It was Friday afternoon and I had just returned home from work to find my husband settled in the arm chair watching reruns of Star Trek on TV. I’ve seen a few of the movies, but had never watched the television series before.
“Scoot over,” I said, and snuggled in, ready to start my weekend and find out what all of the fuss was about.
I think maybe I watched the wrong first episode?
The title of the show was ‘The Empath’. Our trio of explorers, Captain Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are zapped onto an unknown planet with alien men whose heads, to me, looked like giant ears.
Along for the ride, was a humanoid empath, who cannot speak but can heal the injuries of others. She can also rock a neon blue leotard covered in cloth made of butterfly tears.
Throughout the episode, Kirk and McCoy are tortured by the f(ear)less aliens using rainbow beams that shoot from gadgets similar to the good ol’ Viewmaster.
They are always returned to the holding cell on the brink of death, forcing the empath to heal them.
And this is where I got a little irritated.
Running her acrylic nailed hands over their faces, soothing their furrowed brows, and rubbing their shoulders and chests, the empath healed our heroes. And she did all of it with this look on her face. “Wait a minute. You’re telling me these guys are teamed up with a woman who CAN’T TALK and MASSAGES them all day?!! Well you can tell a man wrote this episode.”
My husband looked at me, annoyed. Probably wishing he’d married one of those humanoid empath wives. You know, the ones who can’t talk and massage their men with manicured hands.
“When you’re ready to get off your high horse,” he said, “I’ll be down here drinking my coffee.”
“Look at her face. How does one even make that face?” I asked.
I tilted my head and tried looking wounded, sexy, and cosmic all at the same time.
“That’s creepy,” he replied.
“Well, I don’t see what the fuss is about this show. There’s certainly nothing of interest for the women watching it. And I mean really, that last action scene? Was he creating his own slow motion? Who runs like that?”
My husband set his coffee mug down and turned toward me again. “Is this what it’s like?” he asked.
“What what’s like?”
“When I make fun of your shows?”
I cocked my head again.
“Thank you, honey, for showing me what that feels like. Now can you please not talk anymore?”
That was the start of my weekend! How was yours?
Massage any men lately or take a vow of silence?
Is it just me or are you noticing science fiction stuff is popping up all over now? I know it’s been around forever, but lately it seems the genre is creeping into extraordinary spaces.
When I was growing up I’d probably say my favorite books were mystery novels, a genetic preference given to me my mother, I think I came out at birth reading Nancy Drew. But I went through a sci-fi phase where all I read were books by Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, and Christopher Pike. Do you remember those authors? My favorite titles respectively were The Sirens of Titan, 1984, and The Midnight Club. Most of you are probably familiar with Vonnegut and Orwell, but if you’ve never heard of Pike, you might be fascinated with his story. Pike was a college dropout turned house painter who failed at his attempts to write adult mystery novels. An editor suggested he try teen thrillers, low and behold, the man has over 5 series and at least 30 titles to his pen name (real name is Kevin McFadden, Christopher Pike is rumored to be a nod to a Star Trek reference). Pike adds a lot of science fiction to his tales. I remember one story I read resulted in the people actually being lizards in their true form!
Remember when The Sims came out? The Sims was a computer game that let you create people, place them in houses and manage their moods and well beings. The trend went viral! Expansion packs came out every year with Sim City, and The Sims Date Night, Sims Roller Coaster World, you name it. I had a few of the games. On a completely random obsessive note, I ALWAYS had a character named Kilgore Trout in the house, just my friendly nod to Vonnegut’s reuse of characters always making cameo appearances in his books. Well, if you think about how popular The Sims was, you can see the same ideas with the Tamagachi pets and now with Wii games. Tamagachis were handheld digital pets you had to feed and clean up after. If they got unhappy, you lost points and your pet could die. Wii players get to create their people and play in a virtual world doing almost anything with all the games out now, dance marathons, sports, battles, etc.
On top of video games, sci-fi is making more of an appearance in mainstream television. Shows like Being Human put vampires, werewolves, and ghosts in people’s houses regularly. And have any of you watched Face Off on the syfy channel? The show features competitions for make up artists, but the contests are full of bizarre and creepy nods to the macabre elements. Shows like Paranormal State have also made the career of paranormal research more realistic. They document investigations around the country and several of their team members are still getting their college degrees in fields like technical support and camera work. I find it really fascinating that ghost hunting as a career is becoming more mainstream through shows like this and TAPS. I admit I watch both of them. I once attended an Unexplained Conference in Rochester, Minnesota that hosted an array of ghost hunters, ghost tracking equipment and literature. I don’t think that’s normal activity, but apparently it’s common enough we can hold conferences!
TV aside, we can’t ignore the literature wave of vampire books and paranormal literature that has spread across readership. All ages are buying copies of the Twilight series, Vampire Diaries, heck Jane Austen has gone sci-fi! I even read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!
There are movies galore making sci-fi popular too. We could argue Harry Potter is more fantasy, but when people dress up and attend things like Harry Potter Summer Camp, we’ve entered the world of sci-fi, my friends. How is dressing up as a magical wizard or witch any different than dressing up as a Star Wars character? What about the wave of 3D movies: Avatar, Harry Potter, Twilight, Transformers? We are heightening these varying worlds around us.
Is it the age of the geek, or have we found a niche for science fiction in today’s day and age? Longtime beloved stories like Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Transformers and Star Trek have made new appearances on screen and encouraged a renewed excitement in the viewing of their original masterpieces. I know this is happening because my best friend has politely and calmly sat through 10 seasons of Stargate with her boyfriend, and even I was invited over and subjected to a few episodes! (Don’t get me wrong, I do love the movie!)
What do you think? Do you see Sci-Fi entering fields it hasn’t before, or were you always a sci-fi nut who was just waiting for the rest of us to catch up? Has the genre expanded to allow for a larger audience now that it’s not limited to outer space? What role does that play in its ability to grab a larger audience? What are some of your favorite sci-fi books, shows, and movies?