Thursday, July 28, 2011

That final frontier

This is the story of how I accidentally became a sci-fi fan. I say accidentally because – truth be told – I never really liked sci-fi that much growing up. Sure, I loved “Star Wars.” But “Star Wars” isn’t so much science fiction as it is fairy tale complete with princesses, rouges, black-clad villains and teddy bears (the Ewoks were teddy bears, right?). I never got into “Star Trek” (please note, I am not denigrating “Star Trek.” Live long and prosper, Trekkers). Basically, I stayed away from almost every show with “Star” in the title. For some reason, I felt a little snobby about it. I like serious dramas. I don’t like silly science fiction.

And then it happened. Slowly, but surely, I started liking silly science fiction. First “The X-Files.” But I rationalized that away as more of an ongoing mystery than a sci-fi geekfest. And then “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which while not actually sci-fi, does lump together with the larger world of fantasy. But the thing about Buffy was it wasn’t so much about the vampires as it was about the real monsters we face every day trying to make it to adulthood.

But then I just kept adding more sci-fi shows. “Fringe.” “Dr. Who.” “Dollhouse.” “Firefly.” “Torchwood.” “Lost Girl.” “Warehouse 13.”

What is it about these shows? Why do they interest me so? Well, in part, the fantasy. Time travel. Space travel. Immortal tendencies. Bisexual succubus tendencies. And, well, Myka and Helena’s gigantic lesbian tendencies. But, to be honest, it’s not so much the escape I crave. Because while good sci-fi can provide that with its laser blasters and mind erasers and blue police boxes, I think when done well what it really gives us is a chance to look with clear eyes at our own humanity. Something about adding little green men (or their metaphysical equivalent) allows us to step back from the ordinary, up-close messiness of life and just see our human race for what it is. Beautiful. Flawed. Crazy as all fuck.

And, just as important, I think science fiction is a genre that finally allows women to be on equal footing with men. Not all science fiction, mind you. But a lot, especially more recently. Women are allowed to be in charge. They’re allowed to be strong. They’re allowed to be important – essential even. Basically, they’re allowed to save the world. They’re very rarely just the girlfriend or just the best friend. They’re more often a secret agent or badass or both. And that, that is pretty damn awesome.

Gina Torres, a high priestess of science fiction badassery, famously praised the genre for giving actresses like her who don’t fit a mold a happy home:
“When you fall within the cracks, you thank God for sci-fi, because they’ll give you a gun, and they’ll say, ‘Go over there and conquer that world. You kick some ass, girl!’”

Go kick some ass, indeed. Bring it, sci-fi. I’m all yours.

24 comments:

no-one said...

Excellent picture. I'm very fonf of all those ladies. One of the things I love about sci-fi, beyond how totally kick-ass the women get be, is how more often than not, the female characters are friends, rather than being bitchy competitors.

Anonymous said...

As you are developing a taste for the genre, might I suggest the new Battlestar Galactica series for your viewing pleasure? Yes, it has the word star in its title, but do try it :)
All the best from Germany,
Shanti

Let's be an Inspiration said...

Dorothy! I haven't commented on your blog before, although there are soooo many wonderful posts. But here, two of my internet worlds collide and I can't not mention Nicola Griffiths. You should check out her science fiction. http://asknicola.blogspot.com/
Again, thanks for doing your wonderful blogging and tumblring and commentating work!

Anonymous said...

I second Battlestar Galactica! You won't regret it. Talk about eye opening look at humanity. Plus, kick-ass strong women.

Kristan said...

I third the BSG recommendation, and love Gina Torres's quote.

Your friend, Rusty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Your friend, Rusty said...

re: BSG - So say we all.

rachel said...

One of my creative writing profs argued that all fantasy and sci-fi is political in nature, one way or another. It argues for a future.

If my future has half of the cast of BSG in it, I'll bite.

Rosa said...

Yes!! ...but why no Lena Headey as Sarah Connor?! :(

sauntering vaguely downwards said...

Fantastic post Ms. Snarker. I also suggest BSG, as well as Sanctuary with the ever-amazing Queen of Scifi, Amanda Tapping. Ms. Tapping is even more amazing imho for wanting a female love interest this upcoming season for her character Helen Magnus. And seeing as she's a producer, she may very well make it happen. Ohhhh yes. It shall be glorious.

fallon-ash said...

HERE, HERE! For the longest time I never realized that I was a sci-fi/adventure/fantasy/etc fan, but then one day I sat down and looked at my DVD piles and The West Wing turned out to be my only non-genre series among them. There is indeed something about the women on those shows...

Fraggle Ra said...

oh Gina Torres...

MakingSpace said...

I love Gina Torres and that quote is one of my favorite quotes in all of show business.

Um, just gotta say, regarding liking silly shows vs. shows with substance: Glee? Rizzoli and Isles? Hm...

You might like the blue chick in Farscape.

Nox said...

heh, or stealth sci-fi, like "Chuck" ;)

Mama Bau said...

Sci-fi is off putting for everyone at first because being a fan isn't so much about finding the good shows as it is about weeding out the bad ones. It takes practice to get good at picking out the Joss Whedon and Russel T Davies quality work and passing over the post-trek Gene Roddenberry missteps.

My general rule of thumb is that good sci-fi happens when the fiction is enhanced by the science and the science can't survive without the fiction. Don't just put your rom-com in space and don't just throw a bunch of physics words you found on wiki at me. Then maybe we can be friends.

Anonymous said...

BSG and Star Trek Voyager are really wonderful and I'm just getting into the Stargate thing. BSG is definitely one of the best shows ever put on television. I have a gigantic poster of Janeway staring at me right now.

Kait said...

Yes! It's time to get on the BSG bandwagon, Snarker.

cocoro38 said...

i saw some fringe and dr.who,
but generally don't know well about sci-fi.

just what bothered me, i found something
very fun few days ago, and i totally don't
remember the title, and it disappeared,
can't find it. the subject was science something
but it's not real science, some guys and
grammar girl was there. simply so annoying
when i feel bored.

i finally gave up to find that after spent
about 2 hours. just reminded me my lost show.
where is it?

goodnight ds,
thanks for your posting!

p.s. my word verification is
can slipa, i don't know why i'm laughing. hahaha

Marsha said...

Love Stargate (with Amanda Tapping and a few good men), Fringe, and I'd like to suggest Charmed to anyone who hasn't seen it yet...;) And much of the sci-fi/fantasy on BBC-A is terrific, with Dr. Who and Torchwood leading the pack. Then come Merlin and the edgy Primeval. I do like the idea of time travel.

xamanthe said...

Your comment "I think when done well what it really gives us is a chance to look with clear eyes at our own humanity." Makes me want to give you a challenge. Star Trek was famous for doing just this. I want you to watch just 2 episodes of Star Trek - namely, Deep Space Nine Season 1 episode 18 "Duet" and ST: Voyager Season 2 episode 12 "Resistance" and tell me if you don't think this is great TV.

Also, others have mentioned Amanda Tapping in this thread. She is fantastic in both Stargate: SG-1 and Sanctuary. She might become one of your weekend crushes if you give her a chance. She's been one of my all time favorite crushes for many years.

Anonymous said...

...And I am all yours, Snarker. Thanks for joining us on the "dark side".

Patricia said...

just one episode: REJOINED form ST/DS9 #6/4th_Season - Jadzia Dax (Terry "wow' Farrell) and Lenara Kahn (Susanna 'mytvfakewife' Thomson) - no more to say! Live long and prosper!

Generic Viagra said...

I always like Sci-fi. I grow up with so many different program and cartoon that they focused in space and values. 90s cartoons were something else.

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