Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't save the galaxy unless you really, really, have to.

Or the world, the universe or even mankind as we know it. That's right. Why save them at all? I'm speaking a fictional context of course. If I had a way of saving us all from ourselves on this great green and blue planet I'd wave my hand and sit back with a Guinness (plus scotch sidecar) and watch it happen.

No, I'm talking about all those shows, books and films that depict individuals and groups who dare to be the hero, are bold enough to step forward and make enough of a difference to save billions of lives. Yaaaay, someone spanked the big bad and saved all us humans so we can go on texting, eating (often too much), and opening gang, holy and resource wars like they're 711's and it's 1980. (In case you missed that refference, there were a lot of 711 convenience stores opening in the early 80's).

I mean, it's been done to death. I'm not saying that it can't still be fun. The new Star Trek was fun, and they pretty much saved Earth (again). Stargate SG-1 was fun, and they saved the planet every couple of months. They even went as far as to save the galaxy a few times before the upped the scale and saved more than one galaxy at a time on Stargate Atlantis. That was fun. The writers, performers, directors, producers and everyone else worked very hard to make it enjoyable and believable. There was a trend forming, however. I think the show runners of Stargate Atlantis (who were the same as those for Stargate SG-1 for the most part), realized something. Watching someone barely save their own ass is fun too. The new show coming up from the same makersm, Stargate Universe, looks like it's going to be about the characters saving their own butts on a weekly basis, actually.

Just consider for a moment the value of a story about one character you can relate to getting into serious trouble and then having to go to extrordinary measures just to keep on living. They aren't nessisarily a hero, they're just one person, maybe more than one person but the important thing is that they took you along for the journey. You have the opportunity to cheer them on, yell at the screen (or paperback or ebook), if you know they're going the wrong way or to feel their pain if they have to sacrifice something in order to avoid a worse fate.

Sometimes the struggle to survive is so much more interesting when compared to brash heroes stepping up and saving the world. That's all I'm sayin'.

If you're tired of seeing people simply saving thier own butts consider a twist: two characters striving to save their own butts. One is likeable, the other isn't and furthermore the survival of one could mean the death of the other. For a good example of this, go watch a film called Vertical Limit. Pretty fun film I'd passed on for a long time until I had a bout of insomnea and caught it on cable. If you're afraid of heights (like I am), and have a great big screen (like I did at the time), this is a great movie (if you're a masochist).

Anyway, breaktime is over and it's time for me to get back to work on Spinward Fringe Rogue Element, where more than one character is faced with the challenge of saving their own butts, but what else is new?


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