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This notion of the megatext is interesting. I understand the important distinction between a 'science fiction [generic] megatext' and using 'science' as a megatext as a basis for hard sci fi.

Where is the imagination? I ask myself. So many science fiction things I read in modern times are immersed in one megatext or another. Here's a list of cliches which are so common that the world of the story does not even bother to explain them but just presume the reader's familiarity:

1. Cryonics (which has its 40th anniversary this year)
2. Faster-than-light travel
3. Hearing sound in space (I think its a worthy mention that Halo: Reach has a mission which is partly in space where the first person shooting element has no sound but air vibrations from within the helmet- shame that the space fighter had sound though)
4. Artificial Gravity
5. Terraforming
6. Star trek style transporters
7. Extra-Earth life forms that have near humanoid physiologies and near social customs

I have a recent penchant for 'early science fiction', the likes of Harry Harrison for instance, where there is not much emphasis on the 'futurism' as such of the science fiction but more a speculation of the human condition and how humans may adapt in alien and extreme situations.

Deathworld is my iconic example of a good sci-fi story. The technological futurism is but a premise, a background for which any other similar story could be told. A good science fiction doesn't overdo the science as grounded in today; but engages in speculation; explores the (post/trans) human condition and goes somewhere original.

Despite this, I do have a niche for megatexts. I am a self-confessed Star Wars fan and that is more for comfort and its familiarity than for its innovation in terms of say, the expanded universe.

Something should be said, comparable to religious texts, of how megatexts often have 'Canon'-icity. What counts as the official story, for instance, whether Shatner's Star Trek books are part of the real star trek narrative, or an awkward period of Star Wars literature between about 1994 (when the novels started coming out) and just around 2005 when Revenge of the Sith came out. A lot of the 'canon' information had to be redefined, contradicted or outright written out to fit in with how George Lucas made the story.

I'm reminded of a Hume quote: "Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous." I think one should widen the refering term of religion to lore.

As always, this is an insightful and provoking post.


Michael: thanks for your thoughtful and supportive comment. A few responses to your notes...

Your list of clichés is a great demonstrator of how the sci-fi megatext operates as a fantasy tradition with elements that are couched in the dressings of technology, but that are not connected with contemporary scientific beliefs, per se. It's particularly interesting to me that the transporter has become so widespread since Roddenberry only devised this device for Star Trek because they didn't have the budget in season 1 of Star Trek to build a model of a shuttlecraft! :) (George Langelaan's story "The Fly" predates this, and was allegedly the inspiration, but it is Star Trek which popularised the device).

I have to say, I have much more time for older science fiction... Peter recently gave me Zelazny's Lord of Light, which was a fantastic piece of work - the kind of book I just can't imagine being published now because genre fiction is so trammelled into popular forms. With its blend of Hindu and Buddhist mythology and technological themes, I don't think any publisher would touch such a work today - and this is a Hugo winner I'm talking about.

Star Wars is a fantastic piece of world building; it's debt to E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman is vast, but it is a richer setting than the original, and really nothing in the West offers a more engaging space opera setting. That Campbell's monomythic themes are the foundation for its plot cycles is just the icing on the cake, really.

And as for canonicity - I have a post on this planned a short way down the line as part of the Fiction Campaign - it's a fascinating phenomena, and demonstrates just how involved in fictional worlds we become.

All the best!


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