Not So Run of the Mill Science Fiction
Have a story that stretches the boundaries of current Science Fiction? Is it unpredictable and fresh? Do you shy from the neat happy endings that are commonplace in today's fiction? C'mon in, lets share some links and compare notes!
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We all know there are cliches (excuse the lack of the little thingy on top of the 'e', please) in science fiction, same as any other genre. A question I want to raise is, what cliches are good (as in, still useable and not overdone, or can have some new spin put onto them) and what cliches are bad (past any possible redemption, ideas so tired or cheesy they might as well be dead)? Another thing that's popular (and maybe becoming a cliche in and of itself) is the twist, or more specifically, the twist ending. Now, what are some ways we could rejuvenate this concept before it too falls into cliche ruin? And what are some twists that have, unfortunately, already taken the bullet? Example: The 'Fight Club' ending, where two people turn out to be one and the same. As much as I love this idea, I feel it's time to put this one out to pasture. Or am I wrong? What do you think, can a twist be given a twist? Can it be saved? Overall, how can up-and-comers to science fiction writing make things feel fresh? Any feedback at all would be wonderful. --dreamshell--
11/9/2006 #1
Elizabeth Stanton
I think their are definitely a few clichés that need to be thrown out hte window. Examples: Young female teenager after having numerous family issues is abducted by a vampire, beaten by said vampire and then slowly learns to fall in love with Vampire. Its the end of the world and humanity is barely holding on. They must fight to survive...ect One character must live the same day over and over till... In time travel story the main character usually runs into X historical figure. The "storm trooper" effect. (Okay, I'm partially guilty on this one) where even in a seeming downpour of bullets our heroes are never wounded! If you read both "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Daemons" by Dan Brown you'll remember the wheelchair guy...(sorry for the ambiguity I don't want to leave spoilers.) I also am sick of the seemingly "normal" guy who just happens to have been a Navy SEAL, SPC Forces, Recon...ect when his family is abducted. And because of said training has no problem waging a one man war (with help from friend that's FBI or Police on the down low) to fix whatever has been wronged. While these clichés can provide some half decent entertainment every now and again, for the most part people want stories that are believable. Not every blond is dumb and not every brunet is a sultry seductress. We've got snotty prep school kids who have more sex than p*** stars, and kids with tape on their glasses that are presidents of the chess clubs. The only time I'd embrace such clichés is if the story revolved around the cliché, which is also becoming a bit of a cliché (Hail Scary Movie here). Twist Endings: Depends on the approach. Twist endings aren't things that writers do all of the sudden at the last minute. A real twist ending is one that was ever present from the beginning. It has to be something your readers think they know, but when it twists they can't believe they didn't see it coming. The more important part is the second reading; when they read the story again they should be able to pick up all the subtle clues and hints that the story was going to have a twist. I think that's the fun for the reader, going back a second time and wanting to pick up on the things that have been missed. In that, I think twist endings are things that should be handled by professions or the highly skilled. I think the better thing to do is to have subtle twists throughout the story. Nothing mind blowing per se 'Fight club' or 'The Prestige', but little twists and turns that have been planned out and serve specific purposes. Really there is nothing that frustrates me more then side stories that have no real purpose to driving the rest of the story. When writing and using either a twist ora cliché it is most important to make sure that both fly past the reader's radar. No readers wants to read a story they've already read with different characterss, settings, and time period. I think one of the only ways to keep writing semi-original is to not right for the masses. (Lets face it people we've been writing as a species since the 11th century, (Tale of Genji) It's hard to imagine that you're truly original. Someone is bound to have thought of it first) If you are looking to write the next Classic than you should step back and re-evaluate. If you read your finished work and think you've written something outstanding then you're on the right track. Trust in your own imagination and write for yourself. After all, there is no point in writing if it doesn't make you happy.
11/9/2006 #2
First off, thanks for the great reply, Elizabeth! :D Secondly, I hate to nitpick but, while your list is certainly not excluded from the topic, I was curious about more sci-fi-based cliches, not just cliches in general. Also -- 'The Prestige' has a twist ending?? Don't tell, don't tell! I haven't seen it yet. Definitely I agree with your take on a good twist. Not last minute, with hints throughout. But I'm also interested in what twists are dead and what ones can be used still or used in a new way. Okay, maybe this is a little harsh to say, but I think so far as 'not writing for the masses' that, while I agree with you, the problem isn't choosing to write for yourself as opposed to others. The problem is, unfortunately, in all too many cases, writing for the masses and writing for yourself equals the same thing. In other words, there's a lot of people writing at a level that is on par (and rarely above) with the masses because they themselves are a member of said masses. --dreamshell--
11/9/2006 #3
One sort-of cliche I like to see done well is when it turns out a good guy has been deceiving the other good guys all along and is actually a bad guy Also, one thing I haven't seen done that I plan on doing soon is rather than good vs. evil, having it be about a sort-of-evil empire putting down a rebellion created through its own error.
11/17/2006 #4
The Good Guy Who Is Really A Bad Guy cliche is still salvagable, I think. But, you're right, it has to be done well. As for the other one, I don't quite understand what you mean. A 'sort of evil' empire? And the rebellion was made because of an error? Like, some kind of hugely blown-out-of-proportion disagreement? Elaborate, please. --dreamshell--
11/17/2006 . Edited 11/17/2006 #5
Check that. You want something with an ambiguous empire and an error-borne rebellion? Go see 'Brazil', it totally fits. --dreamshell--
11/18/2006 #6
Basically, you've got a Machiavelli-style Emperor, who is extremely evil and feared, but his actions are, in the end, usually good for the people. Sort of a combination of "wrong thing, right reason" with a good end result. As one of their rebellion-crushing weapons, they create genetically engineered supersoldiers... the first one breaks out; it has been modified to make (more or less) the perfect leader for their army; he/it is brilliant and easy to like, but brutal in combat (and he eventually goes entirely batf*** insane); eventually, he and his rebellion become worse than the empire.
11/18/2006 #7
I actually have a story kind of like that. It's called "Redemption" and it deals with an elite government group who ends up betraying Earth to a sinister alien race in order to be spared and live to rule whats left of humanity. Twist is they actually end up saving Earth after their initial betrayal.
11/19/2006 #8
Maybe another example of this idea, Monev, can be found in God-Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert. Therein, the God-Emperor/sandworm-man-thing Leto II rules over his empire with an (strictly proverbial) iron fist. He hordes the precious spice and keeps anyone else from doing what business they want without first consulting him. The thing is, he's doing this because he knows that, to free humanity from its stagnation, he has to become its greatest villain that it unites to destroy. --dreamshell--
11/19/2006 . Edited 11/19/2006 #9
Heh; I had totally forgotten about Dune. By the way, I just started reading Perdido Street Station. Anyone else here who's read it? Oh, and one more thing. For an extreme case of good guys who look like bad guys... *SPOILER FOR A 98-YEAR-OLD BOOK* The Man Who Was Thursday... Hell yeah.
11/20/2006 #10
Hmmm... How about the cliche of black and white good/bad characters? I have seen so many shallow, unlikable characters on both sides of the fence just because they were totally evil with no redemption or totally good with no flaws. THAT gets on my nerves faster than anything else. I like characters who are not truly evil or good but are just people who have conflict because of situational or personality differences. I try to write my characters like that, but I don't know if I am starting to turn them into their own cliche...Heh. I very rarely write a truly evil bad guy, nor do I write an angelic good guy (Gawd look at Tigershark sometime - started out a bad guy, kinda sorta turned into an anti-hero turned good guy - still got issues with a dark nature, but he is certainly no saint). Okay...oh and btw thanks for keeping the threads going, sorry that I haven't been around lately, the new job is seriously taxing my time! Later all! Darwin
11/21/2006 #11
Agreed. Straight good/bad characters blow. Ambiguity is where it's at. And keeping the threads going are what makes them fun. :) --dreamshell--
11/22/2006 #12
I've just recently had this interesting thought concerning cliches... Alright, so we all know that there's too much of the cliched stuff. That's a no-brainer. But what if we were to, rather than tossing those overdone stories aside, take them into a more critical consideration and weed out the (possibly) as-yet-undiscovered *original* stories lost somewhere in their cliched universes? This goes for fiction in general as well as sci-fi. What if we look at the Overused Sci-Fi Story World through a different angle and find the really interesting characters/plots that might be available? Please, somebody ponder on this and post if you can think of any of these "original, but buried in a sea of cliche" stories. I would love to see what people come up with. To get the ball rolling, I'll give an example; okay, take a standard "Us vs. Them" space-war story. Humanity against the Aliens. Or maybe Humanity against Humanity. Whatever. Now, rather than focusing on the heroes of the story--most likely soldiers on the 'good side'--why not focus on the political characters responsible for the upsets that led to the space-war in the first place? Perhaps a story about the meeting and eventual disputes between the ambassadors of Side A and Side B? Or maybe there's another reason that Mankind is fighting the giant lizard-men of Reptilia X other than because they're ugly, mean, and green. Maybe a human politician, in a cunning betrayal to purposefully secure his place in power, sabotages Human-Reptilian peace signings? The possibilities, if searched for, are limitless. Okay. Sure hope someone picks up with this... --dreamshell--
11/27/2006 #13
[q]I have seen so many shallow, unlikable characters on both sides of the fence...[/q] Yeah, that's a big problem. I have trouble keeping my stories away from black and white, but I generally have a nice shade of dark gray. I like my heroes to be normal people surviving how any of us would and the bad guys are questioning themselves or believe that they themselves are the good guys. But that's one of the most basic and difficult parts of character development.
12/2/2006 #14
ONETRACKMlND 12/14/2006 #15
Limited Edition
WAHAHAHA no way that site actually exists XD Thought it was a pun ;DDD But most of the "clichés" look like mistakes to me rather than clichés, like the flames showing in vaccuum. Also, some of them aren't clichés but merely something that more than one writer has written about. I don't think that equals cliché. But oh gosh this one is funny: "A robot is shot and bleeds oil." XDDD Clichés to add: Overly glamorized things like drugs, hacking and so on. Hackers are glamorized to a degree that you think they're on friggin acid instead of writing commands. Also those who have 958946874867 other skills other than hacking, such as skateboarding perfectly, video gaming, dancing and all other stuff that are just so cool. On the contrary, the hacker that never ever sleeps, has dark rings under his eyes and his mom yells at him all the time, he has pimples, low social intelligence and doesn't do anything but being in front of his computer, going to the toilet and eating pizza. (LAN anyone? XD) Entering the video game world/video game charas entering the human world. Space stations/building on other planets.
12/25/2006 #16
There are too many variations on the theme of Luke Skywalker meets Darth Vader; which is a variation of Flash Gordon meets Ming the Merciless. Supposing that instead of Flash, the protagonist is Wily Loman, the protagonist of "Death of A Salesman." You would have Wily Loman meets Ming the Merciless. That would be a variation on the theme of Hitler and the Jews. With that theme, who knows what great and mighty things can be accomplished?
2/12/2007 #17
Hello Dreamshell: One cliche that comes from "StarTrek" is, "Beam me up Scotty, I've done it again!" What about having people who don't get beamed up when they're in trouble? What if they actually have to deal with the consequences of whatever they've done, and there's no "Scotty" out there to help? I'm writing and posting a novel titled "Under the Heavy White Sun", in which the protagonists actually can't get out of dealing with the consequences of their decisions. They also don't get "Beamed down" either. An Earth family immigrates to a Planet where the human sacrifice religion of the Aztecs and Maya, is the officialy established state religion, and they are required by law, to participate in all its rites. They reach the Planet aboard a scheduled spaceliner, land at an aerospace-port, and have to take a limo into the City. The father has to find a job for which he is totally unprepared. The mother has to deal with people in the bizzare market place, and their teenage daughter has to adapt to a new school, where some of the curriculum is very strange. I'm dealing with oridinary people, who aren't being heros or villains; but have to deal with the new life they've chosen, as best they can; just like most people do. You've asked for new ideas in Sci/Fi. I don't think you see all that many Sci/Fi stories like what I've just described; or is what I've just described also a cliche?
10/13/2007 #18
It has originality, for sure, BillyD. Only question I can think of is, if the planet is (I'm assuming) so brutal and barbaric, why did the family move there in the first place? Perhaps you explain that in the story, though. --dreamshell--
10/13/2007 #19
Hello Dreamshell: Yes. The family's motive is made very clear at the beginning of the story. Life is actually better on the new Planet, than on the futuristic Earth which I describe. At one point, on the day of their arrival, the father asks, "Has anyone ever tried to sustain things, without human sacrifices?" He is told, "You Earth people have, for twice as long as we've been on this Planet, and we don't have ten percent of your problems." I hope this story gives people some things to think about.
10/15/2007 #20
Hello Dreamshell: I've described the novel that I'm posting titled "Under the Heavy White Sun", as getting away from Sci/Fi cliches. Now however, I see that my characters spend most of their time, having conversations in outdoor restaurants. It seems that I've replaced a Sci/Fi cliche, with a cliche from mainstream fiction. I wonder, am I writing pseudo Hemingway? Is my story going to turn out to be a Sci/Fi version of "The Sun Also Rises"? I'm going to have to do a lot of revising and rewriting of what I've already posted; but this is all a part of writing. It's going back and forth; one step forward and five steps back, as often as it takes, for as long as it takes; and eventually something good may come of it.
10/25/2007 #21
Well, Hemingway's in a whole 'nother ball park, I would say. And general fiction has the luxury that things like sci-fi typically aren't perceived to have. They can dawdle, they can have their fair share of talking heads. And while those of us who actually write the damn stuff probably feel sci-fi (or whatever other genre) should have the same advantage, people see it as a more overtly stimulating medium. People need to be blown away by either an idea or something that would make Michael Bay cream his pants if he got to put it up on screen. Another thing about the restaurant/talking heads issue is how it's a big no-no in the movies. And yet, we could all name plenty of examples. And many of them are *great* scenes, too, so it's kind of an pointless rule. And as for revising, yeah, that's just the nature of the beast. Writers would spend their entire lives reworking plots and structure and dialogue and descriptions if nobody gave them a deadline. But in moderation, this obsession with literary perfection can help to improve the story. --dreamshell--
10/25/2007 #22
Hello Dreamshell: I don't want you to get the wrong idea about my story. The characters are not like Hemingway's world weary, lost generation. They have a much more positive attitude. The problem I'm having, comes from being in the middle of things; trying to create some kind orderly plot, out of the ideas that come and go through my mind, in a very chaotic manner. This is how it often is with me. When I'm in the middle of writing I think, "This is awful, and it's never gonna get any better." Then eventually, thing begin to fall into place, and the story turns out to be better than I'd expected. One important thing for fanfiction .net writers to remember, is that if the story isn't finished yet, it's best to just ignore the stats and the reviews. I have not done that. This morning I see that the already posted chapters have received 237 hits. That sounds good, until I looked at the breakdown. Chapter 1 has received 99 hits, but chapter 2 has received 23 hits. Only 1/4 of the people who began the story, went on to the second chapter. That could be discouraging, but as I said, it's best to ignore the stats, until all the chapters are completed. Then I'll know what needs to be changed, and what should be kept as it is; regardless of the number of hits and reviews.
10/27/2007 #23
[q]The problem I'm having, comes from being in the middle of things; trying to create some kind orderly plot, out of the ideas that come and go through my mind, in a very chaotic manner. This is how it often is with me. When I'm in the middle of writing I think, "This is awful, and it's never gonna get any better." [/q] Probably the same for all of us, or at least, I can say it's pretty similar to my own experience. Several ideas of mine are currently sitting on the Shelf because of (hopefully) petty insecurities about how I'd write them. Actually, several of my *finished* faves went through this phase, and well, like I said, they're favorites. And as for stats and reviews, well, none of us can ignore the urge to check in and see who's been paying attention to us, but the first and foremost reason for writing anything is that it's fun. --dreamshell--
10/27/2007 . Edited 10/27/2007 #24
Hello dreamshell: While we're mentioning reviews, here's something I want to warn everybody about. In the associate website fanfiction .net, somebody has posted 11 reviews for one of my stories, that are all exact copies of an obscene remark. He has posted them annonymously; and used different Pennames. I'm sure I'm not the only one he's done this to. He might be doing it to some of you. He used the pen names "Yo Mama", "Jaina Kenobi", "Azarethian Titan" and "The Brattman". I've informed Jaina Kenobi and Azarethian Titan about this. After taking cursory looks at their profiles, it's obvious to me that they are serious writers and wouldn't waste their time doing this. I couldn't get through to Yo Mama or The Brattman profiles. If any of you know, could you please tell me how to get these obscene reviews deleted? In case anyone's interested, the story is titled, "Princess Anyanctla". It's in the Buffy Vampire Slayer Section. If any of you read it and like it, please let me know. If you don't like it, I'm sure that any review you give, will be well thought out and sound; without any moronic obscenities.
10/29/2007 #25
Just checked out these infamous reviews of your story, MBD. Weird. O_o Honestly, my opinion is it's not much of a big deal. A little odd, perhaps slightly to highly annoying, but ultimately harmless. Actually, there's a puckish side of me that admires that sort of thing -- at least when it's done well and with an ounce of cleverness or wit. That one was just... strange. Why the acronymization of "d***" (Pardon my French, yuk yuk)? --dreamshell--
10/29/2007 #26
Hello dreamshell: The problem with this particular flaming, is that whoever's doing it, is using the pen names of other writers, perhaps hoping to get them in trouble with fanfiction .net management. I've received replies from the people who he's done this to. They tell me they've been writing in the Bible and Christian forums, and getting similar comments from someone, who they believe to be the same person, who sent me the flame. I see nothing admirable in this cowardly attack. Now our religious beliefs are something that you and I have strongly disagreed about; but we have done so in a civilized and hopefully respectful way. That's the way these things should be handled.
10/30/2007 #27
Yeah, I looked into it a little more and obviously I can see how using other people's pen names is an issue. And as far as the admiration, I just want to reiterate I only apply such feelings to things done with cleverness and wit, perhaps even a bit of guile. This incident has none of those things, though, therefore I don't have any veneration for the individual in this specific instance. Beyond the possibility of getting others in trouble, though -- which, to be honest, I doubt would happen anyway, as these mistakes are handled pretty well, I would think -- I don't see a reason to linger on it. Someone wanted to be a d*** (and not even in a shrewd fashion), that's all. Maybe the "attacks" are based off of religious antagonism, maybe not. I can understand being offended, I'm just saying, at least if I were in the same situation, I wouldn't care all that much. Anyways, my condolences! And I would agree, debates are far more entertaining. I'm not against being cutthroat, but this guy was just dumb and aggravating. --dreamshell--
10/30/2007 #28
There are lot of plot twists that have become used more than once, and thus a cliche. But a twist in itself will never become cliche, unless people end up becoming so conditioned to plot twists that they naturally expect it, and then they'd probably become fairly suprised when they find a story without it. But fortunately, there's so many bad, uninspired stories in films, television, and forgettable novels that plot twists will never become the constant factor in story writing. Not to mention all the well written stories that don't need any surprises to keep a person's interest.
1/2/2008 #29

A cliche I've noticed is emo half-vampires who also happen to be the son of Dracula. Do people think Dracula is some sort of manwhoring vampire pimp or something? Anyway those stories gave me the idea for a new character: David, the highly ADHD vampire, who happens to be dracula's distant cousin...twice removed's enstranged nephew. I don't know if I should use that character or not though cause it's still a bit cliche...

5/31/2008 #30
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