The Sci-Fi Cliché

Does the tension in your novel come from (yet another) threat to blow up the world? If so, does the world actually end? Is it clear from Chapter 1 that the hero will save the day? Can we recognize your characters from the latest blockbusters and bestsellers? Yeah, maybe you should rethink that (unless you’re the author of that blockbuster/bestseller, of course), and Liv Archer explains why, in her usual engaging, ironic, and highly readable way.

(header image credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech)


With the advanced technology of today, there’s not much limitation on what we can put in movies. Unfortunately this means that everyone goes for the biggest possible special effect: exploding planet.

Every superhero out there is fighting the threat of the end of the world. Somehow the bad guy is gonna end all life on earth – and yeah, I guess that would be concerning – but am I the only one who gets bored when the bad guy starts talking about his weapon that has the ability to destroy a planet?

Yeah, it was devastating when Vulcan got swallowed by a black hole in 2009 but isn’t that the only planet that’s actually bitten the dust anyway?

The ‘human residence’ was almost incinerated in Doctor Who and the new Justice League was kind of apocalyptic.

Everywhere you turn, the whole world is being threatened and it’s ironically anticlimactic.


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Spaceflight in fiction: Faster or slower than the speed of light?

Owen James writes about some of the concepts I’m exploring in my work-in-progress, and that I’m considering exploring in other stories. Just how does one manage to ‘appear’ to go faster than light, if the speed of light truly is a limit, as relativity tells us it is? Even at lightspeed, the distances between stars are so great that a journey would be quite a lengthy one. And as technology advances at an increasing rate, would a voyage that set out earlier simply be overtaken along the way by a voyage that set out later?

Time dilation does not enter into my story, for the primary reason that current thinking on the workings of an Alcubierre drive is that warping space is not the same as moving at lightspeed, so there would not be a time dilation effect. Time would move at the same rate for travelers as well as those at either end of the journey. On the other hand, there is some theoretical thought warping space in this manner could have some other, perhaps even stranger, effects upon time. I’ll just leave this right here for the moment…

Owen M. James

You might not think it at first, but that’s a decision that affects a story’s whole world, assuming the story spans multiple planets, star systems, or even galaxies. Of course, a story can have multiple forms of space travel.

I’ve previously toyed with the idea of a scenario where an ancient colony ship comes out of stasis, only to find itself overtaken by a shiny new cruise ship with a warp drive. That premise may have been done, but it’d make for some interesting stories.

But let’s look at the different methods on their own, one after another…

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