Milestones in Sci-fi & Fantasy

Although I normally limit myself to the typed or written word, it’s definitely worth noting that the sci-fi fantasy cultural universe recently tilted on its axis in the wake of a very unlikely success story.

The film Guardians of the Galaxy came out this past week, and many observers didn’t think it would make any big waves among audiences.

Happily, those observers were wrong, and there’s more than a few reasons to rejoice at the film’s success if you’re a sci-fi fantasy author like myself. A good portion of the sci-fi which I write  and enjoy reading – See my Omega Station story here  – involve the dynamic interplay of alien species with humanity. Through my stories I like to challenge the sometimes narrow mindsets we humans love to get tied up in, both culturally and morally. Stories like C.J. Cherryh’s books in the Foreigner series effectively challenge even our ingrained assumption that we humans are the gold standard in the universe, and bring up humbling ideas of what other beings might deserve a dominant place out among the stars. But it’s not just that. It’s that sci-fi fantasy makes whole alien civilizations and cultures come alive, to challenge people’s sensibilities, if they will just engage in the content and open their minds.

For this same reason, though, exactly BECAUSE of the demanding paradigm shift that alien cultures place on the average person, many people didn’t think that Guardians of the Galaxy would have a chance. The heroes in Guardians are composed of a motley crew including a genetically modified raccoon and a giant tree with a 3-word vocabulary. Those types of characters historically don’t do well – in any medium, written or on the screen, and they’re difficult for people to identify with.

Somehow Guardians did what many critics thought impossible, however. They made audiences care not just for their human characters, but for even the most outlandish, alien-like characters too. And that is something that should put a smile on the faces of sci-fi and fantasy authors everywhere. We can and should continue to push the envelope where other kinds of fiction seldom walk.

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