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List of Science Fiction Clichés

October 29th, 2009

List of Science Fiction Clichés

All the clichés below have been entered by anonymous users. The webmaster has no desire to edit, fix or argue with anyone about them. If you don't like a cliché please leave a comment, but don't abuse the webmaster.

Editor's Note:
This is a list of clichés - An idea so often used that its original power has been drained away.

The point is that many of these Clichés are USED in good books, or even movies. The first time, great! The next time, not so great. The hundredth time - it is overused. If you use one of these in a new work, you are guilty of using an idea that has appeared often enough in the past to be an obvious overused cliché.

A few hacks have taken the list and pointed out works in the past that use the clichés. Rather than making a point, they are proving that these are just what it says, overused clichés.

Others have taken the list and shown that there is some veracity in them. Usually explaining why some fantasy character acted like they did, or why a unicorn should be in a story. This has nothing to do with the fact that the concept is overused.

Please note that once a plot, character, setting or concept has been used once in any Star Trek episode, it is forever poisoned, and it cannot be used in any Science Fiction story ever again with impunity.

The original cliché list was on a geocities site that I rescued. A copy can can still be found at one of the TV Tropes web pages. This list is different and is made up entirely user entered clichés. (TV Tropes prefers to call them tropes rather than clichés. The difference only exists in the minds of unimaginative authors who don't want to admit their work is unoriginal.)

The Symbols:

Green Check The green check marks those items which are not so bad, but have been used so many times that it takes a really strong treatment to lift them out of the slush pile. They will not destroy an otherwise well-written story, and some of the classics employ these elements (and employ them well).
Yellow Check The yellow check marks those items which were mildly interesting the first time around, but simply provoke a response along the lines of " been there, done that" on the re-runs. Only a truly bizarre twist on these ideas can give them new life.
Red Check The red check marks those items which have been used over and over and over, making them a classic cliche. Writers who use this idea should have their fingers broken and be forever banned from writing Science Fiction.
Green X The green cross marks those items which are baloney, but are tolerable for the sake of dramatic effect as long as the events of the story do not depend on them.
Yellow X The yellow cross marks those items which are lame, and support the plot in some way, but can be saved if there is a supporting justification. For instance, having a robot bleed oil when it gets shot is pretty lame; having a hydraulically-powered robot leak hydraulic fluid when shot is creditable.
Red X The red cross marks those items which flatly contradict the known laws of nature, introduce an irreconcilable contradiction, require the characters involved to have the IQ of a banana peel, or are abysmally stupid for some other reason.
Star Trek The Starfleet logo marks those items for which Star Trek has been an offender, Or an idea that has appeared in a Star Trek episode forever poisoning it for future use.
Piggy The pig marks those items that are unconscionably sexist.
xx The klan symbol marks those items that show racial, ethnic, or religious bigotry. This might be subtle or unintentional. Sometimes the offense may be the product of different times and different standards, but viewed today makes one cringe.

Add your own Cliche

Overused Plots and Storylines:

, Dueling characters who have access to advanced, futuristic weaponry, will eventually resort to using simple primitive weapons or means (stake, knife, blunt intstrument, cauldron of hot liquid, etc...) to finally defeat their enemy.
, Even though 21st century helicopters and fighter jets can automaticallly lock onto enemy craft, starships of the future rely on a human using a joystick to target the enemy craft manually, and they can't lock on to it even then.
, offworld exploration crew catches deadly alien virus
, Alien races are strictly monocultural. They speak one language, have one religion, a unique set of moral values, and even dress all the same.
, Humans from the future, even in the year 56 877, pretty much have the same set of moral values as 20th century people.
, In the future, all of humanity is neatly grouped into just one major faction. Cultures and nations that absolutely hate each other do not seem to mind.
, A scientist unlocks new science / technology / knowledge which is not supposed to be in human's hands, because it goes against "nature" and allows him to "play god". Eventually, everything goes wrong and the scientist is punished for his Hybris. Humans realize that some things should be left alone, and / or that ignorance is better than this kind of knowledge.
, When an emeny or robot can defeated simply by high-piched noise.
, Several points regarding an anthropomorphic robot: 1) Why are the robots built to look like humans? 2) the robot's "brain" is always in its head and chopping off the head "kills" the robot. (A robot's logic would probably be processed in circuits through the whole body or at least in the "torso" since the space isn't needed for internal organs)3) The eyes and ears for the robot are always on the robot's head - why not have sensors in different parts of the body? (E.g. a camera on the end of a finger so that the robot could just poke that around a corner instead of its whole head)
, The protagonist is never tempted by the power of the darkness. (This works in KH and Final Fantasy pretty well, in other places...not so much).
, A huge alien is able to take the form (or fit inside the body of) a smaller species (usually a human) until the climatic confrontation scene where it suddenly reverts to its gigantic size
, A system is locked down be security measures which, while impervious to the bad guys, can be overcome by a key character by a magical override.
, The Captain of the protagonist ship is never a mutant, alien or non-standard human stock, even when the culture on board the ship is multi-cultural and has mutants, aliens or non-standard human stock.
, The Good Guys are always human, while The Bad Guys are never anything but the most inhuman and / or disgusting species availible.
, Women who are small-breasted, uncurvy or otherwise "not feminine" are never important.
, The protagonists destroy the entire social structure and governmental system of the society they encounter, and only a few old fuddy-duddies complain. (should've been a red cross form the beginning)
, Single male tentacle monster ISO single human female. Objective: mating.
, The smaller the alien, the more fur it has covering a larger percentage of the body. You never see a small, hairless, alien, or a hulking furball. Wookies are the exception that proves the rule.
, Futuristic new and advanced versions of weapons systems and vehicles look exactly like the ones from the 20th century, except for a painted symbol, a blinking light or slightly different arrangement of control surfaces/tracks/wheels.
, Its easy to connect a human computer to a alien computer and controll it (and humans can learn how to use alien computers in seconds), even if no one knows how it works its no problems to write viruses for it, aliens dont need secure computer systems? Btw how do you connect a standard computer to a alien system? does it even use electrical signals...
, Soldiers that have been (re-)engineered into perfection: 1) go rogue, 2) turn against their government, 3) are dysfunctional in normal society. Usually some combination of the preceding.
, An entire world of peaceniks and pacifists who have absolutely no military or planetary defenses of any kind.
, Vehicles, computers, and gadgets in the future are flashy and gaudy.
, Alien species are anthropomorph, ie have human traits like a mouth, eyes, ears etc.
, Lesse crew members with no continuing roles, usually with last names like "Smith" and "Jones" are sent down to the mysteriously planet with a main character. Inevitably, Smith and Jones both get killed but the main character does not. This is lampooned well in Galaxy Quest.
, dues ex machinas
, protagonist always prevails
, The black actor is always a traitor (Lando, a black admiral in Star Trek six, and the gold forehead guy on Stargate).
, Advanced alien species are always contemptuous of humans, calling their technology primitive and their ways savage.
, A container carrying a heavy maintained virus/animal escapes and wreaks havoc on a civilization
, Any time a character in an SF story suffers from an injury that leaves them brain dead but physically unharmed, an alien or AI or other entity will be on hand ready to move in and take over. Conversely, when some friendly entity needs a human body for use, another character will suffer a convenient brain death malady that leaves them a body to use. (Unfriendly entities will just take whatever body they can get).
, The main characters friend/best friend dies while he survives and he drops to his knees and yells slowly "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" then either sits there or goes into an alien-killing rampage.
, Reconstructing a new person from DNA restores all the memories and learned skills that were in the DNA-donor's brain.
, Time travel stories where time is linear (i.e. going back will affect YOUR present, and not just spin off another that doesn't affect you), but in which the characters discuss correct versus incorrect "time lines" (thereby contradicting their own belief that time is linear).
, No matter how out-gunned and out-numbered the human race is in an inter-galactic war, the hero will single-handedly push the tide.
, There will always be a neutral parasitic life form that seeks to devour all form of sentient life in the universe, including but not limited to, the hero and the offending alien race in the story.
, Alien societal structures, morals and technologies are compared to human equivalents of an earlier historical era (medieval, industrial era, modern age). The history of the era between the modern and the future period of humanity (say between 20th - 24th century) is only, if ever, mentioned to show how civilisation has moved on.
, horror sci fi movies if a character obtains a weapon such as a metal pipe or axe they will only use it once then drop it
, ammo always runs out when they are about to kill a leader/boss/main bad guy and then they always have to resort to melee combat
, Starships appear visible in perfect 3 point lighting, no matter how deep in space they are. They also bother to bank when turning, despite the need to, just for looks, I guess. No jews or gays in the future. Also humans must go on all dangerous missions when I, personally, when send a few robots out first, as we do today. Also, even though control panels are just basically a series of input output interfaces, they can blow up and kill you. Imagine if phones or atms could do that. Finally, apparently, only military strories are interesting. No comedies, romances, dramas or tense intrigue or small slice of life stories are worthy of skiffy treatment.
, Starships appear visible in perfect 3 point lighting, no matter how deep in space they are. They also bother to bank when turning, despite the need not to, just for looks, I guess. No jews or gays in the future. Also humans must go on all dangerous missions when I, personally, would send a few robots out first, as we do today. Also, even though control panels are just basically a low voltage array of input output switches, they can blow up and kill you. Imagine if phones or atms could do that. Finally, apparently, only military strories are interesting. No comedies, romances, dramas or suspenseful intrigue, or small slice of life stories are deemed worthy of proper skiffy treatment.
, A character massively affected by a disease/mutation, when cured looks exactly as he did before the whole ordeal.
, after being a perfectly good antagonist for the entire plot, upon losing begs the heroes for forgiveness because he did not see a simple flaw in his plan that the heroes took advantage of. (its not really cliche as much as the others, but I just find this to be a lack of creativity and effort on the authors part.)
, At the first presentation, the heroine usually is inexperienced romance-wise (compared with the hero). She will usually remain childless to the conclusion of the story, but if she does have any children (with the hero), prophecies and proof will surface that her offspring are extremely special, gifted, and powerful and are destined to save the world, universe, rabbit-kind, blah blah. From now on, she usually focuses solely on keeping her kid(s) alive. Examples are found in Terminator, X-Files, and Star Wars.
, Alien-human hybrids only come in 50% human, 50% alien (e.g. Deanna Troi and Worf's son from Star Trek and Ka D'Argo's son and Scorpius from Farscape). These hybrids seem more interested in human mates than alien ones, but for some reason that doesn't result in more hybrids that are, say, 3/4 human.
, If the heroine and hero initially hate each other, they will become best of friends and lovers. Resistance is futile.
, Villainesses are either elderly battleaxes or promiscuous young temptresses.
, Villainesses are either elderly battleaxes or promiscuous young temptresses.
, Humans welcome aliens in their societies, but aliens do not return the favor. How many humans do you see in Klingon society that are as well-accepted as Worf is in StarFleet?
, There is technology for self-replicating universal manufacturing (nanotechnology, Star Trek replicators)and they don't reconfigure asteroid belts into habitats, spaceships, weapons etc. Only a miniscule fraction of a star systems resources are utilized.
, There is technology for self-replicating universal manufacturing (nanotechnology, Star Trek replicators)and they don't turn asteroid/kuiper belts, found in every star system, into thousands of luxurious space colonies. Instead they look for Earth like planets in deep gravity wells.
, 5 out of 6 billion present humans are non-Western. But future societies are entirely Western cultures with a few token minorities. More often than not, the future is an exclusively American society.
, They can control matter to the atomic level (via nanotechnology,teleporters, biotech) but haven't cured aging or death. People don't back up their minds in case they die. They live ordinary lifespans, age and die.
, Defensive fleets of comprable size to the attacking fleet succesfully protect the home planet in orbital combat. The attackers never drop nuclear, or kinetic, weapons from orbit. In reality the defenders would have to be 100X as numerous as the attackers and stop every ship. Just 10 nukes would obliterate a planet.
, Future militaries don't even use contemporary military technology. The Empire didn't need a Death Star. Dropping megaton yield thermonucler weapons by the hundreds from orbit would have effectively destroyed Alderaan just as easily. Small nuke missles would have vaporized both clone and droid armies.
, Future people don't have relationships with siblings or relatives, don't marry, and don't have children. They don't care about advancement in business or society. They're either selfless bureacrats serving on a spaceship or noir pirates, assasins, and criminals that are really misunderstood and good. No one pursues ordinary careers, goals and relationships.
, All parents are evil dictators, manipulators, murderers, you name it. The only child (and it is almost always an only child) is always just and upright; this child will save or bring to justice his or her evil father or mother.
, The cast follows this predictable format: Handsome, manly man - leader/captain Beautiful woman - love-interest of handsome, manly man Big male warrior alien Droid or android, usually male-programmed
, The cast follows this predictable format:(1) handsome, manly man as the leader/captain; (2) beautiful woman as the love-interest of handsome, manly man; (3) big male warrior alien; (4) droid or android, usually male-programmed
, The evil ruler has never effected any good whatsoever. Just evil for the sake of being evil.
, The main male character romances many different women before settling on the main female character, even though she has been available all along.
, Humans have a certian something that makes them special compared to all other alien races. Its usually our human emotions.
, The prettiest, most refined female cast member is usually a short brunette with odd hairdos.
, Redheads are most often assassins and other types of baddies.
, Blond men and women usually take a back seat in sci-fi.
, The black man is ALWAYS the first person killed (Jurassic park), has some handicap (blind, can't walk, mute, etc.)(Geordi La Forge), or turns out a traitor (Lando Calrissian)
, The stories are centered on mostly white people. I know something like this was mentioned before, but reject. The reason didn't sit with me. Mainly because there are so many other races in America. I guess there is either a race war or some type of mass wipe out of all WOCs in the U. S.
, Characters in a story, usually the main hero, have no memory of a father/brother/mother/sister and somehow during the story line meet up with one or more of them and dont realize that they are related untill much later in the plot. example: StarWars, Eragon etc..
, The world is in complete peral from an all powerful diety or entity, and a "chosen one" is destined to destroy him, and sets out to do so..., PJP
,  Aliens invade/land on earth who have a fatal weakness to some incredibly common substance on the planet i.e. water. Alien Nation and Signs for example. That's like us invading venus without space suits. , WBWIII
, Starships or fleets exiting hyperspace, warp or slipstream are always in a horizontal formation and never arrive from "below", "above" or upside down., 
, A detective "just doesn't like" a technology that happens to be in the center of the story, and that makes him perfect to investigate it!, DJG
, All laser weapons are color coded for each side that uses them, or all of them appear the same color, rw
, All alien planets have two moons., HD
, The protagonist is usually a young white human male, and rarely is the character a girl. It's even rarer to have an an alien as the protagonist. (Can you name a story with an alien as the main character?), Rw
, The aliens rarely have animals or trees on their planet., jw
, There is hardly any fat people even though they sit around in front of computers all day or fly around in space ships, jw
, X planet is the only source of some super-needed resource and it can not be synthesized, or worked around in any way, TJ
, Humans in the future have totally abandoned ALL moral standards, creating a world populated solely by sociopaths and and nihilists., jc
, Heroine spends a great deal of time in the hospital (e.g. Dana Scully, Lana Lang), JC
, Ugly aliens are always evil, while attractive or human-like aliens are good., APL
, Planets, no matter how far out in the galaxy or even in other galaxies, more often than not have Greek or Latin names. And most times they are followed by an Arabic numeral (2, 3, 4 etc.) or the designation of prime. Unless all planets are named by Europeans and Americans it just doesn't make sense., JB
, If by some way a person flys out into space, they just float around while in reality they would explode it a bloody mess. Also, no matter how many holes they have in their ship, they never run out of air and never have to stop for repairs unless it looks that bad., JW
, That there are only 1 0r two elder races whilst the current timeframe has hundreds of them, A.M
, Anytime a crew needs to find someone on a planet, they always seem to beam down to exactly the right city in the correct continent to start looking for them., MM
, An alien planet viewed from the surface has the same generic features as earth (such as grass, trees, seagull like birds that fly around large bodies of water) except that the color pallets of two features have been switched. (Dragonball Z: Green sky overlooking blue trees and blue grass.) , MM
, There is exactly one doctor on staff working at the starship. There may be as many as 3 nurses, but there is only one doctor. The doctor is reasonably skilled in all medical fields: Dentistry, Brain Surgery, Optometry..., Mush
, The starship is mysteriously clean, even though there are no janitors or janitorial robots anywhere. , Mush
, A shuttle may land on a planets’ surface and leave their door open for days (while the crew explores or gets captured,) but the shuttle never seems to get water damage, leaves blown in, or a small infestation of ants. , Mush
, Even if the aliens don’t speak English (or have communicators that translate their speech into English), the aliens are still able to communicate such things as what their names are, that they need medical attention, that the village that has the equipment that the humans need to fix their shuttle is 90 miles away in a south east direction. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell where one word ends and another word begins in any language other than English., Mush
, If a human has to explain what his space ship is to a primitive alien culture, the term “flying chariot” is understood and accepted just fine. The aliens don’t ask “How do you tame flying horses to fly your chariots?” or “Why do you call it a chariot? It’s clearly a highly polished river rock with a door.”, Mush
, There is no text messaging in the future. Phones are purely video and audio. Nice to know that technology has regressed back to the 1990’s. , Mush
, There is no text messaging in the future. Phones are purely video and audio. Nice to know that technology has regressed back to the 1990’s. , Mush
, Different alien cultures are all ridged obeyers of ceremony- no mater how uncomfortable or pointless the ceremony is. If some visiting party member sneezes during the 5 hour greeting ritual, that person is executed. It’s also worth mentioning that these alien cultures never inform the Humans of what their unwritten rules are, what the penalties for breaking those unwritten rules are, and why those unwritten rules don’t appear in printed law books., Mush
, Also, Alien greeting customs seem to have been formed for no other purpose than to look ‘alien’ to an American audience. Customs and ceremonies don’t just appear out of nowhere; they are created for very specific reasons: The “Hand shake”, for example, was originally created to jostle any hidden items out of a visiting person’s sleeves. If things like knives, small concealable guns, or ‘Ace’ cards (for cheating at card games) fell out, then you would know the other party had unwholesome intentions for you., Mush
, Aliens are really, really good at disguising themselves as humans. You never see an alien’s “human costume” have hair that looks like a waxy unflowing helmet, arms that have absurdly bulbous muscles (like Popeye’s), a mouth with no teeth or tongue, or stiff facial features. (Invader Zim is the only exception to this rule I have ever seen.), Mush
, Offensive Cliché- Any story where humans are the epitome of all that is corrupt and wicked, where there are no redeeming elements in humans, or where humans are douche-bags for the simple joy of being douches. (Battle for Terra, Ferngully) It’s true that there are evil people in the world, but they do not make up more than 40% of any given population.. Unless your story involves hardened criminals or sociopaths, if you make bad guys out of 10 humans or more when you have only introduced 15, then you are committing this offensive cliché., Mush
, A scene where a character is introduced by depicting the character just loafing around on the porch not doing much of anything. Normal people engage themselves constantly in activities- they don’t sit in rocking chairs on their porches and watch road traffic; they preoccupy themselves by reading, sleeping, eating, gardening, cooking, and setting fires. Nobody just sits, stands, smokes, or lies down without being occupied in some other way. My point is that normal people don’t “do nothing”- and your story characters shouldn’t either. (Exceptions: Your character could just sit there and do nothing if they are druggies, if they had just finished going through some emotional ordeal, or if they are blank-of-mind because their souls had been sucked out their eye-sockets (or some other sci-fi reason.)), Mush
, Girls wear short skirts in the future., SM
, Geologically impossible structures: floating mountains (Avatar), broad flat plateaus several meters across balanced on thin pillars of rock only a few inches thick (cover art of Street Fighter 2010), Mush
, A planetary wide scan of an inhabited alien planet (advanced alien planet) does not show any sort of agriculture. What, is food imported into the planet?, Mush
, Aliens never believe in ghosts, gods, demons, vampires, or werewolves. However, aliens do believe in ESP, alien abductions (because they’re doing the abductions), telepathy, and zombies. , Mush
, If aliens are able to understand what you (an English speaker) are saying by reading your brainwaves, then they shouldn’t be able to understand what is being spoken in a recording or on a walk-y-talk-y., Mush
, Swallowing the diamond the size of your fist prevents the burglars from running away with it. The burglars do not surgically remove the diamond, they just kidnap the person who swallowed the jewel. (Dragon ball z: Gohan, a 4 year old boy, is kidnapped because his hat has a mystical object of great power sewn to the top of it. The bad guys don’t think of removing the hat from atop the weak little boys head, they just kidnap the kid), Mush
, 'You are no. 6', 'we want information' shtick from a 'superior' group watching over a 'subject' who is either sub-human, a killer or both., P.C.
, The devil as an alien, old and ugly and 'must be destroyed'! ., P.C.
, The human race always forms a perfect democracy where everyone is equally represented, while the aliens are always in a facist dictatorship, a communistic society, or is a hive mind...never the other way around., SGS
, If you land your ship on an alien planet, the first alien entity your people get to meet will be a dangerous non-sentient life form (usually it resembles a mountain lion or a swarm of superficially cute, but blood thirsty, animals.) If the hero of the story is not among the initial exploratory crew, then all or most of the crew will die a HORRIBLE death (usually on camera that has a live video feed being viewed directly be a Sergeant or General) Everyone of your people will come to the conclusion that ALL aliens from the planet you landed on are hostile. The second alien entity you meet will be sentient and harmless (usually it resembles a peasant boy around 10 years of age.) The General who witnessed the death of his previous crew will want this new alien executed. The hero (being the sole voice of reason) will defend this second alien by saying “But he’s just a boy!”, Mush
, Dimwitted guards who can be easily distracted by the sound of a tossed pebble, can be fooled by disguises made of bed linens, and who sleep, drink, or oogle the latest issue of Hot Babes while they're supposed to be on duty., jc
, "He's right on my tail! I can't shake him!!" Spacecraft do not necessarily travel in the direction their nose is pointing. In fact, during an engine burn, the thrust is in the direction of the nose. But once the thrust is off, the ship can turn to any orientation. It can fly "sideways" through space if it wants. So all those scenes from Star Wars, Star Trek and the old Battlestar Galactica where a hapless space fighter cannot shake the enemy on their tail are completely laughable. "He's right on my tail, Rogue Two! I can't shake him!!" Oh, come on! All they have to do is spin on their short axis and blast the tail-gater! Seriously, anyone with the slightest grasp of Newtonian Physics could get it!, Rowan17
, Spaceships where the floor is built with spikes lining a spike-free walkway (mostly seen in videogames). My problem with this is that inside halls of a spaceship are supposed to be designed with smooth- perhaps cushioned- walls because the ship is bound to run into turbulence as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. Not to mention that rows and rows of spikes are a waste of materials. This cliché probably arose because the presence of spikes is something like a shorthand notation for “evil.” , Mush
, Any technical difficulty can easily be solved by "switching the phase" and/or "reconfiguring the matrix". And again. And again, until everyone including the viewer forgets what the original phase and matrix were., Syl
, When "the serum" is given to someone with an awful, disfiguring disease, the blemishes/fissures/discoloured patches/growths disappear in seconds, leaving the character looking exactly like he/she did before getting the alien disease., Al
, Future societies are 99% of the time depicted as multicultural utopias in which all the races of the human species (plus a huge variety of aliens) dwell together in peace (and apparently have done so for ages). This theme disregards several historical trends. For one, multiculturalism creates strife rather than peace; after all, racism is a by-product of diversity – racism does not & can not exist in racially/ethnically homogeneous nations. Additionally, diverse societies have always ultimately collapsed due to infighting & disunity among all the different ethnic/racial groups [e.g. the Roman Empire; an example of a collapse-in-the-making is America; circa WW2, when America was at its peak militarily, economically, and culturally, it was also at its most racially homogeneous (90% White); ever since desegregation and the legalization of non-white immigration, America has become much more diverse - and has been on a steady but sure decline]. Lastly, diverse societies eventually become non-diverse due to race-mixing and displacement of one or more racial groups due to race competition. Given the historically-proven failure of multiculturalism, how can anyone with a functioning sense of logic believe that the way to create utopia is by taking all the human races (with all their cultural/religious/political/etc. incompatibilities) and placing them in one mega society - and inviting space aliens over as well?, JL
, The offspring of inter-species unions are always presented as either perfectly normal/healthy or sometimes as examples of hybrid vigor. Outbreeding depression, which occurs often in race-mixed humans and "mongrelized" animals, and the possibility of getting the worst of both sides rather than the best is never addressed., JL
, "Oh no! we're somehow lost and without many resources, I hope we can survive and make our way back home!" DS9, SGU., GE
, All aliens are just humans with things glued to their heads., AA
, To become captain of a ship you have be brilliant on every level know everything about every culture be amazing in battle and only care for your own option or the options of the five senior grew members if the rest die you look and you don't even care., 
, The main protaganist never has the best lines for dialogue. Whenever it's attempted, the attempt fails and sound very corny., CWBK
, From the Leader to the janitor, everyone of the alien races know about the existence of other alien races. But it's a *big* deal if more than a handful of humans find out., AJ
, Anyone who is vaguely referenced as a friend of the main cast is targeted by some form of parasitic force and despite being mutated and transformed into the parasite will immediately revert to their original form after the parasite has been killed by the main cast and blame the irreplaceble damage they caused on "being possesed", SN
, Technological common sense: Despite decades / centuries / millennia of technological progress, common technology is ignored in starships. The Starship Enterprise uses superfast elavators & jeffries tubes (tough on the knees) yet has no staircases in the event of power failure thus trapping those in a room especially without any manual doors or locks anywhere? Some of the most important ship functions are relagated to areas of the ship that are difficult to access. They require massive crews to man the vessels despite being extensivley automated; just what are these people doing for work in the future when examples show the ship being run on as little as 3 or 4 people. Futuristic metal alloys shows signs of rust despite no oxygen in a vacuum and the sophisticated climate control aboard that should eliminate humidity. Computer interfaces, exist in every room and hallway which may permit someone to hack into otherwise crucial systems. Even in the vacuum of space their are stray particles that interact with the ships matter, thus even if invisible, a cloaking device is essentially useless if one can simply scan those particles., JAH
, On the odd occasion an alien can't speak English and learns to speak it, in what seems like no time at all they don't even speak broken English or struggle with words., TH
, Using weapons which make bright bursts of light when fired while in a firefight with poor light, no one seems to get concerned they would ordinarily be blinded by their own weapon. In fact no one even so much as squints! , TH
, No one seems to suffer from jet lag/space lag when visiting another planet, or the planet has 24 hour time (or close to)., TH
, Star ships can only move along one plane. They cannot move up or down (at least not very far). Instead of up and over the territory of some very trigger happy alien species the said star ship must for some reason travel through the alien's territory. Same goes for traveling through a dangerous nebula instead of over or under it (which is not even considered)., TH
, This mainly applies to star trek: Cutting your hand with a knife in an alien ritual and then letting someone else cut their hand with the same knife WITHOUT cleaning it. Oddly neither character has a scar on their hand afterward, usually as of the next shot or scene., TS
, We Had It All Along! If the protagonists' ship is ever destroyed, they will either immediately find another more advanced ship, or learn that the government has been working on a new, more advanced ship and is only days away from finishing it, despite never having heard about it prior to this., SD
, God? Oh, You Mean The Guy From Mars! All dieties, whether mythological or theological, are in reality alien beings played by either John de Lancie, or the alien from Paul. The main protagonist will be the only person in the universe said beings are ever interested in., SD
, You're Our Only Hope Because, You Know... Despite the fact that the military has ships far better equipped, the main protagonists' ship is the only one ever in range of the distress call. They may lack the equipment necessary to carry out the mission, but they're still going anyway., SD
, Robots that can mass produce flawless can't wipeout the humans they currenlty or soon could outnumber. Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Terminator., DTA
, Alien and future weapons are remarkably less useful than weapons today. They fail to hit, fail to kill when they hit, fail to penetrate simple cover, etc. Today we have single-person grenade launchers with laser range finders and automatic air-burst capabilities, thermal sites, fully automatic shotguns, etc. Yet... weapons of the future can't hit anyone, kill them, deal with a tree, etc. Why doesn't the weapon fire in a spread, aim the beam itself, or cause a massive explosion on the ground to kill via fragmentation? Heck... fire continuously and allow the user to just wiggle their wrists and no one can keep dodging it., BW

Overused Settings and Characterizations:

, Enitre planets are used as rubbish tips. Recycling has disappeared in the future.
, Leader of the Galactic Federation (or Senate, or whatever), among thousands of other alien races, is always human.
, The alien race that is aeons ahead of humanity and possess amazing technology. They won't give it to us as we're not R"Eady" yet, but we keep trying to nick it from them.
, Every race in the universe are biped creatures.
, An entire world of peaceniks and pacifists who have absolutely no military or planetary defenses of any kind.
, The villain's henchmen have horrible aim, while the hero/good guys shoot better than anyone else.
, Everyone in the future is an atheist.
, Humanoid aliens never move their upper body when walking.
, No matter how many worlds the heroes visit and how many races they encounter, none of the heroes ever need to speak a different language or have difficulty understanding the aliens.
,  Societies with resources and tendency for colonization, exploration and growth, who halt for no good reason. First they inhabit a new planet and then sit on their hands and farm crops for centuries. Especially if they know there are other expansionist and agressive cultures nearby. Fundamentally more stupid if their parent civilization consists of several worlds to begin with.
, The smartest and most violent person is usually an alien, but he or she or it cannot be both.
, Concrete and steel in the future has some niffy sounding prefix.
, The women in interstellar spaceship crews exist solely for the purpose of sexual gratification. The males, on the other hand, are actually necessary for the well-being of the ship.
, The words used to characterise spacecraft and especially hierarchical structure is based on naval terminology. In some cases vessels are designed resembling aircraft carriers more than, say, rocket-like shape.
, Humans of the future are astonishingly selfless. Risking their lives and their expensive, top-of-the-line spaceships to save a dying planet or a bunch of people they never met before or know little-to-nothing about is routine for them.
, Villains like to boast. They really, really like to boast.
, Women of high status see men either as sex objects or abusive, controlling obstacles to their own self-actualization.
, Characters with really light hair and skin are always evil and/or haughty.
, No matter how different other species are, humans of the future will always judge them by Earth standards (Picard yelling at some aliens). Those standards are treated as the universal ones for the whole galaxy, simply humans are right even as savage and primtive race (or because of that). Moreover those "galactic" ethical standards will be always based upon atheism and western culture. There will be no asian or african or other (alien) influences and philosophies. This set of values is the ultimate truth. Others are tolerated, but it is obvious that our human way is the best and final, there is no other higher philosophy so we don't even boder to search/invent them. Religion is always primitive and wrong, even if it is not human religion and has nothing to do with our society, values, culture, history, technology and biology. Even if it is portraited as good, it is still wrong-but what main characters believe (if it is not a religion)is never questioned, no matter how many times science have already prooved those beliefs to be false or equally flawed as religion itself. , jzs
, There is nothing cooler and more technical looking than essential switches on the ceiling of your vehicle., GC
, There is nothing cooler and more technical looking than essential switches on the ceiling of your vehicle., GC
, Handrails over any dangerous walkways are no longer required by safety codes. , GC
, Aliens speak English but can’t seem to rap their heads around sarcasm. (Currently, I can only think of “Planet 51,” But I know I’ve seen it so many times before.), MM
, Applies to series: Once stated that a character is some age (example: 21 years old) the character never hits his next birthday no mater how many hundreds of episodes there are. (This is fine if the character is an alien and counts his age based on some alien calendar that has something like 1000 days in each year. No, I’m pointing fingers at authors who make their characters conform to a 365-day-per-year calendar What’s worse is when you try to factor each adventure into a timeframe given that the character is still the age he started at when the series began, and you find that he has had 300 some adventures- some of which are supposed to have taken place over the course of several days. Even despite all this, the main character isn’t exhausted and doesn’t act like he expects and prepares for daily adventures (like keeping a packed backpack of survival gear with him at all times, or doing hourly radio check-in’s with his staff.), MM
, In the future, everyone will wear single-piece spandex suits. These suits don’t have pockets or utility belts. The people who wear these suits (including engineers and solders) are expected to carry the items they need in their hands. Gee- I sure hope that the engineer, who is working tirelessly to prevent the power core from overloading, doesn’t need much more than a hand held screwdriver., MM
, They say that you can tell what a person is like by rummaging through their stuff. Well… All crewmen, who are nonessential to the plot, have no hints of distinguishing characteristics or personal histories, unless they specifically speak about it. A peek into their closet won’t reveal anything like non-regulation clothing, or a small box of Christmas decorations, or a bookshelf with fiction novels, or posters of pretty girls tacked to the inside of the closet door. You won’t see artwork or stacks of magazines in their rooms. You most certainly won’t find an adult novel under their beds. Nonessential personnel don’t seem to have anything to do when they are off duty., MM
, Bad guys are intolerable leaders. If a battle does not go his way, the “Big Baddy” takes it out on his crew, blaming them for incompetence. Even so far as to commit a random execution of one of his staff. If luck begins to favor the bad guy, he prances around and congratulates himself on being so brilliant. Even so far as to commit a random celebratory execution of one of his staff (I’ve seen it, I’m not lying.) Why his constantly abused underlings don’t commit mutiny is beyond me., Mush
, Professionals using non-professional terms: like a psychologist using the word “crazy” to describe a patient, or a botanist using the phrase “gangly shrub.” It’s almost as if the world in which these characters live in was created by someone who never bothered to do any research on behalf of his characters. Hmmmm..., Mush
, Androids and aliens constantly commenting on the futility of human behavior. , Mush
, A glass of wine might be seen at the dinner table, but nobody seems to be an alcoholic., Mush
, Nobody seems to fear surgery, lawsuits, or bankruptcy., Mush
, People sing incoherently to themselves during the opening credits- sometimes while doing air guitar with a tennis racket. , Mush
, Any story, when boiled down to it’s elements, is: Romeo and Juliet, Dances with wolves, The Highlander, Cowboys and Indians, Pride and predigest, Cinderella, Lord of the Rings, Ernest Goes to Camp, or House on the Parry -IN SPACE!!!!!!!!!, Mush
, Aliens speak and spell in proper English. An alien will never spell the word “Please” as “plz.” An alien will never say “BRB” when they mean “I will be right back.” The only grammatical error aliens tend to make is speaking in “split-infinitives.” They will say the phrase “to boldly go,” instead of the grammatically correct “to go boldly.”, Mush
, No culture speaks in sign language. (Exceptions: “Architects of Sleep” a novel where anthropomorphic raccoons populate an alternate Earth, and “Loud as a whisper” from season two of Star trek The Next Generation.), Mush
, When aliens first send probes to earth and see humans or animals walking around, none of the aliens watching the transitions wonder which one of their staff hacked into the video feed and was showing video of “puppets or CGI Monsters.” Personally, if I sent probes blindly to a hundred some-odd planets and one came back with images of bountiful extraterrestrial life, then I would turn to my brother and smack him across the face for screwing with my serious work., Mush
, Alien children are either insanely well behaved (sitting silently in a corner with their hands folded neatly in their laps for hours and hours without food, water, light, or company) or they are bratty and irritable (walking into your work station and kicking a foot through the control panned, demanding your utmost attention while they complain that they received alphabet soup for lunch instead of a French dessert crepe.), Mush
, Aliens are either technologically superior to humans (by a lot) or technologically inferior to humans (again, by a lot.) It’s rare to see an alien race that is in the same general era as the Industrial revolution., Mush
, Alien cultures who believe in heaven and hell (or their equivalents) always think that heaven is above their heads, while hell is below their feet. Never, is there an alien race that views the stars with suspicion and the ground with adoration. Imagine the advantage of a burrowing sentient race from a sci-fi writer’s point of view. Space faring humans would automatically think that the planet was uninhabited because there aren’t any buildings on the surface. The planets’ natives would instantly fear and hate the humans as anyone would fear and hate demons from hell. Hey- Story conflict! , Mush
, Bad guys either use swear words or demeaning phrases (such as: “Insolent fools,” or “lowlifes”) when addressing their enemies, subordinates, and allies (just, not their superiors.) It’s rare to see a bad guy use “kinder language” when addressing anyone. (Exception: Dr. Henry Killinger [from “Venture Brothers”] saying “your powers don’t work on me, you silly-billy”), Mush
, Alien creatures never seem to look like monsters from human mythology. (Centaurs seem like perfectly viable creatures that could exist in real life. Just because they have a human head and torso, does not mean they’d be clumsy, top heavy, or in any other way disadvantaged to the point where they would not have evolved naturally on their own planet), Mush
, If the alien race is bipedal (walks on two legs), then you can tell a male from a female the same way you do with humans (male aliens still have broader shoulders, bigger muscles, facial hair, an “atoms’ apple” broader jaw, smaller pelvis, etcetera; Female aliens still have smaller shoulders, smaller muscles, no facial hair, a feminine neckline, a smaller chin, larger pelvis, a waist, an “hourglass figure”, larger eyes, boobs, etcetera…) It’s funny how these aliens look just like humans except for antennae and a green tint to their skin. , Mush
, Food products and utilities having the words/prefixes “space” “astro” or “UFO” in them. : “Mom! I wanna eat space-aroni and cheese! I’m tired of asparagus and astro-casserole! Al Ien’s mom lets him eat UF-O’s for dinner, why can’t I? Whaaaaaaa----” (PS. If you didn’t get the joke about Al’s name, it spells “alien”), Mush
, Bad guys saying “I’m so lonely” after they laugh manically., Mush
, Trained military solders know better than running out into the jungle, screaming, and firing wildly in all directions until they run out of ammo. If nothing else, they would want to conserve their ammo without broadcasting their position to any unseen enemy. *Rambo, Robo war, Commando* , Mush
, Someone falls over and faints after something mildly shocking happens (Usually, this only happens in a comedy, but I’ve seen it elsewhere. Nevertheless, it’s an unfunny joke.), Mush
, Citizens of primitive cultures are never seen doing the hard labor that comes with having wood-and-stone technology. Despite this, their woven grass barrels are mysteriously full of grain, their mud-brick houses have no visible cracks, and their children are plum and well fed. , Mush
, Peaceful alien cultures live in a land without natural predators- not because the aliens do a decent job of fending off such predators, but because they were never there to begin with., Mush
, Any kind of hidden civilization occurring at the biggest tree of the forest (Avatar, an episode of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, Disney’s Tarzan cartoon, Swiss family Robinson, Pretty much anything that involves forest elves) - It’s a bit corny, but acceptable, if the people want to be found (like in Swiss Family Robinson). But placing the whole of your civilization in, on, and around the biggest tree in the forest does not make sense for a secret society of night elves who shun outsiders and want nothing to do with the outside world. Why place your headquarters where anyone with a good view of the tree tops can see it?, Mush
, The distant future is indistinguishable from present day times except for the floating/ flying versions of everyday objects. (Floating mountains from Avatar, flying cars from Jetsons, hover-boards from Back to the Future, floating raw hamburger patties from Planet 51, dogs with jetpacks chasing cats with jetpacks from Futurama), Mush
, Shakespeare is still renowned as a great writer in the year 32,098, even though present day high school kids find his works nearly indecipherable do to Shakespeare’s archaic use of the English language. (I’m complaining that English would practically be a different language thousands of years from now, and therefore, Old English is illegible), Mush
,  Never having touched or seen a piano in his life, an alien will sit down and write a grand masterpiece. (and then look up at the crowd with mild surprise and say “What?”) , Mush
, People in the distant future watch black and white episodes of “I love Lucy” , Mush
, Human soldiers are rude to each other, alien soldiers are polite., Mush
, Human soldiers are rude to each other, alien soldiers are polite., Mush
, Any desired material that is named “unobtainium.” Un-obtain-ium. meaning “Can Not Get.”, Msuh
, (Note: I have only seen this once, but MAN was it stupid.) Any scene where a mathematically inclined character is asked to capture or locate something, and the character’s response is to build a cage, step inside, and declare his location (namely the inside of the cage) as being “outside.”, Mush
, If you get to see a younger version of some character, he/she will wear the exact same color scheme as what he/she wears in adulthood. , Mush
, Note: there are some variations to the previously listed cliché: Variation #1. the younger version of the character wears lighter colors of the same basic outfit [example: someone who wears a red jacket in adulthood may wear a pink shirt as a child] , Mush
, Note: there are some variations to the previously listed cliché: Variation #2 the younger character may have a different article of clothing that is the same color as what he/she will wear as an adult. [example: someone who always wears a red jacket as an adult, may be seen wearing a uniform with bright red buttons.] , Mush
, If a daemon comes out of the TV, it is a shape shifter that goes from themes like “cowboy” to “astronaut” in a flash of static (or snow screen). A good example of this is the “Rockoons 2” music video. , Mush
, The bad guys' names mean "daemon" in another language., Mush
, If one alien tells you that another alien is sick, that other alien will undoubtedly bed ridden- yet still quire able to whoop anybody’s ass with his superior mind bending powers., Mush
, If you see a commercial on an alien TV channel, that commercial will always have a heavy element of porn in it. (Advertising prostitution, usually.) , Mush
, Aliens who have a strong dislike of innocent humans are either outright evil or have some kind of justifiable misunderstanding. There is never an alien who dislikes humans because the alien is absolutely bat-shit insane. (the same way that a crazy earthling might irrationally hate aliens because he things that they are going to steal all of earth’s gravity.), Mush
, Alien songs always sing about things like spirituality/ great wars of the distant past that reduced them to a pre-industrial state/ wanting a hero to save their world. They never sing about lost love, how unfair their parents are, or any other random slice-of-life type things. Look at us humans; some of our most popular songs are about Mary’s little lamb, the Atom’s family, and how white your teeth will be if you use Crest’s toothpaste. Just because something is in song does not mean it has much in the way of depth. , Mush
, A cop whose general philosophy is “shoot first ask questions later,” is an avid churchgoer and mostly hangs around the altar under the only floor-to-ceiling mosaic window in an otherwise empty church. Which is funny because most churches I know of have a no-murder policy. , Mush
, (In a game or movie, this is usually a black screen (no graphics) with either voice-overs talking in hushed tones or text boxes.) bad guys you know nothing about (their location, their physical appearance, their intentions) are discussing the hero and their intentions for him. But before they can get to that part, they first go into extensive detail recapping information that they already know. What bothers me is that they don’t think about the possibility of there being any recording devices, listening spies, or an undercover agent in their midst. The bad guys just talk openly. , Mush
, Aliens who believe in reincarnation don’t bother looking for the new form of their most effective or most popular leaders. I mean, that’s the equivalent of being able to reelect Gorge Washington for the presidency as many times as we want. (Well, except the part where he can only serve 2 terms per lifetime.) , Mush
, Robots are always grossed out by human biological functions. (Examples: Bender from Futurama) They are likely to say something like “You humans- always ejecting and assimilating fluids! You make me sick!”– My question is why do robots even need the emotion of revulsion? , Mush
, The superpowered heroes can move so quickly that they become invisible. However, they are not fast enough to dodge a fireball moving way slower than themselves (I am particularly thinking of DBZ fights that take episodes and episodes to be finished). Normally, such fights should end in a blink of an eye, but this way DBZ would have lasted for one or two episodes ! , SG
, Cliché- Aliens seem to have evolved beyond normal (and healthy) biological tendencies such as aggression, lust for power or sex, and phobias to what should be their natural predators. These traits aren’t arbitrary personality flukes that all sentient spices should work to illuminate from their species as a whole; they have deep-routed biological functions. So for example, human aggression towards other humans promotes genetic fitness (ex: having those who were able-bodied with good immune systems gain access to more food and resources while those with crippling genetic debilities [ex: hemophilia, blindness] die off before reproducing.) I very much doubt that a race of aliens could survive for more than 100 generations once they completely eliminate their “animalistic hardwiring.” (sometimes I wonder if the perfect utopias they display in sci-fi’s are actually a brief window of what a society would look like as it’s about to die.), Mush
, Most aliens look like a cross between humans and lizards, with scaly and sometimes slimy-looking hairless skin. They also tend to have ridges or spikes on the face, scalp, forearms, spine, and/or legs. Animals on distant planets also tend to have a reptilian appearance to them., JL
, When someone time travels to the future, the future inhabitants will ultimately learn the error of their futuristic ways, eventually learning to embrace 1980s slang, mannerisms, and social norms., AA
, The captain of any ship will readily volunteer for missions where in reality a namesless redshirt would be sent in, SN
, Evil, oppressive empire has same structure and clothes as the nazis, manaraki

Overused story events and plot devices:

, The good guys always have plenty of ammo to shoot at the bad guys until the plot requires that they be captured
, Any old whizkid or astromech droid can override the security protocols for the city's central computer. The designers never seem to upgrade their firewalls to avoid this.
, The thousand year-old alien battleship of a long-gone empire is always more powerful than the most recent state-of-the-art starship.
, A Shape shifting alien race is found, people constantly try to profit from it things go bad alein rampage occurs
, When the Evil Overlord dies, none of his surviving henchmen move into the power vacuum; instead, his empire collapses. (this too needs to be a red cross mark, IMHO)
, A plucky hero or side-kick sends supposedly veteran fighter scurrying away while yelling at the top of his lungs and firing wildly. They come to some barrier, realize what's happened, and then chase or kill him.
, The story always involves some connection to earth and/or humans, never aliens and a different planet.
, The attackers(good or bad)waste ammo, lifeform power, and overall ships usually trying to defeat the so called "minor ship" that their target is on rather than destroying the main ship that is the heatrbeat of the fleet.
, The attackers(good or bad)waste ammo, lifeform power, and overall ships usually trying to defeat the so called "minor ship" that their target is on rather than destroying the main ship that is the heartbeat of the fleet.
, Someone or something gets sucked into the vacuum of space.
, This builds on common household objects being an achille's heel to aliens, THE CHEMICAL IS ALWAYS CONSUMABLE ALCOHOL!
, Artillery, Tanks, APC's, Bombers, Mortars, and just about anything else we had in WWII besides infantry do not exist in the future. Also, when a laser hits metal, it explodes.
, Never fear - terrifying, renowned evil warriors and troops are easily defeated, even by confused, inexperienced, untrained youngsters. It helps that these super-villains and super henchmen can't aim to shoot at their own feet.
, All money is in credits or valuable objects. There is no paper money or coin., HD
, Crittical shipbaord systems that don't have emergency back-up systems, thus leaving the crew completely screwed if they fail., jc
, Systems failing at the most convenient moments with no back-ups in place, or systems being disabled in battle just when the captain orders them to be used. The timing in which a system is disabled corresponds exactly to to when the captain orders it to be used., TS
, Hot babes are immortal. Their entire civilization can be vaporized under their feet and the D-cup women with breathy voices will survive. But nobody seems to think that hot babes are already the ultimate super solders, and evil conquerors wastefully dedicate big bucks trying to construct robotic death cannons., Mush
, Horror movies (also sci-fi): The sole voice of reason in any crisis is the a**-hole character who dies early on. (Example: in the movie Quarantine, the A**hole charter ,who duly notes that people are turning into raving zombies, basically says “I’m going to go up to my room and barricade the F*** out of it.” He proptly gets eaten by a dog. Everyone else gathers together in the lobby [with the “infected” in the same room] and get needlessly picked off by zombies. , Mush
, If you have a parasitical race of aliens that form raiding parties and steal food from another race of aliens, the parasitical race can not be as big, or bigger, than aliens they pray on, Mush
, Aliens learn to speak English from watching Human Television. Aside from watching babies’ shows (where the name of an object is spoken at the same time the object is shown), most human television shows consist of two people facing each other and speaking about things and events that are happening off screen. Would you learn that the Spanish word for “water fall” is “cascada,” based on a scene in a TV show where 2 people are discussing their recent vacation… while they are standing in their kitchen? , Mush
, If aliens learn to speak English by watching TV, they never mimic the frequent sound effects that play during children’s shows and car commercials. (“These prices are incredible!” *Boing-g-g-g!*), Mush
, Two races or species being at war, even though they have the same values and natural/ industrial resources. , Mush
, A scene where an alien (or a human among aliens) finds the most embarrassing places to hide (like hiding behind the toilet just as some big un-noticing alien decides to take a… potty break. Or hiding in the bedroom closet just as a couple are about to… do non-G rated things to each other.) I know these scenes are intended to be funny, but most of the time, I just feel embarrassed for the poor alien. , Mush
, An advanced, space faring human who crash lands on a primitive planet, knows enough about how to build water tight boats out of wood beams and mud that he can sail hundreds of miles of ocean to reach some far off island (without printed out online instructions, or a native helper who has built boats before), Mush
, If there are no witnesses, crimes go unsolved- even though there is an abundance of DNA evidence and fingerprints. (Technologically inferior races are excluded), Mush
, Robots get high (inebriated, intoxicated) by breathing in the fumes of an exploded battery., Mush
, Marijuana plants get high (inebriated, intoxicated) by breathing in the fumes of a human on fire. , Mush
, If an alien breeds with a human, other members of that aliens’ race don’t call the police or file a complaint about that alien’s abuse towards humans., Msuh
, Technology that teaches the language of an advanced race to a member of a primitive race by “beaming the knowledge” into the primitive person’s eyes. (battle field earth, battle for terra) , Mush
, Aliens have powers (magical powers- like the ability to heal the wounded, detect wicked intentions, survive while frozen in a block of ice, etc.) If it happens to be the humans who are the visiting race, the humans will have no such powers over the aliens., Mush
, People who are brainwashed can be brought to their senses by showing them photos of their families/friends. (Stockholm syndrome is a type of brainwashing [wherein the victim believes whole-heartedly that the oppressor is a good person/ trying to protect them], and it takes weeks, if not years to get a victim back on track- and that’s with therapy provided by professionals.), Mush
, Defeating a monster/ lower life form causes that monster to serve you. (Examples: Pokemon, Final fantasy monsters that can be summoned in battle, those two soldier guys from Planet 51) , Mush
, Aliens who crash land on Earth would rather guarantee themselves an execution once the humans discover that they are in fact aliens, rather than steal human clothing off a clothes line. (Either death is not that big of a deal, or stealing is too wicked of an act to justify your continued survival) , Mush
, Civilian vehicles of the future have built in armories. (War torn refugees fleeing through the “no-man’s-zone” of space are excused), Mush
, Robots that are programmed to fall in love. , Mush
, A mega zoom out shows that the universe is: (1) entirely contained in a glass jar on a shelf, (2) a piece of black spotted mold in a kid’s science fair project, (3) actually a cell of an indescribably huge multi-cellular organism, (4) is the pupil of one of god’s eyes, with heaven and hell being the two halves of a red and blue colored iris. , Mush
, Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when the hero gives some miraculous medicine to the chieftain’s sick/dieing daughter. , Mush
, Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when the hero’s ship crash-lands on top of the tribe’s worst enemy (often a mountain lion or another warring tribe), Mush
, (3) Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when The hero is found lost, wandering around a sacred (and hidden) place while in possession of supernatural tools, weaponry, or medicine., Mush
, (4) Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when the hero looks almost identical to the heroine’s dead boyfriend/brother/father whom she misses every day., Mush
, (5) Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when the hero’s advanced technology allows the him to effortlessly pass through the "chamber of trials", Mush
, (6) Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when a member of the tribe is taken onboard the spaceship and sees his planet (or his town) from a window, Mush
, (7) Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when, after finding a radio/ walkie-talkie/ cell phone/ communicator of a dead member of the hero’s crew, the heroine hears the voice of the hero screaming for backup or telling his location and requesting medical assistance. , Mush
, (7) Trust/respect between the lone hero (technology advanced hero) and the primitive hunter-gatherer tribe is formed when the syllables/sounds that make up the hero’s name translate out to “holy-one” “death-bringer” “Sky-man” “forever” “love” “I-give-You-good-luv’en” in the native’s language. , Mush
, Pricking your finger on broken glass and then touching “the serum” is enough to turn you into a mindless daemon every full moon/ every night/ every time someone says the word “spaghetti”/ every time the plot demands that a monster appear. , Mush
, A human trapped on the surface of a planet can be left there for weeks. That human may loose weight or go insane, but he will not develop a vitamin deficiency, a sense of disgust towards nature, or an even greater sense of entitlement. Basically, this cliché makes mostly good things happen to the character when he is left alone in the wilderness, at the brink of starvation., Mush
, Deaf men who can read lips remember what people whisper. Just thought I’d bring that up. , Mush
, A tribe of primitive people (“Primitive” meaning that they think that technology is either magical, or the result of fairies or other nature-spirits) find a grounded spaceship and make house themselves inside of it. After years of living there, no one thinks of pushing any of the colorful buttons or searching through the unearthly objects scattered around the ship. As a result, the tribesmen are shocked –SHOCKED- to discover the “magical” properties of the ship (flying, indoor lighting, etc.) when a different ships’ crewman casually walks in and pushes one of the buttons. , Mush
, Aliens eat some kind of spice that is extremely common in their home planet’s cooking. (as spice that is as common on alien food as salt, pepper, or garlic is on earth food.) When a human character eats some food that has that spice on it, the human gets addicted, gets extremely horny for alien booty, gets turned into a member of that alien species, or gets liver cancer. , Mush
, Aliens thinking that dogs are the dominate race (over humans) based on the evidence that we (humans) clean up their poop. The aliens never seem to notice the part where we humans buy dogs from pet stores, keep them on leashes, and take them to the pound. This basically amounts to keeping dogs in cramped cages, preventing them from making basic free-choice decisions such as choosing where they want to walk, and murdering them when they attack or become too sick. (Now, this cliché is okay if the aliens meet a feral child living amongst a pack of wild dogs or any such situation where the dogs actually are the masters, but not otherwise.), Mush
, Evil men have crazy hair (frizzy, poofy, braided, bald…) , Mush
, Surprise! It was my twin brother/sister all along!, Mush
, (Videogames) Objects that are exceedingly common (or at least, extremely easy to reproduce) are key items that you have to get from some NPC after completing a quest. You never get the opportunity to find or reproduce the key item yourself. (Example: bring key item [garlic bread] to NPC [starving boy]. Acquire key item [garlic bread] from NPC [old lady].) It never crosses your character’s mind to make his own key item. He needs to go on a ridiculously circuitous quest to obtain an already existing one., Mush
, Alien technology that, when activated, forces an unwilling host to play music. , Mush
, For some reason, the misguided villain thinks it’s a good idea to summon satin in his living room. I mean, it’s not like the villain prepared any counter measures to make sure that the price of darkness doesn’t double cross him. , Mush
, The socially awkward, but wholly sympathetic, hero is about to approach a small grouping (usually two) of his friends /collogue /love interests just as they start talking about something that makes it sound like they hate/ have murderous intentions for the hero. Really, the friends /collogue /love interests were saying the opposite of what they actually believe just to illustrate a point. (Example: Shrek 1; Shrek (an ogre) overhears the princess saying the phrase “ugly and princess don’t mix” when she was really talking about herself.), Mush
, The bad guy drinks an unmarked vial of poison, thinking that it was (1) the elixir of life, (2)tasty tasty wine, (3) the cure to the disease that both he and the hero have, (4) the last glass of water in the underground base, (5) a glass of radio-wave emitting nano-bots submerged in drinking water that would act as an ID for the aliens to come and find him. Furthermore, the bad guy will ingest the vial of poison right in front of the hero, taunting the hero that “there is nothing you can do, I’ve already won.” immediately after saying his boast, he grips his chest in agony as the poison begins to attack his nervous system. , Mush
, If a male prisoner and a female prisoner both share the same sell, they will be in love by the time they both make their escape. Never does a young man in his twenties end up sharing a sell with a gross old woman. , Mush
, If a team of people must go back in time to rescue someone (from modern times) who got stuck in the past but has had time to adapt to life back then and BLEND IN, the team tries to casually kidnap the first person they see who has a similar face to the person they are looking for. The person the capture is of course a native of that time, and is severely traumatized by being taken to the present day. The rescuers never think to ask questions that only a person from the present day would be able to answer (Questions like: Who is Mickey Mouse’s friends? What did Michael Jackson do for a living? Where do you find black holes? What type of vehicle is a 747?) , Mush
, The guard or the lone warden who has fallen asleep while he should be watching the prisoner; Often his keys are on his belt, on the desk he is slumped over sleeping on, or on a loan coat rack nub that’s jutting out of the wall. , Mush
, A scientist uses an experimental drug, device, etc. on him/herself without without doing sufficant prior testing and/or risk assessment. Assuming any of his/her colleagues actually care enough to try to talk him/her out of doing something so career-endingly irresponsible and dangerous, their concerns are curtly dismissed as he/she up-ends the testtube/throws the switch/whatever. It never ends well. ("Remeber kiddies, if you experiment on yourself, you have an idiot for a test subject."), mi
, Messages in food (non-supernatural ones) are always true, current, and relevant. Even a rag sewn with the message “Prison brake - midnight tonight” that was planted in a prison guard’s sandwich will not a decoy. , Mush
, ***Hero: “But what can a transparently evil character like you do to help me make amends with my recently estranged love interest?” ***Villain: “I can give you a marginally safe love potion for you and her to drink. Here, swallow every last drop of this precisely proportioned liquid or else you’ll just go into a diabetic coma instead of dying- I mean… falling in love” ***Hero: “Well, you are my father’s trusted adviser and co-beneficiary in the event of his death…”, Mush
, Not once during the hero's week-long adventure in a strange new world does he ever have to take a dump., AA
, If a female character is pregnant, she will invariably go into labor at the least opportune time (two of the many examples available are Padme in "Star Wars" and Scully in "X-Files")., JL
, Any well-known and nearly revered playwright's most famous works are always better "In the original Klingon". Even when there's nothing in the original Klingon that translates into "To be". (Marc Okrand confessed to this, once), TRS
, All technology is compatible (i.e. Independence Day, Mac easily interoperates with Alien tech). Characters rarely need to struggle with translation or operation of any kind of technology (Star Trek IV was a rare example). As a corollary, new technology is always capable of interfacing with old technology. I can't imaging putting a fuel injector into a Model T, or trying to read an 8" floppy disk now., bpw

Silly Science:

, The starship computer can inform the crew of the impending destruction of the ship to the neareast second, but cannot use any countermeasures whatsoever- such things as cutting the fuel supply to the reactor, using sprinklers to put out the fire, or removing air from the area on fire are all apparently impossible.
, spaceships must bank in order to turn
, the engines of a space-bound ships are always needlessly located at the aft section of the craft
, the engines of a space-bound ships are always needlessly located at the aft section of the craft
, Even in the 50th century, after Faster Than Light Travel and A.I. have become common technology, it doesn't seem to be possible to get a radio to work on a spaceship : radio transmission is always filled with static, screeches and sound distorsions, especially if it's a SOS or a warning message.
, Classic weapons are completely abandoned in favor of energy-beam ones, even though energy weapons are susceptible to interferences and cannot penetrate certain shields and forcefields the conventional ones could.
, The now-very-typical presence of the doomsday superweapon. First it was planets, then stars. Instead of wasting so many resources and so much manpower on the construction and deployment of such large, impractical weapons (which the destruction of such is now typically an Achilles Heel to the creators), why not use the same resources and manpower to mass-manufacture traditional weapons (and fleets of ships)that have proven to be successful in the past? I mean, imagine how many TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers the Empire could have manufactured if the Imperials hadnt built the 2 (TWO!!!) Death Stars?! The Rebellion wouldnt have stood a CHANCE! But no... planet destroying superweapons that can be slain by a single pilot in a fighter!
, All human computers must make beeps when presenting information on a screen, the horror to use a system like that and try to look at wikipedia.
, Nobody ever, ever runs out of breath, no matter what.
, Humans can visit aliens and alien planets without some kind of quarantine procedure or without the risk of giving the alien influenza or some other infectious disease, vise versa.
, Asteroids that sound like a passing jumbo jet as they pass.
, Meteors, when falling on the ground, make craters not bigger than themselves and do not damage a vast area around them. In fact, a 100-feet meteor can make a crater more than one kilometer in diameter and could easily destroy a whole middle-sized town.
, Spaceships one fourth the size of the moon have no catastrophic effects whatsoever on earth's tides or climate when they are near earth.
, In the future, all ships have artificial gravity that is just "activated" by the push of a button, with no explanation of the science behind it.
, However far the into the future a story is set, and however advanced the civilizations are, all space vessels in the era lack simple circuit breakers. An energy beam attack or sudden energy surge therefore causes computers on the ship to explode, usually only on the bridge, killing or incapacitating at least one character.
, Even though the vacuum of space has no resistance mechanism such as air or water, a starship that loses power will grind to a halt.
, Aliens have the technology to build ships that can withstand black holes, dust storms, hard landings, and cause asteroids to bounce off like Ping Pong balls. However, our oxygen seems to render them helpless, hence the number of crashed UFOs.
, Spilling a liquid on a keyboard will make a computer crash and/or explode.
,  This is what I've learned from (TV)scifi about aliens and alien planets: Humans and aliens can breathe the athmospheres and eat eachothers food without problems. All planets are at (roughly) 1g and Earth median temperature, severe weather doesn't exist. All species can reproduce with eachother and no xenoracist cares. DNA is the only way to restore genetic information. Cute-looking aliens are never agressive.
, Now matter how wasteful a society is, advanced civilization never ever EVER run out of natural resources.
, Sounds in space
, Even as the ship is about to crash into a planet, nobody ever wears seatbelts
, Sensory equipment in the future combines all possible spectroscopic and medical diagnostics techniques in one handheld device. The science behind such equipment is also never explained.
, There is no question of perspective, ie an observer on a ship can view the entire black hole/galaxy/etc. The vessel is about a millimetre big whilst the object is a couple of thousand miles long in comparison. The fact that it would be impossible to see the arms of a spiral galaxy or gaping hole in space when you're practically in front of it is ignored.
, Most aliens are scary and ugly by human standards.
, Aliens are either equally strong or much stronger than humans. Much stronger is the norm.
, After having sex with innumerable females (human and otherwise) throughout the planet or galaxy, the hero has yet to pick up a venereal disease or sire a child.
, Video conferencing computer screens turn themselves off at the end of the conversation without anyone doing anything. Somehow the computer system knows what is the last thing to be said., GB
, Teleporters that operate by converting crew members from matter into energy is the same principle of vaporizing people with a ray gun. It is not teleportation, but more like replication and it violates the laws of quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. , J.S.
, Starships that travel way beyond faster than light causes crew members to de-evolve or evolve into new lifeforms. , J.S.
, Main characters never a disfiguring scar. If they get a scar, it somehow makes them look sexier, cooler, and more rugged (Squall from Final Fantasy 8, Harry Potter from Harry Potter, Yamcha from Dragon Ball Z.) Female characters never get scars on their faces, necks, shoulders, boobs, and hands. Also, Characters who have been known to cut their wrists, never seem to have scars from previous wrist-cutting-occasions., MM
, Expensive, power-consuming beaming technology is installed in every privet bedroom/living courters of a starship and is specifically designed to in beam hot meals. What a waste of energy! It must cost a lot of power to demoleculize a plate of spaghetti and reassemble 50 meters down the hall. Not to mention it’s a waste of money. Why is it so impossible to make a breakfast order via telephone, and wait 30 minuets for a member of staff to walk down to your room from the mess hall?, MM
, People still have strong Scottish, British, Australian, Jamaican, Southern (as in the southern states in the United States of America) accents hundreds of years from now, despite none of those counties (and regions) still existing. One thing I’d like to mention is that when Hollywood became the major developer of movies and began dominating the entertainment industry, audiences- as varied as their accents may have been- began to pick up the more frequently televised “Californian Accent.” As a result, 50 years after Hollywood first started producing films, nearly all of America spoke with the same accent- with only small communities that had limited access to television and radio maintaining their own “flavor of speech”. My point being, if towns, cities, countries, planets, and Star Fleets are communicating with one another (or at least picking up each other’s broadcasts) then they’d adopt each others’ accents until their was barely any variation. Unless Scotland has become a major dominating force in the federation, then you’d better explain your token Scottish character. I’m counting this as “Silly Science” because the tendency for people in contact with one another to “mirror” each other has been proven and documented in psychology., Mush
, If ever someone contracts a fatal disease, that person is dead in less than 5 days. Whereas fatal debases such as AIDS, Diabetes, and Cancer, take roughly 3 to 10 years to kill you off. , Mush
, Aliens, who are living in hiding on Earth, never become science fiction writers. If you’re a benevolent alien trapped on Earth, and you know that humans are destined for space travel and an eventual “first contact”, then why don’t you prepare us humans with a novel that describes the various alien cultures and how to properly approach them? It’s easy enough to slap an adventuring hero on top of a “Visitor’s guide to Klingon society” and have yourself a decent Sci-fi., Mush
, Antibiotics of the future don’t give people upset stomachs., Mush
, If a “Universal Translator” fails, it turns off. It never spouts gibberish when it malfunctions. Imagine asking someone how their day went and them saying: “Ceratosaur. Breakfast is to the left of speckled-ness, and does if and only if magnet. The color white blends.”, Mush
, Aliens exploding and leaving no trace of a body when they are shot with a hand gun. (online flash games), Mush
, A mechanical planet (literally- a planet made up of plates of metal, gears, and pistons) populated by sentient robots, where there is no sign of an original biological race that built it all. It would be okay if “Funded by the men and women of foundation” logos were stamped every where, but robots can not be an initial life form on the planet nor can planets have natural forming gears or circuit boards. *cough* Transformers, Optimums Prime *cough* , Mush
, 2 dimensional star charts., Mush
, People who have air-tight hover-cars that can travel at thousands of miles per hour need rocket ships to safely travel from a planet to space. (Why not fly your car out to space?) , Mush
, While flying thousands of miles per hour in deep space, you can lean your head out an open window and feel the wind. (and scream: “Yeah-hoo! This is great!”) , Mush
, The kind of animals that can survive in the vacuum of space (in fact, it’s their habitat) are sharks, squids, stingrays, gigantic monkeys, genies, living dust clouds, Chinese dragons ,what ever species Yoda from Starwars happens to be, and what ever species Freeza from DragonBall Z happens to be. (I’m not talking about creatures that need spaceships to survive going though space.) , Mush
, Continuation of previous cliché Little is known about creatures that make deep space their habitat: like how they propel themselves, how they can smell blood from over 10 miles away, how they are able to make audible grunts and growls while still in a perfect vacuum, or how they are able to stay afloat even on the inside of a spaceship with artificial gravity. , Mush
, Robots and Talking computers whose 'voices' are seemingly recorded on analogue tape. At the first sign of malfunction the tape then plays at the wrong speed. Computer: Prepare to meet your doom! Hero: If all your words are pre-recorded, how can you give an appropriate answer to an unexpected future event? Computer: Maaaalfuuuunctionnnnn,,,,,,,,Eeeeeeemerrrrrrrrrgeeeencyyyyy......., GH
, The two-way communicator connects with the person in real-time, before the name has been said. E.G. Commander Riker taps his communication badge- "Riker to Picard," only Picard's badge sounds off and there is no connection delay for the communicator to resolve that Riker wants to speak to Picard and has to repeat the message. Same principle for "universal translators"- the communication is in real time without a delay for translating the words, let alone grammar and conjugation. Furthermore, the alien still mouths in English., RAC
, this is a rarely used cliche but used by jesus and its punching babies, JF
, lasers are often used instead of projectiles, it takes a lot of energy to make a laser that can blast through alien armor why not just make a piece of metal go really really fast and kill it. we have bullets why not just make them better (excludes killzone) also sometimes the aliens or humans use plasma weapons (Halo)., MJH
, lasers are often used instead of projectiles, it takes a lot of energy to make a laser that can blast through alien armor why not just make a piece of metal go really really fast and kill it. we have bullets why not just make them better (excludes killzone) also sometimes the aliens or humans use plasma weapons (Halo)., MJH
, lasers are often used instead of projectiles, it takes a lot of energy to make a laser that can blast through alien armor why not just make a piece of metal go really really fast and kill it. we have bullets why not just make them better (killzone does really well with this) also sometimes the aliens or humans use plasma weapons(Halo), firey blobs of death race towards you . why do lasers have a kick back, unless that light is really dense i can't see lasers having a kick back. for that matter why do projectile weapons have kickback (unless it uses magnets instead of an explosive)., MJH
, Universal Translators are amazing. Not only do they translate any language into English, but they also cause the alien's mouth to move in English too., SD
, What Was Spock Riding, Again? OR Boba Fett's Corollary. The more ridiculous a ship looks, the more maneuverable and effective it is in battle., SD
, They're Only Models! No matter how many moons that M-Class planet has, its gravity and tidal patterns will be exactly the same as Earth's. And if on the off-chance it isn't, one well-placed missile or torpedo to a random moon is all it takes to fix everything., SD
, No matter how big the planet is,the gravity is always the same as Earth's gravity., SBL

Add a new Cliché to the list

Note: The original Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés was originally developed elsewhere. A one point I added the ability for users to add new clichés. This User supplied list has reached the point where the original list is superfluous and I have removed it. The current user supplied list is more interest.

95 Responses to “List of Science Fiction Clichés”

  1. Keith says:

    Michael,

    I agree that most of these are just examples of things that someone decided that they did not like.

    The entries are made by users, so I don’t try to moderate – it makes people happy. It also makes for an amusing read.

    On the other hand, the original intent has long since been lost.

    I will be home over the Christmas Holidays recovering from surgery. If I find time, I would like to create a new page called: “What I Hate About Science Fiction”, and move most of these to that page, and try to restore this one to just cliches. It is work, and I am not sure that I will feel like sitting in an uncomfortable chair and coding.

    Mush doesn’t seem to drop by much anymore. She was enthusiastic and added value to the list, pointing out the bad in SF. I would not edit her, though. Most people are what I call “son-of-a-gun” surfers. They click on a site, mutter son-of-a-gun under their breath, and then click on another site. I wouldn’t trade Mush for 1000 of them.

    Keith

  2. Michael says:

    Keith, I was going to comment that most of these are not cliches at all, but rather people just pointing out common “fallacies” in sci-fi (or complaining first that everything is human-centric, then going on to complain that the non-human-centric things are not realistic)…but I see you already realize that, after reading your comment on 11/12/2012. “Mush” is a particularly frequent offender, I found myself thinking the list would be must closer to original intent if pretty much all of her entries were deleted.

  3. Myra says:

    As a response to all of the “cliches” that mention aliens being weak to common Earth things (i.e. water, alchol, fire) it is highly likely that aliens would probably die if they attempted to step foot on our planet without protection, as oxygen reacts with all other (Earth) elements except for flourine.

    Oxygen seems like a good thing to us, simply because it’s essansial for human existance, but in reality it would be fatal to any life-form that hasn’t evolved to be resistant to it like we are. At first, life couldn’t exist on earth thanks to all of the oxygen reacting with everything, so things evolved to use oxygen’s reaction power to their benefit. The aliens wouldn’t even have to breath it in, all it would take is for their ship or whatever to enter the atmosphere…

  4. Keith says:

    Saul,

    I never read these things and have not bothered to edit them.

    I agree that JL’s comment is offensive. He seems to be quite a fool. I don’t know why such people want to put their opinions here of all places. There are many places where he would find people who agree or who violently disagree. His comments are such obvious trolling that most people here would read them and yawn. A good rule is to not feed the trolls. Direct debate is what they want.

    It has been maybe 5 years since I last looked at the code that produces the list, so I will spend a few minutes tomorrow on my lunch break and figure out how to get rid of the entry.

    I don’t feel right about censoring the list. Where would I stop? Most of the entries are either stupid or a waste of time. In general, it is entertaining reading because of all the silly things people say. If I wanted to make this a real list of cliches it would look quite different and be maybe 5% in length.

    Maybe if I edit the list, I can run it through a spell checker.

    Keith

  5. Saul says:

    The comment about multi-cultural societies is completely absurd and strikes me as thinly masked xenophobic rhetoric passed off as “logic”. The commenter’s first failure of logic is their conflation of “culture” and “race,” (they are not synonyms)but to continue:
    1. Skin color does not dictate culture. The Japanese and the Chinese have vastly different cultures. Western European, Eastern European, and British cultures are vastly different (significantly more different the further back in time one looks).
    2. The cultures of the “white” people that colonized America were (and are) vastly different. This means that America has never had a “culturally homogenous society.”
    3. America’s decline is not “sure,” considering it still has both the largest military and the strongest economy in the world. Though I’m not entirely certain what the commenter means by “decline,” I’m assuming their discomfort probably steams from a fear of change.
    4. The commenter’s “Historic Proof” consists of the Roman Empire. One example is hardly historic proof. In addition, comparing a two thousand year old culture to a contemporary society is laughable.
    5. The commenter’s statement about diverse societies slowly becoming non-diverse due to mixing is true (at least in many contemporary cultures), but the logic is not supported and I’m certain there are several counter examples. I also feel as though the commenter views the diverse-to-non-diverse trend as a bad thing. I do not.
    6. His comment about “race competition” is completely unsupported, though I should say that I’m not even entirely certain what they mean by “race competition.” Maybe I missed that class. Perhaps they are referring to ethnic cleansing. It doesn’t matter really because they give no examples, plus it’s already been mentioned that they cherry pick their examples anyway.
    7. Culture is not, and never has been, static. It constantly changes due to a multitude of factors, and to point at just one factor as the primary agent of change is another logical failure.
    Please take JL’s comment down. His racist views are offensive and his claim that they are logical moreso. It’s presence is an insult to an otherwise laudable page.

  6. WhoCares says:

    Most of these “cliches” seem to just be things that someone’s found mildly irritating and wants to bitch about in a public forum (I mean space age anti-biotics not causing upset stomach, how is that a cliche?) There are hardly any actual examples taken and quoted directly from science fiction. Most of the examples are poorly described rehashes of plot devices that are barely remembered and hardly understood. The quality of a writer is what makes a story great. Someone who really knows what they’re doing can make a good story from any number of tired plot devices.

  7. L.C. Pedestrium says:

    The ‘muti-culturalism causes a civilization to decline’ argument should get that ‘Klan Symbol’ put next to it because it is absolute garbage. Civilizations grow because they bring in new blood and ideas. Rome grew because of its interactions with dozens of cultures. The Romans invented very little, but were excellent at taking ideas and techniques found abroad or brought in by immigrants. Rome lasted just short of 700 years when combining the Roman Republic and Pax Romana eras. Rome just like all other empires went into the dust bin because it got old and its primary economic model of conquest and slavery were not enough to hold the empire together. Not to mention all the different wars started internally by Roman leaders and their power grabs served to weaken it. Rome was already dead by the time the Visigoths finally attacked. As for the US being stronger when it was ‘all white’ is also nonsense. The Empire of Japan was a homogenous nation. So was Nazi Germany after all their purges during the years leading up to WWII. Both nations got their butts handed to them on a silver platter by (wait for it)a diverse coalition of Nations including the multi-cultural United States. The US has risen as a ‘Hyperpower’ since the collapse of the Soviet Union. American ‘dominance’ in the world is being challenged just like we challenged and surpassed the once mighty British Empire (oh yeah, they were predominantly white but are an empire no more.) Cultures die because they run their course and ‘younger’ more energetic ones fill in the void. The Ancient Egyptian Culture lasted just short of 3,000 years and was diverse as it gets having ruling dynasties with blood lines ranging from North African, Nubian, Greek and ending with the Roman occupation/alliance and the death of Queen Cleopatra. Egypt rose, fell and rose many times during its long existence. Each time it rose was due to the influx of new blood and cultural absorption of new groups. JL’s argument is not based in anything other than personal opinion. History should not be ‘open to interpretation’ lest you get ridiculous speculation and dead wrong assumptions.

  8. Al Kalar says:

    Spaceship maneuvers: I’m reminded of B5 where Delenn’s White Star turned end over end to reverse course and attack the bad guys. Cool effect and demonstrated the lack of air resistance.

    It still begged the question of putting the main drive unit in the stern of the vessel and the main “guns” in the bow.

    Slug weapons: John Bowers writes military SF where many combatants still use slug weapons (although some energy weapons are in evidence). Always seemed a bit “un science fiction” to me because I’ve been brainwashed along with everyone else to expect energy weapons to have completely replaced the “old fashioned” guns. But he makes it work (and his stories are addictive).

  9. JCT says:

    “Alien-human hybrids”
    D&D is quite guilty of this, too. Of all the PC races (those that don’t have level-adjustments or hit dice), humans are capable of cross-breeding with many more races than the others (though half-orcs are a close second, but this proves the point since half-orcs are assumed to be half-human). Though, interestingly, the Underdark book introduced the half-illithid template, which could only be applied to non-human humanoids.

    Source: Book of Erotic Fantasy

  10. ThePelton says:

    You put in (with a green check mark) that aliens like to boast. Reminds me of a quote from the “Incredibles” movie. “He had me, with absolutely no way I could get free, but then he starts monologging!”

  11. ThePelton says:

    Kuroi, don’t burn your copy of the “Iliad”, just remember that Homer used that idea of the reaction of the hero to his best friend’s death over three thousand years ago. It makes it one of the most ANCIENT of cliches.

  12. Daniel B says:

    1. Lando was not a traitor.

    2. In reply to Aardvark “if for the sake of argument Star Trek was hard SF, how is it that the Federation and the Romulans seem to be in a technological race as exact contemporaries rather than one being a million years ahead of the other? ” … Still not a problem. With so many potentially thousands of sentient species out there, a few dozen being at about the same level of technology isn’t too unreasonable.

  13. ThePelton says:

    I found myself asking, after watching “Independence Day” how an alien race could have the technology to travel across the universe and yet did not have an Anti-Virus program for their computer?

  14. amor says:

    …there is nothing new under the sun, that is the paradox of story telling…

    If a writer or other communicator tries to explain something, tell a story, in terms the audience can not understand then there will be no effect. The object of communication, thus writing, is to have an effect, intended desirable or otherwise.

  15. Tyler Rudd Hall says:

    This list is crazy intimidating.

  16. james w says:

    How about providing a list of great sci-fi stories which do Not include any of these cliches? This would be a great reading list. Personally I’d especially like earlier 19th and 20th century stories.
    Thanks,
    jw

  17. Jeff says:

    Give Star Trek TOS a little credit. A lot of ETs may have been hokey, but not all were not anthropomorphic. E.g., the Horta in “Devil in the Dark,” the gas monster in “Obsession,” the Medusa in the second episode with Diana Muldaur . . .

  18. Jeff says:

    Ships that travel from Earth to the Moon or some mother ship thing, but none of them needs to travel in an elliptical path to achieve escape velocity. If a ship could accelerate to escape velocity in a straight line in 20 minutes or so, the crew would be crushed, and the ship would almost certainly be torn apart at the seams, don’t you think? (Unless you bring in that fake gravity I mentioned.)

  19. Jeff says:

    So many space stories disregard gravity in so many ways. Like, it’s just there. Or maybe we get a passing reference to some device that creates artificial gravity.

  20. sean says:

    “The black man is ALWAYS the first person killed (Jurassic park)”

    For the record, in the film, Sam Jackson’s character is the last person killed. (In the book, Malcolm dies later than him, though he dies as a result of injuries which occurred earlier. And then the sequel says he didn’t die anyway.)

  21. sean says:

    “Alien-human hybrids”
    In this entry, you’re wrong — Worf’s son *is* 3/4 Klingon and 1/4 human. His mother was half human and half Klingon.

  22. beerwin says:

    There is something wrong with the laser thingy.

    Especially in Star Trek and Stargate, aliens and humans aren’t using lasers as weapons.

    All those shiny beams are particle beams, not lasers. Laser is light. Those weapons are accelerating particles to high velocities. Of course, there is little to no friction in space, so those accelerated beams will not always be visible to the naked eye, giving them shiny colors is just to make them visible for our sake, and to see, who is shooting.

    But for the list, here is a good one: if you can throw your knife through a personal shield, you could throw a frag grenade as well and get rid of lot of further trouble.

  23. The janitor says:

    For Comment #15 – the movie Gene is talking about is “Dark City”. I’m sure he’s received lots of emails about it, but can’t edit the post to remove his email address…

  24. Callum says:

    On the one(s) near the bottom about lasers taking up enormous amounts of energy, they really don’t. It’s just they focus their energy – the light of the everyday filament lightbulb doesn’t burn you because about 5% of the energy that reaches the bulb is turned to light and (the rest is heat) that light is radiated omnidirectionally, so even if you put something near it, there is very little power per unit area.

  25. David S Leyman says:

    The comments, as follows:
    1. ‘A space ship a quarter the size of the moon does not affect the tides, etc’. Please note that the gravitational effect of the moon, as with anything else (ping-pong balls included) are in relation to the mass of the object and not the volume. One imagines that a very large space ship would be of a relatively low mass due to the idea of it being, largely, hollow inside.

    2. ‘Space ships banking to turn’. During any manoeuvre, whether in space or not, there is an angular velocity tangential to the angle of the turn. Any vehicle that operates in three dimensions does not turn as if it is on rails but, rather, ‘slips’ as it turns. During this manoeuvre there will be a ‘g’ force acting in the direction of the turn (for this reason F1 racing drivers have their heads – helmets, really, strapped to the cars). For comfort of the participating personnel within the space ship it may be that banking is a good way to prevent personal injury to the crew. We should also like to submit the argument that the construction of said ship may be sressed along certain lines. The larger the ship the greater the stress along the line of the ship. ‘Flat-turning’ a large craft may cause overstress on the stringers and render the ship into several parts. This could be avoided by banking so that the ship is sligned properly with the stressed keel or strengthened members. For this reason aircraft are banked during aerial manoeuvres (there are other reasons, but that will do for now!).

    Thank you.

    Thought you may like a bit of real science in there.

    David S Leyman

    Quality Science Fiction. Read all about it here:
    http://bit.ly/j7THaQ
    or here:
    http://bit.ly/mKDCde

  26. Tom says:

    Ok,’I admit I hate a bad cliche as much as the next guy. But as anyone who has ever studied or written fiction can tell you, there are only so many ways to portray conflict. And if aliens were truly as alien as they would have to be we wouldn’t even be able to communicate with them. So we’d either have to kill them out of fear or just they and ignore them as we stay out of their way.

    Let’s face it, life is a cliche except to the person living it. That’s what makes comedy funny and drama compelling. We see ourselves in the stories and either laugh or tense up.

    Not that a hunky hero choosing the brilliant, kind and understanding Plain Jane over
    The hot whore wouldn’t make for a more interesting drama. But would it put people in the seats?

    Maybe. And that’s the job of the writer. Help us see the cliche in a new way with fresh eyes and young heart.

  27. Jerry says:

    Most annoying to me–aliens who have eyes that flash with their speech. Are they all walking VU meters? Dr. Who (old series) had tons of them, Farscape, etc. Wow, just think, when lost in a cave, just get chatty to light the way…. At least some costume was attempted.

  28. Todd (TRS) says:

    A cliche points out something every writer – sci-fi or other – has to work with, around or through: The plots available have been picked-through more and more as time passes, and there aren’t many – if any – original ideas left.

  29. Aardvark says:

    Correction:
    Apologies, as always I see an error the moment I hit Enter.
    That should be:
    ‘In the case of Star Wars we are a step further away from hard SF. Star WARSis frankly fantasy, but using technology rather than dragons.’

  30. Aardvark says:

    On time travel, there is a fascinating book by J. Richard Gott, Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe, in which the author (a Princeton astrophysicist, doesn’t that sound like a SF cliche itself?) discusses the actual situation in modern physics. He uses some films etc. to illustrate. One funny point is that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure turns out to be a lot more scientific in its view of time lines than more sophisticated films.

    Some of the comments seem to confuse cliche with other faults like stupid plots. If you’ve only seen something once, even if it was really stupid, it’s hard to see how it can be a cliche.

    However my main point about these cliches is that it depends on what sort of SF you’re talking about. For hard SF all these points about what is technically implausible are serious criticisms; e.g. if for the sake of argument Star Trek was hard SF, how is it that the Federation and the Romulans seem to be in a technological race as exact contemporaries rather than one being a million years ahead of the other? But there are other forms of SF. In Star Trek the stories are (mainly) disguised stories about humanity, a very old type of SF. It also makes no sense to complain that Star Trek (I use this because of its familiarity) has an unreasonably nice Federation society: the whole point of the original series was that we could overcome our problems and live positively, and many people found it inspiring. You don’t have to take things so literally.

    In the case of Star Wars we are a step further away from hard SF. Star Trek is frankly fantasy, but using technology rather than dragons. The first Star Wars deliberately (and openly, remember the opening text?) evoked the old Flash Gordon serials. The spaceships fight like aeroplanes because it looks cool, not because it makes sense, and the people manually aims guns because it looks cool. The film was, in fact, fun.

  31. gene says:

    there was an old movie just like the adjustment bureau and one guy wakes up while there moving people the bad guys all where long coats with wide brim hats and leivate to move around as they change peoples lives. I think the main character is a dective of sort and realizes that they have changed his life before. the rest of the movie is him trying to get out of town to an ellusive north beach. at the end of the movie the camera pans out and you realive they are living on some sort of astroid. and there are hundreds of these astroids floating together in space
    please please some one tell the name of this movie
    thanks send answer to my E-mail Gene.Singletary@yahoo.com

  32. Keith says:

    The editor (me) did not write any of these things. They are all entered by people like you.

    Keith

  33. Jim says:

    Most of these are not cliches, but simply things the editor does not like.

  34. BleachedWaffles says:

    Sam Jackson was not the first to die in Jurassic park. Also I like how you single out Star Trek and leave Star Wars off. While I personally don’t think that SW is fantasy your arguments include many many many of the thematic elements that deserve to be singled out for their trite shit.

  35. Keith says:

    I don’t touch the list. The list items are submitted by the users.

    One day I’ll have to go through and clean it up. I haven’t even looked at it in a while. It probably needs checking for spam.

  36. Will says:

    This list is badly in need of editing. I also have to wonder how some people who have contributed to the list would respond to other contributions to the list, whether in matters trivial (short skirts inherently sexist) or significant (multi-cultural societies inherently unstable & inferior to mono-cultural ones)

  37. Emperor says:

    , Women who are small-breasted, uncurvy or otherwise “not feminine” are never important.

    So male main characters are never selected for looks?

  38. Keith says:

    You totally missed the point. When Homer wrote it, it was not a cliche. After 100,000 bad novels, movies and TV shows, it is now a cliche.

  39. Kuroi says:

    “The main characters friend/best friend dies while he survives and he drops to his knees and yells slowly “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” then either sits there or goes into an alien-killing rampage.”

    So, must I burn my copy of “Iliad”?

  40. Rory says:

    Cracking list! Thanks for posting.

  41. saganhill says:

    Mush says. “That people who get blown into the vacuum of space should be exploded into spagetti. Not true. See this link from NASA.

    http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970603.html

    Mush has a great many un-truths in this list and someone should update and fix his/her mistakes.

  42. Michelle (Mush) says:

    I like to think of this webpage as a place to list things that should never appear in a work of fiction (unless the story or game is mocking its own genre or is intended to be ironic.)

    I actually prefer to have Deus ex machinas, Predictable characters, Nonsensical scenarios, Plot twists that the reader could easily see coming several chapters before it appeared in the story, as well as various types of clichés posted here.

  43. Keith says:

    This what is called an ad hominem attack. By attacking the person’s ability to spell you avoid having to make a real argument about the validity of the person’s argument. It is one of the classic logical fallacies and as such should be ignored.

    Please disagree with the comment, not the person.

    In spite of the typos and spelling, the point that person made was valid.

  44. Jeff says:

    Some people here seem borderline illiterate.

    So take what they find as “cliche” with a grain of salt.

    If someone types that “dues ex machinas” is cliche instead of Deus ex machina.

    That person doesn’t even qualify to write a sci-fi story. Much less criticize overused plot points.

  45. ELee says:

    Why in the furure re weapon limited to a snazy version of now. Lasers leave burns milder than those you recieve on a cook stove. Ship killing lasers are never used for planatary bombardment. The loss of live is very clean. Never hundreds of millions die in an afternoon.

  46. Keith says:

    What????? the code isn’t working???? I have to check this out.

  47. Michelle (mush) says:

    —–To 3 of 5

    Go ahead and type up the cliche. When you get to the part where it asks for a password, just skip it without typing anything.

    Don’t worry, it’ll get though. :)

  48. Yul Tolbert says:

    Also, geocentrism is not an issue when a time machine travels through space when going back in time. That should work.

  49. Yul Tolbert says:

    I think another important science fiction cliche is the supernova cliche. You know, where space explorers land on a planet that’s near a star that’s about to go supernova. The explorers always leave the planet minutes before the supernova blast goes off. I’ve seen this on the original Star Trek, Stargate SG-1 and the new Battlestar Galactica. There are probably a lot more examples of this.

  50. Rognvaldr says:

    Miguelito said
    My main problem with time travel is the geocentrism of it. If i go back in time by ten seconds even, hasn’t the planet spun far away?…

    I remember reading “The House on the Borderland” by William Hope Hodgson (originally 1908?) and thinking it was the only story I knew in which the time traveller watched the solar system rotating away from him as he ‘travelled’.

  51. 3of5 says:

    -Often (as in fantasy) humans are portayed as the most balanced race out there, while every other race is characterized by lack or overaboundance of a human characteristic: some are more aggressive, some are more peaceful, some are dumber (seldom intelligenter), greedyer, spiritual… granted we compare everything to humans for convenience but when there are more than 5 races out there and humans take the axact middle ground is becomes somehow improbable.-

  52. 3of5 says:

    damn, i think i failed the turing test… i wanted to add somthing, but i couldn’t decypher the passcode out of the picture. well, maybe someone else will post it for me:

  53. 3of5 says:

    even if the timeline was locked on the gravitational center of the earth, the earth still rotates, even the magnetic field fluctuates and therefore is not usable as reference.

    I have to side with Miguel on this one: “the vulcan science council has deemed time travel impossible”

    But aside that it is an interesting plot devive, since it opens all the possibilities of history. so it’s entertaining.

    Recommandable time travel for hard sci-fi enthusiasts like me is Gregory Benfords Timescape. Even though he works with used themes like time traveling communication signal and doom through ecological manipulation he executed it masterly and it is fresh AND relatively plausible. When humanity picks up the tachyon signal in the seventies it even comes from outher space, from the exact point the earth would be 30 jears later (but i don’t know in reference to which absolute spatial system)

  54. Keith says:

    I like to think that time frames are subject to physical mechanics laws. The time line follows the path of the planet. Since there is no absolute reference and all positions, velocities and times are relative, movement in time would curve to follow einsteinium mechanics. Go back in time a million years and you would still be on Earth any scale or positional problems are taken care of by the path through space-time as controlled by gravity and the other forces.

  55. Miguelito says:

    Aliens might want to come for a treasure-trove of DNA. Even a part of a fruitfly or pig sequence might make the difference in next year’s supersoldier.

    My main problem with time travel is the geocentrism of it. If i go back in time by ten seconds even, hasn’t the planet spun far away? What is the physical frame of reference to trave back in time but not in space? And if the whole universe is expanding relative to itself as well, might there not be slight or great problems with scale? if i go back in time one million years, might not everything be at least a bit smaller, as well as being a zillion miles away?

  56. Keith says:

    This qualifies as a cliche, but I need to make another list of just plain dumb SF plots. This would qualify. I remember thinking that the movie Ice Pirates was the dumbest idea ever since hydrogen and oxygen are two of the most plentiful elements in the universe.

    Basically there are three reasons why aliens would want to visit us. Hate, Love or Money. Either that want to kill us, they want to embrace us and learn about us, or they want to exploit us. I can’t think of another reason why aliens would come here unless they were building an intergalactic super highway and we were in the way.

  57. techjedi says:

    the one that drives me nuts is the “V” syndrome, as i call it internally. a race runs out of resources and needs to come here. Now, here’s the problem with that. They’ve obviously got cheap power for interstellar travel; they had enough resources to build the ships; they didn’t come in generations ships or they’d have died out from the lack of resources long before they got there-

    so why can’t they synthesize what they lack?

    are they so old a race they’ve mined out their entire solar system, with potentially billions of asteroids? they can manipulate power sources to get them across hundreds of light years, but not de-salinize or even just plain CREATE water? it doesn’t hold.

    Food? not bloody likely. agriculture in any form is easier than space travel. drives me nuts.

    metals, minerals? they can bend spacetime to get here before they all starve, there must be some planets between us and them they could send robot miners down to. it’s crap.

  58. Michelle (mush) says:

    .—===This message is directed to Zlorfik===—.

    Actually, I haven’t seen fire used to kill aliens in any movie or book as far as I can remember. Which book/fan fiction/movie/cartoon/flash game used fire as a means of killing all the aliens?

    (Well, ‘Battle field Earth’ used a nuclear explosion to wipe out the alien’s home planet.)

  59. Zlorfik says:

    Is it just me or has no one on this particular site pointed out the generic alien weakness that is known as *FIRE*?

  60. Keith says:

    If you had something like that I would have spammed you.

  61. Schetch says:

    Sorry; I can’t help being a smart-aleck. Well, I suppose I _can_. I just usually don’t. What I should have said was, “I agree with you” or “Thank you for supporting my point.” :)

  62. Keith says:

    No, not at this moment, although I sometimes play harmonica while driving and have had some near misses when I am really into the music. I should have said “when I commute” not “as I commute”. Lear is my current book on tape. Last week I got a bag of Shakespeare plays on freecycle.org and I will be working my way through 6 plays in the coming weeks.

  63. Schetch says:

    Can I assume (I hope) that you do not mean to say that you are simultaneously driving your truck, listening to King Lear, and typing comments on this site (as you presumably web-surf)…? *checks rear-view mirror for careening truck…* ;)

  64. Keith says:

    I am currently listening to King Lear on tape in my truck as I commute. I somehow missed Lear in high school and college and I am enjoying it greatly, especially the archetypal characters and the depth of emotion (don’t tell me how it comes out). The language is tough so I often have to stop the tape and rewind and then play parts over.

    I am reminded of a story my Dad told me. During WWII he was stationed at an air base in Russia. He learned to speak Russian and made some friends. One was a Russian school teacher. The teacher said that he envied my father because, although he enjoyed Shakespeare in translation he wishes he could experience the plays as they should be by a native English speaker. My Dad told him that most books of Shakespeare’s plays have footnotes explaining the obscure words and that for an average native English speaker the text tends to be very difficult.

    In the far future Shakespeare will be read as Homer is read now – in inspired translation – along with most other classics. Translators will capture the essence as well as the feel of the original words, and the stories, of course, will make it all worth it.

  65. Schetch says:

    Mush suggests that “Shakespeare is still renowned as a great writer in the year 32,098, even though present day high school kids find his works nearly indecipherable [due] to Shakespeare’s archaic use of the English language. (I’m complaining that English would practically be a different language thousands of years from now, and therefore, Old English is illegible)”

    There are two problems with this assertion: (1) the assumption that it is Shakespeare’s vernacular and not his treatment of the human condition that makes his work great, and (2) the natural evolution of the language will one day render Shakespeare’s work incomprehensible. That children in high school don’t get Shakespeare isn’t much of an argument, since the same aged children in Shakespeare’s own day (and some adults) would not have fully understood the material, either. People who “get” Shakespeare now aren’t in high school, and neither are the sci-fi characters who usually quote the Bard. Granted, the language we use now probably _won’t_ be in use in 2,000 years. Shoot, even 20 years is pushing it, sometimes. Look at how much English has changed since Beowulf was first written down. It’s like a completely different language. And we still study Beowulf (perhaps less for its literary greatness than for its historical significance, despite its being a great example of the “classic” hero). There’s more to Shakespeare’s importance than the choice of words, and people who “get” it will have ample time to keep pace with evolving language.

  66. Keith says:

    Palomides:

    Your list is why many SF magazines will not accept Time Travel stories. I have written a few and I had trouble finding them a home. One I had to donate to a “for the luv” site for no pay.

    Unfortunately, time travel was a very common theme during the golden age of SF. Going back as far as Wells, time travel has been treated by every good writer. Nowadays, only Dr. Who, very bad movies and TV shows use time travel as a theme. The only good time travel story that I have read in the last 20 years was the Time Traveler’s Wife and that was much more a character study than SF.

    One of my favorite stories, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time, about a time war, deals with your items 2,4,5,6,9,10,12.

    Heinlein’s story “By his Bootstraps” deals with most of the paradox’s that you discuss.

    Asimov’s The End of Eternity deals with an organization controlling time.

    There are thousands of other examples. It would be almost impossible to write a time travel story that is not a cliche. Time travel, though, is attractive to writers and there will be many more written as stories, novels, bad movies and terrible TV shows. Once or twice in every generation there will be stories that make up for all the bad ones.

  67. Palomides says:

    This may not be the ideal forum for this, but I was thinking of the themes of time-travel and all the questions and cliches that result from it. Here are a number of cliches to avoid and questions to resolve (or at least consider) when writing time-travel stories
    1) Can bootstrap existences occur? (e.g. time-traveler is his own grandfather or father)
    2) Possiblity: Events must occur in the past so that they do NOT conflict with present. Bizarre effects may occur if the time traveler attempts to change? (E.g. the bullet to kill one’s grandfather evaporates?) If so, can the traveler have any impact when traveling to the future or is this limitation only true only of the past?
    3) Possibility: Time-travel causes a new universe to be created with a new future history. Does the new history replace the old one or does it exist parallel to it? Can the traveler return to his own time or only to the new parallel future time?
    4) Possibility: Timeline “heals” itself. Big events are shifted e.g. instead of Napoleon, another Frenchman conquers most of Europe; after killing your grandfather, you find that your grandmother had an affair; etc.
    5) If a timeline is changed, does the time traveler cease to exist? Or is he unaffected? Does he remember his original timeline? Is he personally unaffected (e.g. a pregnant time traveler kills her husband when he is a child, is she still pregnant with his child? [Is this a loophole to create a child without a father in the DNA register?]) Do changes happen immediately or do they happen gradually (ala “Back to the Future” – man, I hated the fading-out photo cliche) or do the changes happen only when the time traveler returns to his/her proper time?
    6) Does killing one’s grandfather remove the time-traveler from the time stream (since he has no “beginning” and no “end”) thus making him effectively immortal? If so, is he forever outside of time and never able to interact with normal time-space again?
    7) If a point-in-time is changed, does it have any effect on the future? Perhaps the past is always the past. Vaporizing a person at 12:00 does not remove him at 12:01. The time-traveler has no real affect on anything. Can the traveler return to his “time flow” or is he then “stuck” at 12:00 or at whatever frozen moment of time he visits? (i.e. can visit a “forzen” 12:00 then visit a “frozen” 12:01 but never experiences flowing time again)
    8) Possibility: Does changing the timeline cause disastrous effects (e.g. temporal storms, collapse of time-space, etc.)?
    9) Possibility: Timeline is policed to prevent disturbances. (When the first time machine is built, do the police come and kill/kidnap the inventor and steal his work?) Is there more than one group traveling through time trying to steer it to different goals?
    10) Attempts to thwart prophesy (effectively information from the future) causes history to occur (e.g. Oedipus Rex’s attempt to avoid prophesy led to it fulfillment)
    11) Possibility: Time-traveler feels that history is not “correct” (time-traveler discovers that Columbus has no desire to go sailing to the West) or the time-traveler fears his presence has changed history (e.g. due to the time-travelers actions, Columbus now fears the water) so the time-traveler pushes the event to happen. In truth, the event would not have ever happened without his efforts
    12) Person goes back and replaces historical figure to ensure that events occur that originally motivated the time-travel (e.g. if Abe Lincoln dies as a child, time-traveler must go back and become Abe Lincoln – and be willing to be shot)
    13) Can timelines/parallel universes communicate even if they cannot physically contact one another? What would a world where Hitler won have to say to us? Would they want to invade and would that be possible? If travel was impossible, would we set up the equivalent of a “Radio Free Europe” to flood them with anti-fascist information in hopes of changing a world we could never visit?
    14) Does inventor of the first time machine send back instructions to build the machine and financing (winning lottery numbers) to his younger self?
    15) Does something as simple as viewing the past (seemingly safe) cause the Schrödinger paradox (or it’s temporal equivalent) to collapse and create a different history?
    16) Time-traveler from the future sets things up in the past to assist himself in the present (ala “Bill & Ted’s” famous “Let’s hide the keys here later so that we can find them here now when we need them.”)
    17) First time traveler goes to the future (not wishing to create paradoxes in the past). Would traveling to the future and returning to the past affect the original future? (e.g. would seeing a future where China ruled the world cause the US to invade and destroy China now? Could the originally visited “future” even be reached again?)
    18) First time traveler goes to the future (not wishing to create paradoxes). He is greeted with a celebration heralding his accomplishment. (Do they tell him that he is recorded in history books as the greatest inventor/theorist in all of history but they need to kill him to prevent anyone from ever time-traveling again and altering history?)

    These were all the permutations (many of which are admittedly cliches of the genre) that I could come up with. Anything to append to it?

  68. Palomides says:

    As the author of the argument against anthropomorphic robots, I have to disagree with all the comments about the “uncanny valley”. Mostly because for the vast majority of jobs where robots are used, they don’t really interact as people. Do Roombas need to look human? Do the robots used to make cars on the assembly line need to look human? Do the robotic probes sent to Mars need to look human? No, they are design to accomplish their task (and maybe to look a little bit stylish if sold to the public)
    I remember reading in Asimov where he justified his humanoid robots by having the “positronic brain” being invented pretty much overnight so it made sense to create human-like robots that could use existing items (e.g. make a human shaped robot who would drive the tractor that humans had been driving before and work the existing combine) but the more likely situation would be that as we progress in robotics and AI, we would slowly change the tractor to drive itself.
    While I agree that the interfaces (e.g. talking with a computer or robot) would/will use natural sounding human voices (as already seen with GPS), I don’t see the need for most robots to look human as we aren’t always the best design for a given task or tasks.
    Sure if the robots are used to infiltrate us (ala “Terminator”) there might be some rational for it; but if you just wanted to make a killing machine, there would be better designs
    Even for the robots with which we interact, why not other forms? (e.g. a robotic dog that seems to respond as affectionately as a real dog when you come home from work but who never needs to be clean-up after and who can just guard your house when you’re on vacation instead of having to be taken to a kennel)
    The “uncanny valley” only applies to things that approach the appearance of being human but don’t quite make it there (e.g. ventriquist dummies, sex dolls, etc.) I don’t think anyone is scared of or uncomfortable with their cars just because they don’t “look human”. If one day, you could just hop in your car and say “Take me to the mall” and it would drive you there, would that make anyone uncomfortable because you didn’t have a human-looking chauffer sitting up front? Or would it just feel like having your own personal subway car (where you typically don’t see the human driver either)?
    There are undoubtable some situations where a human-like robot would be desirable but I still think that it is overused. Maybe it made sense to have C3PO look human (although I’m still not sure what a “protocol droid” really does) but I would have been annoyed if R2-D2 (a repair droid) needed to look human; so points to Lucas for that. (Although why R2 couldn’t be able to speak when he could do everything else including fly seems questionable)
    [In the same vein, in the episode/reworked pilot of "Star Trek" where former Capt. Pike is hooked up to a machine and has to respond with one beep for "yes" and two for "no" - why didn't they just add a little more code and let the computer actually say "yes" or "no"? - Sorry should have been a separate rant]

  69. Keith says:

    Mush has added a bunch of cliches. Most are right on the mark. I’ve read slush, too, and I have to side with her. That the cliches are silly or “overused tropes” is not important.

    This is not the definitive list of cliches. This is a place where people can complain about ideas, plots, character, situations and, yes, memes and tropes, that are used way too much by people who can’t come up with original ideas or are not aware of what else is being done in speculative fiction.

    I am tired of people trying to distinguish a trope from a cliche. There seems to be a lot of discussion at TVtropes.com (where most of these cliches are copied verbatim). Somehow, calling something an overused trope mitigates the cliche tag in some peoples minds.

    A trope is a figure of speech or metaphor.

    A meme is a cultural unit, idea or pattern of behavior, but has come to mean a catchphrase or concept (not very different from a trope).

    A cliche is a saying, expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. (from wikipedia)

    An overused trope or meme in fiction IS a cliche, by definition.

    I have said before, if your story uses one of these cliches, fix your story, but don’t criticize the list.

  70. Michelle (mush) says:

    —==This message is directed towards Scow2==—

    Usually when I post cliché’s, I’m not thinking of anything I’ve seen on TV. I’m reading the stories that were self-published on the web.

    In other words, the clichés I have a problem with arise from Fan Fiction.

    Once a movie becomes popular enough, all of its good elements will be shamelessly stolen by its own fans. Even though Hollywood may not be drafting up carbon copies of its better movies, its fans are- again and again and again. Those are the ones that I post.

    You also mentioned that cliché postings should be concise, or else it would loose its effect. I’ll agree with you on that bit- I have a tendency to reiterate my point. However, I don’t understand why listing source material or giving specific examples ruins the effect.

    As a side note, I did not have a hand in numbers 4 and 6. Those were posted by other people.

    You also mentioned that the person who wrote about the short skirts didn’t have a submitter’s name. I believe the name that came after that one was “SM”

  71. Scow2 says:

    Looking through this list, I see most of the ‘cliches’ contributed by “Mush” aren’t cliches, and just seem to be random soapboxing. The apparent need to cite examples, clarify, and directly attack specific usages or submit “Fix’d” solutions dilute the effect of the presented cliche and come across more as just him using this site as a soapbox to complain about certain not-always-common/overused tropes or even specific incidences in Sci-fi shows (An event that only happens once, no matter how stupid it may seem, by definition cannot be a cliche). The inane ‘jokes’ also detract from the points.

    A cliche is a lot more credible when it is short and clearly defined.

    Particularly offensive entries:

    1. Geologically impossible structures: floating mountains (Avatar), broad flat
    plateaus several meters across balanced on thin pillars of rock only a few inches thick (cover art of Street Fighter 2010), Mush

    Geological impossible structures is too broad a category to be a cliche. Cliche, being a bad literary device, has nothing to do with scientific inaccuracies or bypasses.

    2. People still have strong Scottish, British, Australian, Jamaican, Southern (as in the southern states in the United States of America) accents hundreds of years from now, despite none of those counties (and regions) still existing. One thing I’d like to mention is that when Hollywood became the major developer of movies and began dominating the entertainment industry, audiences- as varied as their accents may have been- began to pick up the more frequently televised “Californian Accent.” As a result, 50 years after Hollywood first started producing films, nearly all of America spoke with the same accent- with only small communities that had limited access to television and radio maintaining their own “flavor of speech”. My point being, if towns, cities, countries, planets, and Star Fleets are communicating with one another (or at least picking up each other’s broadcasts) then they’d adopt each others’ accents until their was barely any variation. Unless Scotland has become a major dominating force in the federation, then you’d better explain your token Scottish character. I’m counting this as “Silly Science” because the tendency for people in contact with one another to “mirror” each other has been proven and documented in psychology., Mush

    Response: Yet, despite Hollywood, there are still strong local accents in the U.S. in areas saturated by movies. Contrary to your point, not “Nearly all of America speaks with the same accent”. Accents endure longer than you give them credit for, especially since the presence of accents may represent that Earth’s society, while collectively under one macro-organization (Which currently has Real-life precedent on a smaller scale in the case of the EU, USA, and UN.), still carries local ethnic groups and cultural diversities over the massive amount of land on earth. It’s no more a cliche in movies than it is a cliche in Real Life.

    3. (Note: I have only seen this once, but MAN was it stupid.) Any scene where a mathematically inclined character is asked to capture or locate something, and the character’s response is to build a cage, step inside, and declare his location (namely the inside of the cage) as being “outside.”, Mush

    My Response: Just because you happen to find this ‘stupid’ does not make it a cliche.

    4. Defensive fleets of comprable size to the attacking fleet succesfully protect the home planet in orbital combat. The attackers never drop nuclear, or kinetic, weapons from orbit. In reality the defenders would have to be 100X as numerous as the attackers and stop every ship. Just 10 nukes would obliterate a planet.

    My response: Bullshit. In an age of interstellar travel, it would be likely a planet has point-defenses to block stray orbital bombardment of nuclear weapons, and there is no reason nor precedent for a defensive force needing to outnumber an assault force by the ludicrously presented numbers. In fact, a 2-to-1 ratio of defenders to aggressors would likely be overkill.

    5. A mechanical planet (literally- a planet made up of plates of metal, gears, and pistons) populated by sentient robots, where there is no sign of an original biological race that built it all. It would be okay if “Funded by the men and women of foundation” logos were stamped every where, but robots can not be an initial life form on the planet nor can planets have natural forming gears or circuit boards. *cough* Transformers, Optimums Prime *cough* , Mush

    Have you ever heard of the Rule of Cool? I can’t think of any other examples outside of Transformers that uses this. Implausible? Yes. Offensive Cliche? Hell no!

    6. The now-very-typical presence of the doomsday superweapon. First it was planets, then stars. Instead of wasting so many resources and so much manpower on the construction and deployment of such large, impractical weapons (which the destruction of such is now typically an Achilles Heel to the creators), why not use the same resources and manpower to mass-manufacture traditional weapons (and fleets of ships)that have proven to be successful in the past? I mean, imagine how many TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers the Empire could have manufactured if the Imperials hadnt built the 2 (TWO!!!) Death Stars?! The Rebellion wouldnt have stood a CHANCE! But no… planet destroying superweapons that can be slain by a single pilot in a fighter!

    Citing an example and offering a “solution” makes this come across as whining. Cliches do not need to be justified, given examples, or otherwise explained in more than one or two sentences. Just listing “The bad guys building Doomsday superweapons” is all that needed to be said for this cliche.

    7. Aliens have powers (magical powers- like the ability to heal the wounded, detect wicked intentions, survive while frozen in a block of ice, etc.) If it happens to be the humans who are the visiting race, the humans will have no such powers over the aliens., Mush

    My Response: Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Said aliens have an advanced tech that comes off as magical to the viewer and humans. Humans don’t have said technology, so there is no reason they should have “such powers over the aliens”.

    8. If you have a parasitical race of aliens that form raiding parties and steal food from another race of aliens, the parasitical race can not be as big, or bigger, than aliens they pray on, Mush

    This is marked as absurd, but usually Parasites are smaller than there hosts by several magnitudes. It would be more absurd if the host parasites were larger.

    9. People who have air-tight hover-cars that can travel at thousands of miles per hour need rocket ships to safely travel from a planet to space. (Why not fly your car out to space?) , Mush

    Response: It’s reasonable to believe one cannot fly an atmospheric aircraft, repulsor-lift or aerodynamic, through space likely for similar reasons a submarine can’t be flown through the atmosphere like a blimp: it either needs air pressure to maneuver, or a strong gravitational body to repel itself from.

    Aux: What the hell is your problem with the Floating Mountains in Avatar? You listed them twice, and including them in the “Everyday Life But Flying!” cliche seriously damages the credibility of the other examples by being an egregious ‘odd one out’. The other examples are fine as a cliche, since it’s stupid, arbitrary application of tech to things that don’t need to use them.

    Some that don’t have a submitter’s name that aren’t as absurd as quoted:

    1. Most aliens are scary and ugly by human standards.

    Humans have a tendency to find most other creatures on our own planet scary, ugly, disturbing, unnerving, or otherwise unpleasant. It’s not absurd to think aliens wouldn’t be seen as ugly or scary without them being either Rubber-Forehead Aliens, Humans from another Planet, Color-swapped humans, or certain types of Furries. Most sci-fi writers consider all of those “attractive” forms Highly Implausible. Even the Furries (A combination of two Earth-specific creatures aren’t likely to form in extra-terrestrial space).

    2. Several points regarding an anthropomorphic robot: 1) Why are the robots built to look like humans?
    Because if they are designed to handle social interaction with humans, people would create them with a form they could relate to. It needs to be human enough to stand on the brink of relatability and the Uncanny Valley Same answer goes to the following questions.

    3. Girls wear short skirts in the future.
    They also wear short skirts in the present. They’ve also worn them in the past. They almost always make their fashion choices for themselves. Your point?

  72. Ciro says:

    @Michael

    It works out in Science Fiction, particularly in video media, because the robots/androids are played by humans with lame makeup jobs. ;)

    Actual robots being crafted today (Repliee, for example) have a problem where they are simultaneously “too human” and “not human enough”, leading to them making humanity uncomfortable and less likely to accept them.

    Say what you will about the creepy-factor of Brent Spiner’s “Lore” persona, he still never had to deal with the “Uncanny Valley” ;)

  73. Michael Carter says:

    On the point about Anthropomorphic robots/androids. There are very obvious reason why sci fi writers make their robots look like humans – a machine that looks or sounds (HAL) like a human is much more likely to be accepted by humans. This is being reflected in real life. Look at all the robots cats and dogs coming out of Japan, and Asimo is a perfect example of a REAL anthropomorphic robot. Robots of the future will look like us because that is what people want. The robots from Robot Wars are not endearing to the average person, on the whole.
    If you consider that we humans are nothing more than biological robots, then it’s hard to argue that evolution is a canny designer and knows how to make walking, talking and thinking machines (us). It makes sense to copy her design as closely as we can.

  74. [...] that we simply don’t enjoy because they have just gotten stale… and at worst green. This site provides a wopping list of sci-fi clichés. Some of them are listed as forgivable, while some [...]

  75. Michelle (mush) says:

    Oh! Okay, now I know which one you were talking about.
    I actually didn’t write that one. Everything I submitted had either “Mush” at the end or “MM.” You must have replied to my comment instead of Creative-Theory’s by mistake. (Our icons look very similar.)

    ++++

    The one I thought I submitted (but didn’t) is sort of like a variation of the second time-traveling physics you mentioned in your earlier comment.

    I don’t know if it actually has a name, but I call it the ‘Trunks Theory’ after the Dragon Ball Z character who used this method of time travel.

    The Trunks Theory basically means that the character isn’t going to the past, but instead, going to a parallel universe that simply isn’t as far along in the time stream as us. During the time that the character is messing around in some other parallel universe, time is still moving forward in his home time stream. In other words: If it’s February 13th here, and you go spend a week in a post apocalyptic world filled with terminators, then it will be February 20th here when you finally get back.

    The benefit of this from a sci-fi writers’ point of view is that the hero of the story will not return to his home time stream only a few minutes after his past self left.
    The Trunks Theory lets all sorts of conflict filled plot points happen:

    1. The characters’ family is free to assume that the character is dead

    2. The title wave that the character was escaping from is not going to be a danger once he returns.

    3. The character is able to bring in new matter into a different universe. If he brought enough materials from one universe to another, he might be able to change the mass of our planet Earth and make the gravity too strong for humans to live on.

    4. He won’t have any memory of his past self (actually other-universe self)

    and so on…
    I guess I’m just bringing this up because you mention that there are only 2 acceptable possible ways that time travel stories can have. An abridged version of what I was saying is: “there is something like a 3rd way that time travel can happen.”

  76. Mechanical says:

    ‘Time travel stories where time is linear (i.e. going back will affect YOUR present, and not just spin off another that doesn’t affect you), but in which the characters discuss correct versus incorrect “time lines” (thereby contradicting their own belief that time is linear).’

    I think that’s the one Creative-Theory was asking about. I hope so anyway, it’s the only time-travel one I remember :)

  77. Michelle (Mush) says:

    Thank you for the complement, I pride myslef on reading the most hanious of unpubishable fiction. ;)

    But as for the time travle cliché. I can’t find the one you are talking about up there in the list. (I could have sworn I submited at leat one time-travle themed entry, but I haven’t been able to see find it again.)

  78. Mechanical says:

    Too many terrible ones and some that I’ve never seen in a movie/series/book before…

    As for the time travel one, I think this is what they’re talking about:

    Time is set up to be linear. If you travel back in time, your actions back then alter your future. Like in terminator I, where the terminator comes back to kill John Connor’s mother but ends up creating John and the terminators. Back to the Future is probably another good example, although I saw them so long ago I can’t remember much about them (I do remember the MC almost disappearing because his parents almost didn’t kiss though).

    Using this system, going back in time to kill your grandfather as a child is a paradox, since then you’ll cease to exist and thus can’t kill your grandfather, so he lives and you’re born, so you go back in time to kill him, then cease to exist…

    The alternative to this is that you go back in time and the changes you make create an alternate timeline. That means that you CAN go back and kill your grandfather, but you still exist because you’re from a timeline where you didn’t. What you have done, though, is ensured that in this new timeline, you’re never born.

    In most time-travel movies, the first applies (I can’t think of any movies off the top of my head where the second applies). Movies where the first applies, but they still talk about the second, make no sense. Although I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head.

  79. Michelle (mush) says:

    Darn! Look how many gramatical errors I have in my Cliche posts. Is ther any way to fix them?

  80. Michelle (mush) says:

    Hi there. I recently posted several clichés, some of which were 2 paragraphs in length. When I type the clichés, I make sure that I hit the “Enter” key on my keyboard- but I can’t seem to get paragraph brakes to work.

    Also, “” doesn’t seem to work. What do I do?

  81. Keith says:

    The Cliche List is made up by anonymous visitors to the site. Some make absolutely no sense, but still have entertainment value. Most of these are the opinions of someone who has not really thought about what they wanted to say before they said it.

    I can’t begin to answer your question and the person who wrote that entry is long gone.

    Keith

  82. Creative-Theory says:

    I have read some of your cliches listed (not all..just too many), but I was mainly curious about time travel. I know you had the Star Trek logo by it, but I don’t entirely understand of what you said about the whole linear aspect and what not. Could you please clarify? Also I know Star Trek is a prime example of this, but is it unoriginal to be time traveling and then end up within a different planet in another Galaxy in different time frame? Sorry if these questions are like…silly and noobish I guess. I’m just getting into science fiction stories.

  83. Keith says:

    There have been multiple cases of animals and even humans exposed to vacuum for several minutes. They did not boil and they did not explode. The skin and venous system hold bodily fluids under pressure as long as the subject is alive. Tears and saliva will evaporate quickly, but probably not bubble as the layers of liquid are quite thin. The air pressure in your lungs might force a sudden cough as air leaves them, but as long as the subject closes his mouth after, there should be no more damage for a while. Ears may pop as the air in the nasal cavities and the eustachian tubes try to escape, but that would just be a more painful version of the feeling of taking an elevator up to the top of a 50 story building. There may be some bloody noses and ears, but nothing life threatening for a a minute or so.

    I have read three or four stories where space travelers who did not have space suits had to jump across from one ship to another through the vacuum of space, and they suffered no long term effects. These stories are scientifically correct.

  84. Rob says:

    Exposure to Vaccuum while not causing your body to explode, will cause all gasses and liquids to spontaneously boil/evaporate and escape out of any opening it can. I’d say that would pretty closely approximate an low-energy explosion.

    I second the ‘rotation/banking for turning in space is stupid’ argument. To save fuel the pilot would flip the ship until the engine axis is pointing a desired direction to alter its course (and in turn counteracting the ‘forward momentum’ it had achieved – not unlike aircraft in heavy wind.)

    I understand the ‘naval’ analogies. A ship in space on a long voyage would be much more like a submarine than a jumbo jet owing to the environment and the complexity and diversity of equipment on board. Though it is likely that it would be influenced a fair bit by avaiation.

  85. Keith says:

    The saliva on your tongue might boil, however.

    see http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970603.html

  86. nomadz says:

    ” If by some way a person flys out into space, they just float around while in reality they would explode it a bloody mess. ”

    Errr…. Well, no, they wouldn’t. Organic bodies explosing when exposed to space vacuum is typical Hollywood wrong science.
    Exposition to vacuum doesn’t make you explode. It makes you dead all right, but not explode.

    See : http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ExplosiveDecompression (among many other sources, but this one is funnier).

  87. Keith says:

    Banking – a dumb idea. Rotating a craft and then firing so that ALL of the reaction is in the right direction with no waste of fuel is so obviously the right solution, that I am wondering what Dion was thinking.

  88. Dion says:

    spaceships must bank in order to turn…

    Yes, they will… Flipping around, overcoming inertia and firing engines in the opposite direction, is incredibly wasteful on fuel and stressful to ship components. While banking will allow a gentle change in direction with no extra fuel costs and no torsional stress.

  89. Keith says:

    Please, please, do not attack the list by arguing with the typos or the design of the page. ALL of these cliches were added by visitors here using form in the link, and I know I am not a web page designer. I scan the list for spam, but I don’t edit the entries. If you are not happy with a cliche say so in a comment or add your own cliche.

  90. William says:

    Just a note on
    “, Aliens invade/land on earth who have a fatal weakness to some incredibly common substance on the planet i.e. water. Alien Nation and Signs for example. That’s like us invading venus without space suits. , WBWIII”
    The Tenctonians on the Alien Nation movie and series did not invade and their landing was a crash, they would not have chosen a world where 66% of the surface was covered with a substance that was acidic to them…

  91. Keith says:

    Jackie,
    Earth has only a few things that would not be available cheaper close to home. Aliens would never invade Earth for raw materials or natural resources. The cost of freight alone would make this a dumb idea.

    Planets with life, but without pesky semi-intelligent beings have to outnumber the planets without them 10,000 to 1. So it is likely that there are better planets than Earth closer to an aliens home world.

    Why do aliens want to come to Earth?

    First, Earth has people and the unique things people create. I can see aliens interested in our art, music, literature, porn and other cultural artifacts. It might not be worth the effort of conquering us to get them, though.

    Second, Earth has a consumer society, so that an alien race might want to sell us stuff we don’t need with interstellar credits we can’t afford. I can see aliens exploiting us rather than invading.

    Third, Earth has life, so aliens might be interested in DNA samples or even some live specimens, but DNA is free and painless to get without entering into conflicts.

    Last, and this has been the subject of few bad movies, Earth has beautiful Hollywood starlets who might be willing to mate with ugly aliens.

  92. Jackie says:

    Why do ‘the aliens’ always invade Earth (or planet inhabited by humanoid sentients) to get necessary resources, and how come they can live on the planet without any problems? ‘Sentients from other planets’ are likely to be used to different atmospheric composition/pressure, gravity, trace elements etc? Even if ‘planets with atmosphere and gravity reasonably compatible with home planet’ are chosen, why select planets with sentients and cause environmental damage or general destruction? Surely it would be better to sell/exchange information, have cultural exchange programs and ‘physically small but high-value objects, and exploit planets without sentients (as amoebas and dinosaurs do not have lawyers and ‘ingenious people devising ways of causing inconvenience’).

  93. admin says:

    A writer writes about the human condition, so even in stories like Hal Clement’s A Mission of Gravity where the protagonist is a large lobster-like creature, the characters are human. As a writer, I can only write what I know, which is the life of an aging middle class white American. I just wrote a story about a Nigerian boy. The boy is me. I tried my best to account for culture and environment, but the boy is still me.

    As I see it the main reason that characters must be more diverse is that SF should be a learning experience, especially for younger readers. The readers of SF are ever younger and more diverse. It is true that when I started reading SF that all writers, with a few notable exceptions were educated white men and most readers were educated white men. Now, because of the internet, readers are global, young and varied. SF should be a teaching medium. Special care must be taken that we teach young readers that the world is diverse. At the heart of things we are all very much the same and very much human, but it is important that they learn to accept others with different backgrounds and appearance.

  94. Jessica says:

    Comment on “The protagonist is usually a young white human male, and rarely is the character a girl. It’s even rarer to have an an alien as the protagonist. (Can you name a story with an alien as the main character?), Rw”

    That’s because the author usually was a white human male (e.g. George Lucas, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frank Herbert). People are naturally ethnocentric and gender-centric: i.e. they prefer to write/direct from the point of view of someone with which they can relate.

    Look at black or Asian movies/books – you won’t find any white main characters (exception: anime). Why this pressure on white male authors to write non-white or female (or both) lead characters? If you’re non-white and/or female and want to see more main characters which fit that description . . . well, then I’m sure you can come up with a story of your own and get it published, yes?

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