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Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old September 4 2008, 08:19 AM   #31
cynical dreamer
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Hardin wrote: View Post
well, season 1 really didn't have any supernatural elements.

It's maybe a bit trickier with season 2 (which I sometimes like to consider as a different series altogether), but the physical prowess of the familiars is explained as a product of selective breeding through the ages. Still well in the realm of science (or pseudo-science), I would think. S2 also has a brainy guy who's able to predict the future, but it's supposed to be statistical analysys and probabilities calculations. It's been a while since I've seen S2 but I don't recall straight-forward supernatural elements.

As for pseudo-science: yes, most of it, obviously.
As an aside, just how was the show in terms of watchability?

And seeing as how I stated I was willing to draw a line between pseudoscience and the supernatural earlier in this thread I won't hold the pseudoscience against the show in terms of the topic of this thread.
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Old September 4 2008, 09:03 AM   #32
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Would Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe qualify? I don't recall anything supernatural (merely terrible psuedoscience), but it's been quite awhile. (Considering how long before my birth the show was made, perhaps it's not quite been so long.) What about The Secret World of Alex Mack?
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Old September 4 2008, 09:51 AM   #33
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Just for the fun of it, here's a counter element -- Why should we accept that there's life outside of Earth? We haven't encountered any sentient species and at most have found fossils of bacteria which may or may not be extinct. Is accepting that there could be aleins that far away from accepting that there could be Gods or some sort of psychic energy?
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Old September 4 2008, 10:33 AM   #34
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

I find psychic abilities far more viable as a sci-fi concept than many things you're rounding out as pseudo-science. Just because warp drive is a machine rather than a giant space whale with ropes tied to it doesn't make it any less fantastical. I may not buy the modern incarnation of telepaths/telekinetics/whatever, but nothing says that a creature can't evolve (or be engineered) to have sensory organs that would act much like psychic powers.
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Old September 4 2008, 11:39 AM   #35
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Problems with this notion. First off, that psychic phenomenae are impossible. Reputable scientific types are at the very least open to the possibility.

Second, you want to use present understanding of science ALONE to describe a far future setting, where our understanding will have changed, probably a lot.

So this pining for "scientific purity" is kind of silly.
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Old September 4 2008, 11:42 AM   #36
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Babylon 5 definitely does NOT qualify, with psi phenomenae galore, and a universe at the very least as open to the supernatural as Battlestar Galactica.

Farscape doesn't qualify, either.

Firefly would be close, as would Space: Above and Beyond. Both of them have psychic phenomenae, however.

The Cape might fit.


cynical dreamer wrote: View Post
Hirogen Alpha wrote: View Post
I haven't seen it, but I suppose that qualifies Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, since it is a TV series after all?

What about Babylon 5? Well, I could make that argument up until The Lost Tales, anyway. The Vorlon (or other First Ones) advanced tech seem to be the root of anything perceived to be supernatural on that series. Of course, the "demon" in The Lost Tales doesn't fit that explanation. It's nearly presented as a demon. Yes, there are pseudo scientific explanations that can be made about it (and have been on these boards), but that's not really found in the text of the episode.
Haven't seen either series so I'm not qualified to comment. B5 was always a series I meant to get around to but just haven't for whatever reason. One of these days...

It's been a while since I've seen Space Above & Beyond. Has anyone checked it out recently (either in reruns somewhere or on dvd) that could comment on it's supernatural content, or lack thereof?
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Old September 4 2008, 12:26 PM   #37
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
As far as we know, Lost has no supernatural elements.
Miles can see ghosts! That's about as supernatural as it gets!
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Old September 4 2008, 01:00 PM   #38
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

The Evil Dead wrote: View Post
Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
As far as we know, Lost has no supernatural elements.
Miles can see ghosts! That's about as supernatural as it gets!
And I really have to wonder about the old woman who knew Desmond was time-traveling and explained about the universe "course-correcting".
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Old September 4 2008, 01:40 PM   #39
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Newspaper Taxi wrote: View Post
Just for the fun of it, here's a counter element -- Why should we accept that there's life outside of Earth? We haven't encountered any sentient species and at most have found fossils of bacteria which may or may not be extinct. Is accepting that there could be aleins that far away from accepting that there could be Gods or some sort of psychic energy?
Poul Anderson has written numerous stories where humans are the only sentient life forms. Firefly never had aliens (nor sentient robots).

I posted something similar on another DB. I want to see a science fiction series completely set within the Sol system. Right now our current science tells us FTL is impossible (but we're working on it). Despite that, there are several locations right within our solar system that could be used as settings for a series. All nine, er, eight planets plus numerous moons.

Someone on that DB suggested Anime's "Cowboy Bebop." I've not seen it yet. I'm sure there are elements in that series that are beyond our current science but it was suggested because it's set entirely within our solar system.

stonester1 wrote: View Post
Second, you want to use present understanding of science ALONE to describe a far future setting, where our understanding will have changed, probably a lot.

So this pining for "scientific purity" is kind of silly.
Why is it silly? We live in the 21st century. We're discussing 21st century entertainment. Why would it be silly for anyone to want to see a piece of entertainment that, while set in the future, still reflects and conforms to our current level of understanding?

Someone mentioned literature. There are numerous books out there that deal with science fiction in a more "hard" or "scientific purity" fashion. I'm reading Ben Bova's books at the moment. I've completed most of the "Grand Tour" series of books. It's great. Hard scifi completely set within our own solar system. No mental powers, no supernatural beings or cosmically advanced aliens.

On the other hand wanting or asking for some form of "scientific purity" doesn't exclude scientific advances unknown to us. Bova's been heavy on the practical use of buckeyballs, something that currently isn't being used all that much. Plus he's mentioned advanced or "exotic" building materials, fuel mixtures, etc... Plus Bova's "Grand Tour" establishes that there are microbial life forms on Venus and the moons of Saturn, an extinct sentient civilization on Mars and giant intelligent dolphin like animals lving inside Jupiter. He's presented all of these in such a way that the ideas sound scientifically believable.

Someone else in this topic suggested or mentioned finding a parallel in nature. Personally I find that a great tool. I guffawed and nearly choked when Aeryn Sun was able to carry a viable fetus for so long without it growing. Sounded far fetched to me until I saw that there are insects on Earth that do the same. If an insect can do it naturally, why can't man eventually find a technological way to mimic that process?

But does that get us back to psionic powers? Insects seem to communicate "telepathically." That's where we get the term "Hive Mind."

Perhaps the "scientific purity" qutoent can be satisfied by providing a psedo-scientific explaination for such things. Or at least point to naturally occuring parallels. Maybe this will make it less "pure" but it does keep it from sounding "mystical" or "supernatural."
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Old September 4 2008, 01:53 PM   #40
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

What about SG1/SGA? Does ascension count as supernatural, or can that be accepted as a future form of human evolution?
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Old September 4 2008, 02:07 PM   #41
Steve Roby
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

cynical dreamer wrote: View Post
Name me a science fiction series that avoids any and all supernatural elements in all of it's many forms.

Yes that includes psychic councellors and doctors, psychic links to marine mammals, ghosts, demons, gods, devils, mind melding, vampires, etc, etc...
Part of the problem with what you're asking is that for some time some people thought there might really be a scientifically verifiable form of psychic power and did scientific research to try to back that up. The idea caught on with a number of SF writers.

When JMS was all over the online world promoting Babylon 5, he described it as the most scientifically accurate SF TV space opera ever, saying he was going to leave out a lot of the unscientific stuff from the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars. When I asked why the most scientifically accurate SF TV series was going to have characters with psychic powers, he said, basically, lots of good classic SF has characters with psychic powers and it's accepted as a standard SF idea. In other words, he didn't answer the question.

If you're talking about TV series rather than, say, a science fiction novel, you have two issues to deal with. First, not too many TV writers know anything about either science or science fiction; they just go for the "weird shit." See, for example, the writing career of Brannon Braga. Second, if you're doing a couple of dozen stories a year for several years, eventually you're either going to get lazy and fall back on this kind of stuff, or you're just going to want to put your own spin on the ideas everyone else has already done.

TV just isn't the place for pure, rigourous science fiction.
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Old September 4 2008, 02:11 PM   #42
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Why is it silly? We live in the 21st century. We're discussing 21st century entertainment. Why would it be silly for anyone to want to see a piece of entertainment that, while set in the future, still reflects and conforms to our current level of understanding?
Considering that science fiction is about EXPLORING and expanding our boundaries, breaking through barriers, I find it silly placing more barriers, especially since not everyone agrees that current scientific concensus represents barriers impassible.

On the other hand wanting or asking for some form of "scientific purity" doesn't exclude scientific advances unknown to us. Bova's been heavy on the practical use of buckeyballs, something that currently isn't being used all that much. Plus he's mentioned advanced or "exotic" building materials, fuel mixtures, etc... Plus Bova's "Grand Tour" establishes that there are microbial life forms on Venus and the moons of Saturn, an extinct sentient civilization on Mars and giant intelligent dolphin like animals lving inside Jupiter. He's presented all of these in such a way that the ideas sound scientifically believable.
All this amounts to technobabble. Science fiction is most interesting when it's about people and their lives in these imaginary settings.

I just don't find fidelity to what "sounds" scientifically believable that important, or even that interesting. Technobabble tends to put me asleep.


Perhaps the "scientific purity" qutoent can be satisfied by providing a psedo-scientific explaination for such things. Or at least point to naturally occuring parallels. Maybe this will make it less "pure" but it does keep it from sounding "mystical" or "supernatural."
I don't think you need a technobabble "explanation" for everything. There is plenty in the real world which escapes easy explanation.

Why should it not be thus in science fiction, even "pure" SF?

The "science" has a "neat" factor, but it's not the primary draw to the genre for me.
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Old September 4 2008, 02:14 PM   #43
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

I think 'psychic powers' is definitely in the bracket of Things Humans Absolutely Should Have But Don't. That's why it's so seductive to sci-fi writers. I agree it's too easy and someone should have the courage to leave it out but TV sci-fi writers don't seem to be able to. I understand why but it is disappointing.
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Old September 4 2008, 02:17 PM   #44
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Re: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

TV just isn't the place for pure, rigourous science fiction.
I think it could be, if it was backdrop. If it was the main selling point, it would fail.

Also, I don't know how long that would stay interesting. A speculative fiction TV series that locks itself down into any assumptions/dogma stands a chance of getting predictable.

Science fiction is about breaking boundaries, not adhering to them.

So I think "pure" science fiction could be a launch platform, if you will. But if you never leave it...
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Old September 4 2008, 04:57 PM   #45
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RE: Ripping the supernatural out of science fiction.

Bionic Woman reboot.

Oh, Six Million Dollar Man.
Knight Rider.

Possibly The Incredible Hulk Bill Bixby. But on this i'm not certain.

Jake 2.0.
John Doe.

Jeremiah.
Eureka.

Last edited by Neroon; September 4 2008 at 05:01 PM. Reason: multiple consecutive posts? tsk, tsk, tsk ....
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