Please Make Your Own Universe

Ugh, no … please don’t.

Just heard about this new fanfilm of ‘Blade Runner,’ and I have to say that I’m not thrilled. Then I started reading about how production of ‘Axanar’, the Star Trek fan film is also moving forward. I know I’m just one voice, but I want to take this opportunity to say to anyone out there in the sci-fi community: please don’t be a part of this.

The Verge may be drooling and Reddit might be upvoting this, but seriously: it’s a horrible idea. Ironically, Blade Runner itself is one of the reasons why.

If you think back to the first time you saw Blade Runner, or Star Wars or any other epic sci-fi tale, one of the things that sticks out was how that level of immersive innovation spoke to you. It spat in the face of convention, it laughed at the world you thought you knew, and it dared to show you something different. Something new. Something you’ve never experienced before. Great sci-fi will change your life. Sometimes, it can even change the world.

Now, here we are, crowdfunding a ‘celebration’ of one of those elemental science fiction stories. It looks sleek and sexy, it was made by a total of five people (yay, creators!) and it isn’t diluted by mainstream media consciousness. What’s wrong with that? Three simple words:

It’s not new.

No seriously, that’s important. This fan film discovers no new territory, takes us to no new places, and it covers no new ground. It’s a nostalgic trip through comfortable territory: Deckard’s Los Angeles. That’s the problem. We’re being socialized to expect to be comfortable, and that’s dangerous. That’s ‘Brave New World,’ the home game. Being comfortable is something that pushed me into negative behaviors in my personal life and so for me, personally, one of my mantra’s is “Do what is right, not what is easy.”

It’s easy to write fan fiction. It’s easy to boldly go where everyone has gone before. But for me, I’m not here to be comfortable. I’m here to push myself to think and experience reality in a different way. Fan fiction won’t help me do that. It won’t help you do that either.

Personally, I’m against any kind of nostalgic science fiction. I’ve never been a fan of nostalgia in general, and putting it into science fiction is definitely touching my no-no square. Science fiction is about what will happen next, not what happened before. Alternate realities are fine (yay, Man in the High Castle), and that’s because you’re still seeing a universe being created for our exploration. Fan films create no new universes. They excused themselves out of the process of world-building. Supporting fan films means co-signing their lazy storytelling. I can’t get behind that.

If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.

After all, the purpose of science fiction was to discover our purpose. It helps us see new things, or see things in new ways. How are fan films helping us do that? Granted, there are common archetypes in storytelling that we honor as part of the craft, but a line must be drawn somewhere. Just because I like bacon doesn’t mean I’ll only eat bacon for the rest of my life. Just because I liked Blade Runner means I’ll crowd-fund a fan film about it. If I was going to devote that much time to the Blade Runner universe, I’d probably be making a fan film, myself!

There’s nothing more antithetical to science fiction than nostalgia or fan fiction. How are we discovering when we re-hash Star Wars? How are we pushing boundaries when we cosplay? To me, fan fiction and films are the equivalent of playing with my Star Wars action figures. Yes, it lets me relive the movie and yes, it was a lot of fun when I was nine years old, but at some point I outgrew that stage of my life. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life reliving someone else’s universe, I want to go out and build my own universe for others to explore. That, I was brought up to believe, was the purpose of science fiction.

In closing, while the Blade Runner fan film is a curiosity, I think supporting it isn’t in the interest of either the genre or community of science fiction. We need original sci-fi. Please spend your energy making new universes for us to discover, not new versions of old places.

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