It’s been a while but here we go in yet another attempt to get this blog up and running. This year really is the year that my first book will get published and it’s going to be the first of a few. The last piece I included on here was about the ocean of possibilities that open up for the writer of sci-fi and fantasy when considering the topic of time. It only seems to be fair that this offering acknowledges times perennial bedfellow, space.
Considering that space is a vast emptiness, something which fits between objects so by definition is an absence, it’s remarkable how often it seems to feature as a defining point of reference in tales spanning almost every genre from crime to romance. Indeed, the original Star Trek series was able to make a great many comments through its story lines which would never have crept past the censors had they been dealing with the ‘real’ world, simply because they were far away in space dealing with aliens etc. To highlight the point, space is the first word of the opening blurb of the show, the final frontier.
So why should space prove to be such a powerful element within storytelling? What is it that space can bring to the table which allows for so many more twists and turns? It really is the world’s perfect mystery ingredient, taking almost any narrative and pushing it in a very different direction. My feelings on the subject are that it holds, in a time of such widespread knowledge, the ultimate question mark that the human mind so craves. It represents something which is unknown for so many and, as such, the possibilities are endless with regards to what can take place.
Early stories dealing with ventures into the void, which exists above us all, involved taking a step to be with the Gods. The sky and all that was beyond in the heavens above were so far out of the realm of humanity that all manner of tales could be created without anyone being able to contradict them. As time moved on and the amount that was understood about what exists above our planet grew, the details were folded effortlessly into the tales being created. Far off planets and stars began to feature rather than just seeing people make up any and all details. As we grew more knowledgeable over time, we were able to take our narratives in different directions. The authors were forced to work within a much tighter framework as details continued to emerge.
One of the most famous effects of the unknown element of space was the Orson Welles’ broadcast of War of the Worlds. A radio production given life by the brooding tones of Welles and created as a sound-a-like to a news broadcast, attached itself to the paranoia of a population dealing with the unknown and history was made. Aliens were coming to get us.
By the time that man actually took his first faltering steps into the void of space, stories had moved on to include elements of a more realistic thread. Going back to Star Trek which commenced only five years after the first human travelled into space and three years before man set foot on the moon, it showed a time where mankind had voyaged out into the blackness of space and had found itself a part of a wider community. It was an attempt to show that not only that there was life out there but that it was very similar to us, experiencing similar but different fears and problems. It also served to show the population of the world that their fears of the unknown didn’t mean that we were about to be invaded by little green men.
The other massive tale to find itself in our chosen theatre of space, Star Wars, started each of its films in the black of space. George Lucas has admitted ‘borrowing’ elements of his narrative from other story tellers and film makers (the droids of R2-D2 and C-3PO baring remarkable similarity to characters from The Hidden Fortress by Kurosawa) but this just shows that the same story can be told ‘in space’ and it gives you, the story teller, so many more options.
These two giants of the science fiction genre have continued to develop over time. Since then the threats in the Star Trek ‘universe’ have evolved and morphed, dealing with issues that reflect the concerns and troubles back on planet Earth today and Darth Vader has been turned into a damaged victim of someone he trusted, perfectly in line with society today trying to understand the whys of the monster.
Space will continue to offer so many opportunities for compelling narrative over the years as our understanding and society changes. There will continue to be an on-going fear of the unknown, it’s human nature, but as we as a race delve deeper each fear will be crossed off the list. Space in stories has become a way to highlight fear and then spin tales within the threads of worry which can enthrall but also reassure us that there is always a way out.
Who knows, as the knowledge held by science continues to grow, maybe space will fall away as being the arena of choice, instead giving way to something which stands, as yet, undiscovered. If that does happen, I’d love to start writing at the start of that. Think of the possibilities. So many unknown elements and pieces being pulled together in a new narrative. Better make sure there’s enough, ahem, space, on the bookshelves.