What Sci-Fi got Wrong

  • #1
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,842
988
I am always noticing small and major details in science fiction movies that are either wrong, or I think will be wrong. :)

One I've noticed often is the idea that in 400 years or a galaxy far, far away, people in space ships will be pouring brandy. There is an obsession with booze in much of sci fi. While I doubt the use of drugs will disappear, I don't think people and aliens will forever be pouring a glass.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
161
55
I am always noticing small and major details in science fiction movies that are either wrong, or I think will be wrong. :)

One I've noticed often is the idea that in 400 years or a galaxy far, far away, people in space ships will be pouring brandy. There is an obsession with booze in much of sci fi. While I doubt the use of drugs will disappear, I don't think people and aliens will forever be pouring a glass.
In movies and TV I suspect it's less about predicting a future society than it's about putting a plot into another social context and making the characters believable / relatable. . Take Star Wars for instance, the science fictiony setting does nothing for the plot. It might as well have been set in medieval Japan (and I think it actually was in the story they plagiated).

TVTROPES:


https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DrinkBasedCharacterization
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HealItWithBooze
 
  • Like
Likes Keith_McClary and Ivan Seeking
  • #3
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,865
4,958
I have always hated the ending to Micheal Crichton's Andromeda Strain book.
Microbes from space were causing all kinds of havoc on earth, then the whole population suddenly mutates to a less destructive form.
Things don't work that way.

Some would remain unmutated.
There was no (selective or otherwise) reason for the highly successful, more destructive form to not persist.
This was transparently stupid to me, even when I was in high school.

Otherwise, I enjoy a lot of Crichton's books, but that just seemed too blatantly stupid to me.
 
  • Like
Likes Klystron, Keith_McClary, jbriggs444 and 1 other person
  • #4
161
55
What "really grinds my gears" though are things like "light sabres", "laser rifles" and the like. Guns that go "click" when you point them at people, etc. Like an ornithologist is likely annoyed by a twittering bird that doesnt live where a scene is taking place. :)
 
  • Like
Likes Keith_McClary, Ivan Seeking and BillTre
  • #5
Filip Larsen
Gold Member
1,440
348
My favorite beef is with most sci-fi movies that has absolutely no idea what rotation does to people and other loose objects in the the interior of a rotational or linearly accelerating spaceship. Notable exceptions here are the Martian (probably influenced by Andy Wier's drive to depict science right) and The Expanse (as far as I recall).

Another beef I have with most sci-fi movies is that technological advanced aliens often are depicted as monster-like (naked and growling) and/or which makes the most silly tactical blunders when facing humans on the battlefield, or has some mind-blowing simple weaknesses in their armor, so to speak (thinking Independence Day and Oblivion here).

And speaking of aliens in sci-fi, while I understand its entertaining it still irks me a lot how often (but luckily not always) the story leads into or revolves around armed conflicts instead of "exploring" possible ways for symbiotic interaction (e.g. trade or sharing knowledge). A recent notable exception to this is again Andy Wier with his Hail Mary Project.
 
  • Like
Likes Keith_McClary and Ivan Seeking
  • #6
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,842
988
When people use time machines or otherwise to slow down time around them, it never gets dark.
 
  • Like
Likes hmmm27 and Keith_McClary
  • #7
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,842
988
In the movies we are almost always able to put up a fight against invading aliens. There is almost no chance that we would be anywhere close to evenly matched. It would likely be like ants rising up against humans.

And any invading aliens probably have antivirus software in the mother ship. Don't expect Jeff Goldblum to save you.
 
  • #8
nsaspook
Science Advisor
1,076
1,757
Just about everything is wrong in this one.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/cosmic_sin

The funniest (sad) thing about the film is that it's set in 2521 and onward, yet folks are driving 1980s Ford pickups and listening to 1990s alterno-rock.
 
  • Like
Likes Ivan Seeking and BillTre
  • #9
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
17,193
8,481
The thing that always gets me is where the alien is a monster that constantly drools acid or some other fluid and you never see them off-screen chugging gatorade to replenish their bodily fluids.
 
  • Like
  • Haha
Likes White Hole, Ivan Seeking, BillTre and 1 other person
  • #10
758
639
One idea that I think could be wrong is the idea that we will lose many of our traits that no longer become useful, like a sense of humor, sexual attraction, emotion, creativity, art, music, athleticism etc. I think that the principle that whatever we don't need would eventually go away is valid in nature.

However, before that has a chance to take effect, we will likely start to self engineer ourselves and merge ourselves with technology. And what types of things do you think people will aim for when they do that? Probably better sense of humor, attractiveness, creativity, talents in art and music, athleticism, ability to drink lots of brandy. etc. And I think that once that starts happening, people will start going crazy with it, trying to outdo each other. In the end, those human traits we thought would evolve away would end up being hyper exaggerated through genetic engineering and augmentation. The drawbacks will be the neglect for things we didn't think of, and the mistakes we make along the way.

Well, humans happen to have these trait and value them. Humans are also a certain type of creature. We're social creatures, omnivores, and no fangs.

But we have no idea what aliens would be like at the point they start self engineering. Maybe they were carnivores with sharp teeth. Maybe they valued mouths full of teeth, scary looks, and growls. Maybe the more teeth they have the more attractive they are. Maybe they never really needed clothes much before, and don't like them. And maybe these traits hadn't drifted away too much after losing their evolutionary advantages. So now they have crispr and every alien parent wants their kid to have the scariest mouth full of teeth and the loudest most intimidating growl in town and they're competing with each other. By the time they've become interstellar, their technological and biological augmentation will have made them practically immune to biological threats, air pressure differences, thermal differences, or air composition differences. So then why shouldn't they be scary monster looking creatures who jump out of the spaceship naked and tool-less and go on rampages?
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes AllanR and Ivan Seeking
  • #11
1,998
1,348
Well, then. My rant: what many Sci-Fi work gets wrong is, that Sci-Fi is just a theme, not an excuse for poor literature/script. All the mumbo-jumbo and special effects you can use to pepper up things does not makes it 'art' or anything: if done right it should still be at least passable without any of that
icon_reclamao-gif.gif
 
  • Like
Likes pinball1970, hmmm27, Ivan Seeking and 3 others
  • #12
PeroK
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
2020 Award
18,618
10,270
Most science fiction essentially reflects the time it was written, rather than any radical imagining of a future time.

For example, the development of female and non white roles in Star Trek reflects the changes in US society and perceptions at the time the series and films were made.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes pinball1970, Ivan Seeking and russ_watters
  • #13
769
462
I feel the lack of imagination. So we are a thousand years into the future, the goverment is essentially the British Empire, and a war is going on. I find it depressing that mankind makes no social progress. Combat is generally World War Two in disguise or even swords and cannon era. Ho hum.

Its understandable though. Come up with something radically new and you will lose 99% of your audience. They won't understand what you are talking about. It is better to stick with familiar things. It's entertainment. So "aliens" are thinly disguised octopi, trees, bees, lions, spiders, ants, moray eels, but mostly just people.

I went to reading real history because much wilder things happen in real life. It is not constrained by plausibility. Who would believe that people would burn up the planet while pretending it wasn't happening? Ridiculous. Though Isaac Asimov predicted such a thing in 1970 as unsuspected side effects of a free energy device. People found out it would destroy the Earth then just kept doing it. Gotta be impressed.

Other exceptions include The Forever War, some of Iain Banks Culture books, Kurt Vonnegut (who was careful that his work was never labeled SF), Stanislaus Lem, and Brave New World. So that proves it can be done. But I can't be bothered to sort through the new stuff. I think I gave up when I bought a Nebula award winner that was written so badly.

So.. what did they get wrong? I don't think anyone ever suspected that state propaganda would become a profit center.
 
  • Like
Likes Aanta, CalcNerd and Ivan Seeking
  • #14
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,842
988
Most science fiction essentially reflects the time it was written, rather than any radical imagining of a future time.

For example, the deviopment of female and non white roles in Star Trek reflects the changes in US society and perceptions at the time the series and films were made.
I remember being very disappointed when in Star Trek TNG, for an exercise scene, they put Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher in popular clothing for women at that time. It was what virtually every woman at a gym was wearing then...and doing the same exercises and stretching. Oddly they didn't even try to imagine a future workout. It was just a gym in 1987.
 
  • #15
nsaspook
Science Advisor
1,076
1,757
I remember being very disappointed when in Star Trek TNG, for an exercise scene, they put Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher in popular clothing for women at that time. It was what virtually every woman at a gym was wearing then...and doing the same exercises and stretching. Oddly they didn't even try to imagine a future workout. It was just a gym in 1987.
7518379918_d9896db552_b.jpg

I don't see the problem. :wink:
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes Imager, dlgoff, hmmm27 and 1 other person
  • #17
BWV
1,016
1,053
Sticking to books, which are proper SF, movies and TV shows mostly are all crap

- intelligent aliens modeled after the analog of some earth animal (Kzin or the stupid crabs in Neil Asher’s books)

-timelines in 70s SF that has interstellar travel discovered before today

- characters speaking weird made-up dialects - i get that people in the future space empire might have different languages and dialects, but dont try to make them up and inflict them on the reader

-nukes and slugthrowers make great weapons, why does anyone need laser guns?

-slide rules in space pilot school ( Robert Heinlein‘s Starship Troopers)
 
  • Like
Likes Keith_McClary
  • #18
769
462
Most science fiction essentially reflects the time it was written, rather than any radical imagining of a future time.

For example, the deviopment of female and non white roles in Star Trek reflects the changes in US society and perceptions at the time the series and films were made.
I'm so old I watched the premier of Star Trek in 1965. I dare say that it remains ahead of its time. How many Russians are employed in the US military?
 
Last edited:
  • #19
1,998
1,348
How many Russians are employed in the US military?
Russians would like to know that too :wink:

Joke aside, I don't think this is actually a problem. The reader/viewer should understand the environment and should feel it kind of novel. Reflecting the actual trends suffices. If the work itself is anything good it should work like that.

Far worse problem when it's written to be so novel that not even the author understands the environment, like that so often happens with quantum-based word salads so popular these times.
 
Last edited:
  • #20
769
462
Star Trek got some futuristic salt shakers as props. But viewers wouldn't know what they were on there on the table. So they gave them to Doctor McCoy to use as medical instruments.

My parents bought that same model of salt shaker so I saw them every day.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
  • Haha
  • Informative
Likes Imager, AllanR, Ivan Seeking and 2 others
  • #21
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,842
988
Russians would like to know that too :wink:

Joke aside, I don't think this is actually a problem. The reader/viewer should understand the environment and should feel it kind of novel. Reflecting the actual trends suffices. If the work itself is anything good it should work like that.

Far worse problem when it's written to be so novel that not even the author understands the environment, like that so often happens with quantum-based word salads so popular these times.
Yes and no. In the movie 2001, the original cut included a brief panel discussion with people like Carl Sagan, that helped to put events in the movie into context. But that was cut. By not explaining things, it made the movie mysterious, intellectually challenging, and strange enough to claim a cult following to this day.

Arguably, it was as successful as it was because no one knew what was going on! LOL! Stanley Kubrick knew what he was doing.
 
  • #22
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,842
988
Space ships DO NOT fly aerodynamically, with banking turns and whooshing sounds.

In space, no one can hear you scream.
 
  • Like
Likes Aanta and Imager
  • #23
Filip Larsen
Gold Member
1,440
348
Also, as a corollay to the lets-depict-spaceships-as-airplanes-and-boats, spaceships about to dock dont keep accelerating towards their docking port only to turn of the engine at the last moment to magically slow down.
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes DaveC426913 and Ivan Seeking
  • #24
769
462
Also, as a corollay to the lets-depict-spaceships-as-airplanes-and-boats, spaceships about to dock dont keep accelerating towards their docking port only to turn of the engine at the last moment to magically slow down.
Ooh that's bad. Who did that?
 
  • #25
Filip Larsen
Gold Member
1,440
348
Ooh that's bad. Who did that?
I think I have seen this many times, maybe not in hard sci-fi movies, but certainly in many others, probably those movies that by purpose or ignorance choose to follow the lets-depict-spaceships-as-airplanes-and-boats falsehood. Pretty sure I have seen it in Final Fantasy and Starship Troopers (OK, this has much other physics wrong too), and perhaps also in Space Cowboys.
 

Related Threads on What Sci-Fi got Wrong

  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
188
  • Last Post
3
Replies
58
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
3K
Replies
61
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
20
Views
446
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Last Post
6
Replies
140
Views
13K
  • Last Post
Replies
22
Views
1K
Top