Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror--the Greatest of Genres

There are those who mindlessly enjoy these genres in literature and film, (think of the sci-fi buffs who debate the plausibility of hard sci-fi or the fan-boys who dress the part) but they miss the point. These genres are a source of some of the greatest stories ever told because they tend to hide a message. They can communicate great truths, (and they can mask dangerous lies.) Either way, they can do so more effectively than straight dramas, as dramas with a message tend to come across as preachy or amateur. (There are great message dramas; they’re just few and far between.) 
Horror fiction has long served as a morality tale, exposing the reality of evil or warning against going where humanity was never intended to tread. Dracula and stories in this vein (ha-ha) always boil down to the nature of evil and what it takes to withstand it. Frankenstein is the other side of the coin, where mankind itself is the monster. These stories are retold and reinvented constantly because they are so relevant.
Greatness in Science Fiction is never about which stories have the most authentic science. Our understanding of science is always changing and no story will ever manage to stand up to the test of “progress.” Nevertheless, some of the pre-space age sci-fi remains great today because it does not ultimately tell about science, but rather about reality.
Even the great Fantasy epics, seemingly just exercises in escapism, are more about reality than most realize. Early examples were a reflection of what the writers went through in the First World War, written as World War Two was in progress. They spawned the whole genre, admittedly populated with some fluff, but many works stand out because of the perspective they cast on our world today.

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