Sage Scifi 101A – Elevating Science Fiction

Sage Scifi 101A - Elevating Science Fiction

Beautiful sunny day in Eugene, so let’s not waste it on negativity even though there’s a million things to hate about Reminisence. Rather, let’s talk about elevating science fiction by embracing the concept of ‘sage scifi.’ If sages are the ‘wise fools’ of life, then surely science fiction is ready for some of that wise foolishness as well. Indeed, we’re in desperate need of some experience, judgment, and wisdom if this weekend’s latest SF ‘noir thriller’ is any indication.

Let’s break down what sage scifi means:

– When you refuse the ‘angry comic book nerd’ trope of scifi fans? That’s sage scifi

– When you see Disney is killing what Star Wars used to be, but you still support it for the new life it gives to thousands of actors and creators? That’s sage scifi

– When you boost the next generation of geeky kids diving into Dune or Asimov instead of gatekeeping them? That’s sage scifi

– When you see a movie that could have been better, but you know it’s still got solid scifi bones so you give it positive feedback? That’s sage scifi

– When you can be a scifi fan without being a scifi snob? That’s sage scifi

– When you see new scifi artists and authors’ work and you give them a boost because you want new stories told in new ways? That’s sage scifi

– If you know Battlestar Galactica got the science wrong, but you don’t care because it’s a decent show? That’s sage scifi

Yes, we need sage scifi. We need scifi culture that looks beyond the obvious, recognizes the emotional truths over academic truths. We need some science fiction sagacity.

Why? Simple. The old ways aren’t working for me anymore. Running around, hating on Star Wars? That’s old news. Burning calories over scifi minutiae with ardent ferocity, like we’re sommeliers and the fate of the world hinges on our opinion? Ridiculous. Cancelling SF actors, or hating the people that do? It hasn’t done much for me. If I had to encapsulate everything I’m trying to do, distill it down to a simple idea, it comes back to Sage Scifi. A genre, community, and universe full of¬†expressive, thoughtful wit and verbal skill.

You can see it taking shape now. Think about Mark Hamill’s judgement when he talks scifi or anything else on Twitter. Or Chuck Wendig, Charlie Jane Anders, John Scalzi, Margaret Atwood, or Cory Doctorow. Yes, they use scifi to get through hard times, but they’re also the kind of people you want to get through hard times with. They think, they feel, they empathize, they ponder. I don’t agree with all of their opinions, but I can’t help but admire their spirit. I try to give back in the same way when I write.

Here’s what we get when we start moving toward sage scifi. Not only will this get us better science fiction, but think of the social benefits. Scifi as a community can begin lighting the way back from hysterical polarizing vitriol, modeling behavior for everyone else. Imagine what the world would be like if we approached important social topics with mature, reasoned consideration like Jordan Schlansky brought to Star Wars in a hilarious, improved bit for the Conan O’Brien show.

Look, I’m not saying to go full Spock on every aspect of scifi. Rather, we should spaces for intellectually-accurate scifi and other whimsical, playful stories without feeling like we’re betraying either. We’ve outgrown the 80s or 90s nerds who argued ‘I’m Team Star Wars,’ or ‘I’m Team Star Trek!’ Both franchises have gutted themselves to satisfy greedy, nihilistic studio execs and so have the MCU and DCEU. Well within their right, too. They reduced nerd loyalty to a simple cash transaction. What sage scifi is saying: Stop the insanity – start embracing a post-anger scifi universe where we don’t get fooled again.

When we become scifi sages, we can enjoy stories and say “that was cool, here’s what I would have done differently.” And then we can respond with “That’s awesome, write that story and let’s see how you do it.” Honest, iterative feedback to make a deep, textured universe like SCP has done for scifi horror. Wouldn’t that be a cool idea?

In the end, we wouldn’t have to run around saying “stop arguing” or “here’s what you’re wrong about.” Instead, we could appeal to our nerds’ better nature, diffusing the most scandalous scifi sparring session with a simple question:¬†“What would a sage do?” We’d be back to jumping the hurdles of scifi, instead of being the barriers of each other.

Sound interesting so far? Join me over at Reddit – let’s come up with the rules of Sage Scifi together.