Someday I’d like to see Stargate (SG-1, or even Atlantis because Stargate Universe needs to be completely redone for reasons I’ll go into in another post) back on the air again. You know, without all the colonialism, scientific imperialism, racism and hotdoggin’/sexism.

Reviewing the Stargate series dredged up some things I seriously dislike about sci-fi as a genre. These are themes and concepts that continuously arise in much of the genre.

  1. science versus religion/belief/spirituality
  2. science versus culture/tradition
  3. science versus “magic”
  4. the “science” without the “fiction” part

These themes seem to have been played to death by scientific imperialists. The tiresomeness of these themes are perfectly and unfortunately embodied in characters such as Rodney McKay and Samantha Carter, who both have their own versions of a God complex over their vaunted scientific know-how.

One of the oldest and most revered races in the entire galaxy in the Stargate universe, the Ancients/Alterans, are only so revered because of their status as the most technologically advanced race ever encountered, so advanced that they shed their human forms and took on the form of pure energy and ascended to a higher plane of existence. To that end, even “ascending to a higher plane of existence” seems to require a white imperialist notion of intelligence; it seems that only later does a spiritual component come in as possibly necessary for ascension–the focus is still on the intelligence part. It is said in the series that the Asgard cannot ascend, much to my disappoint, because they lack some physiological necessity–their inability to ascend is even reduced to some notion of science.

Most of the Stargate series includes the SG teams judging each other and other races based off 1) what humans from Earth want from their planet for the purpose of military warfare and 2) how advanced they judge them to be based off of white Western imperialist doctrines.

I took these quotes for scientific imperialism from the intro of the Wiki article on the topic and, though I know little about Ellis Powell or John Dupre and cannot subscribe wholly to their philosophies, I tend to agree with the idea of the quotes provided, with the exception of the assumed use of the terms “men” and “man”. Scientific imperialism is:

“the sense of arbitrary and capricious domination over the bodies and souls of men,” yet he used the term “scientific imperialism” to mean “the subjection of all the developed and undeveloped powers of the earth to the mind of man.”[1]–Powell

“the tendency to push a good scientific idea far beyond the domain in which it was originally introduced, and often far beyond the domain in which it can provide much illumination […] devotees of these approaches are inclined to claim that they are in possession not just of one useful perspective on human behavior, but of the key that will open doors to the understanding of ever wider areas of human behavior.”[2]–Dupre

This is to say that I despise the scientific imperialism that is more often than not rampant in the Stargate series along with militarism. “Science” once decreed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, or that the Earth was flat. I mean, come on, it was “science” that had white people measuring the heads of my ancestors and proclaiming that we are only three-fifths of a human being (which many white people apparently still believe on a pathological level). Or that Black women have brains in their butts. The field of gynecology was furthered by if not founded on the inhumane, involuntary, and cruel experiments performed on enslaved women of my race.

Now scientists have all these other branches of science to discredit the [pseudo] sciences that make the legitimate and respected sciences look bad. They want to ignore the fact that that those embarrassments, those “sciences” belongs to them too. That is what it is, but they also go on to discredit, dismiss, and disapprove of anything and everything that they can’t prove by their own methods, including fields where, as Dupre says, are “beyond the domain in which it was originally introduced, and often far beyond the domain in which it can provide much illumination”. However, one truth still remains:

Science can be just as arbitrary as anything else more often than people like to admit–a point which is also made in the series. It too is prone to human error since it is humans that are defining it.

There are largely two types of science fiction in my experience:

A) stories that are based for the most part in scientific fact but the story itself is fiction,

or B) stories that extrapolate on scientific facts and theories and use creativity, guesswork, and imagination to present us with stories that bo th entertain us and rouse our curiosity. These are the kinds of stories that make us go “WOW, that was freakin’ cool” or “hmmm, curious” and also make us dare to face the disappointment and annoyance on our science teacher’s faces when ask if its actually possible.

Some stories claim that science and “magic” are not two different things, that’s another post for some other time tho. Some stories are more fact and some are more fiction. I like the latter, a nice balance of science and fiction, but I take it more on the fiction side since I don’t like people telling me something is impossible “based on the laws of physics”, or quantum mechanics, or whatever. All I hear is blah-blah-blah space radiation from the nuke they used to blow up the asteroid, blah-blah-blah Isaac Newton, blah-blah-blah Occam’s razor, something about the unlikelihood of xyz. I’m more interested in seeing where imagination and possibility can take us, whether its proven or not.

The point here is that so many writers ruin the the story, the feelings, and the action in science fiction by turning the genre into a time loop of petulant and intolerant arguers arrogantly asserting why Western science is just SOOOOOO much better than everything else, leaving little room for the “fiction” part and almost no room for things that science may never be able to explain (including the people who are effected by or subscribe to those things).

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7 thoughts on “Science Fiction Tropes I Despise

  1. “These themes seem to have been played to death by scientific imperialists” — ummm, there are many many more conservative and religious writers than you seem to realize in SF — at least print SF who explore the theme in intriguing ways. For example, D. Keith Mano’s The Bridge (1973), Mary Doria Russell’s masterpiece The Sparrow (1996), James Blish masterpiece A Case of Conscience (1958), Walter M. Miller, Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowtizh (1959)…. It isn’t always SCIENCE VS RELIGION.

    1. Maybe so.

      But don’t lose sight of my point:

      Imperialism is plague on the genre, whether its scientific or religious. In particular white Western hegemonic hetero-patriarchal scientific imperialism is simply unacceptable.

      I’m not an expert on SF, televised or written. I’m just calling like I see it.

      1. “white Western hegemonic hetero-patriarchal scientific imperialism”

        Ok ok ok ok.

        Have you read Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, N. K Jemisin, James Tiptree, Jr (Alice Sheldon), Joanna Russ, Ursula Le Guin etc? Because these are the authors I see and read and they all fight against it. “White Western hegemonic hetero-patriarchal scientific imperialism” definitely simplifies and generalizes and homogenizes the varied voices at work….

        I recommend SF Mistressworks — a review collating blog of female SF authors pre-2000.

        http://sfmistressworks.wordpress.com/

      2. Wow, you are still missing the point. Don’t get so worked up. No one is homogenizing, no one is generalizing, just critiquing the genre as a whole as it presents itself in popular media–I’ve been around this barbecue a few times.

        Your presumptuous recommendations, tho unasked for, will be here for me to reference when I get some time and when I feel like it. Samuel Delaney, Octavia Butler, check–heard of them. Octavia’s too triggering for me from what I’ve read so far.

        Tossing out all the token writers you can think of doesn’t solve the problem and just because they’re there doesn’t mean they’re my style. Calm. down. Don’t get so defensive because I used a lot of words that you’re obviously uncomfortable seeing in one sentence.

      3. Hmm. Think you missed my point as well. They are not token writers. They are some of my favorite authors. And you did say you didn’t know the genre…

        But if you know them then you know more than a lot of people 🙂

      4. They are indeed tokenized by people like you (which is what I mean by my use of the word token), who throw their names out every time anybody threatens the territory you’ve scent marked for yourself by critiquing its serious shortcomings for everyone it alienates, oftentimes including but not limited to women and People of Color. So don’t defend them to me.

        No one is “simplifying” either, except for you.

        I said I’m not “an expert on SF”. Not that I didn’t know the genre. Consider yourself corrected.

      5. See, you have an understanding that makes someone uncomfortable and they be up ya ass tryna argue about it forever….

        No time to be nice about it. No patience or energy to argue about it.

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