Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Webcomics... in spaaaaaaace!

It's sort of a given that within the major speculative fiction split of Scifi vs. Fantasy, science fiction is usually just a tad more cerebral. I mean, it's got the word "science" in it and everything. Authors who choose a technology-driven setting tend to also put more effort into providing logical explanations, past the convenient "it's magic" of fantasy.

But what kind of science fiction setting and story would suit a serialized medium? The genre in genreal tends toward finite storylines. Technological precepts are only good for so long before they're tapped out, unlike the more visceral fascination which keeps us coming back to the supernatural. Many of the best Science Fiction stories are also morality plays in disguise and often enough revolve around one or two dramatic speeches which outline a certain human failing. Think of Montag's discourse with the captain in Fahrenheit 451 or the time traveller's moment of realization of the Eloi's plight in The Time Machine. Science Fiction is an idea-driven genre, much less suited to lengthy narratives than character-driven, relatable "classic" literature. Comics on the other hand, much like sitcoms and soap-operas, are made to be dragged out episode after episode.

There is one subcategory however which does seem better suited to serialization: space operas. Think Star Trek and Star Wars: expansive, up-beat adventures which simply stretch recognizable human cultural tropes to interstellar dimensions. Galactic empires, spaceships that work just like sea-going vessels, "aliens" that look no less human than your average human with acne or bed-head and bite-sized morsels of shallow, idiot-friendly morality in each episode. The rebel alliance is the good guys cuz they fightin for freedomz! Huzzah! And lasers, lotsa lasers.

There are very few Science Fiction webcomics. When SciFi elements pop up in comics, it's usually in addition to more fantastic themes. To quote a hilarious Futurama moment: "it's got a vampire and an explosion" - comics are a visual medium, and authors are more worried about cramming visual attention-grabbers into their stories than about coherence.

These, at least, are the explanations i can find for the split in science fiction webcomics. The earth-bound ones with sciencey elements tend to also include demons, vampires and witches with pointy hats. Shooting lasers. The space-faring ones tend to be operatic in nature. Oddly enough, this doesn't always spell utter disaster.

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