The Top 5 Lazy-ass SF Clichés

(Inspired by some blog posts elsewhere)

  1. The aliens are really metaphors for a) blacks b) Jews c) pick a minority group.  It’s one thing to use another species to write about racism, quite another to just lift some particular human experience and graft it on to a non-human.  It rarely makes sense.  It’s even worse when it’s used as an excuse to use racial stereotypes without getting clobbered.
  2. The aliens come from the DSMV.  Giving an entire species a single obsession or mental disorder just to make them “alien” is sloppy and a little creepy.  The psychological equivalent of Star Trek’s bump on the forehead aliens (and they had the excuse of budget constraints, what’s yours?)
  3. The <blank> planet, be it ice, jungle, desert. . . any planet that’s just a single environment is pretty much impossible given that light travels in straight lines and planets are round.  The only two I give a pass to are Dune and Trantor.
  4. Whitewashed futures.  Quick, what proportion of the planet is currently Caucasian?  Now, what proportion of your average pan-galactic civilization is Caucasian?  Now does this make sense?  To those white authors afraid of putting people of color in your work,  grow a spine.
  5. The global monoculture.  This is another diversity fail.  Somehow in another century it’s all one big happy planet with the same news, attitudes, politics, economy.  If we’re lucky you get the frontier spacer culture, and the decadent earth culture.  Sorry, you can find more cultural variation in any single city in Texas than in many SF universes with billions of inhabitants.

8 Replies to “The Top 5 Lazy-ass SF Clichés”

  1. I find it amusing that Star Trek falls into 3 of the 5 (#1: as certain of the ST races adapted from earth cultures, or parts thereof, #2: ST is the poster child for this stupidity, and #5), and you could make a good case for #4, in the basis that caucasians are something like 1/3 of the human population, but make up 90% or so of the cast.

    They rarely spend enough time on any given planet to really make a case for or against #3, except on an episode by episode basis.

    It’s a very lazy show.

  2. Regarding #4, I find whitewashed futures can be quite realistic, assuming they’re space-traveling settings. Only rich countries have space programs, thus only rich (and White/Asian) countries will populate space.

  3. @linger: actually rich country = Caucasian is the same type of BS I’m ranting against. Even if you assume American/European hegemony up to the point we reach the stars, current demographic trends would have that hegemony be majority Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent.

  4. Oh lord I wish your Lazy-Ass cliches could REALLY be expunged from SF.

    I hate it when writers are too lazy to actually research an actual historical period or country or culture so they just take some snippet from it and pretend it’s an alien —

    And it’s not just amateurs that do it, that’s the sad thing.

  5. linger, actually it’s the Chinese that will dominate space (if you extrapolate from current trends). Sure, the US (not always “white” BTW) currently holds a technological lead, but it’s been eroded over the past decade. We aren’t graduating many “white” engineers lately (no, really, go look at the stats). Constellation and Altair should be a major leap forward, however it’ll be closely followed by the Chinese and Japanese (who have a national drive to go into space).

    Plus, major advancements in space technology in the past decade have had a decidedly non-white face on it (as an example, the Xenon Ion engine, and exceptionally large leap forward for long-term space propulsion was perfected by a Latino whose name escapes me at the moment and my google-fu is full of fail today).

    Also, in my day job we have two major engineering firms we do business cards for. While it’s about 50/50 now, the percentage of non-european names I’ve set has been growing for the past two years.

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