Clichés That Must Die

My God... It's full of fail...

April 4, 2011

UPDATE: Fellow blogger and long-time logophile Amy at Dark Archivist has a rebuttal to one point in this article. Touché, my friend.

If you’re anything like me, you love you some science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There’s nothing better than an epic space battle with battleships the size of Alaska blasting each other with nuclear-yield weapons, a suspenseful chase as a vicious killer chases the last remaining protagonist you actually like, or the swarms of eldritch sigils flying through the air as a practitioner of the dark arts invokes otherworldly powers to crush his foes.

Good times…

As much as I’m a fan of the genre, there are those things that just… bug me. Really bug me. They’re things that seem to have just taken hold of the collective imagination for both writers and fans. They’ve become standard, not necessarily something you choose to use. Imagine if you suddenly found out that you didn’t need to use a ball to play baseball and could use rocks, or if you learned that cars could easily be built with three wheels and we picked four because, well, someone did it like that first.

Possessed Mind by *tashythemushroom on deviantART

Nightgowns and Little Girls

Look at The Ring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism. What do they have in common aside from mentally tormented young girls and an overuse of the term “exorcism”? If you guessed a white nightgown, you’re right.

I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure The Exorcist started this one. It made sense back then. Regan was a young girl who was thought to be sick, so it makes sense mommy dearest put her in her sleeping gown to make her comfortable. But why oh why did every woman dealing with a ghost or demon (or herself a ghost) have to wear this now? It’s like the similarly ridiculous “ black trench coat = mysterious badass” mentality.

Why not a hospital gown or even regular clothes? Why not just regular pajamas?  The easy answer is that such clothes can easily date a character, but a nightgown is something that, at least today, looks old. How many women out there own a nightgown like the ones worn in these films? Anyone?

Organic Space Ship v1 by ~bastilg on deviantART

We’re Fighting a Militarized Rutabaga

What’s that? An alien ship approaching your  interstellar flagship? Oh no! It’s organic! It appears to have been grown by an advanced civilization. All its systems are carbon-based weapons and armor. All your ship has is a laminated alloy hull with ceramic plates for heat dissipation, high-powered coilguns, and thermonuclear missiles.

Oh noes.

Really, though, this one is just plain annoying. It’s hard to really pin down where this one started. Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee Timeline stories have a version of this little cliché wherein the god-like Xeelee “grow” their technology, although it’s not organic, so the description is a bit vague. Babylon 5, Star Wars (New Jedi Order), and even Battlestar Galactica to an extent all used the assumption that organic technology is superior to simple metal and artificial materials designed from the ground up to perform a specific task.

Do you think “organic” is better? Would you rather wade into battle with a vest made of hardwood or advanced ceramics and Kevlar built to withstand such strain?

Would you rather have a dozen mathematicians in a room perform split second calculations for orbital reentry or have a single computer system built with accuracy to the trillionth degree?

Would you rather have an artificial  weapon, like a gun that fires ferrous slugs at a fraction the speed of light, or biological weapons that are indiscriminate, can be killed by extreme temperature and radiation, and may even mutate?

I’ll stick with metal and circuits, thank you.

Mexican Jedi. by ~VictorViin18 on deviantART

Where are the Brown People?

This one’s a personally sore spot for me. For a show like Star Trek, one which claims to be multicultural, to not have a single prominent Hispanic character besides the animalistic B’Elanna Torres is inexcusable. Want to know how many Hispanic characters I can count in speculative fiction?

Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), Bender from Futurama, and Vazquez from Aliens.

Adama doesn’t count because although he’s played by a Mexican American actor, he does not portray a Hispanic character.

It seems that, in the future, there are no Mexicans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, or anything else. We’ve got Europeans, Asian-inspired culture to pander to the anime crowd, and some assorted ethnicities for flavoring. But where are the Mexicans?

Or the Costa Ricans? Brazilians? Chileans? Iraqis? Turks? Libyans? Anyone brown?

I really can’t find a good example of these demographics in speculative fiction. Sorry. Any idea?

Coca Cola by ~Telegraph-Road on deviantART

Why do writers still use these ideas? The best explanation is that at some point, it sounded or looked cool. The nightgown made sense from a storytelling perspective. Biological technology has some useful applications. At one point, Latin Americans were a fringe minority. We know better today, and yet these ideas linger on. These are only three little clichés, but I was thinking about them this weekend. There are many more, and maybe I’ll explain some later.

In the meantime, enjoy these links, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.  

  • We have some nice black bookshelves in the apartment, but if we have the time, money, and space, I’d certainly love to get one of these awesome bookcases.
  • And finally, I just barely watched The Hangover a few weeks ago and loved it. And now I can’t wait for the sequel. Check out the new trailer below, and I’ll see you on Wednesday!

Divine by Zero: Halloween Madness and The Future is Broken

It’s Divine by Zero time! I’ve got some time this week before I start working in the afternoon again, so let’s get the party started with some good ol’ links. If you’re on the site between October 25 and Halloween 2010, I hope you like the site’s, uhm, costume. It’s subtle, but I couldn’t think of anything else.

Also, on a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who extended support and advice in the last month. Suffice to say, I was lied to, taken advantage of, and put into an awkward financial and professional position. But it’s over now. Expect things to not be so down from now on.

And now to the links!

  • Let’s start with a costume idea that took a few months to get ready. No really. This costume you have to GROW into maturity.
  • Artist Alex CF is one of my favorites in the world. He does a lot of things, but what he’s best known for as his intricate models and props. He’s covering everything from Lovecraft Mythos to a cabinet holding artifacts Dante brought back from hell itself. He has an incredible eye for detail, and I had the cash, I’d have a room just filled with his work.
  • Halloween is coming up. If you want to go as Iron Man, why not build your own arc reactor? Everyone knows the costume’s better when you make it yourself…
  • Are you fading in and out of news programs? There’s a reason for it. One observant Brit shows how to build a news report just like the pros use.

  • I still have to see Piranha 3D, but I heard good things about. referred to it as “fish and titties,” so is it any wonder the sequel is going to be called Piranha 3DD. No, I’m not kidding. That’s about as subtle as calling any Michael Bay movie Busty Brunettes and Guns.
  • In other scary news, it looks as though BP and other companies have been funding the Tea Party in an effort to fight legislation against climate change. We already knew Koch Industries and others were funding and pulling the strings, so maybe it’s time we just stop calling them the Tea Party and start calling them something more appropriate.
  • A high school cheerleader was suspended because, in one of the Facebook pictures, she appeared to be holding a beer. Even though she and her mother deny the young woman was drinking the beer, the school still went after her. Fair? Not fair?
  • An old college professor of mine shared this on Facebook. If you ever get the chance to study speculative fiction, you’ll learn to see what most people call “sci-fi” in a whole new light, and you’ll be exposed to ideas about sociology, psychology, and technology you never thought possible. Of course… you run the risk of running into professors that sound like this:

  • Got a college degree? Guess what? You’re qualified to mop floors. Got a doctorate? Still qualified to mop floors! It seems that people with advanced degrees, millions of them, are doing jobs one would never expect. It’s still a tough economy, my friends. Take the jobs you can.
  • Speaking of tough economic times, check out how to cut your food bills by a few thousand dollars a year. I already do several of these steps and let me tell you… it works. Also, food made from scratch tastes better. And I love cooking. So it’s a win-win.
  • We all known blonde jokes. We do. I just never thought there would be a world-wide organization that would validate every blond joke I’ve ever heard or said in a single website.
  • And finally, Christine O’Donnell may not be a witch, but here’s someone who certainly has her foot in the house of darkness. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a true American icon back just in time for Halloween. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, take it away.