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Thread: Why was science fiction heavily stigmatized in the 90s?

  1. #21
    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    I disagree. If anything people seem to take sci-fi much more seriously now than back then, given the custodians of good taste and literature are largely culturally irrelevant in a post-print world.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

  2. #22
    No Thank You Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madrigal View Post
    I dunno how much Blair Witch cost, but it couldn't have been much either. Yeah, you can use creativity to spend less money. Kurosawa found a way to talk about war just by filming some guys in a tunnel. I wouldn't go so far as to say the genres are accessible to the independent filmmaker though.

    Edit: Or at least, it wouldn't be fair to say that. I mean, you can use examples of low-budget films pulling it off, but at the same time you know a low budget can't show an exploding spaceship or interplanetary war in space, or even a credible looking martian. You can talk about war by showing soliders in a tunnel, and it'll be genius, but don't try to film the invasion of Normandy. These are not democratic genres.
    I agree with the overall argument definitely. It's interesting though that the same movies are usually branded as camp - elite budgets but lowbrow marketing. I think despite its undemocratic production standards, the genre did succesfully tap into wider cultural anxieties of the era.

    In particular, I think 90's culture was going through a phase of confusion about authenticity, where musicians, artists, directors, and audiences were searching for whatever it was, but marketers were always there in the mix, trying to bring in their own prosumers and present their products in an "authentic" tone. And the result was nihilism, because everyone decided the search was a lost cause.

    I think sci-fi films usually - even way before the 90's - have that conflict at their core, to figure out what qualifies as real, worthy of empathy, anthropomorphic. It's the central struggle of most robots, of course, and a fair share of aliens. So it makes sense to me that on the one hand these movies were highly stigmatized in the 90's, but on the other hand, it was a golden era for the genre, with movies like Gattaca, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix, Jurassic Park, and so on. It's a perfect arena for that larger cultural question and conflict.

  3. #23
    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madrigal View Post
    There are some genres where these anticipated clichés are comforting, though. Like when we're kids and like to hear the same story again and again. Ghost stories are a case in point. Of course there has to be a skeptic, someone whose perfectly rational view of the world is cracked, at least for as long as he wants to remember that thing that happened, or tell it to one lucky person. Of course there is a closed closet or box or door, and things that creak and thump in the night, and strange people in the day who keep secrets. There are storms, power cuts, jumbie birds or other ominous animals, etc. If I don't get some of that I'll feel a bit short-changed. There are some genres we approach the same way we approach comfort food, we just want to have that thing we know and love.
    This reminds me of something that writers call finding the balance of strange and familiar. The nature of the balance depends quite a bit on the target audience. The theory I've been told is as follows:

    Children's series (middle grade) tend to be extremely repetitious. They tell the same plot over and over, and kids like it because they are still learning how to predict outcomes. By giving them high levels of familiarity they are pleased that they can accurately predict outcomes.

    As readers mature, they bore more easily and crave more novelty. Mature readers of fantasy and science fiction want to learn about a new world, and spend more time thinking empathetically, writing themselves into the new world, or comparing what they would do to what happened. They are, whether they think of it like this or not, looking forward to mastering the new world well enough to take a test at the end--and that test is the ability to predict or understand how things play out based on their new knowledge of a world with different rules than the one they live in.

    How to do this varies from writer to writer, and to a lesser extent, genre to genre. More skilled readers are able to deal with a steeper learning curve and can wade into a pile of jargon and use context to work out what is going on. Others need a bit more handholding, more guidance--and that's one of the benefits tropes bring. They provide familiar patterns so the audience doesn't get too lost.

    And yes, there are some genre writers that dish up tropes as comfort food--which might be one of the things that results in genre fiction getting short shrift. The writers of genre fiction that transcend those tropes do one of two things: gain recognition and their work is considered literary, or they fail because they never find an audience. The people who would like what they've done assume it will be too tropey, and the people who were looking for comfort food are annoyed that their comfort food is all froo froo. Allan Moore and Ursula Leguin are the easy examples of the former, examples of the latter are obviously much harder to find.
    "Just because it's 2020 doesn't mean everyone has perfect vision."--catchphrase of a fictional comedian in some movie

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