Episode 530 - What is SciFi?

May 10, 2021

So what IS SciFi? Well it's a pretty wide umbrella term and contains a lot of different things. In some senses it's just an imaginative fiction story where science replaces magic. SciFi can simply be a sciencey setting where genre stories take place (romance, adventure, nior, horror). It can be a magical fantasy space opera with a futuristic skin (Star Wars), it can be “hard SciFi” where the story is set in the future but the science is completely plausible, it can be written with strong themes that examine philosophical questions and make interesting points about the nature of humanity, and it can be so many more things too. It's a broad church!

Topics and Show Notes

Where did SciFi begin? Basically it all started in the 1920s. The “pulp” magazines were super popular. People just couldn't get enough of them. Publisher Hugo Gernsback found a niche re-publishing old speculative fiction stories ( Jules Verne, HG Wells, Mary Shelly etc), in some of his publications, and single handedly created the “Science Fiction” genre as a way to sell them. Pretty soon a new crop of writers was producing new stories specially to be a part of this genre and to go in his magazines, these were the first SciFi writers… Among them EE Doc Smith, Isaac Asimov etc. And the genre was born.

It's currently popular to say that Mary Shelly was “the first SciFi writer”, I'd counter that and say not really… It was a big step on the road but what her Frankenstein character was most influential with was monster fiction, she created the “mad scientist” subgenre that has been hugely influential in horror fiction. But when you're talking about the “first” of something the problem is that you can ALWAYS come up with earlier examples, which is why I list Gernsback in the 1920s as the true creator of the genre.

For example, the stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann pre-date Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and out of them we have stories of a scientist creating a lifelike clockwork robot, becoming Operas and the famous ballet Coppélia. And if we want to go back to the earliest primordial SciFi origins what comes to my mind is many of the Greek myths: the famous Scientist Daedalus who created wearable flying wings, animated toys, the Labyrinth, even the ability for a woman to mate with a bull! Then there's Archimedes (a real person) with SciFi stories of his accomplishments like the creation of a sun-powered ray to destroy warships or a giant claw machine that plucked them out of the water… Or the stories of the ships built by the Phaeacians (in Homer's Odyssey), they're able to travel as fast as a falcon to any destination you can think of since they know all the cities of the world and can navigate automatically. SciFi has a LONG history for something that wasn't codified till the early 20th century.

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This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to Starlights, Gunwallace says: “Had some time this morning. Here's a theme for Starlights. In my head I'm imagining you with your new guitar dressed in the white dandy costume playing the solo.”
My description: A dandy gent in bright white frock coat and tricorn hat festooned with giant ostrich feathers stands outlined against the stormy grey sky… He shoulders a cream coloured stratocaster, and shreds, ripping out a soaring solo against the growing winds of the coming storm -


Topics and shownotes

Kawaii's newspost on the Beauty of SciFi - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/news/2021/may/02/the-beauty-of-science-fiction/

Featured comic:
Cupcake War Machine - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/news/2021/may/04/featured-comic-cupcake-war-machine/

Featured Music:
Starlights - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Starlights/ - by Kawaii Triangle, rated M.

Special thanks to:
Gunwallace - http://www.virtuallycomics.com
Tantz Aerine - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/Tantz_Aerine/
Pitface - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/PIT_FACE/
Ozoneocean - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/ozoneocean
kawaiidaigakusei - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/kawaiidaigakusei/
Banes - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/banes

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Episode 529 - Time loops!

May 2, 2021

3 likes, 0 comments

Time loops in stories are a lot of fun, they can be really complicated and interesting. Groundhog day is the most famous version of this trope. Banes tells me it's a “trope codifier”. In a time loop story characters are caught reliving the same events over and over with the main character being the only one who's really aware of it, Sometimes the loop happens only once or a couple of times, or many, many times as in Groundhog Day and Palm Springs. We chat about some of the different time loop stories, their characteristics and why we like them.

Episode 526 A return to Mary Sue!

Apr 12, 2021

5 likes, 3 comments

Mary Sues are always a fun topic! There are some misconceptions about them though… Mary Sues aren't all female, they can be any gender. Being super powerful or super popular or super pretty etc doesn't equal a Mary Sue, not even if your character super stands out next to all the others, those things ONLY indicate they might possibly be one. What equals a Mary Sue is a character that doesn't have to struggle very hard for anything, a character that is almost universally admired, and or loved (even by the enemy), a character that masters hard skills with ease and ends up teaching the teachers and beating the masters, a character that's destined to succeed and does in spite of internal story logic… All these things and more can add up to make a Mary Sue.

Episode 497 - It's just kid's stuff

Sep 21, 2020

4 likes, 5 comments

Today we're talking about the idea that entertainment aimed at kids can only be enjoyed by kids and the reason that adults often don't like kids things is because adults just don't “get” them. I contend that everyone, of all ages should be able to enjoy General or kid rated media and the true reason we don't is not because it “isn't meant for us”, it's because it's simply badly written - specifically, it's not the content that's annoying, it's the structure.

Episode 493 - Use existing IP to explore new things?

Aug 24, 2020

3 likes, 0 comments

First up… HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TANTZ! This Quackcast is about the topic of whether it's right to change an established character just to fit with the ideas and styles of a new creator or change them in accordance with an idea or political position you want to explore, OR should you instead create a whole new character or story to do that with? Bane's newspost gave the example of the ersatz justice league created for The Boys, where Homelander =/= Superman. The series was made to look at the dark side of superheros, but it doesn't ruin established and much loved heroes to do that…

Episode 490 - Genres of webcomics!

Aug 3, 2020

5 likes, 11 comments

Aren't genres great? They're so useful for categorising what we like and selling our work. Today we're chatting about all the genres that are popular in webcomics now, that we know of. Back in the day webcomics were mainly defined by TWO genres: slice of life, and gaming. And out of those two gaming was king! Actually a lot of comics combined the two. The biggest were things like 8 Bit Fantasy, PVP, Penny Arcade, and Ctrl Alt Delete.

Episode 478 - Pity da fool!

May 11, 2020

3 likes, 3 comments

Fools are an iconic character trope and I wanted to explore them. They're a lot more varied and interesting than is readily apparent. There's a LOT more too a fool than what something like TV tropes suggests, unless you get into the subtypes… And that's what we explored in this free-form discussion. I introduced the idea in the Patreon only video where Tantz, Banes, Pt and I try and get a handle on the idea for the first time, so that's a good behind the scenes insight into what goes on!

Episode 477 - Darkest before dawn

May 4, 2020

5 likes, 2 comments

Today on this glorious date we chat about that part in stories where everything turns to crap for the protagonists, just before the run up to the climax where they find their inner strength again and regain their powers so that the climax is even more effective than it would normally be… just BEFORE that moment. Everything is finally going well for our characters, their relationship is amazing, they have all the money they need to keep the clubhouse open, they're going to win the big game, they have the magic sword to kill the dragon with, they have the fastest car in the race, the bombs are all set to destroy the alien mother-ship, and the band is finally going to make it to the big time! ...BUT...


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