On Firefly/Serenity

Mars Needs Women

How a Dress, a Cake, and a Goofy Hat Will Save Science Fiction

By Maggie Burns

Science fiction is broken. Like poetry and art music, science fiction threatens to spin itself into a self-referential genre so disconnected from everything else that only initiates can find value in it, a tiny irrelevant genre jealously guarded by hardcore fans. So much insider knowledge accrues about each created universe that it pushes away the newcomer. A genre that fired the imaginations of those who actually got humanity into space is reduced to teddy bear aliens, macho swagger, and jiggle. Those of us who love sci-fi are so hungry for it that we will devour nearly anything, which only serves to keep the standards low and the scenarios familiar.

What is the cure for sci-fi’s problems? A goofy knitted hat. A frilly dress. A birthday cake. You and me, and people we know, in space: Firefly.

Sci-fi at its best has higher goals than any other genre. Its creators bring us hope, fear, and truth. Hope in sci-fi shows us what we can be, what we could be if we lived up to our potential. Fear plays out in warnings about our present and future. Of these three, fear appears most often, since it encompasses all of the dystopian fiction: extrapolations of society’s flaws taken to their logical extremes, dark explorations of human nature, terrifying insights into the ugly side of our societies. This type of sci-fi also brings us aliens, which have been standing in for our fears and our flaws in various forms since they first appeared in literature.

But the  …

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