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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Guest Post by David Goodberg (And Giveaway!)

South Park: The Best Non-Science-Fiction, Science-Fiction Show  
South Park in actuality, is a science fiction show.  While I recognize the magnitude of this article being posted on a book review website, I feel I have a duty to make this connection as I attempt to plug my science fiction book, Selected Shorts and Other Methods of Time Travel. There is a dangerous absence of science fiction in mainstream media, from movies and TV to even books (let alone humorous science fiction).  While books are the best resource for current science fiction, it is hardly the genre big publishers are investing their marketing dollars in. And before you try and counter-attack, let's remember that the massive influx of fantasy is hardly science fiction. Fantasy is a genre that features impossible environments while science fiction holds promise and possibility (or probability) of exiting. At least, that's the basics (that I believe to be true).  
To another level, I don’t consider drama in a futuristic environment science fiction unless there is a relationship between the story and us (the viewers).  For example, Star Wars is clearly a science-fiction series, but I would classify it more so as a dramatic adventure that takes place in the future because of the lack of science fiction themes versus the dramatic, human element that dominates. While having not read the books, I am existed to hear the buzz surrounding the Hunger Games film(s) since the books have become a huge success.  While I wouldn't consider this to be a full-blown science fiction franchise (based on minimal plot points I’ve read along with reviews). I enjoy the science-fiction elements involved and consider it a significant improvement compared to the pure fantasy content out there.  With that said, we rarely see full-blown science-fiction films. Source Code and Moon brought back the classic style of science-fiction.  Fringe and LOST (depending which season we are talking about) rebounded science-fiction on television as well. And let’s not forget about the continuing popularity of Dr. Who. But what is at fault in these examples is the expanded story.  
In many cases, science fiction is a presentation of a parallel environments that mimic our own, only with a twist. And that twist is what reels you in. It's like a puzzle - a presentation of interwoven ideas (more often satire or commentary) that leaves you thinking, simple conclusion or not.  When this is expanded into a novel or feature film, the science-fiction genre is not lost but merely becomes diluted in the inevitable addition and persuasion of drama related issues. While there is nothing wrong with drama, there are drawbacks to blending it with science-fiction.  Science fiction does not bode well with drama.  Feelings, emotions, and boring (more or less) events are far from what social commentary and parallel scenarios are about. 
Why not blend social commentary with satire? There are not enough comedy-science-fiction books/shows/movies out there.  Everything is so serious! The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem (Solaris) is a great use of short stories and humor likewise The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a humorous telling of interwoven themes in a single plotline. The Simpsons does a great job with science fiction, but rarely visits the genre outside of the Halloween specials. Family Guy does an admirable job of it too, but I find South Park to be king of comedy and science fiction, which leads me to my final [and original] thought: South Park is the greatest non-science-fiction show that is science-fiction.
With no cause or special reasoning, the show is fluttered with science-fiction episodes.  From Cartman freezing himself to skip the anticipation of a new video game system and accidentally waking up hundreds of years in the future, to the town being infested with people from the future looking for work, the show is a brilliant mix of humor, satire and science fiction. Even when there isn’t a science fiction theme, the show often resorts to extremes and bizarre commonalities to support their social commentary (let’s say apple user agreements with The Human Centipede, shall we?) 
David's Top 5 Science-fiction South Park Episodes   
(in order by air date)
  1. Season 6 - My Future Self 'n' Me
  2. Season 7 - Cancelled 
  3. Season 10 - Go God Go (2 part-er) 
  4. Season 13 - Pinewood Derby 
  5. Season 15 - Funnybot  
Science Fiction is a genre with elements that are not easily defined but can surely be prioritized. Much like a powerful comedian, a powerful piece of science-fiction should be self-reflective and above all else, funny.

David Goodberg is an author and artist living in Los Angeles.  His new book, Selected Shorts and Other Methods of Time Travel, is available everywhere online and in select bookstores.  You can visit his website at “Synecdoche” (An animated short from his book)[youtube video to embed in post]


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