Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sharknado and Ben Bova on Conflict

Like so many others, I was swept up with Sharknado fever a couple of days ago. We all knew going in that there was not the remotest chance of the movie having even a little bit of scientific accuracy. With that attitude, it was easy to sit back and laugh at the utterly unrealistic events that unfolded. At the same time, following the #SharkNado feed on Twitter enhanced the experience in a way not seen since Mystery Science Theater 3000 (they would have loved Sharknado).

This morning as I was reading the section on conflict in Ben Bova's The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells I found a passage that I think sums up Sharknado and the movies like it so well. In talking about "space operas" and other works with overly simplistic conflict, Bova notes:

"But the pattern is the same; physical action is the mainstay of the story. Instead of cattle rustlers in black hats we have an invasion of earth by horrid alien creatures. Instead of a battle with the Indians on the prairie we have an interstellar war. But the conflict is all physical, all good guys vs. bad guys.

"Although space operas had virtually disappeared from science fiction writing by the 1960s, they are still a mainstay of Hollywood's sci-fi flicks, which usually draw their inspiration more from comic strips than from real science fiction published in books or magazines. In fact, sci-fi movies are about as closely related to science fiction as Popeye cartoons are to naval history."

(I absolutely love the last sentence.)

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