Aug. 31, 2016

Science Fiction: Better Blended

There's no denying that science fiction has always had its place on TV and film.

Since one of the earliest silent films recorded (Le Voyage dans La Lune in 1902), science fiction has crept steadily along as other genres have captivated more mainstream audiences. 

Purists will attest that true science fiction has a few strict guidelines, including:

  • the scenario must be explainable using real, known facts in our world
  • technology is the hero of the story, lifting humans beyond their basic abilities
  • the story teaches us a lesson about real-world issues we're battling as a society

With a few exceptions, "hard" sci-fi has struggled to gain widespread popularity because it tends to be filled with theory and scientific jargon. For some, this is what makes science fiction so fascinating. For others, it's what distracts from the story.

Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.

It doesn't help that the line between science fiction and other genres is blurry at best. When does a story veer too far from the plausible to be considered sci-fi? If a story speculates about the future of the human race but there is no real technological advancement, is that fantasy? If the monster in a horror film was the result of evolution gone wrong, is that still just horror?

From this blurred understanding has come a whole host of cross-genres: science fantasy, science fiction horror, science fiction western...

You can see George Takei at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival this October.

Even the famous Star Wars franchise isn't pure science fiction. George Takei argues in a conversation with Fortune that Star Wars is "space fantasy" and lacks the social commentary and speculation of sci-fi. Takei (who you can see speak at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival this October) was the original Sulu of Star Trek, which he believes is science fiction.

It's clear that blended genres take what could be inaccessible and make it enjoyable for a broader audience. Some of the most popular TV shows and movies of the last few years indulge in a blended version of science fiction. 

Our top 5 favourite genre-blends

Stranger Things, 2016

The smash Netflix hit has taken 80s nostalgia and turned it to overdrive–and people are loving it. The perfect blend of horror and science fiction, Stranger Things grabs on tight and doesn't let go. 

The Martian, 2015

Judging by the fact that The Martian won a Golden Globe for Best Comedy, it's easy to see what this genre-blend was. By keeping things light, the hard science explanations for Mars exploration don't leave you scratching your head. 

Frequencies, 2013

A little known British film, Frequencies tells the story of a world where people's lot in life is based on a pre-determined frequency level that they emit. A tragic romance at its core, the low-frequency protagonist attempts to change his luck and win the heart of a woman with an impossibly high frequency.

Her, 2013

Her is a strange blend of romance and science fiction, as the protagonist Theodore falls in love with an artificial intelligence program. This movie is unsettling, because it exposes some painful truths around our technologically-dependent society.

Cloud Atlas, 2012

Cloud Atlas tells the story of six different timelines, all intertwined in seemingly impossible ways. The film was met with polarizing reviews, but we like the way Cloud Atlas's fantastical elements challenge us to consider how people might be connected across time and space.


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