Philosophy At Odd Hours – What constitutes a Sci-Fi movie? Part 1

                   Philosophy At Odd Hours              

(where SamanthaMaybe and AlanahSees talk about all the things)

Sam and Alanah at VidCon 2012

The Backstory

In the beginning, there were two best friends named SamanthaMaybe and AlanahSees. They met while attending the same college, but didn’t live together until their senior year. A year full of television, research, wine, and bowling, it proved to them that they were, in fact, destined to be awesome. AlanahSees is of the opinion that they’re actually soul mates (a la Supernatural’s heaven from episode “Dark Side of the Moon”). SamanthaMaybe thinks it’s more likely that they’re mind clones (or brain clones…the existence of the “mind” is still up for discussion…).

After college ended, AlanahSees and SamanthaMaybe were forced to live 3000 miles apart for an indeterminable amount of time. As a result, their near-daily skype sessions were left until the late hours of the night and wee hours of the morning. Or sometimes before lunch. Or around 4:30 pm. And occasionally at, like, 10 am…

Thus, Philosophy At Odd Hours (or PaOH to people who are cool) was born – the blog where Sam and Alanah share their skyped discussions about random topics that typically occur around 2AM (EST). Science, technology, television, film, comic-book characters, genre trends, neuroscience, computer science, theatre, language, and everything in between. They WILL talk about anything. If you have a topic you think they’d enjoy discussing – and that you’d enjoy reading – submit a topic, and we’ll see what happens.

The Disclaimer

PaOH is largely composed of the opinions of two people that know each other very well, and who aren’t afraid that they’ll offend one another. As such, it is possible that we may offend other people and we would like to apologize for any unintentionally offensive discussions focused around people (alive or dead, fiction or non-fiction), religious orders, fandoms, or alien races. In the event that you do feel offended…well, we’ll probably just post a joint discussion dissecting your rationale for feeling offended, or on the philosophy of offending people. Also, keep in mind that these are direct transcriptions of chat sessions, and will appear as such:

AlanahSees: sam, we’re so cool

  SamanthaMaybe: yeah, we’re pretty much the coolest kids in town

right? dont even play

  you just ruined it.

The Main Event


SamanthaMaybe: ok question
do you consider Inception a Sci Fi movie?

  AlanahSees: hm….
my impulse was to say no
but let me think
i mean….no
I – emphasis on the I – do not consider it to be a sci fi movie, but i understand that, technically, it falls into the category
considering the science would be dreamscaping, which doesnt exist, but could, potentially in a highly evolved future
which is a basis of sci fi
also, since it involves hallmarks of science fiction, i can see that
but it is not a genre film
i mean, not like supernatural and x files and buffy are genre television
inception’s not….typical of the genre
and it doesnt evoke sci fi in my mind, because the point of inception is a really specific drama
id categorize it a drama, or a psychological thriller, even
the major arc of the story isnt to defeat the science, which most sci fi is about
inception is about defeating one’s fears/emotional issues
sci fi is always about defeating a science
unless it’s dystopic, in which it’s defeating injustice
or some kind of oppression

read The Hunger Games

i was thinking 1984, Brave New World, or I, Robot
but yes, The Hunger Games is a dystopic novel, in my mind, not a science fiction novel

yeah right those are good too :p

  though it is justifiable to attach sci fi to the end of its subjects list
but yeah


totally a drama
not sci fi, imo

I agree for the most part
i think it fits into a very very literal definition of science fiction
wherein you have some kind of science that drives the story that in the current time period is a thing of fantasy
but yeah the science itself not being the crux of the matter is probably what makes it feel not sci-fi-y
if i were to categorize with other movies I would probably place it alongside Pi or like Donnie Darko
definitely feels more psychological thriller-ish to me

  totes agree

but yeah i’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what things really classify as science fiction
like is the fact that we’d say Hunger Games is dystopian before we’d say it’s science fiction indicitive of a lower caliber of science fiction
or is science fiction just this huuuuge umbrella


that a lot of things fall into

  i feel like sci fi is umbrella-esque in literal def
i like the diff between literal def and true def tho
i like that terminology
i mean, from back when i was in my sci fi lit class, the caliber of sci fi we looked at was formulaic
and not badly so, just incredibly obvious
sci fi is born out of fear of science
not that people who watch or read or enjoy sci fi fear it
but those who make sci fi do
its born out of fear that AI will make robots take over the world, that space exploration will result in alien invasion, that medical research will make us zombies
its all fear based, and the plots always come from trying to defeat or survive the science-turned-evil
so, if the plot of a film doesnt abide by that rule, id venture to say its not true sci fi, even if it fits a literal definition
*is very pleased*

now i’m trying to think of examples of classic sci fi where it isn’t necessarily the science that’s the evil thing
i keep thinking star wars, because there it’s just evil…that’s the evil thing
and whose side has the most destructive technology is a matter of perspective

  me too lol
but wow, i dont think id call star wars sci fi
 id call it a mythological epic, or a space drama
because it follow the Hero’s Journey arc so frakking exactly
*mind blown*


  i mean, yeah, its a “classic” example, but if i think about it, i would call it an epic, not a sci fi film…tho it is genre specific


  let’s make sure to come back to this question again later


Authors’ Note

We find this question INSANELY intriguing, so this is NOT, in fact, the end of the discussion. We will likely continue it over several posts, and we encourage comments that ask relevant questions or make points that we can address in follow-ups. The implications surrounding the issue of whether or not Star Wars is or is not technically a “sci-fi” movie are especially interesting to us. Comment away!