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May 26 2011

Joss Whedon and His Creations: Some of the Best Reasons to Watch Sci-Fi & Fantasy. James Sherlock of Den of Geek shares his thoughts on ten things that make sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV shows worthwhile, and both Joss as well as many of his creations are noted as highlights.

I'm EXTREMELY sympathetic to the motivation here, but there seems to be some bad reasoning here. "Battlestar Galactica" is an example of escapism from "pessimistic realism?" This makes the opposite of sense unless he means the original, but then we run into the inescapable problem that the original sucks.
The examples are certainly very strange. Firefly releases the inner child? Angel is optimistic?

But I agree with the points. I'm particularly fan of the human element, which I think is the core of good* sci-fi.

Not so sure I agree completely with the timeless point, particularly using TNG as an example. The early seasons of that are exceptionally dated, whilst I probably see the later ones as more bearable because I grew up with them. The stories don't get old though, due to the human element.

* A caveat that this article did miss. There is quite a lot of bad and mediocre sci-fi and fantasy around, which I expect is why it has such a negative view in the mainstream.
Yeah, how is Angel optimistic? Holland Manners reveals that the Home Office/Hell is here on earth and in every person. That's about as cynical as you can get.
@Vandelay's caveat: But, on the other hand, there's quite a lot of bad and mediocre ...EVERYTHING. I don't think relative quality is why it has a negative view in the mainstream. Perhaps it has more to do with the types of fans it attracts. (That's not a dig at sci-fi/fantasy fans, but they don't tend to be the "popular" types, though I think that's been changing over the last 10 years or so with the popularity of sci-fi/fantasy movies like the Star Trek reboot and LotR, etc...)
Nah, those kinds of films have had mainstream appeal since at least the 70s ('Star Wars' was one of the early blockbusters for instance), in that sense almost everyone's a sci-fi fan (just look how many of the top grossing films of all time are sci-fi/genre). But there're fans and there're fans.

But, on the other hand, there's quite a lot of bad and mediocre ...EVERYTHING.

SF even has its own law to capture that, Sturgeon's Law (coined by sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon) - "90% of everything is crap".

The list itself is maybe a bit sweeping and I agree about the examples (the picture under "It's optimistic" is particularly misplaced given that 'Quantum Leap' ended on arguably the biggest downer in all of sci-fi TV - and yep, i'm including "Blake's 7" in that ;) but many of those listed are the things I love about SF&F myself so I don't disagree with the thrust of the article.

(also, BSG, for all its grittiness and dark ambiguity, is incredibly uplifting IMO both for specific moments - e.g. the Chief's Viper - and for the general implicit idea that people persist, despite it all. But even that aside, the 'escapism' category is as much about escaping the mundane as it is escaping the pessimism and grimness of reality)

[ edited by Saje on 2011-05-27 12:43 ]
I think ANGEL was considered to be optimistic because despite every reason to just give up, he and his crew kept on going. Sometimes they needed a good kick in the behind along the way but they never stopped trying to fight to make things right, make things better, even just a little bit if that's all they could do.
The fantasy author, David Eddings, once said in an interview, "Fantasy takes people away from the real world and almost everybody dislikes the real world."

Well setting aside the fact that all fiction is technically fantasy, it has been my experience that fantasy and sci-fi (standard definition) do not seem to be the thing that most people want, hence it's nitch-i-ness/lower market shares and so forth. At least they don't want it as part of their regular diet--Star Wars etc. not withstanding. (Fantasy/Sci-fi is the unrecognized anti-oxidant to the modern story diet. Sez me. :P) What people in general really seem to want is the "real" world as they see it around them to make sense. My most beloved shows and stories don't seem to answer that need for most of the people I know.

My favorite thing about fantasy and sci-fi is that it takes a person out of the accepted world/the mundane/the status quo and gives a necessary bit of distance to the problems of the human condition, and therefore allows openings for alternative ideas and answers.

It's for men and women

My second favorite thing about fantasy/sci-fi. :) I love the great diversity and scope of behavior, feelings, occupations allowed for both genders. After all, dreams and imaginings come before an executable reality.

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