Sunday, January 15, 2017

Techno No-no?

Ryan Britt, writing at Inverse, puts his finger on something that had been needling the back of my mind in watching the recent rise of science fiction television shows and movies.

On the one hand, we nerdfolk kind of enjoy watching our preferred genre of entertainment get blockbuster-level production values and be given serious thought. But on the other hand, as Britt notes, there seems to be a common theme running through much of the latest output -- a kind of technophobia, which you might think would be counter-productive in an arena that often relies on pretty advanced technology to set its stages and scenes.

It's not that I oppose the worldview that suggests we be a lot more careful with technology than we are. Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death may have been written about television and such, way back in 1985, but I firmly believe it has just as much to say about the internet and the modern obsession with staring into small screens. But when every series or movie carries that idea as its philosophical center, then not only does it start to make things boring, it sabotages the vehicle by which that philosophy hopes to enter the cultural conversation.

Britt's short piece made me think of a problem I ran into a few weeks ago while looking for a movie or something to download to my iPad for some treadmill watching. I was in the mood for something sci-fi, but once I waded past the endless sea of Syfy Network zombie/monster crap, I was left with a lot of eeeevil technology parables. "Can't there be one new thing with great starships spanning the galaxy and searching out its mysteries?" I asked myself.

Seems like I may not be the only one wondering.


Todd Bergman said...

That is a signature trope of sci-fi. It may not be entertainment that is the target. Science run amok is the theme of zombie/monster/plague sci-fi. Robotics is Battlestar Galactica and Asimovs robot-themed plots. Genetic manipulation or a.i. or aliens are all about the irresponsible or inevitable outcome to the use of technology.

Personally, I want to see Christopher Stasheff's Warlock series done up right or Pern revealed on screen.

Friar said...

I think it's a great trope, but I don't think it's the only one, and it's felt like that's where everything heads these days. Maybe that's just me, though.

I would love to see Pern onscreen. My take is that the lack of a major Big Bad with a face would make it a better TV series than movie. Although I worry that whatever network that took it would try to tart it up to a hideous degree -- spending lots of time and story on the sexuality of the green riders, for example -- I think it would be great episodic fare. Movies could work if they could sell an audience that the major threat was a brainless spore with low charisma.

Either way, I'd suggest they do the first three books, probably intertwined with the Harper Hall set, and then stop. The rest are either mostly OK but kind of appendices (Moreta and Nerilka) or cash-crabbing crap (all the other books).

Todd Bergman said...

Harper Hall is my favorite series.

Friar said...

I leaned towards the original trilogy when I was younger because I found them first. Today the Harper Hall set kind of reminds me of being a minister in the annual conference. I think a TV series could help keep the simultaneous events of the two woven together better. But I would like to see Thread flamed in iMax... ;-)