Category Archives: Science Fiction

We Need Less Romance in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genres

I feel a few feathers ruffling already out there in cyberspace, so let me explain.

One of the most bizarre and irritating trends I’ve been noticing in this genre over the last few years has been romantic plots being crookedly tacked onto every kind of story you could possibly imagine in this universe for reasons that defy explanation: zombie; post-apocalyptic; historical; otherworldly; ghost; slasher; psychological horror; speculative; deep space; futuristic.

There have been times when I’ve read something that spent the first 90% of the plot focused on characters painstakingly exploring new planets, outrunning zombies, or figuring out what all of those strange noises were in the old farmhouse the main character and their family have recently moved it.

Suddenly, the last twenty pages of it turned into the main character falling in love and living happily ever after.

Wait, what? Did the author honestly not remember what their character was like for the first 180 pages of their story?

Mixing Genres Isn’t Always Smart

If you read a lot of sweet and gentle romances, imagine how you’d feel if the characters you were beginning to get to know and love suddenly started finding dead bodies on the sidewalk while they were out on dates. It might be a fun twist if it happened once or twice to characters who happened to work as detectives or had other reasons for needing to investigate a decaying corpse while also falling in love, but wouldn’t it be odd if it started happening regularly?

Mixing genres works amazingly well for certain types of tales, and I definitely see the value in it if the storyline can juggle two or more different styles of writing at the same time. However, there’s also something to be said for allowing genres to exist in their own worlds without trying to market to every conceivable audience who might read the blurb and find something interesting about it.

Happily Ever After Is Different for Everyone

I understand the urge to market stories to more than one audience. There have been scifi romances – and even a few regular romances –  that I thought were incredibly well written in the past, but I’m growing tired of the trend of pushing romance into so many SFF books regardless of whether or not their plots actually call for that kind of subplot.

Not every character should end their arc by finding a life partner. In some cases, this flies in the face of everything that character has done and said over the last X number of pages or books.

It bothers me when a book randomly tacks on a relationship or marriage to give the characters a happy ending after they’ve spent most of the storyline pursuing any number of other goals in life, from discovering a cure for a fatal disease to finally defeating the big villain who has  been skulking around and killing any secondary characters who wanders into their path.

Happily ever after might be falling in love for one character after they’ve defeated the villain, but it could also involve:

  • Adopting a dog from the local animal shelter
  • Making peace with their past for good
  • Changing their name and moving to Brazil
  • Buying a new house if the spirits in their old house refuse to move on
  • Learning a second or third language
  • Finally getting a good night’s rest after spending the last 3 books evading henchmen or the undead
  • Inheriting a massive fortune and dedicating their life to donating it to good causes

Or any number of other experiences, goals, or plot twists. The possibilities are endless, and yet endless numbers of books in this genre try to shove everyone into the love and romance box.

Love isn’t the Only Emotion Worth Exploring

One of the things I enjoy the most about the sci-fi genre is when it uses otherworldly experiences to explore universal emotions. A robot or rocket ship on its own is cool, but it’s even better when it shows us the best and worst of human nature.

Here’s the thing, though: love isn’t the only emotion out there. Grief, anger, sadness, doubt, fear, disgust, joy, anticipation, trust, and many other emotions are just as complex and worthy of exploration as love is.

You can learn a lot about a character by discovering how they react when they’re frightened, surprised, lonely, or excited. Falling in love is part of the human experience (for the majority of people), but there are so many other ways to show who someone is, flaws and all, without pushing them into a romance.

Not All Love is Romantic

Finally, not every form of love is romantic. If the SFF genre had shifted to include more explorations of the love between friends, family members, a person and their dog, or a cat and their human,* I would be much more interested in the topic.

Unfortunately, non-romantic forms of love receive much less attention in genre fiction than they should. I actually get excited when I pick up a mystery, horror, or sci-fi novel and realize that the main character’s deepest and most meaningful relationship in their life is with a pet, friend, or family member.

*Because we all know that cats have pet humans, and not the other way around. 😉

Have you noticed the same trend in this genre? What do you think of mixing genres in general? Let’s talk about it on Twitter today!

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Science Fiction and Fantasy

I’m starting a new series of posts on this blog today about who you should follow if you’re new to Twitter and want to dip your toes into specific communities there.

This week I’m going to be recommending Tweeps who talk about science fiction and fantasy who aren’t currently as well known as, say, J.K. Rowling or Margaret Atwood.

My goal is to highlight hidden gems and introduce you to accounts that you very well may never have heard of before.

Future parts of this series will be used to discuss mindfulness and fitness. I do not know how many other parts there may be after those posts, but I am brainstorming more ideas for it.

Without further delay, here are my favourite sci-fi and fantasy accounts from the Twitterverse. If you have suggestions for specific accounts to recommend or topics for a future post in this series, I’d be quite interested in hearing about them.

@babadookgay

Yes, these tweets are written from the perspective of the monster in The Babadook. After that film was released, some fans jokingly speculated that the Babadook was gay because it’s still so uncommon for LGBT people to be represented in the movies.

No, his account isn’t scary (unless you’re anti-gay). His tweets are actually about acceptance and the joy of finding kindred spirits in the most unlikely places. Reading them is a warm, happy experience for me.

@SarcasticRover 

Imagine what a sentient, sarcastic Mars Curiosity would be like. Their photographs and comments about what it’s like to roll around on Martian soil all day are quite funny and well done. This is a humour account, not a scientifically-minded one.

@bitsofpluto

This is a good account to follow if you have any interest in Pluto or space exploration in general and want to take a science-based approach to your research. The bot running it tweets photos of various sections of Pluto without commentary. It is up to the audience to come up with our own theories about the meaning and value of those photographs.

From what I’ve seen, this account does not respond to people who talk to it. That isn’t something that bothers me, but I know some people on Twitter who feel otherwise.

‪@PIutoThePlanet‬

On a more whimsical note, this account speaks from the perspective of Pluto itself. Imagine being a lonely planet that occassionally notices a satellite flying by to take its picture.

Pluto doesn’t tweet very often, but when it happens it’s definitely worth paying attention to. It is much less sarcastic than the SarcasticRover.

‪@FolkloreThurs‬

The woman who runs this account tweet and retweets pieces of folklore from every corner of the globe on Thursdays. #FolkLoreThursday is the hashtag you’ll need to find these tweets each week.

I’ve been lurking and occasionally participating for a few years now, and I’ve learned about so many stories and traditions that I’d never heard of before. The community that has built up around this hashtag is warm and welcoming to newcomers. Don’t be afraid to jump in with questions or your own contributions if this is your sort of thing.

‪@apexmag‬

I’ve sung the praises of this literary magazine before, but Apex Magazine is still my favourite place online to find new SFF fiction. This is a wonderful place to begin if you’re in the market for free short stories and/or interviews with contemporary writers in this field. I’ve discovered many amazing authors and books through them.

‪@PlioceneBloke‬

Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine a caveman tweeting about all of the things the first humans have discovered, invented, and learned.

Some of them are funny. Others are poignant. Occasionally he even tweets about current events from the understanding of a hunter-gatherer whose culture is completely different from our own.

@atlasobscura‬

Go here if you’re in the mood for some inspiration for your own stories or if you simply enjoy reading about the bizarre but true things that sometimes happen in our world. It’s a very eclectic mixture of sub-genres, topics, and ideas.

I don’t even know what else to say about this account. It seriously has something for every niche in the SFF community, and then some!

@MicroSFF‬

Imagine reading a SFF story that has been condensed to 140 characters or less. I am regularly amazed by how the owner of this account manages to pack so much storytelling in such a tiny amount of space.

The person who runs it is friendly and often responds to feedback. This doesn’t happen with all of the accounts I’m recommending today, so start here if you’re most interested in following people who will interact with you on Twitter.

‪@MagicRealismBot‬

If MicroSFF is a full story, MagicRealismBot is an idea. Not all of their ideas make sense, but some of them are great prompts if you’re looking for a partially-formed plot or character for your own writing. Like bitsofpluto, this is run by a bot. Don’t expect an answer if you tweet back at them, but do enjoy the ride.

@AwfulFantasy

Not every SFF story is going to appeal to everyone. If you have any pet peeves in these genres at all, this is definitely the account to follow. It pokes fun at all kinds of tropes, stereotypes, and overused plot devices in clever ways.

What are your favorite science fiction and fantasy accounts on Twitter?

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My Most Anticipated Upcoming Movies of 2017

2017 is more than half finished now, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t plenty of great movies coming out between August and New Year’s Eve. I recently researched what films are scheduled to come out over the next 5 months, and I was surprised by how many of them I’m looking forward to watching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. In theatres on August 21.

I’m going to cut straight to the point here. Was the original Starship Troopers movie from 1997 cheesy? Yes, and that was a huge part of the appeal of it for me. Sometimes the best scifi is the kind that involves fighting gigantic bugs on faraway planets and occasionally cutting away to a futuristic commercial.

I can’t wait to see what else is going on in this universe. It’s one of the best ideas for a 90s sequel that Hollywood has had since Fuller House was announced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geostorm. In theatres on October 20.

There have been many natural disaster movies made in the past, but I can’t think of a single one that was caused by malfunctioning computers. This plot point alone was enough to make me curious about this film.

I’m assuming that a hurricane is a hurricane no matter how it came about, but there’s always the possibility that the writers have come up with some truly creative twists on this old trope. This is the kind of movie that I’d want to wait to rent until it was available on iTunes. As interested as I am in watching it, it will be even better if I can watch it from the comfort of my own home.

It doesn’t strike me as something that requires a big screen and a room full of strangers in order to enjoy it. Then again, I feel that way about almost all films these days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shape of Water. In theatres on December 8.

If I could only pick one of these movies to watch, The Shape of Water would be it without question. Guillermo del Toro won me over years ago with Pan’s Labryinth. The Shape of Water is promising to be every bit as interesting as that story, so I can’t wait to see if it measures up to my expectations.

I’m purposefully avoiding all spoilers for it. My regular readers know that I strongly dislike spoilers in general, and those feelings are only intensified by something that sounds like it’s going to a lot of fun to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Kiet’s Children. In theatres on December 13.

Wow, this looks like a tearjerker. I have a lot of compassion for immigrants in general, but immigration must be even more difficult for children who aren’t necessarily old enough to understand the conflicts that forced their families to move so far away from where they were born.

One of the things I enjoy the most about documentaries is getting the chance to see the world through other people’s eyes. I know very little about the political or social situation in the Netherlands, so I’ll be watching Miss Kiet’s Children with the hope of changing that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferdinand. In theatres on December 15.

When I was in high school, a friend of mine dated a cute boy named Ferdinand. This movie is NOT about their relationship in any way, but the title of it did make me pause and smile at that memory before watching the preview.

Ferdinand is actually about a bull who doesn’t want to fight anyone. I’m intrigued by that concept and hope that the storytelling will live up to the premise. From what I’ve read about it so far, I’m expecting to enjoy this story quite a bit.

If you have a Twitter account, come over and tell me what movies you’re looking forward to seeing the most between now until the end of the year.

How Social Media Is Changing the Rules About Spoilers

Those of you who have been following me for years might remember my post from 2014 about hating spoilers.

Since then I’ve been paying attention to how social media – especially Twitter – has been changing the rules about if, whether, and when it’s okay to share spoilers.

It was especially interesting to see how people reacted to The Handmaid’s Tale a few months ago because of how much faster that show was released in the U.S. than it was in other parts of the world.

Canada was always one or two episodes behind the United States depending on which day of the week you were on. Other countries were even further behind us.

People in the States were sharing spoilers before or right after the latest episode there ended. Even mainstream news sites were leaking plot twists as they discussed what had currently happened and what was going to happen next. I had to mute the hashtags for that show and avoid reading all news articles about it until I’d finished the whole series.

While I still believe that it’s rude to share spoilers for a show that has just aired, not everyone agrees with me and not everyone who does agree with me has the same rules about how to go about sharing them after a certain amount of time has passed.

The Old Rules

This varied according to which parts of the Internet you spent time in, of course, but I remember the old rules being as follows:

  • Always put a spoiler warning before sharing anything that mentioned even mild plot twists.
  • Don’t discuss the latest episode of your favourite show with people who haven’t seen it yet unless they tell you they don’t mind.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

I do not remember the mainstream media releasing spoilers back then the way they do now. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s because I watched fewer shows at that point or if the rules have since changed for the media as well.

The Controversy

If cats knew what spoilers were, they’d disapprove of them.

I’m going to be doing some generalizing and simplifying here for the sake of brevity, but people who have an opinion on this issue seem to fall into one of two camps.

The first camp believes that everything is up for discussion the second a show has finished airing in their time zone. While some of them do warn everyone about their discussion of spoilers ahead of time, many others don’t bother to mention it at all.

Interestingly enough, my own mother belongs in this group. If I read a book or watch a movie that she hasn’t tried yet, she genuinely doesn’t mind hearing spoilers about it. This blows my mind sometimes, but I’m much less cautious about discussing how stories end with her than I am with almost everyone else I know.

The second camp is against all spoilers. We want to be warned of potential spoilers well in advance so we can avoid them. We often also want everyone to use the official hashtags for that show or movie so that we can mute them before any of the plot twists are revealed.

The New Rules

  • Always use the appropriate hashtags when discussing your favourite shows on social media.
  • Give people fair warning if you will be sharing spoilers.
  • Find likeminded people to discuss (or avoid) spoilers with.
  • Respect the rights of others to make different decisions.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

From what I’ve seen, the Internet hasn’t yet come to a conclusion about how long everyone should wait before spoiler tags are no longer necessary.

I take a conservative approach and add spoiler tags to almost everything. Just because a book was released a few decades ago doesn’t mean that everyone has read it. While I do occasionally share spoilers about old movies, TV shows, and books, I warn people first in case they don’t want to know what happened.

It’s going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out over the next few years.  Is giving spoiler warnings for everything no matter when it was released the best way to handle it? I honestly don’t know. This is something I do as a courtesy for others, but I don’t think it’s currently realistic to expect everyone to follow this rule given how unwilling they are to wait even a few days to dissect current shows.

With that being said, I would like to see people become more aware of the fact that their favourite shows have global audiences and that not every country or time zone gets the latest episode simultaneously.

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Night

This post includes spoilers for “Night” (Season 1, Episode 10) of The Handmaid’s Tale. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes. Wow. Just wow. It took me longer than usual to write this post because of how much I loved the season 1 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale. It set… Read More

Does Starfleet Have Pride Parades?

Today’s post will be shorter than usual because I don’t believe in stretching my ideas out to fit a predetermined word count. If I can say it in 700 words, I’m not going to give you a few thousand of them just to fit the pattern of many of my previous posts here. (I’m planning… Read More

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Bridge

This post includes spoilers for “The Bridge” (Season 1, Episode 9) of The Handmaid’s Tale as well as for the book this show is based on. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes that have aired so far.  Wow, this week was intense! I think it’s my favorite episode yet in this… Read More

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Other Side

This post includes spoilers for “The Other Side” (Season 1, Episode 7) of The Handmaid’s Tale. It also includes spoilers for the book. As usual, the link on the left has full summaries of all of the episodes that have aired so far.  One of the things that always bothered me about the original version of The Handmaid’s Tale… Read More