Second Draft

Alien Societies in Time’s Backyard

Posted in WorldBuilding by Jill Snider Lum on Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I’m recovering from the kind of headcold that takes over your life, that turns you from a functioning, sentient human being with hopes and dreams and the power of reason, to a wheezing, dripping, mouth-breathing pile of snot.  The only good thing about this disgusting experience is the number of old movies I’ve  been able to watch while recovering.  And that, I realize, has given my hind-brain a chance to reflect, while my fore-brain was otherwise occupied.

What is it about black-and-white movies from the earlier part of the 20th century that attracts me?  Having digested a great many of them for the past few days, I have come to realize that one reason is the utter alien-ness of the world portrayed in these films.  They may show similarities to our world, even to our world as it was during the time when the movies were set; but for the most part, they’re fantasies.  Some of them, with their oddly outdated technology and peculiar social customs, now so unfamiliar to us, might almost qualify as a type of science fiction — social-science fiction.  For perhaps the same reason that many science fiction conventions feature Regency dancing, the past can be as alien to us as the future — and alien societies are very attractive, especially to people who do things like fantasy-writing.

Not a very original thought, perhaps; but hey, I was a wheezing, dripping, mouth-breathing pile of snot when I had it.


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