Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Antagonist in Science Fiction

I am a fan of science fiction. I wouldn't go as far as to say I am a fanatical fan; but I am a fan. Lately, I noticed that science fiction plots are becoming a little bit too familiar—especially when it comes to the antagonist.

It seems that the antagonist is usually one of or a compilation of the following:

  1. Power Hungry, Corrupt Politician/Government Leader, planning on world, galactic or universal domination. I must admit, this person is intriguing and presents multiple facets to the storyline. But in the end, it is all about power, getting more of it, keeping it, or taking it away from someone else. This character is probably the most overused antagonist in literature and visual arts. This character is usually pitted against the protagonist in a good vs. evil battle.
  2. Arrogant Military Leader. This character is probably the second most overused antagonist in literature and visual arts. This character deems everything they can't control, use or order around a threat, and then they want to destroy it. This character is usually pitted against the protagonist in a life and death battle.
  3. Delusional Scientist: This character wants to know all there is about life, the universe and what makes it tick, and then this character wants to recreate it—usually in their own image. This character is so psychotic that they don't care about or so driven that they don't see the errors of their ways.
  4. Greedy businessman: This character is motivated by wealth…accumulating at all cost, no matter what. This person's moral compass is broken. This character is a true blend of the first three. This person is evil, untrusting and psychotic. Add the broken moral compass and you get things like the economic down turn we are experiencing today.

The challenge for today's writer is to be fresh and build new adversarial relationships not seen before, or at least not seen often. Today's writer must create a perfect balance between the antagonist and the protagonist. A fantastic plot would have the reader feeling sympathetic for the antagonist. The reader should be able to understand the antagonist without condoning the characters action. At the same time the writer must get the reader to cheer on the protagonist to do the right thing, while scolding the character for doing something stupid. In other words, the antagonist can't be a devil and the protagonist can't be a saint. Demons should ride inside the main character and angels should haunt the bad guys.

Have you read any new and interesting antagonist lately? Writers, have you created an adversarial relationship different than the norm? Please hit the blog and share your thoughts.

I will discuss this and other topics at my book signing for the Osguards: Guardians of the Universe, this Saturday at Borders Bookstore from 1 to 3 PM. Discussion to follow:





Sunday, August 15, 2010

What is Science Fiction

I read somewhere that science fiction was like the saying about pornography. You may not be able to completely define it, but you know it when you see it. However, from my conversations about my writing, I'm not too sure this is true.

When I tell people I write science fiction novels, I get one of three reactions. The reaction I get the most is I don't like science fiction. Then I ask them, what's the latest movie they seen or what is their favorite T.V. show?

They would say to me something like Avatar, Transformers II, or even Iron Man II. They would tell me their favorite T.V. show is Lost or Heroes. Then I tell them, you like science fiction…you just don't know it.

I would categorize Avatar, Transformers II an Iron Man II as science fiction. However Avatar is categorized as an Action Adventure Fantasy Sci Fi. Sci Fi is listed last. Transformers is listed as Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller. At least Sci Fi is listed second. Iron Man 2 is listed as Action Adventure Sci Fi. Here Sci Fi is listed last again.

Lost is listed as Adventure, Drama, Mystery and then Sci-Fi. Finally, Heroes is listed as Drama, Sci Fi.

The pattern here is Sci Fi is getting low billing as a genre with many of today's visual arts and entertainment. Why?

It appears science fiction has a bad connotation with the general public. I believe this is because they don't really understand what science fiction really is. I am a science fiction writer and I have a hard time defining science fiction.

To me science fiction is a cross cutting genre. What I mean by this is that any type of story…drama, adventure, action, thriller, and even romance can be a science fiction story. All you need is an element of plausible and or possible science and technological as a crucial element to the story.

Unfortunately to the mainstream audience, science fiction is all about space ships, aliens and ray guns. They are missing the point that science fiction is much more than that. Science fiction can tell a story with heart and soul. It can tell a mystery, it can spin a drama, it can encase a romance, it can be the backdrop of an adventure, it and breathe the excitement of action.

Pundits of Sci Fi argue about what is Sci Fi within the community. There are proponents of Hard Sci-Fi and advocates of Soft Sci Fi – again with the pornography reference.

From what I can tell, Hard Sci Fi is the stories with space ships, aliens and ray guns. The stories are base in the hard sciences with suspension of believe or better said, a leap of faith that the unknown will someday be known. Isaac Asimov and today, Larry Niven are best known for this.

While Soft Sci Fi uses science and technology to set the stage, pepper the environment and / or create the challenge. Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, George Orwells' Ninety Eighty Four are excellent examples.

Then there are subgenres to science fiction. Cyberpunk, Time Travel, Alternate History, Military SF, Superhuman, Apocalyptic, Space Opera, Space Western.

Then there are the cousins to Science Fiction: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and Superhero fiction. Many times stories blend these genres so much you can't tell what they really are. Sometimes, I think pieces that have this blend should be called Science Fantasy, Science Horror, and Science Mystery. Fortunately the term Superhero, already implies Science Fiction, so I don't think that name should change.

In summary, many of fiction literature touch on Science Fiction. Just because it's not labeled Science Fiction, doesn't mean it isn't Science Fiction.

This and much more will be topics of discussion at my upcoming Book Signing.

21 Aug 2010   

Time: August 21, 2010  from 1pm to 3pm
Location: Borders
Street: 2904 Prince William Parkway
City/Town: Woodbridge VA 22192
Phone: (703) 897-8100
Organized By: Ms. Jenn Stewart, Events Coordinator, Borders, Woodbridge V

Please come out and join me if you are in the area.