It occurred to me today that there is a slippery slope in science fiction writing. It is easy to make up a premise by simply asking “What if we had X . . . in Space?” (Please insert dramatic pause for the ellipsis.) Some examples, drawn from actual movies or books:
“What if we had High Noon … in Space?”
“What if we had fox hunting … in Space?”
“What if we had Nazis … in Space?”*
“What if we had Santa Claus … in Space?”**
And of course the classic: “What if we had pigs … in Space!”
I am henceforth going to call this trap the Freddy the Pig
school of plotting. It was, after all, the Freddy the Pig series that early on posed the question “What if the detective … is a pig?” and eventually progressed to “What if we played baseball . . . with Martians?”
If you stay on the high side of the slope you can use this trick to find an interesting story. Maybe you can retell a classic in an interesting way. Or, in exploring the idea you find something about X that IS different when it takes place in a different environment – whether space or time, or some other fundamental shift. But, if you start to slide, you just end up with pigs in space.
What other examples can you think of?
*I can think of at least 3 of these without really trying.
**This one is so bad it feels like cheating.