Sameness, Science Fiction, Fantasy, And Building Nothing

I’ve often remarked that I don’t read much SF anymore, or really watch it for that matter. Sure I watch some stuff here and there, or some anime, but there’s not much out there that makes me want to dedicate time to a series or a book. Bad SF and the fact real life is often more SF-like have been a deterrent to me. “Psycho-Pass” was an exception as it was intriguing and really hit that sweet spot of psychology, sociology, and technology.

But I will often watch “very light” SF and fantasy, usually for pure entertainment. It’s brain-on-hold stuff in most cases. Even then, fantasy seems to be . . . samey.

I’ve been thinking as of late what is missing in all of this? What is going on? Hollywood is making the same film over and over, and apparently conspiring to destroy Ryan Reynonld’s career.

Actually, the very sameness gets to me. Sameness is stagnant. Sameness is stuff not happening.

SF often has this problem when it’s a pile of tropes or when technology really is just magic with a few buttons glued on. It’s all the same.

Fantasy is bad about this as well, and I think fantasy is more vulnerable to it. Fantasy is often ancient magic and old gods and prophecies and such. I get tired of chosen ones and destinies and the like because it’s all the same. It’s all repetitious.

There’s no sense of agency, of building, of making.

This is probably why a lot of the modern fantasy and urban fantasy leaves me cold. Warmed over chosen-one plots, half-baked conspiracies, parades of demons and vampires and the usual stuff. A core that is often about cycles and with no sense of agency, and repetitious. Throw that mess into the Hollywood blender and . . . yech. No wonder people are bored.

What I miss from SF is a sense of building a future, of wonder, of construction, of creation, of agency.

This is one thing I enjoyed about Pacific Rim (which is SF light, frankly). It’s about people doing stuff. Monsters show up so we build war machines to punch them in the face. We want to know more about the monsters so research is done. PR is about people making things happen, often inside gigantic robots – but also face-to-face.

This is why I enjoyed editing Serdar’s “Flight of the Vajra” – and I say this sincerely and not as a plug. His hero is an engineer, who things, hacks, and engineers his way out of problems. Other characters take control of their lives. Agency is a core part of the book.

I’d like to see more good SF. More stuff about knowledge and applying it and agency.

I live in Silicon Valley. I live science fiction. I am science fiction. I do science fiction.

I want to see stuff about doing. Not following a script. Not things being happened to.


– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at

Fantasy CRPGs And Distance From The Source

I love Lord of The Rings.  It really is a classic, awesome and epic and beautiful.  Hell, I actually think Tom Bombadil was awesome, but that’s another story.

Or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.  A fantasy road movie, two guys getting into crazy trouble and magic kingdoms underground.

How about Elric?  A buddy story gone terribly wrong among battling gods and falling kingdoms.  Also, hey, god of Jesters.

But what doesn’t feel like fantasy literature is fantasy games.  I don’t say this to diss CRPG fantasy games.  I love a lot of them, I played the first Wizardry, I know Demon’s Winter is one of the most unappreciated fantasy games of the 80’s.  I enjoyed a lot of the Atelier series.  I played a lot of Final Fantasy.  I adore Dragon Quest IX.  It’s just they don’t always feel like the epic literature that inspired them or the genre.

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Go Farther: Fantasy Game Economics

Some time ago I wrote, wistfully, that writers of fictions and worldbuilders of all kinds could do better – and have interesting ideas if they focused on economics.  Economics helps you build a world, create plots, and of course, make a story more relatable since we deal with economic issues all the times.

I'd like to return to that issue by noting a specific area of fantasy fiction and gaming – especially gaming – that I'd like to addressed further.  Those of you writing, those of you building games, and so on, keep this in mind.  It will help you create better.

(And this issue really bugs me).

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