Competence Porn In Fiction Versus Gaming

I loved the article io9 did about the loss of Competence Porn (watching competent people do competent things) in SF. It noted how many SF stories had lost that element, leaving us with assorted “average” guys, non-scientists, and the like facing SF situations. I had to agree, at least on an intuitive level.

I miss tales of scientists and engineers solving stuff. I grew up with Dick Seaton (real name) of the Skylark stories. I, like many, wanted to be Spock or Scotty. I loved the idea of Iron Man and engineers making cool stuff.

I wasn’t into the idea that someone someone who lacks knowledge and skill (and doesn’t acquire them) is going to solve things. Wasn’t believable. Wasn’t a good story really. Didn’t give me anything to aim for.

(I could go into this as part of anti-intellectualism or “My ignorance is the same of your knowledge” trend or whatever, but that’s for later).

This got me thinking about gaming, another form of storytelling.

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Does io9 Get It Right About SF and “Competence Porn”?

Well worth reading.  Rough summary, SF has diverged from “Competence Porn” – the joy of seeing smart and skilled people do smart and skilled things.  I agree with the thesis that this has happened, but not his explanations.  In fact I probably need to analyze this for awhile before I can coherently state my own theories.

However, I think there’s something here.  Maybe it’s just my age, but for me my SF heroes were always, well, competent.  Scientists and adventurers with names like Dick Seaton (oh, E.E. Smith . . .), Danny Dunn, Tom Swift, John Carter.  Even Luke Skywalker, a bit niave, was a fast learner – but then again *I* mostly wanted to be Han Solo or Obi-Wan, so maybe I don’t care.

Something to think over.

Also I am so using the term “Competence Porn.”

(Edit: I put in the wrong link.  Ironic that.)

– Steven Savage