If one cannot have a little rant about inconsistent worldbuilding in an editorial for a speculative fiction magazine, where can one?
Of course, I could simply tell you how awesome it’s been these last few months to have the stories for this issue appearing in my inbox. I could also give huge thanks to Christine Pope, author of “Moving Day” from Issue 001 and freelance editor for her invaluable help as a second set of eyes on this issue (thank you!).
But I have a hatchet to grind (as opposed to a whole axe, I realize I’m being nitpicky) with our fellow creatives who work in the visual medium. I’m talking to you, movie and television people! There are some things you do brilliantly. You have given us spaceships zooming through wormholes, amazing and believable otherworldly creatures, and computer interfaces that make this geeky girl drool with envy. You have given us worlds that we’d all love to live in, or at least try out for a day or two. Awesome. Yet, there is one thing about science fiction in this medium that bothers me to no end. I apologize for even bringing it up, because once you know what it is, you will probably see it everywhere. I’m sorry if this ruins the experience for you.
Okay, after way to much exposition, here is my petty, little beef:
Glasses do not belong on any character in science fiction set in the future.
I will back this statement up with a few examples, but first the reason I think glasses are being used at all. In short, they serve character development. Glasses, in our society, give the impression that a character falls under one of the following categories:
a) The character is super smart (if the glasses are elegant).
b) The character is a geek (if the glasses are thick-framed and/or broken).
c) The character is experienced and “mature” (if the glasses are used for reading only).
On the surface, I get it. This is great shorthand, an easy-to-use tool for the visual medium that explains, without words when time is of the essence, an important facet of the characters personality. The problem is that it almost never fits in futuristic fiction. I only say “almost” because I’m sure someone could show me an instance where this actually does work. If you’ve got one, I’d love to hear about it.
And before you decided I’m one of those people that picks things apart all the time, let it be known that I’m able to watch the entire Star Wars saga and not get annoyed by Jar Jar nor caught up in why the stormtroopers are such lousy shots. I am quite capable of suspending my disbelief completely. Just note that there are virtually no glasses in the Star Wars universe. Even Jocosta Nu has 20/20.
I am going to assume you all understand my point by now, but just to be sure, I’ll end this little diatribe with my evidence so you can see just what a dork I am about this and that I’m not just talking out my ear. There may be spoilers. You have been warned.
1) This phenomenon first became an issue for me while watching The Island, the Michael Bay sci-fi flick from a few years back. The whole plot of the movie revolves around cloning people to be used as spare parts for their “sponsor”. People can order up a clone to grow a new liver, kidney, etc. in case of some accident or illness. Essentially a living insurance policy. The head guy in charge of the company, the man who developed the whole system, wears glasses.
You mean to tell me that we’ve figured out how to clone people, including manipulating their genes to make them more docile, and the man who runs the company can’t get his eyeballs fixed? Has LASIK really lagged that far behind the rest of medical technology?
2) Example number two comes from Battlestar Galactica. Admiral Adama is a smart, experienced military man with nerves of steel and a good head on his shoulders. He also wears glasses to read all those funny-shaped bulletins and reports people keep handing him.
So, in this senario, we have developed faster than light travel and biodomes in the sky. We then proceeded to create bloody Cylons, AI intelligent enough to turn on us and yet, once more, we cannot fix someone’s eyeballs?
3) My final example comes from the venerable Star Trek. Bastion of all things techy. The grandfather of all that followed. Here we have teleporters, warp drives, and have you seen Bones’ facilities lately? Impressive.
Then we have the second installment of the movie franchise, The Wrath of KHAAAAAAAN, in which our hero, Admiral Kirk, checks his watch and looks up over his reading glasses. Apparently the only solution to bad eyesight in the 23rd century is Retinax Five, to which some folks have an alleric reaction. Seriously?
Reading glasses. In Star Trek.
I rest my case.