Recently, Black Gate wrote a retro review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and it was a fair review of a beloved 30+ year old sci-fi flick, obligatory remarks about Shatner and Montalban’s hammy acting and all. One part stuck out for me though:
“But while it features all of Star Trek‘s usual array of SF trappings you could make the argument that at the heart of things Wrath is not really a science fiction story at all — which might be beside the point. It could probably have worked just as well with Khan the pirate being marooned on a remote island in the Caribbean or Khan the ex-con getting out of prison and seeking vengeance on the person who put him there. It’s all about the revenge, after all.”
It’s pointing out the obvious, what we all (or most people who’ve watched Trek) have known. How many Trek stories can this be said of? How many are naval engagements, colonial encounters, or even fairytale flights of fancy with some machine or superalien in the role of Mab & Oberon? So why point it out?
I wonder what constitutes a sci-fi story. About how many seminal works of science fiction could one say that it “is not really a science fiction story at all”?
While Lengeman may be making an innocuous point here, the “not sci-fi” or “not serious sci-fi” trope has long been an issue in fandom, whether it’s the ghettoization of retail shelves following the Fantasy market being broken off or alleged marginalization of women writers for not writing hard enough sci-fi. It’s not new. But really, why point out that Star Trek whatever is “not really a science fiction story” unless you are going to present a clear definition of what a sci-fi story is?
Sci-fi is more a combination of setting and aesthetic than story. In fact, I would go so far as to posit that there is no such thing as a “sci-fi story”.
Short Review up later today.