Trying to figure out a time to meet with some friends online and do some science fiction role-playing. We’re looking at Mothership and it made me think about that delicate balance between horror and wonder.
That character sheet! I want to roll Xenoesoterricism to figure out what an alien techno-priest was thinking about the universe 10 thousand years ago and I want that understanding to mark my character in unexpected ways. I want my character to turn strange through their travels, if they manage to survive.
Sure, there are big corporations in space and corporations are only there to make money for their shareholders. I get it, corporations are sociopaths, but I also want other successful ways for humans to organize – communes, co-operatives, labor unions, libraries, tribes (that are NOT shitty combinations of some white guy’s imagining of American Indigenous Tribes and Bedouin and Samurai thrown into a blender) and other things we haven’t seen yet or modes of social power that we have forgotten. Is it a coincidence that the closest we see to a labor union in science fiction turns its members into space-fish?
What wonders would navigators witness from their math-wombs while bending space? I’m getting distracted by Dune, always a danger when talking science fiction. Where were we? Wonder and horror…
Yes, to firefights on space station corridors and aliens so very alien that they hurt our brains but also moments of beauty and wonder. Show us moments where the alien temple is framed against the nebula or where scientists share their data about a lost civilization. How about some moments of connection across oceans of space and otherworldly evolution.
Scientists I have met get that gleam in their eye when they start talking about their realm of study and what they have found and hope to find. Sure, we’ve got to pay the mortgage on this ship but if we find new glyphs on this asteroid we might be able to piece together an alien language.
I want my horror balanced with wonder and my pessimism balanced with hope.
The sci-fi gamer friends are e-mailing back & forth – figuring it out together. Hoping to do some round-robin science fiction GMing. Maybe this will be our first adventure?
Right about now some science fiction nerds might drop a, “You can’t take the sky from me,” bullshit but as Jim prophesied a decade ago during one of our many campus walks during a lunch break:
“Firefly ended before Joss Whedon could REALLY fuck it up even worse.”Jim DelRosso
Looking forward to getting together with friends and hitting that Discovery vibe – PEW! PEW! PEW!, science, friendship, found family, cool-ass ships, cosmic catastrophes, starships slowly becoming sentient and alien civilization’s archives.
As Captain Michael Burnham said:
Great read! Horror is a difficult theme in sci-fi. Most effective sci-fi horror stories tend to be some variation cosmic horror stories, and the cosmic horror story almost invariably results in the collapse of the protagonist’s sanity and sense of reality. Is wonder possible in a world of Great Old Ones and Things From Beyond? I think so. Maybe the key is to shift the vector of horror from the sci-fi elements and focalize the human use of these elements. The horror isn’t that the Xenomorph exists – the horror is how some people want to use it. The horror isn’t that the Great Precursor Empire did weird experiments – the horror is that some of these experiments have survived and are painfully aware of their incongruity with the universe around them. And so on.