Despite thousands of “five star” reviews, a lot of very popular and widely read science fiction writing these days seems vapid and formulaic. Severely similar and boring. Variations on the same apparent theme and characters. It’s like one, same thing.
A lot of it seems to be about some gigantic star ship in the service of, or fighting against, some gigantic empire or corporation. Star ships are “3000 meters long,” and so wide you need special transport to get around inside them.
I like the big ship idea. It’s prevelant. You’d think you were reading one book, instead of several different ones.
But it’s never explained how these things are built. Or where all the materials come from. It’s just there. It just happens. It’s taken care of “by the A.I.” No need for us to think or speculate creatively.
Sometimes the resident A.I. handles ship repair. It just does it all, with no help. The A.I. can fabricate and repair anything, but can take days or weeks. Usually it gets done while the ship is underway in hyper, or hypo, space-travel mode. That way nobody can pursue, see, or fight with us.
Materials are literally created out of nothing by super-science. I mean—you say you can travel between stars in hours or days? Then you can also do ANYthing that fits the plot line.
The story is usually about a very old ship that has seen better days. But there’s always something unique about this ship—because it is so old. It’s full of surprises and untold capabilities. Nobody really knows what all it can do. It takes special people to find out.
The universe is more heavily populated than Earth was, and there are skillions of worlds and peoples. Star travel is thousands of years old. But people can still get sick, get drunk, or have sex.
There’s always a hero/captain/protagonist who’s special. He’s big and tough. He’s got a back-story that would kill most of us outright. He’s got special “implants” of all sorts that make him even more special. He can do almost anything.
But, see, he’s troubled: there’s always something transformative lurking in his past. He’s hurt and in pain. He can;t resolve his life. He needs maybe a good woman.
There’s always two or three, loyal-to-the-death types, who will follow and back up this man anywhere in the universe. They can be men or several men and a woman.
But she’s not The Woman.
There’s always a gorgeous, female fighter pilot who’s the absolute best pilot there ever was. And she’s tough, resourceful, and smart, I tell you. Smart!
She’s GOOD, I tell you! And she wears special “battle aromor.” Always! In every story!
But she may have some terrible flaw or physical illness that’s like a ticking time bomb. Maybe she’s been taken over by Dark Forces and doesn’t know it?
But she has spent more time in the simulator than anybody else, and this is what helps make her the best pilot, by all the gods.
Oh. ANY female in one of these “modern” stories might be a lesbian or bisexual. Watch for it. And if we are very “lucky,” one or more of the male heroes will prefer men sexually, and may even be married to one, “back home,” or in “another branch of the service.”
And it’s normal and goes unnoticed or remarked upon. It’s just “beautiful.”
But there’s always lots of “simulator” stuff.
People fight simulated battles while “jacked in” to the simulator. It can be hundreds at once. Or just one. “Jacked in.”
Entire squadrons or wings of “star fighters” engage gigantic, enemy “battle cruisers,” or “destroyers,” or “carriers,” etc. In the simulator.
It’s very military. Lot’s of mil-spec, spelled out. There’s order and rank. Even if it’s pirates and not military, there’s order and rank.
Super medical stuff. Even if you get shot or dead.
Lots of nano-bots to cure you when your’re sick or wounded.
Everybody wears a special garment that will “seal” against explosive vacuums, and protect against trauma with all kinds of built in, advanced, electronic, or mystical goodies that can do ANYthing.
Oh—and there’s always some hidden nemesis trying to make life miserable for our hero characters. As the nemesis seeks out some fantastic object or goal, or tries to prevent us from getting to it first.
There are lots of space battles that our ship always seems to somehow win or escape from at the last possible moment. And then it’s repaired “in a couple of days,” or “three hours,” or “three weeks,” while traveling unmolested in subspace warp drive.
Or it can be repaired at some lonesome star-base. Or on a wild menagerie of a rollicking, deep space, man-made, subterranean world or space station. (Think the bar scene in Star Wars. Or Blade Runner.)
I read about five series like that. It gets old fast. Like I said, it’s so formulaic and trite that it’s a shame.
Where has the great writing gone? Where are the visionary authors? Where is genuine Story? Meaningful dialogue? Mythic moral?
Everything these days that seems popular and prolific also seems tailored to minds specifically fitted and programmed to receive it.
People seem to love pre-packaged, hackneyed trash, whether it’s some splashy novel, a cgi moving pictures spectacular, a half-naked starlet with her tongue stuck out—or, whatever.
It seems to me we currently live in an artificial world, awash in a negative culture of trite mediocrity. It’s the dark cold of space.
And which toilet we should use seems to be a bigger question today than, what are we supposed to do here, with our time—our brief little spot alive?
And where were we before then? Before being alive?
And where are we afterwards? When we are dead?
Oh, wait…I think I suddenly see why this current “culture,” seems lost and adrift.
It’s because there are no answers anymore. And the questions are too ”uncomfortable.”
It’s because we’ve become too defensively formulaic. We don’t want to know anything, or ask any questions, or be reminded. We feel stronger huddling together. The Collective is secure. The group is sure.
We’ve allowed ourselves to become pre-programmed to…well…move along; be about our business; live out our little lives.
And to, “Have A Nice Day.”
Or, even, to, “Have a nice rest of your evening.”
Whatever that means.
As to the denouement of this story: give me the good old days—with a heavy blaster at my side, hot rockets to ride, courage, ambition, expectant hope—and the promise of a Grand Unknown—up ahead.
Someplace good to go. Something good to be. And the path to get me there well, and honorably.