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Making Nerds of us All

by Archives September 8, 2009

Science fiction used to be a genre relegated to nerds.
But with movies like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and District 9 out-performing other big budget fare at the box office, have we all become a little nerdy?
Well, maybe in terms of movies, but apparently not in terms of literature. “Sci-fi literature has its fan base, but it’s nowhere near as large as that of Transformers,” said popular sci-fi author Joe Haldeman.
Haldeman and hundreds of other sci-fi professionals came to Montreal this August for the annual World Science Fiction Convention. Marking its first time in Montreal, the convention was attended by thousands of Worldcon members from across the globe. It included panel discussions, a dealers’ room to purchase the latest novels, book signings and even an awards gala.
However, aside from those attending, does anyone really care about sci-fi literature, and should they?
This year’s guest of honour, Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, thinks you should. Sci-fi, and Worldcon in particular, are acquired tastes “like scotch whiskey and ginger ale,” he wrote in a published letter, “and smells like a long walk on the salty seafront”.
In order to help you develop your taste buds, authors and illustrators spoke to The Concordian about how to make sci-fi literature more accessible to those out of the loop and what trends are soon to emerge in the genre.
Sci-fi reflects real life; terrorist over aliens
Many complain they can’t relate to science fiction because the themes are too otherworldly – how do alien invasions affect me?
Sci-fi publisher Brad Templeton says bad guys are more complex and interesting than they used to be. Nowadays, they resemble less like swamp monsters and more like Al Qaeda terrorist groups. “It began with Star Trek in the 1960’s for dealing with issues based on race,” he said. “Now, shows like Battlestar Galactica have made the bold step to make these bad guys terrorists.”
Templeton, however, says there is a difference between a good and bad portrayal of a bad guy. “24 has very two-dimensional terrorists,” he said of the hit Fox show. “They are so disappointing because they are always portrayed as angry Arabs, just like James Bond movie villains are always jewel thieves.”
What makes Battlestar Galactica so compelling, he says, is that the terrorists are not portrayed as mad men. “Most terrorists are usually not insane,” he said. “They have a specific goal and their destructive actions reflect that initial goal.”
Templeton goes as far as saying Galactica’s main bad guy, Baltar, is “one of the best villains ever written.” Not because he is the scariest, but because “you really understand why he acts so evil.”
Web comics to replace print; free and easy
The closest most people get to comics is the daily Garfield cartoon printed in their local funnies. However, with the ever expanding Internet, there are thousands of online comics, and they’re all free.
“I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County,” said Howard Taylor, cartoonist of the webcomic Schlock Mercenary. “I wanted a laugh back then, and I still do today. But now I browse the net instead of the newspaper.”
Taylor predicts print comics will become extinct sooner than later. “Webcomics are already more read than print runs,” he said. “New serialized comics will debut online instead of in print and it will kill comic strips and graphic novels as we know them.”
Finding the right webcomic, however, is a difficult task, even for a webcomic creator. “Good web comics are like obscenity,” Taylor said, “I know it when I see it.”
There are two main webcomic types to choose from; long form and short form. Claude Lalumi

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