Kate and Chloe’s take on Sci-Fi

Kate McKim – Science Fiction in Literature

When considering the craft of writing a Science Fiction piece, there are two crucial aspects to explore to develop your work of fiction. The first, of course, is a world in which your plot exists, commonly referred to as ‘worldbuilding’. Before writing a short story or novel within the Science Fiction genre, the explorative journey of creating and researching a world will inevitably create plot points. One example of this might be a world in which rules and regulations dictate the way your characters and act and communicate, such as the stifling society within Hugh Howey’s novel Wool.

The post-apocalyptic world Hugh Howey has created in his series titled Wool depicts a community who are living in an underground silo due to the toxicity levels in the atmosphere of the outside world. The society are divided by their job positions as each floor on the silo is dedicated to a different area of work, for example the professionally influential members of the society operate within the upper levels of the silo. Occasionally members of the community are sent outside in a protective suit to clean the dirt off the sensors, which reveal the outside world to the silo’s inhabitants, although they never return.

When reading Wool, the static world Howey creates within his novel has been created as a fragmented environment in order to hide the truth about the silo. In order to visit different levels within the silo, the characters must travel up or down a large flight of stairs because there isn’t a lift. This immediately indicates that the community live separate lives to one another and rarely communicate with people from other lines of work.

Another crucial element to consider when writing a piece of Science Fiction is the novum (a Latin phrase for ‘new thing’). In Science Fiction, the novum is the new idea that will be explored in your story. In Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, the novum is the immersive virtual reality called the OASIS which provides a utopian escape from the world in which the characters live.

The novel is set in 2044 where people live and seek refuge in the OASIS, created by the eccentric James Halliday who is obsessed with 80s pop culture. After Halliday passes away, many OASIS users embark on a competition rife with 80s pop trivia and questions which Halliday designed himself in order to find a winner for his fortune and the OASIS itself.

Wade Watts, the novel’s protagonist, becomes involved in an epic journey to uncover Halliday’s riddles and the novel follows his progression in the competition and his personal development. As the novel is written in first person, readers explore Wade’s world and the OASIS through his perspective. One of the ways in which Cline contextualises the world is the explanation of the items required for a user to enter the OASIS: visors, haptic gloves and the console itself. When Wade places the visor over his eyes, readers are only able to explore his actions and communications within the OASIS.

Chloe Sizer – Science Fiction in Film 

There’s more to science fiction cinema than great hulking aliens and epic space wars. As a whole, the genre has helped to shape the film industry as a vehicle for social commentary, as well as lead the way in special effects technology. However, it took a few decades before the genre was taken seriously.

Science fiction films appeared early during the silent film era. Initial attempts were of short duration often with a technological theme and humorous tone. Le Voyage dans la Lune by Georges Méliès is considered to be the very first science fiction film with its ground-breaking special effects pioneering the way for future films.

But it was the 1970’s which changed science fiction cinema forever. The emergence of George Lucas’s Star Wars pushed the genre to new extremes by mixing fast paced action with drama and romance. This ultimately made the film more marketable to a wider audience. On the other end of the spectrum, Ridley Scott’s Alien envisaged something far more sinister with some of the most horrific creature design ever seen on the big screen.

After Star Wars, there was a resurgence of interest and science fiction became bankable as a cinematic genre. Star Trek was now reborn as a film franchise and some of the greatest films ever made were produced as a direct result. Below are three sci-fi films which are my all time favourite.

1. E.T the Extra Terrestrial
In my opinion, this is one of Spielberg’s finest. It’s a film I was enamoured with as a child and something which I can re-watch over again. It was a widely successful film during the 1980’s telling the story of Elliot, a lonely boy who befriends an alien stranded on earth. It is thought that Spielberg drew the main plot of the film from his parent’s divorce with major references to his childhood interwoven throughout the film: Elliott fakes illness by holding a thermometer to the bulb in his lamp while covering his face with a heating pad, a trick frequently employed by the young Spielberg. Overall the film stands alone as a family classic, but you don’t need me to tell you that much.

2. Ex Machina
A fairly recent addition to sci-fi cinema, released in 2015 by writer and director Alex Garland. Ex Machina tells the story of Caleb, a young computer coder, who wins the chance to spend a week in the house of Nathan, the CEO of the company whom he works for. Whilst he is there, Nathan asks Caleb to test his new experiment, an A.I humanoid named Ava. It is a typical ‘man vs machine’ sub-plot, but the cinematography is beautiful and the acting is on point with Oscar Isaac portraying the sociopathic Nathan down to a T.

3. Black Mirror
Okay, so I may be cheating slightly here. Black Mirror isn’t ‘technically’ a film, but it is a TV series which is most definitely worth a watch. Charlie Brooker challenges societies obsession with digital culture with a wholly horrific ‘what if’ type scenario. What if you could re-create deceased loved ones using their past tweets and statuses? What if you had a chip behind your ear which recorded each and every event in your day to day life? Although a very harrowing series, it is still definitely entertaining and if you like dark, satirical comedy it is most definitely up your street.

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