Saturday, August 8, 2015

Oh the Wonders of Tropes

I might have some disaster movie tropes in here!
One of the reasons I don't actually review books beyond "Gee, I enjoyed that" or "Not going to read that author again" or "WOW give this All The Stars!" is that I'm kind of an uncomplicated Reader. I don't analyze, I don't dig deep, I don't say to myself, "Ooh, there's that trope I hate...." I  lose myself in the story and if it's good and I like the characters, I'm in. No matter what tropes have been employed. (Except eagles. Never do eagles if you want me to read the book. Well, Roman eagles are okay but not middle Earth....)

So this is a difficult topic for me. I was reminded today that I hate it when characters take time to describe the awesome science and technology behind their everyday life in the book. I won't tell you how my elevator works if you don't describe your antigrav to me, k? I also don't like complicated worldbuilding that requires me to have a dictionary of the author's madeup words and whole paragraphs are in italics and must be translated. ("And our magic translators work by bending the known harmonics of the string theory universe..." Uh, NO.) A few key phrases that I can then enjoy repeating later - great. That I like.

BUT the subject gave me an excuse to run off to one of my new favorite sites, TV Tropes , where this is part of their mission statement:

The wiki is called "TV Tropes" because TV is where we started. Over the course of a few years, our scope has crept out to include other media. Tropes transcend television. They reflect life. Since a lot of art, especially the popular arts, does its best to reflect life, tropes are likely to show up everywhere.

I clicked on the Speculative Fiction genre and from there had an absolute smorgasbord of choices, including the Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches, which then further divides into multiple parts. Some fun things there, which I share purely for enjoyment. If you can use them well in a story I wouldn’t tell you to avoid them! (Italics are the tropes from TV Tropes, regular font are my pithy observations.)

Super-intelligent computers blow up when the hero confuses them. Here’s looking at you, Captain Kirk!

Spacecraft features have been pointlessly carried over from water-borne designs.

A robot is shot and bleeds oil. Awwwww

On-board computers always know exactly how long it will take for the malfunction to blow up the ship. The movie “Galaxy Quest” did a great sendup of this trope. Love that movie.

"Reversing the polarity" is the solution to virtually every engineering problem. As opposed to kicking it, banging on the panel or similar high tech solutions!

Alien artifacts still work after being abandoned for a million years. HEY! Watch it now, I use that one in my Sectors novels and I swear it makes PERFECT sense.

Spaceships make a whoosh as they go by. Flash Gordon, now we’re looking at you, buddy.

When something explodes in space, the shock wave is ring-shaped. It’s NOT?????

Colored irregular crystals are the power source of the future. I think I have some in my jewelry box right now…

The chemicals in the lab are mostly colorful. The poisonous ones are always bright green. OK, ok, I’ll make them……red.

You can get from the common areas of a ship to the most sensitive areas via the ventilation and maintenance ducts. There are never any security precautions in place to prevent this. Well DUH.

If you enjoyed this random sample, there are hundreds, if not thousands more tropes over on TV Tropes. Go forth and enjoy….

And here’s my video today which I LOVE (might be a few tropes hidden in here too):


  1. If not for the air vents, how's the plucky orphan from Beta Nine going to escape the grey Aliens to turn the key on the reactor core and save the day? :D

    Love the list and your asides!

  2. Give a plucky orphan a break today!

  3. Tropes are every writer's one last hope!