One thing I rediscovered while writing that post about Pitch Black a couple of weeks ago was TV Tropes. Seriously, TV Tropes is a slightly frightening website. Frightening because it’s actually worse than Wikipedia – if you get drawn in to reading the articles posted there, an hour can pass by alarmingly quickly. Which leads me to hypothesise that it might actually exist as some kind of temporal anomaly on the internets. I’m rambling now, aren’t I?

A trope, for anyone unfamiliar with this particular piece of jargon, is a recurring theme given in any narrative (be it TV, movie, comic book, video game or whatever) which conveys information to you as the storyline unfolds. Overused tropes end up as clichés, though even those which aren’t overused are generally recognisable. These are little snippets of information which have somehow ended up in our collective subconscious as ways in which storytellers have gotten their points across. Though, as picked up on by Anita Sarkeesian in Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs Women series of YouTube videos, this isn’t always a good thing. Incidentally, if you haven’t actually seem those videos, I recommend that you do. Really. Don’t question, just watch. But prepare to feel somewhat discontent with society in general afterwards.

Anyway, these two things together inspired me to write a series of blog posts (one which will hopefully be a bit more successful than the 8 Things series a couple of years back) about space tropes in science fiction. Because as I think I showed pretty well before, clichés in fiction like having three suns in the sky are certainly possible outside fiction. At the same time, other clichés like silicon based life are rather less likely. Yes, I liked the Horta too, but unfortunately wishful thinking isn’t good science. Think of it a little bit like Mythbusters meets Death from the Skies. Except with less facial hair. And with less emphasis on debunking Hollywood science and more on telling sci fi writers how to get it better. Though there is likely to be a lot of debunking too…

Have a favourite sci-fi movie trope that you want to know more about? Dyson spheres perhaps? Maybe giant planet eating robots? Or maybe you like things which are full of stars? Drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can come up with!

Astrotropes now has it’s own index page! Because… well… why not?

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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6 Responses to Astrotropes!

  1. Jack says:

    Inter-Starship Combat: First complaint – on the spacial scale such real-life combat would take, communication between vessels would take many minutes roundtrip. Second complaint – combatant location would be the most sought after, and most well defended, information. Actually getting close enough to ‘dog-fight’ would be unheard of. Battles would occur between tiny, silent and invisible dots in a very large arena. Think more along the lines of Red October or Das Boot. Third and last – where are the robots? Could there be a more perfect environment for combat robots either remotely controlled or self-directed? I have yet to come across a convincing starship combat in anything produced by Hollywood.

  2. Baribal says:

    FTL travel and communications. There may be no realistic plan to achieve them yet, but even when you just accept their existence, writers often still manage to mess them up so that their effects seem inconsistent with cause and effect even to those who have familiarized themselves with higher physics.

    • invaderxan says:

      This is definitely worth a little discussion! When you start looking at faster-than-light travel, things can get messy very fast!

  3. NottsScience says:

    How will you stop this thread descending into a list of “bad science” in sci-fi films?

    • invaderxan says:

      I’m not sure I will. There’s a lot of science out there, both good and bad, in sci-fi. I don’t really mind what gets earmarked as worthy of exploration – I’ll try and give all things a fair chance where I can!

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