Saturday Seven: The Best Science Fiction Tropes

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time have probably already figured out, I read a lot of science fiction.

There are certain sci-fi tropes that immediately grab my attention. Today I’ll be talking about seven of them.

1) Friendly Aliens. 

One of the reasons why I don’t read a lot of sci-fi stories about aliens is that many of them assume that the aliens want to harm humanity. I’d much rather read about extra-terrestrials who are friendly and helpful!

I know that I’d do anything I could to help any aliens who needed assistance. Meeting them and learning about where they came from would be the only reward I could hope for. It only seems logical that at least some of them would feel the same way about us.

2) Alternate History. 

When alternate histories are done right, they’re the highlight of the sci-fi genre. It is so alluring to me imagine how the entire world would have developed differently if a key historical figure had lived a little longer than they did in our timeline, or if someone else had won a major war, or if a specific disease had been much more  deadly at an important point in history.

This is something that is incredibly hard to get right because authors have to build a complex and realistic world that is usually drastically different from the one we live in. I’ve read more alternate history novels that disappointed me than ones that blew my mind.

When the world-building is well-developed and logical, though, this is one of my favourite things to read.

3) Terraforming.

How cool would it be to turn a dead planet like Mars into one that is teeming with life? I hope we’ll all live long enough to see at least the first stage of this kind of mission be carried out.

At the rate we’re going, Earth isn’t going to be able to support seven and a half billion people for much longer.

The best way for humanity to survive is for us to figure out how to fix the damage we’ve already caused to our home planet and then spread out into the galaxy and create other Earth-like places for people to live.

While we’re waiting for NASA to figure out the best way to begin doing this, it’s entertaining to read about the process of changing the atmosphere and climate of a dead planet so that humans can live on it safely.

4) People Zoos.

I stopped going to zoos several years ago because of how sad it makes me feel to see intelligent animals like apes locked up there. Yes, the vast majority of modern zoos put a lot of effort into keeping their animals happy, healthy, and intellectually stimulated, but I still hate seeing such smart creatures confined like that. There has to be a better way to preserve endangered species, although I don’t know what that solution is at this point.

The nice thing about people zoos in this genre is that they explore the ethics of zoos with audiences that might never otherwise think about this issue.

5) The End of an Age. 

Someday we are going to be thought of as people who lived in the good old days. I’m not a big fan of that phrase in general due to how much whitewashing of the past often goes on with people who insist on romanticizing a specific time in history, but I am fascinated by what folks define as the good old days and how they behave once they think such a thing has ended forever.

6) Trapped in the Past. 

As a woman, an Atheist, and a member of the LGBT community, I don’t daydream about visiting the past. It wasn’t a friendly or safe place for people like me for the vast majority of human history to say the least.

The one part of time travel stories that I do find interesting, though, is when characters get stuck in an era they were only expecting to spend a few hours or days exploring. Just because someone is comfortable visiting, say, a medieval village doesn’t mean they’d want to grow old and die there without any hope at all of ever returning back to the present day.

I really like the idea of showing how someone could learn to adjust to such a huge shift in their daily lives.

7) Miracle Food.

This trope happens quite often in the fantasy genre, too. I am fascinated by the idea of a single food that can keep a person going through any circumstances indefinitely.

It is even more interesting when it’s described as a food that was created through scientific advancements. This gives me hope that one day we’ll all be able to eat nutritious, well-rounded meals without anyone needing to cook or wash a small mountain of dishes!

If you read science fiction, what tropes in it do you enjoy the most? If not, what are some of your favourite tropes in general?

15 Responses to Saturday Seven: The Best Science Fiction Tropes

  1. Alternate history stories fascinate me. I watched a movie (“Sliding Doors”) that talked about how even the smallest choice can make a massive difference in how life turns out. Occasionally, though, it can make me treat small decisions with far more importance than they probably deserve, lol.

    Re: food — I remember being fascinated by that gum created by Willie Wonka in the first movie that was a full course meal.

    I’m here:

  2. I forgot about the Willy Wanka gum! For my scifi trope, I love decorative tech. Katharine McGee does this really well–tech that’s just there to be pretty but adds so much to the world and characters personalities.

  3. Lydia, you always have such creative ideas and of course Sci Fi is also something I read …a little.

    I have fallen in love with an author named Blake Crouch, a little bit Sci Fi but I’m not sure where his series “Wayward Pines” would fall, maybe almost a People Zoo.

    Thanks for the list, gives me a few to put on my list.

    • Thank you, Kathy. What a nice compliment.

      I’ve seen some of the Wayward Pines television show. Yes, a people zoo would be a great way to describe how the characters lived. It was eerie and thought-provoking for sure.

    • It’s good to hear that you like to read sci-fi every once in a while. What’s your favourite alternate history novel?

      • Right now it’s The Great Library series by Rachel Caine. It’s kind of sci-fi/Steampunk/fantasy all mashed together, but it’s about the Great Library of Alexandria.

  4. I am not a sci-fi fan but these tropes you mention make the genre more appealing. I suppose it’s the thoughtless, shallow bash-the-monster kind of thing that turns me off. Thanks for this.

    • I’m glad to hear that you’re intrigued by these tropes! The sci-fi genre is huge. There are many different types of stories in it, from silly to serious and everything in-between.