5 Bizarrely Specific Things Every Sci-Fi Movie Does
Anything is possible in science fiction! You can explore the future, delve into the past, chronicle alien civilizations, and probe the endless possibilities of time and space. The genre is limited by nothing but human imagination. Unfortunately, human imagination seems like it was depleted sometime in the 1970s, because no matter what obscure corner of the galaxy you warp to, some things never change. Like how ...
The Only Design Philosophy In The Future Is "More Angles!"
Coming up with a new sci-fi aesthetic is tough. Luckily, there's a shortcut that does about 80 percent of the work: Add some unnecessary angles! Tilt half of it, chop off a corner -- it doesn't matter how you make those angles happen, or what they might possibly be good for. Everything in the future has at least seven unnecessary zigzags.
Most cars in modern sci-fi movies are nothing but contemporary designs with all the curves replaced by straight lines. Here's one from the original Total Recall that is so much from the future that you might almost say it looks stupid and ridiculous.
The 2017 Ghost In The Shell remake took the same approach, and wound up with a "futuristic car" that more resembles a 1983 Datsun.
After 2025, all windows are uselessly weird trapezoids. Here's what the poor bastards in Empire Strikes Back have to look through when they want to see outer space:
Jupiter Ascending also knows that good science fiction is all about inconvenient angles and unnecessary corners.
Here's a cockpit from Prometheus, apparently designed by a drunken spider:
In the future, we will invent six brand-new, never-before-seen angles, and we will use them everywhere. From the landscaping in Star Trek ...
... to the hallways in Star Wars ...
... to the maniacally uncomfortable tables in Guardians Of The Galaxy.
It's not clear if this is all some fashion trend or the side effect of cosmic radiation on the human brain. All we know is that no one in the future can stack anything, and it takes 15 hours to measure a room for carpet.
All Aliens Eat Bugs
Here on Earth, we eat a wide variety of food. In fact, whole industries have been built around preparing, packaging, marketing, and ultimately ingesting food. Seriously, if you haven't heard of food, you should Google it. People go nuts for this stuff. But in science fiction, aliens eat insects, grubs, or worms. That's it. Aliens might have similar dinnerware and mealtime rituals, but they almost always eat swarming plates of live bugs. Take, for instance, the Klingons. They're a proud warrior race that should probably be eating seared Gorn ribeye for every meal, but instead they sit down to bowls of worms, like a bunch of chickens. They gussy them up like they're some kind of delicacy called Gagh, but look at it. It's worms.
In Babylon 5, a series for nerds who think Star Trek is too approachable, everyone's favorite food is Spoo. It's a bunch of cubed worms, and the best way to eat it is when it's very old. If you'd like to read more about Spoo, please find the angriest comment below describing how we obviously didn't do our research, or we would know only the Centauri prefer their Spoo to be aged.
If you're from outer space, all sustenance comes from slimy, wriggling worms. Here on our planet, we chop and saute and burrito, but aliens find that ridiculous. Here is the alien food from the Fallout series: a sloppy-ass worm on a metal tray.
In Titan A.E., the chef, who is himself a beetle monster, is inexplicably proud to offer up Akrennian Beetle Sashimi, which is just a writhing trough of insect larva. That's like going to a human buffet and finding it filled with screaming baby monkeys. In other words, tantalizing and delicious.
Everything In The Future Is Asian (Except The Cast)
If there's a single unifying element in modern science fiction, it's this: Asian stuff is sick as hell. From the 1980s on, we pretty much decided that any sci-fi future looks like somebody opened a Radio Shack and a Benihana in the same space. In every dork's favorite failed show, Firefly, they live in a future so Asian-influenced that people curse in fluent Mandarin, and yet none of them seem to know any Chinese people.
In Blade Runner, the entirety of Los Angeles is a grimy, rain-drenched Little Tokyo. This makes a bit more sense than LA becoming a grimy, rain-drenched El Salvador, but it still has a lot of pagodas and geisha for a multicultural cyber metropolis.
And when they rebooted Total Recall to be less fun and more terrible, they decided that "the future" meant an Asian-style parasol in the hand of every extra.
Even Demolition Man, a movie so stupid it imagined Pizza Hut and Taco Bell would be the food of the future (when it will clearly be Carl's Jr. and Kenny Rogers Roasters), made sure that even after all culture has been homogenized, kimonos will hang on.
All of this would barely be worth mentioning, except that none of these series have an Asian person as anything but an extra, for the most part. It's as if every sci-fi universe shares a common history wherein all the important Asians were wiped out and the architects of their genocide said, "Oooh, but let's keep their furniture and robes!"
Artificial Humans Always Involve Some Kind Of Milky Liquid
If you see an android in a sci-fi movie, then it's almost guaranteed that sucker is somehow dependent on white goo. It's as if robot scientists said, "Look, we can build you a perfect replica of a person, but it only works if we fill it with satin finish house paint."
In Westworld, the process of creating a host involves submerging an almost-complete body -- full skeleton, developed muscles -- into a vat of thick milky stuff. The production crew calls it "the skin dip," and it's a protein liquid that builds all of the body's remaining tissues using sci-fi magic.
They probably got that from the original Ghost In The Shell (seen again in the live-action remake), wherein the final stage of the Major's birth involves dipping her body into a vat of white liquid. Again, a mechanical skeleton monster goes in, and a sexy, sexy human comes out.
The Alien franchise also features human replicants and white goo. It's just that this goo squirts out of them like a terrible milk truck accident any time they get hurt. We first saw it 1979, when Ash was torn apart in Alien.
We saw it again in 1986, when Lance Henriksen got himself gutted in Aliens, and it happened more recently in 2017's Alien: Covenant. Basically, any time someone makes a movie about human-like robots is a great time to be a white fluid salesman.
In The Future, There Will Be One Font To Rule Them All
Any fully realized sci-fi world contains many different societies, nations, and peoples. This should mean a huge variety in graphic design and typography, but apparently there will be a moment in our future when we all come together and decide that we need only one font: Eurostile.
If the future needs to say something, it does so in Eurostile. The font was originally created by an Italian designer in 1962, and it's all sci-fi movies have needed since. Here are but a few of the universes which Eurostile has taken over, as well as a fun rhyme you can use to remember them all.
Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon, where he writes. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs.
For more poetry like that, check out Even Superheroes Have Bad Days.
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