Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Dark Side of Description: Evil Adjectives In Sci-Fi

Adjectives can be evil in any genre. Evil adjectives are never more powerful than Lightside adjectives, but they are the easier, more beckoning. *wink, wink* There are certain modifiers that should, in this bloggers opinion, get the user flogged if used in science fiction. Whether you are a fan fic newbie or an award-winning author - please, I beg you, stay away from the darkside of description!

As lists seem to be required in all blog entries now, here's mine - Five descriptions that should never be seen in science fiction literature:


1. "Futuristic City." Ouch. If the characters travel in time and land in the future, any city they land in will be a "futuristic" city. Description of places yet to be seen should feel organic. Is there pink grass in this future? Are all the buildings topped with minarets? This, by the way, goes for any future object, spaceship, ray gun, etc. Is it dusty, rusty, musty - throw a reader a bone!

2. "Metal Robots." Ermmm - duh. A robot automatically portrays a thing made of metal. The only reason to stick a one word adjective in front of the word "robots", is to differentiate from that preconception. How about organic robots or ceramic robots? Robots made of individualized heavy water molecules, Eh? If the point is that these bots are shiny and silver then say so. Can you type "C-3P0?"

3. "Super Powers." We get it. Joe's a super hero. But calling his laser vision a "super" power in every paragraph gets old. And simply saying someone has super powers leaves the reader feeling vague-ish. The best way to describe an ability that's beyond the range of the average human is to let that power unfold before the readers eyes. Does Joe feel a little feverish? Do his eyes itch? What's happening? When his crush is suddenly in peril, does the bad guy he's staring down spontaneously burst into flames? Ooooh! That's handy!

4. "Aliens From Outer space" Oy! Albeit, I don't see this one very often, but when I do, the groan fest is never ending. I understand that "aliens" can mean people from another country (ie: "illegal aliens") but you are writing science fiction, for Spock's sake. We know the aliens are from outer space! Name those poor aliens! Are they Vulcans? Are they Outerspace-ians? Maybe the little green men hail from Uranus? Wherever your aliens were brewed, they deserve a home of there very own.

5. "Faster-Than-Light, Warp, Hyper Drive." This future tech needs a new face. Battlestar Gallactica calls it "FTL." Acronyms are a start. Star Trek made "Warp Drive" famous, so if you write fan fic, you're stuck with that specific appellation. But if you are inventing your own universe, at least try for a new name for the light speed concept. Doctor Who simply calls them engines and travels in time, totally avoiding the issue. Does your future society fold space, create a bubble outside normal time and space? Is it Fold Drive or Bubble Drive or Super-Fast-Fun Drive? Understanding the mechanics of your future tech will most likely give you an out for the typical "warp" drive conundrum.

*Screen capture of Libria courtesy of Marta on the Equilibrium fansite.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Netflix: What Is It Good For?

Watch Instantly. They could refuse to mail me another DVD and I'd still be jazzed about my Netflix membership. I tore myself away from the third year of Law and Order: SVU to type this.

Streaming sites like Hulu are great if you're only interested in a taste. Imagine my disappointment when I was left hanging on the season two finale of Buffy. It's not the host site's fault - they're at the mercy of the owners of each individual production. But since Netflix made their watch instantly program an unlimited feature, I can go back to SVU and watch all the way through the seventh season. (If I thought I could stay up five thousand hours straight, I just might.)

Besides having the entirety of many television shows, Netflix has added the Starz line up to their watch instantly queue. That means tons of hit movies are now available 24/7 at Netflix.com. Take my advice - Drop that cumbersome Blockbuster membership and grab some Netflix. It's worth every penny of eight dollars and ninety-nine cents.

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with Netflix or it's partner companies. I am not "The Man." This was not an attempt at advertisement, but a geek out about something I love. I accept no hate mail. Cheers.