TVSF Sci Fi Question

The TVSF Sci Fi Question is whether the shows filed in Category TVSF are SF or Sci Fi.

This is a transcript of a debate which took place on the Category TVSF page. It really needs to be edited into a more documentary form, to reinforce the illusion that Wiki Is A Website. Turning it into an account of a conversation doesn't count. Dissertation Over Discourse.

Someone commented that the category should be called Category TV Sci Fi rather than Category TVSF, because most so-called SF on TV is really Sci Fi. However Niall (who else?) then refuted this, with the examples of Angel and Buffy, who are both on the TV and should be covered by Speculative Fiction.

It was suggested that: SF (either meaning), implies something particular. SF is Arthur C Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Philip K Dick, Greg Egan, Olaf Stapledon, China Mieville, Brian Stableford?, Paul Mc Auley, William Gibson, Vernor Vinge, GATTACA? , The Outer Limits? , Jorge Luis Borges?, Rudy Rucker, Neal Stephenson, Larry Niven, Kurt Vonnegut, Brian Aldiss, John Wyndham and the like. It's not a hard/soft split (Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K Dick are in no way hard), nor an SF/fantasy split (although my knowledge of Good Fantasy Writers is sorely lacking). I can't put my finger on what the split is. I guess it's that SF really makes you think: 'intellectual content' sounds a bit pretentious, but i think that's what it comes down to. CS Lewis said that Science Fiction Is The Only Genuine Consciousness Expanding Drug, and that's central to understanding of it.

The claim here is that Buffy is not SF. Buffy et al use SF tropes to tell human-interest stories; they're a bit like East Enders (well, Heartbreak High?) with supernatural monsters, or robots or spaceships.

This didn't go down well.

It was claimed that: Buffy and Angel are SF because they use the tropes of the genre to tell stories in a way that a mainstream program can't. To take just the most obvious example: The Buffy/Angel romance. When Buffy and Angel have sex, Angel experiences a moment of 'perfect happiness', loses his soul and goes evil. As a metaphor, this works - and is played - on several levels. It's about how older guys are evil for young girls. It's about being stalked by your ex. It's about alcoholism and addiction .

Buffy and Angel are also sophisticated morality plays. They speak to the nature of good and evil - see 'Lie To Me', or 'Reprise' and 'Epiphany'. They take ethical issues and, again, use the tropes of the genre to make them larger-than-life - in essence, to get away with asking questions they couldn't otherwise get away with. Perhaps, by the standards of written SF, those questions (and the answers given) are neither new nor groundbreaking; but for the medium in which they are presented, they are a definite step forward. And that deserves acknowledgement.

The point is these shows are not SF in any way, they are simply fantasy. Few of the stories told in Buffy could not have been told before the development of modern science, and many of them are simply retellings of myths which are as old as recorded human narratives. -- MF Older, in fact! -- TA

To me, if the tropes of the genre are just there for colour or effect, then it's sci-fi. That's Farscape, pretty much. If, on the other hand, those tropes are being actively used, then by any reasonable definition I think it's SF. What, after all, is The Left Hand Of Darkness? Or The Sparrow? -- NH

But you're right, Sci Fi does technically exclude Buffy and Angel , whereas we need a category that includes them. Spec Fi is the obvious one, by analogy to the Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction relationship. It's a horrible, clumsy term, though. -- TA S Fi?? -- TA

One alternative is to define SF by audience. Buffy/Angel fans are weirdly obsessive geeks, and is therefore clearly SF. The fact that they also self-identify as SF fans reinforces this. Buffy is SF.

Buffy/Angel fans are wierdly obsessive geeks, because that's the definition of a fan. Buffy/Angel viewers are not. Therefore Buffy is not SF. The mistake of believing audience and fanbase are the same thing has led to the demise of many a TV SF show, cf. Doctor Who. -- MF

It also might give you some rather strange ideas about the SF readership; fans (ie con-goers) are a rather small subset. -- TA

Fri, 13 Jun 2003 17:42:41 GMT Front Page Recent Changes Message Of The Day