Episode 21: Humanity

Rachel and Leeman discuss the role of humanity and humans in Science Fiction

Topics Discussed and/or Spoiled

Pacific Rim, Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek VI, Seventh Heaven, Vorkosigan Saga, Ender’s Game, CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and for some strange reason, Farscape

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8 Responses to Episode 21: Humanity

  1. Mercenary Pen says:

    In terms of musicals with disturbing themes, I can relate, having been in a musical comedy about zombies, and another more serious musical on the subject of Jack the Ripper…

    I do need to eventually go back and watch all the way through DS9 and Farscape- for I have the same completion compulsion as Rachel relates- though I missed episodes in both cases when the series were airing over here.

    In terms of books, I’ve particularly enjoyed the Honor Harrington books by David Weber are an interesting read for handling of the few alien races in the setting, as well as the subject of genetically modifying human beings for living in space (and more particularly for planets with hostile environments, heavier than earth gravity, etc.)

  2. Mercenary Pen says:

    I don’t think that muppets are the only solution to really alien aliens, or indeed the best solution necessarily, because animation could do the job better (particularly if we’re using at least anime quality animation) whilst simultaneously not having the obvious rubber monsters versus ordinary actors quality differential where the rubber monsters seem so much more obviously fake than their human counterparts.

    • Leeman says:

      Tartakovsky has done a remarkable job with alien races in both Samurai Jack and the Clone Wars minisodes he worked on but can you think of other examples of decent fiction where animation really had the same impact as flesh, blood, and rubber? Even most Anime I’ve seen tends to restrict itself to pretty human looking entities aside from the occasional tentacle monster and the less said about those, the better.

      • Mercenary Pen says:

        Getting back to this having considered your point, but I would argue that the tendency to stick to humanoid entities reflects more on what the artists in question are willing to contemplate (or what they think the audience is willing to accept as a credible creature) rather than being a statement of what animation as a whole is capable of.

        In terms of SF anime I’ve seen a fairly well animated insectoid race done in the Vajra of Macross Frontier (though I’ll admit they had significant plot holes and liberties taken with the laws of physics), and for all its reliance on four limbed races, Titan AE had some fairly impressive animation. Outside of SF, the impact animation can have shows even more courtesy of offerings ranging from most of Studio Ghibli’s output through to Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, A Certain Scientific Railgun and others (its to my regret that they’re more interested in pushing the boundaries of animation for so-called “fanservice” rather than more-interesting alien races and the like).

  3. Robert Sullivan says:

    I also dislike the first commander of B5. I forget the episode but there is a scene of the first commander in his room, just wearing a robe and sitting in a chair like he was on horse sedatives. The second commander was almost always dynamic, doing something even when depicted in quiet moments alone.
    I think Mako, in Pacific Rim, was intended to be fully rounded rather than a dynamo. I enjoyed the film, but I also had a problem with the sword thing. Oh, and in a scene in the credits Ron Perlman crawls out of the baby kaiju and wants his shoe back.
    How much of the presentation of humanity in science fiction is a genuine philosophical point by the writers/creators, and how often is it just marketing (depicted specifically to appeal and flatter the audience) by the writers/creators?
    The idea of “alien Jesus” is something addressed in the novel “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” where it is specifically stated there is no Jesus for the faeries and no one seems to know what will happen to them on Judgment Day.
    I attended a private Christian Baptist school as a boy and a teacher & preacher once specially told me any aliens would be unsaved and designed to serve us.
    The incarnation feels unnecessary if humanity has not fallen.
    You two are also more optimistic than am I about humanity.

    • Leeman says:

      Oh! I had forgotten about that part of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell which I totally need to read for either the third or fourth time! I love that book.

  4. Leeman says:

    Oh! I forgot to mention that one of the best examples for Science Fiction on how to write first contact is not a scifi book at all but is James Clavell’s “Shogun”

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