SF Plots

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SF Plots

The following is the list (so far) and each section discusses things in more detail. On this page: {20 Plots} (also REF's) {Exploration} {Time Travel} {Invasion} {Possession} {Aliens} {Robots} {Utopia/Dystopia}

20 Plots

MAJOR REFERENCE (highly recommended) The 20 Basic Plots ?author? ?pub-info? "Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction" by Mark Rose, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0.674.01565.7 (Cabridge/London, 1981) NEXT: Exploration. {
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Exploration can be internal or external. Internally these plots devolve to the search for self identity and that sort of thing. Externally, exploration is essentially visiting a new land -- it's just that the "people" might be "talking" plants that can move around. Shakespear (Bacon) called the future the "un-discovered country". And in fact, one reference mentions that time travel can be likened to simply visiting a distant country. (see
TIME TRAVEL) With the exception of "Fantastic Voyage" sf exploration usually implies visiting a distant world. In the older forms of SF, exploration could also mean exploring the world around us; viz, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", and visits to Lost Worlds, etc. As space flight became more common-place, the need to find new places to explore led to the development of "tech" creations of the journey of self-exploration; viz, "The Matrix", "Floor 13", etc. Space Exploration gives the possibilities of creating new societies un-like human ones found on Earth. From an anthropological point-of-view, this form of exploration would be little different from the various trips of "exploration" that have occured in the past. See also: {Invasion} NEXT: Time Travel. {Back to the TOP of this page}


Like space travel, time travel is one of the quintesential "SF" things. There are several kinds of time travel that can be the basis of a plot: 1) Visions of the Future. 2) One-way travel. 3) Self-Referential Paradoxes. Next: Invasion. {
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As has been recounted numerous times the 50's "invasion" (and see also {
possession}) films are usually thinly veiled references to the subjugation of American democracy Russian Communism. At the very least invasion is simply a re-casting of the normal war story where an invading army comes to take over, kill, possess "us". A unique contribution by SF is the concept of symbiotic invasion (or possession). Again, the person "invaded" is thus altered from their "normal" state (what ever that is!). NEXT: Possession. {Back to the TOP of this page}


Originally this plot was purely derived from the two sources of witchcraft/magic (possession by demons, etc) and of course the mysteries surrounding hypnosis. In either case, the person is possessed by an external agent. In most cases that agent is a person skilled in the "dark arts"; ie, knowledge of potions, powers, technology. The plot can have any number of twists: The person who is possessed is better or worse off for it. They may in fact not know that they are possessed or under the control of another entity. The concept of possession is of a more personal level than that of invasion. That is, if "we" are invaded then *we* are at risk. If "I" am possessed, then *i* am at risk. In terms of plot-construction there are usually "outs" by which the possession can be deactivated or at least lessened. NEXT: Aliens. {
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There are three ways that aliens are introduced: "As malevolent, benign, or nether" [ROSE, P.2] In the classic sense, aliens should be "alien". One of the few success stories of this is the brilliantly conceived "The Alien Way" by Gordon R. Dickson. Another fairly good attempt at this occurs in "Footfall" by Niven & Pournell. Most sf film literature falls *far* short of this. As Gene Roddenberry pointed out (just prior to his death) after viewing "Star Trek ???: The Un-discovered Country" "We made them (the Klingons) look like idiots; we could have done so much more" (not an exact quote) In some films the "alien" becomes a prop for a rather thin plot line. One of the better films that pulls this off well is "Sphere", we never even get to "know" what the alien is. We only see the affect it has on the three protagonists. NEXT: Robots. {
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NEXT: Utopia/Dystopia. {
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