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Thematic Value

                I went to the Phoenix Comicon this past weekend with my friends and had a blast. Not only did I dress up as a steampunk aristocrat, I was privy to an amazing discussion on the value of theme within a science fiction story. Taught in one of the rooms, Robert J. Sawyer, the author of FlashForward, was our speaker, and he gave multiple examples on how theme drove various science fiction movies and works to success.

                He began with examples. The movie “District 9” was about aliens landing in Africa and quickly becoming second-class citizens who were about to be forcibly removed to another district. To the audience, what “District 9” was truly about was pretty darn clear. “District 9” was about a partide, the separation of two different ‘species’ that went on in Africa, or the separation between whites and blacks by forcibly removing the blacks away from the whites. The movie was set in Africa, and it was the second-class citizens that were moved. Sure there were aliens and space ships, but at its core, a partide is what this movie was about. The movie “Avatar” was another example, and it’s not hard to guess where that touched on; a corporation greedy for money taking the land and lives of indigenous peoples. And that very thing is happening today, on our planet, that’s the point Sawyer was trying to make, that no matter how many ships or aliens you have, science fiction is best when it relates to a core value or problem in our world, usually today.

                So, dear writers, the next time you go out to write a science fiction novel, remember that science fiction has a long history with relating things to the real world, to the here and now. That’s that kind of thinking that got Avatar and District 9 world-wide attention and their many awards.

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