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Madrinpoor
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SciFi Worldbuilding Tropes

Postby Madrinpoor » Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:15 pm

This is a thread for talking about tropes of Science Fiction worldbuilding. What do you see a lot of? What is so common it annoys you? Which tropes do you not like and which do you like?
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Postby The Alkdorian Empire » Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:20 pm

I just find the concept of MegaCorps to be slightly annoying when you have a setting involving such a colossal corporation in your setting. But if somebody like me wants to know more about it. There is barely any history on how it got soo big in the first place, added with the leaders of the corporations over the decades.
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Madrinpoor
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Postby Madrinpoor » Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:22 pm

For me, something I see a ton of in Sci-Fi is either the world is so advanced that it has culturally regressed or it is dystopian, which I feel like, in most cases, is just transporting present-day cultures, trends, and ideas into a super futuristic environment. In something like Star Wars, the world feels medieval almost, like it has been taken from history and plugged into a technologically futuristic world. The Jedi are warrior-priests, which IRL kinda died out a hundred years ago, and their whole society — the temples and the ancient sites and shrines and the force and all that just seems dated to me. Even though the world seems futuristic. You see the same thing in Dune, where the whole world feels like an ancient idea in a futuristic setting. I just get that vibe.

If it isn't like that, then it is dystopian. One of my favorite and often overlooked dystopian books is Legend by Marie Lu, even though it is a YA novel the world is so well fleshed out to me. But it doesn't seem that different culturally. There are the same problems. With the same solutions. The setting may be different but the culture just feels the same.

If this is an incoherent rant, I apologize. That's kinda what I do best.
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Nazis in Space
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Postby Nazis in Space » Tue Apr 06, 2021 6:14 am

Eusocial insects are not hiveminds.

Hiveminds are a fantasy construct. Complete nonsense. Utter bullshit. They do not exist.

The 'Queen' (Gyne) is, depending on the species, somewhere between in charge by bullying the workers into submission (until she grows old, at which point the workers kill her) and nothing more than a walking womb (The 'Walking' can be debatable; see termites) while the workers run the show.

The workers are kept in a careful balance, usually being split between different fathers and in competition with each other, which keeps the gyne safe from a potential revolution if the colony's genetic makeup becomes to lopsided. And yes, those revolutions happen from time to time. Where a gyne is no longer able to fulfill her function, she is eliminated. Sometimes several gynes are allowed (some wasps & ants), sometimes (honeybees), excess gynes get to murder each other at the behest of the workers who force the issue.

Workers aren't connected by a magical hivemind, they communicate essentially like we do. They exchange information through pheromones and gestures, they actively teach younger members and help each other out. Amongst some species (many wasp species) workers outright fight each other over their social position within the colony. Decisions are made by, essentially, a public vote (sorta. There's no actual voting, of course, but individual ants or bees will decide which other individual made the most compelling case for, for instance, where to forage, and follow it).

And then, of course, the vast majority of insect species aren't social at all, but in fairness, a civilisation has to be social by definition, so leaving those out is fair enough.

So the SciFi insect civilisations we could get may range from societies much like our own, just with specialised breeding and a lot of social competition between the workers (paper wasps, bumblebees) over flat-out Brave-New-World-esque societies that determine intelligence and role within the nest through nutrition and have their gynes subjected to the collective will (honeybees) all the way to genocidal plunder economies who, their reproductive success being determined solely by the gyne's survival, fight with absolutely no concern given to personal survival, but crucially, still act as individuals within this context (ants).

And well. There's an odd divide here.

Because there is plenty of fiction that gets this. And all of it has something in common: The insect's the protagonist. Maja the Bee. Antz/Bee Movie. Empire of the Ants (Werber, not Wells). The Culture series with the Nariscene. Bug Fables. Small glimpses of the Gaim in Babylon 5.

But holy fuck, the second the insect species is the antagonist, it's MAGICAL HIVEMIND OUT OF NOWHERE! (Starship Troopers, 40k & Star Craft, Enders Game) all the way, and fuck that shit with a rusty spork. I hate it. I hate it so much. I hate it even more because it's just so blatant that the determining factor isn't 'Hey, hiveminds are cool' (which they absolutely can be... but the concept is also difficult to grasp and thus regularly gets fucked up. Instead of psychic Switzerland, everyone gets a vote, authors invariably go with OVERMIND, like that's any different from a single individual), but rather 'Are these guys the protagonists or the antagonists?' A blatant expression not of wanting to write something exotic and genuinely alien, but simply creating a face- and mindless horde of enemies. The hivemind's not used to explore something new, but to create a particularly simple antagonist. And if the antagonist turns protagonist (again, Starcraft), well, that OVERMIND concept is super convenient there, isn't it? Fuck actually exploring the concept of hivemind, but keep the illusion, anyway.

A genuine hivemind would be magic, but hey, it'd at least be interesting. A society in which everything is decided by - essentially - public vote. Where individual interests aren't forced to, but voluntarily take a step back. Which doesn't get the concept of 'Me', only 'Us'. I can live with that.

But it's almost never that. It's almost invariably 'THIS OVERMIND CONTROLS ALL!' That's not a fucking hivemind. That's me playing Command and Conquer.

Even if the initial writers get it (Star Trek, Borg), the next ones invariably fuck it up, anyway.

tl;dr: Fuck the literary concept of 'Hivemind'.

(Also, authors: If you want to make the protagonist male, either pick termites, or make the protagonist a lazy playboy who contributes absolutely nothing to society. 'cause that's what males amongst the hymenoptera - wasps and the wasp-derived ants and bees - are. They don't fight. They don't work. They're sextoys to be discarded - oftentimes literally killed - after use.

Also, they are the ones called 'Drones', ffs. Not the workers. Workers are workers)

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Postby New yugoslavaia » Tue Apr 06, 2021 6:29 am

When people explode planets.

Sure, it looks cool and establishes that the antagonist (and occasionally the protagonist) pose a significant threat to whoever decides to go up against them, but...
1. It's uses up absurd amounts of resources.
2. It also destroys a strategic target that could of been used for a variety of things that would of massively helped the war effort (E.g. mining, use as a base or colony).
If you want to completely wipe out all enemy forces on the planet, then just bombard the surface. If you want to make it uninhabitable, tear apart the crust. You can't build infrastructure on molten metal.
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New yugoslavaia
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:25 pm

When there's alien species but they don't look like they crawled right out of the deepest parts of the ocean or a significantly different ecosystem but are just people with different coloured skin or extra bits on them.
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Postby United Communal Burrow Republics » Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:28 pm

I feel like space battles and how close they look in Sci-fi is a bit of a trope. Space is absolutely massive, and there's literally no reason why ships would ever get close enough to each other for stuff like boarding or ramming to be important. There should be hundreds of km between ships on the same side even most of the time, so them being neck and neck just doesnt make sense unless one side let the other get that close.

And you may ask how this relates to worldbuilding? Well primarily, it leads to cartoonishly unrealistic ship designs with battering rams and battleship like structures that just wouldn't make sense in the long distance environment that is space.
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Postby Baltenstein » Wed Apr 07, 2021 6:29 am

Space Nazis, i.e. fictional galactic empires modelled partially or completely on Nazi Germany. It's been done to death and is a lame way of saying "These are the bad guys, they'll lose at the end".

Sorry, NiS.
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New yugoslavaia
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:57 am

When aliens invade Earth for resources or to create a colony when they could do that with literally any other planet and not have to worry about nearly 8 billion bipedal, hairless apes with advanced technology (E.g. extinction balls, rockets, jets, tanks) who would very happily use them to fight off the invaders and cripple their forces, maybe even outright destroying them.
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Postby Whitemore » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:05 am

I think one of the most annoying things I see people do in SciFi worldbuilding is when they decide to create either a super dark space Empire that is bent on death and then on the other hand create a perfectly good, morally superior Republic without having any differences in either one. It feels like they are just relying on the trope without having to actually add into the lore once they have thought about it and to me it just makes me sad to see interesting nations only to realize how lackluster it really is.
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:20 am

Whitemore wrote:I think one of the most annoying things I see people do in SciFi worldbuilding is when they decide to create either a super dark space Empire that is bent on death and then on the other hand create a perfectly good, morally superior Republic without having any differences in either one. It feels like they are just relying on the trope without having to actually add into the lore once they have thought about it and to me it just makes me sad to see interesting nations only to realize how lackluster it really is.


Black and white morality is anything but interesting. Add some shades of grey.
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How the hell did this happen?
Well...we don't actually know. Sure, there's factbooks and stuff, but they don't really matter because the owner of this account is a lazy, unproductive, indecisive loser who may or may not have a thing for half human hybrids, big mechs and even bigger ships.
Is it a reunited Yugoslavia in the 21st century? Is a rebel colony world in the far future? Who knows, who cares?
New Yugoslavia just is.

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Postby Whitemore » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:21 am

New yugoslavaia wrote:
Whitemore wrote:I think one of the most annoying things I see people do in SciFi worldbuilding is when they decide to create either a super dark space Empire that is bent on death and then on the other hand create a perfectly good, morally superior Republic without having any differences in either one. It feels like they are just relying on the trope without having to actually add into the lore once they have thought about it and to me it just makes me sad to see interesting nations only to realize how lackluster it really is.


Black and white morality is anything but interesting. Add some shades of grey.


Agreed.
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Postby Xmara » Sat Apr 10, 2021 12:01 pm

One that I really hate seeing is that aliens always seem to find us first, and they’re always super advanced. Just once I’d like to see an instance where we find them first and we’re more advanced. Where humanity’s first contact with ET is initiated by us, not them.
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New yugoslavaia
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Sat Apr 10, 2021 1:36 pm

Xmara wrote:One that I really hate seeing is that aliens always seem to find us first, and they’re always super advanced. Just once I’d like to see an instance where we find them first and we’re more advanced. Where humanity’s first contact with ET is initiated by us, not them.


Alien invasion but it's actually us attacking another planet for its resources and land.
Yugoslavia's back baby...

How the hell did this happen?
Well...we don't actually know. Sure, there's factbooks and stuff, but they don't really matter because the owner of this account is a lazy, unproductive, indecisive loser who may or may not have a thing for half human hybrids, big mechs and even bigger ships.
Is it a reunited Yugoslavia in the 21st century? Is a rebel colony world in the far future? Who knows, who cares?
New Yugoslavia just is.

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Postby Stellar Colonies » Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:01 pm

Xmara wrote:One that I really hate seeing is that aliens always seem to find us first, and they’re always super advanced. Just once I’d like to see an instance where we find them first and we’re more advanced. Where humanity’s first contact with ET is initiated by us, not them.

The only instances I can think of which involve that trope is Avatar, a few episodes of Star Trek, and some of the later books from Ben Bova.

Seeing it more would definitely be interesting...and I can easily imagine humans doing the probing instead of the aliens.
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:03 pm

Stellar Colonies wrote:
Xmara wrote:One that I really hate seeing is that aliens always seem to find us first, and they’re always super advanced. Just once I’d like to see an instance where we find them first and we’re more advanced. Where humanity’s first contact with ET is initiated by us, not them.

The only instances I can think of which involve that trope is Avatar, a few episodes of Star Trek, and some of the later books from Ben Bova.

Seeing it more would definitely be interesting...and I can easily imagine humans doing the probing instead of the aliens.


I mean, it's probably what will happen provided we don't destroy ourselves first.
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How the hell did this happen?
Well...we don't actually know. Sure, there's factbooks and stuff, but they don't really matter because the owner of this account is a lazy, unproductive, indecisive loser who may or may not have a thing for half human hybrids, big mechs and even bigger ships.
Is it a reunited Yugoslavia in the 21st century? Is a rebel colony world in the far future? Who knows, who cares?
New Yugoslavia just is.

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Postby Crysuko » Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:28 pm

United Communal Burrow Republics wrote:I feel like space battles and how close they look in Sci-fi is a bit of a trope. Space is absolutely massive, and there's literally no reason why ships would ever get close enough to each other for stuff like boarding or ramming to be important. There should be hundreds of km between ships on the same side even most of the time, so them being neck and neck just doesnt make sense unless one side let the other get that close.

And you may ask how this relates to worldbuilding? Well primarily, it leads to cartoonishly unrealistic ship designs with battering rams and battleship like structures that just wouldn't make sense in the long distance environment that is space.

I'm willing to suspend disbelief for the spectacle. if the ships and structures are reasonable then i'm willing to have starships firing fluorescent beams at point blank. Operation Return wouldn't be my all time favourite space battle if it took place halfway across the solar system.
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:34 pm

Crysuko wrote:
United Communal Burrow Republics wrote:I feel like space battles and how close they look in Sci-fi is a bit of a trope. Space is absolutely massive, and there's literally no reason why ships would ever get close enough to each other for stuff like boarding or ramming to be important. There should be hundreds of km between ships on the same side even most of the time, so them being neck and neck just doesnt make sense unless one side let the other get that close.

And you may ask how this relates to worldbuilding? Well primarily, it leads to cartoonishly unrealistic ship designs with battering rams and battleship like structures that just wouldn't make sense in the long distance environment that is space.

I'm willing to suspend disbelief for the spectacle. if the ships and structures are reasonable then i'm willing to have starships firing fluorescent beams at point blank. Operation Return wouldn't be my all time favourite space battle if it took place halfway across the solar system.


Nothing beats a good ol laser battle.
Yugoslavia's back baby...

How the hell did this happen?
Well...we don't actually know. Sure, there's factbooks and stuff, but they don't really matter because the owner of this account is a lazy, unproductive, indecisive loser who may or may not have a thing for half human hybrids, big mechs and even bigger ships.
Is it a reunited Yugoslavia in the 21st century? Is a rebel colony world in the far future? Who knows, who cares?
New Yugoslavia just is.

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Postby Crysuko » Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:37 pm

New yugoslavaia wrote:
Crysuko wrote:I'm willing to suspend disbelief for the spectacle. if the ships and structures are reasonable then i'm willing to have starships firing fluorescent beams at point blank. Operation Return wouldn't be my all time favourite space battle if it took place halfway across the solar system.


Nothing beats a good ol laser battle.

if you're writing about a space battle, it can be astronomical units apart and that'll satisfy anyone's realism boner. but if you're showing one, making that kind of thing entertaining would be a fool's errand.
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Ethel mermania wrote:A terrorist attack on a disabled center doesn't make a lot of sense, unless to show no one is safe.

This will take some time to figure out, i am afraid.

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Cesopium wrote:Welp let's hope armies of 10 million don't just roam around and Soviet their way through everything.

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New yugoslavaia
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Postby New yugoslavaia » Sat Apr 10, 2021 3:30 pm

Crysuko wrote:
New yugoslavaia wrote:
Nothing beats a good ol laser battle.

if you're writing about a space battle, it can be astronomical units apart and that'll satisfy anyone's realism boner. but if you're showing one, making that kind of thing entertaining would be a fool's errand.


Even The Expanse keeps ship to ship combat relatively close quarters.
Yugoslavia's back baby...

How the hell did this happen?
Well...we don't actually know. Sure, there's factbooks and stuff, but they don't really matter because the owner of this account is a lazy, unproductive, indecisive loser who may or may not have a thing for half human hybrids, big mechs and even bigger ships.
Is it a reunited Yugoslavia in the 21st century? Is a rebel colony world in the far future? Who knows, who cares?
New Yugoslavia just is.

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Tsaivao
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Postby Tsaivao » Sat Apr 10, 2021 3:51 pm

I think that you may be misinterpreting, as what Burrow probably means are space battles that are so close that broadsiding and shit is considered a viable tactic.

My personal pet peeve is overreliance on orbital bombardment and planetary doomsday weapons. Not only is it the most annoying trope ever, it's also even more annoying in roleplay. It's not fun or interesting to just have an entire massive group of military units deleted in the blink of an eye. Big whoop, you pressed a button, you're sooooo cool, bro. Anyone who tries to pull a doomsday weapon on me without checking with me first in an RP is immediately going on my shit-list, sorry.

The other thing I hate is "planet of the hats" trope, wherein an entire planet or even an entire race all have the exact same culture all over. I know that some people don't want to flesh out "Southwest Reinkelstandia of the Urbana Prefecture within the nation of Ganat in the Fidamani Federation," but I also hate it when all culture is literally just a homogenous carbon copy of some other culture.
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Nazis in Space
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Postby Nazis in Space » Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:26 pm

United Communal Burrow Republics wrote:I feel like space battles and how close they look in Sci-fi is a bit of a trope. Space is absolutely massive, and there's literally no reason why ships would ever get close enough to each other for stuff like boarding or ramming to be important. There should be hundreds of km between ships on the same side even most of the time, so them being neck and neck just doesnt make sense unless one side let the other get that close.

And you may ask how this relates to worldbuilding? Well primarily, it leads to cartoonishly unrealistic ship designs with battering rams and battleship like structures that just wouldn't make sense in the long distance environment that is space.

Interestingly, WH40k - the 'Standard' setting for RAMMING TACTICS! with spaceboats specifically designed for it - is also a setting that oftentimes does this right. While it heavily depends on the author (and BFG has to shorten distances by several orders of magnitude as an inevitability of being tabletop), combat ranges in the tens to hundreds of thousands to kilometres are common enough. 'Fighters' are oftentimes boats with multiple decks and a crew of a dozen, which is what they should be. It's a curious mix.

For absurdo-ranges, I also recommend the Cultureverse, which routinely engages over distances of multiple lightyears. For something more reasonable, Perry Rhodan also runs combat ranges in the millions of km. Requires German and fighting through a ridiculous backlog, though. And then there's Forge of God/Anvil of Stars, which usually hammer it out in the hundreds of millions to a couple billion kilometre range.
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Last edited by Nazis in Space on Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Krezenel
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Founded: Sep 16, 2020
Father Knows Best State

Postby Krezenel » Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:32 pm

The very first thing I see when I hear "Sci-Fi" is bright and giant blue hexagonal domes with geometric cities.

Which strays quite far from the say, the standard sci-fi Scholastic book cover with brown/darker aesthetics and strange alien planets.

Edit: This image. (Not domed, but still has the aesthetic)

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Last edited by Krezenel on Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Crysuko
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Left-Leaning College State

Postby Crysuko » Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:07 pm

Krezenel wrote:The very first thing I see when I hear "Sci-Fi" is bright and giant blue hexagonal domes with geometric cities.

Which strays quite far from the say, the standard sci-fi Scholastic book cover with brown/darker aesthetics and strange alien planets.

Edit: This image. (Not domed, but still has the aesthetic)


https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ ... chHexagons
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-Ocelot-
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby -Ocelot- » Sun Apr 11, 2021 9:23 am

Not exactly a trope, but I dislike how science fiction has come to mean "dystopian". Seems like writers can't create meaningful sci-fi stories that don't take part in a collapsing, oppressive, or otherwise grim world, or during a crisis. Sci-fi can be uplifting, too. It doesn't have to be a depressive trip of rampant technophobia. I'd like to see more sci-fi works set in worlds like Mass Effect's or Star Trek's, where everything doesn't have to suck. How hard can this be?


Krezenel wrote:The very first thing I see when I hear "Sci-Fi" is bright and giant blue hexagonal domes with geometric cities.

Which strays quite far from the say, the standard sci-fi Scholastic book cover with brown/darker aesthetics and strange alien planets.

Edit: This image. (Not domed, but still has the aesthetic)



Well, to be fair, the hexagon is the most efficient shape in nature.

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