Sci Fi Bi

Media Sci Fi or Literary Sci Fi?

Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

For decades, there has been a clichéd question within the sci fi fan community – which is better: literary or media science fiction?

I have been to conventions (including a Worldcon) where it was commonly asserted that stories in books contain greater depth, nuance and detail than the superficial action-adventure on the movie screen – and that this made literary sci fi better.

I have also been in movie theatres watching cosmic vistas, and sorry, but a written page cannot convey the excitement or immediacy of a space battle in glorious technicolour. For sheer visual spectacle, media sci fi might claim the prize.

I have actually observed the sci fi community divide itself into two distinct camps over this question; where literary fans have distanced themselves from Star Trek, Star Wars or Doctor Who fan clubs. They have enjoyed their literary sci fi conventions with 120 participants; meanwhile down the road some 20,000 cosplayers were attending a local Comicon and mingling with Wolverine or Spiderman or Wonder Woman.

I consider myself bilingual: I love both forms of sci fi.

I grew up watching the visual poetry of 2001: A Space Odyssey and reading the books in order to further understand the plot. I read the comics of the Planet of the Apes franchise, and they helped me to understand the alternative time streams implied in the movie franchise. I watched Star Trek and Star Wars but read the books in order to get a bigger ‘fix’ of these universes.

I even attended a Harry Potter movie where the theatre contained teenage students on a school-excursion. To my astonishment, I realised that the discussion they shared in excitedly hushed whispers during the movie was all about analysing the differences between the book and the movie – right in the middle of scenes where dialogue had been changed from its original written form.

Today, of course, some of the most commercially successful movie franchises are those that have taken characters from comics or graphic novels and translated them to the big screen. Just ask DC or Marvel.

George R.R. Martin, in Game of Thrones, stated: “Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.” By extension, different rockets can launch us into space and different forms of storytelling can help us share the visions and dreams of the storytellers. It can all be wondrous.

©2023 Geoff Allshorn