriminated. What I mean are system glitches and software bugs, bad programming, usability catastrophes and crappy customer service.

I want to see space ship command consoles failing to boot up properly after an upgrade, not because it’s the inciting incident, but because shit happens. I want to see jobs being filled to take care of sucky functionalities and plain moronic implementation, because no, in the future programmers will not suddenly be perfect. And if we’ll have AIs churning out code for us, it’ll be a question of time before they run amok and feed us to the Matrix. And trust me, dΓ©jΓ -vu is not a serious system glitch. Neo waking up in front of agent Smith butt-naked and with a third nut dangling from his chinΒ is a serious glitch.

 

3. Unlimited resources

I believe technology will eventually overcome any and all resource deficiencies, either by finding valid alternatives or by enabling us to easily get new supplies from wherever they are. The Universe is a huge place. It’s fucking enormous! If the action happens in the distant future and spans over several galaxies (or even just this one), then I want to see virtually unlimited resources.

If we can cross hundreds of light-years in a blip, we’ll no longer have fuel issues. Because one technological breakthrough never comes alone, it grows like a disease and infects all other technologies it comes in contact with. If we have fast space-travel, we’ll suddenly be within reach of anything and can take and use it, so we’ll develop technologies to do that quickly too, and then to distribute it quickly and efficiently as well, and then… you get the picture.

 

4. Different moral values

The moral values we have today are so new, even a century ago the world’s leading nations still held on to the belief that people of a different color were inferior, that women were to obey men unconditionally, and that birthright trumped personal merit. Half a millenium ago, people still burned witches on stakes.

The Modernization Theory says that as we humans become more efficient at satisfying our needs, our values shift upward on Maslow’s pyramid too. They are always changing, and do so on a global scale. Every major event, ever major discovery and every grand step on the ladder of evolution brings with it an according change in values.

So if a story is set three hundred years from now and stuff is different than today, so will our social values and expectations be, and most likely radically so. If you infuse contemporary American social values into some mixed-species colony on the other side of the galaxy, I’mma look you up and slap you over the head with your own book.

 

5. Bullet storms and bruises

Tiny high-speed cannon balls catapulted through pipes are far more energy efficient, easy to manufacture, and more difficult to ward off than laser beams and plasma shots and whatnot. An energy shield can probably save your hero from enemy ray-guns, but it most likely can’t stop a tiny rock heading straight for him at 3,600 mph. Neither can armor, not if the bullet’s heading for his face.

This reminds me, what happened to good old improvised weapons? Fights are dirty, unfair and often chaotic and desperate. Why’s everyone weaponized and prepared, perfectly trained and cool headed? No other genre is so averse to dirty fighting like science-fiction. I’m not talking about wars or battles, but one-on-ones. I want to see more realism and less idealism when it comes to hand-weapons and combat.

All in all, I long for more grit and spit and less polished silver throughout all science-fiction sub-genres, not just in dystopias. More hands-on action and more realistic circumstances, because five or twelvety centuries from now, even if humanity will be rooting for entirely different things than we do today, when shit gets serious, we’ll still essentially be crazy monkeys looking for the most efficient way to fling our… opinions at others.

And awesome aliens. Gimme awesome aliens to keep me awake at night.

 

So whattaya think? What would you love to see done?

It’s possible some or all of these have already been successfully tackled by other writers (or movie makers) and they just completely escaped my radar. If so, please let me know in the comments, make a suggestion or two—I’m always hungry for exquisite brain-fuel!

 

25 Replies to “Top 5 Things I Want To See Done In Science-Fiction”

  1. The best Sci-Fi novel I’ve read which explore the idea of different moral values is STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND (Heinlein) – THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS (also be Heinlein) also goes into a bit of a study on society. Those are undoubtedly two of my favorite sci-fi novels, so if you haven’t read them, I’d strongly recommend them both πŸ˜€ Also, since you got me thinking about aliens – have you read THE GIANTS series (Hogan)? Those novels left a unique impression of aliens in my mind πŸ™‚

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    1. Those are some great suggestions, A.K.! I actually started reading Stranger In A Strange Land but had to stop and didn’t pick up again. I’ll re-add it to the to-read list.

      I haven’t read The Giants either (face-palm). It’s on my Amazon wishlist now, thanks. And thanks a lot for commenting!

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  2. Great list. I’m knee deep in #2 at the moment. I love the idea of super-awesome future technology that needs customer support. Just because the gizmos will be mind-blowing in the future doesn’t mean that they won’t need a repairman every once in a while.

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    1. Exactly, Adam! That has enormous story potential that’s not much exploited yet. You’ll have so many avenues to explore, how exciting!

      Thanks a lot for commenting. πŸ™‚

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  3. This! “I want to see space ship command consoles failing to boot up properly after an upgrade, not because it’s the inciting incident, but because shit happens.” Love this. In my own writing I love to explore fate vs. free will, and a lot of times an important outcome is based on somebody screwing something up, in a small way, that has repercussions down the line that fascinate me.

    I want a poster-sized version of your image above of either asteroids or galaxy-sized deer pellets IN SPACE.

    Also, “If you infuse contemporary American social values into some mixed-species colony on the other side of the galaxy, I’mma look you up and slap you over the head with your own book.” I’ll be your wing man on this. I’m curious, though. Got an any egregious examples to point to? I think it can be safely explored by imagining one thing: Power. Who’s got it and who are they subjugating to keep it? That seems to me a universal idea/theme (esp. useful for sci-fi) that can be expressed in a multitude of ways.

    Finally, “No other genre is so averse to dirty fighting like science-fiction.” Maybe that is because we seen violence as a base emotion and want our advanced selves to have moved past the ugliness related to the nitty-gritty of it, but not past the power gained by it. I guess I’m of this mind as well. In the future, I imagine more physical barriers put in place to prevent unrestrained violence against many by a rogue cell/person/alien (not counting warring armies, etc.). Therefore, I’d see future violence played out in a mental game of cat and mouse. Brains over brawn, one pawn at a time.

    Love your posts!

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    1. Fate vs. free will vs. spiraling consequences vs. unbelievable coincidences … so much story potential! The butterfly effect of an insignificant screw up becoming the start of an avalanche and proving to be the actual inciting incident (or at least a major influencing factor) makes for one of the most interesting ways to tackle a story! Love that, Courtney! πŸ˜€

      Social values are determined by the fraction of society that’s got the power to influence the majority, and that’s not necessarily the leading elite. Very interesting to explore in fiction. What I’m averse to is the assumption that we’ll evolve as a species and global society from a technological point of view, but not a moral one. And if we don’t, then I want an explanation. I just don’t like it when it’s neglected because it’s convenient, or when it’s completely overlooked. There are many examples of distant-future stories where this is the case. I guess one off the top of my head would be Ringworld by Larry Niven. So much potential, such disappointing underdevelopment of characters and societies.

      “I imagine more physical barriers put in place to prevent unrestrained violence”, “therefore, I’d see future violence played out in a mental game of cat and mouse” — that’s an interesting vision to explore in its own right.
      I personally believe violence will never be eradicated, it will only transform, simply because—however condemnable it is, and I’m certainly not an advocate of violence—it ultimately works, it intimidates and forces, it steers behavior (if even by a threat thereof) and resolves conflicts much faster than negotiation if the party exerting it doesn’t care about damage, only results. It may shift in the future toward cybercrime and violent mental attacks, but it will still be present. It’s part of nature, all nature, not just humans. If there’s no more physical violence, the non-physical violence will gain force and damage potential; it’s like a balloon you squeeze on one end. It’ll puff up on the other.

      Thank you very much for your comment and your appreciation! Means a lot to me. πŸ™‚

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  4. Thank you for this image: “Neo waking up in front of agent Smith butt-naked and with a third nut dangling from his chin is a serious glitch.”

    That might’ve made my whole day! πŸ˜€

    I love good sci-fi that explores different moral values. I think Star Trek did that so well when applying the Prime Directive to alien planets and civilizations. I remember one episode in particular from The Next Generation in which the crew came in contact with a society where members committed suicide when they reached a certain age – even if they were perfectly healthy. Ultimately the crew of the Enterprise did not interfere. It was an interesting episode to say the least.

    So yes, I think sci-fi is one of the perfect areas to explore other moralities. Are you doing that in your WIP, Vero?

    Cool topic! Thanks for your post! πŸ˜€

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    1. Star Trek touched a lot of ideas and issues, and that was always very interesting to watch. Even if these weren’t really explored in any depth (you can’t do that properly in the short span of an episode), they managed to pose truckloads of interesting questions. I always loved that spirit of inquiry!

      There’s not much wordcount invested in the exploration of morality in my WIP, Tracy, kinda for lack of space. It’s present in the backdrop, so to speak, but I don’t “explore” it. The story primarily follows the psychological battle between a handful of people, which influences the lives of a grand many. I’ve tried not to do too much at the same time, and instead focus on the core conflict and explore that in depth. But the different belief systems of those involved are always present in the back of my head. πŸ™‚

      Thank you very much for the comment!

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  5. “I want to see space ship command consoles failing to boot up properly after an upgrade…” Absolutely! This is one of the things I adore about Star Trek: DS9. Sometimes, even with so little space in that 45-minute episode, shit just happens. Doesn’t have anything to do with greater, mind-consuming issues. It just doesn’t work. Makes it so much more real and enjoyable!

    I’m totally with you…on all but #4. On that, we’ll have to respectfully disagree and I’ll have to hide my head from your book-whacking. πŸ˜‰

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    1. DS9 rocks!!! It’s my favorite sci-fi series! πŸ™‚ It felt much more plausible and realistic because all of the daily business, the glitches and humor, the family matters and bickering, the jokes and sorrows, all of them being there because that’s life, not because the plot needed them.

      Thanks a lot for the comment, Jessica! Glad to meet you. And disagreeing is a-okay with me, I love learning of different opinions, it broadens my internal dialogues. Erm… I mean my “pondering”. Not that I hear voices. o.O

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  6. I think it’s fun to “look back on the future” – reading books written in the past, during the time in which the characters “lived”. Almost always the writer’s imagination was well in advance of current technology.

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  7. Point #6: I’d like to see the human factor. Do people in the future ever pee? What about having parents or grandparents? Do they sleep? Or drink coffee? Science Fiction is a wonderful genre, but all too often it is technology or ideas that drive the plot and we lose sight of the old adage, the plot is the character in motion. In sci-fi, the plot is the character in motion within that particular fictional universe, where surely there are still children, pets, bananas, maybe even books?

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    1. Awesome addition to the list, Peter! I absolutely agree with you — the human factor makes fiction a lot more relatable and enjoyable.

      Readers want to feel part of the story, and often the quality of a book is measured not in literary quality of writing & style, but in the capacity to completely submerge the reader into the storyworld. What you described as human factor contributes greatly to that!

      Thanks for the great suggestion! πŸ™‚

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  8. Great list, Vero! Numbers four and five are things I’ve addressed before in my own work here and there(or at least attempted to).

    The key, I think, to hitting number four on the head without getting into preachy territory is remembering just what a wide spectrum of morality exists right here, right now and extrapolating forward. I mean, evolving morality doesn’t mean that questionable morals are just going to disappear, or that the popular morality of the future will even be something that we’d consider good from our current perspective. And when you get into the large moral landscape of differing cultures (especially if you bring aliens into the mix), there is tremendous opportunity for storytelling from that angle alone.

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    1. I’m not a fan of preachy prose or people who think they “know” how things should be and what has superior value. You’re right in that evolving morality means a continuous change, a shift that goes hand in hand with how societies and their priorities change, and it has no inherent quality. It’s not good or bad, it’s just suited to how things are at the time.

      Thanks for the comment! πŸ™‚

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  9. I really like your thoughts around guns and making the worlds gritty and “real.” As a kid I always thought ray guns were the coolest, but when you think about them, they are pretty impractical. And I think that the idea of having a more realistic world with some recognizable (if enhanced) tech makes things more relatable and help balance out the fantastic elements of the stories.

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  10. For really alien aliens, for unlimited resources, and for different moral values, it’s hard to beat the “Culture” series of Iain M. Banks.

    C.J. Cherryh is good at depicting societies with different moral values requiring humans to adapt. If you haven’t tried her “Foreigner” novels, it might be worth your time.

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    1. Thanks, Ken! The Culture series has been on my radar for quite some time, but I never got around to continue my reading of Consider Phlebas. It’s definitely on the to-read list.

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