m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Brain Bugs

Via del.icio.us sf: an old essay by Michael Wong surveys Brain Bugs, the bum memes of Star Trek and science fiction in general.

Surely no one would be stupid enough to watch the Kobayashi Maru combat simulation in ST2 and conclude that exploding consoles are the principal cause of death for bridge personnel, would they?

Unfortunately, nobody thought to explain this to the writers. Fast forward to TNG. The seemingly harmless brain bug has grown into the bizarre design concept that every bridge console appears to be lined with C-4. In combat, bridge consoles routinely explode and spray their users with lethal shrapnel. Does this make sense? Of course not.

There are many more Star Trek examples, and some interesting generic sci-fi memes, such as gravitics and “evolution”:

Unfortunately, many science fiction writers seem to have no idea how evolution works, to say nothing of speciation. In their minds, structural change takes place through a miraculous transformation (bathed in white light, of course) rather than a gradual selection of preferred (and pre-existing) variants. In Star Trek, a species “evolves” to the next step in its evolutionary development by undergoing a dramatic transfiguration; in fact, there was a TNG episode called “transfigurations” in which we saw precisely that: a humanoid male who miraculously transformed into a being of white light and then floated away.

Star Trek is not the only offender. Babylon5 had an entire planetary civilization which was about to undergo such a transfiguration, but they were trapped on the cusp of their change by a soul hunter (don’t ask).

Need I mention Stargate, where all the interesting races and characters have “ascended” away?

It doesn’t take a genius to see where this theme comes from. Worse yet, Babylon5 showed us humanity 1 million years in the future, and (surprise, surprise), we have become “energy beings”, floating ethereally through space in our transcendent glory. The only thing missing was the harp.