Learnings from sci fi

14 January 2010 0

Watching Spider-Man recently, I noticed that it’s an interesting example of the evolving language of sci fi. In the original 1960s comic books, Peter Parker got his spidery powers after being bitten by a “radioactive” spider. In the 2002 film (which, by the way, I hold to be awesome), the spider is no longer radioactive and has become “genetically modified”.

In sci fi terms, that essentially means the same thing. Back in the day, things that were weird and scary were “bewitched”. Then electricity came along and “struck by lightning” became the favoured method of bringing the dead back to life, turning people into monsters and so on. Then nuclear weapons raised their ugly heads and the Cold War set in, and struck by lightning became “radioactive”. Now, radioactive has become “genetically modified”.
Genetically modified has been the standard for a while now, having overlapped for a while with the era of radioactive. Whenever sci fi writers need to explain away whatever nonsense they’ve dreamed up, they give us some floaty waffle about genes and evolution and the audience goes, “Yeah, OK, let’s see the monster now.”
It’s now 2010 and if you ask me, it’s time we had a fresh pretext for monsters with ten arms and people who can shoot fire out of their nostrils. I’m pinning my hopes on the Large Hadron Collider.

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