An initial warning to readers is appropriate: Some of you may find parts of this post non-sensical if you’re not remotely interested in science fiction. On the other hand, those of you who are interested in the genre may find something that resonates here.
I have been an obsessive fan of sci-fi (and it’s close cousin, heroic fantasy) since being a young boy. Its impact on me over the years was deep and profound. And it was only in recent years I was able to put my finger on exactly why.
Many of the engaging aspects of sci-fi also feature in other genres. Sophisticated plots, thrilling action, deep characters , raw firing of the imaginationand so on. What makes sci-fi (and sometimes fantasy) stand out other than the spectacle of starships, robots and aliens?
It is its capacity (not always realised, it must be said) to deliver both tragedy and hope like no other genre can. To truly lead the reader, the viewer or the gamer on an epic emotional journey otherwise unrealisable. Try Interstellar for example. In what other genre could you witness and share the experience of a father losing his daughter to old age whilst he was near the event horizon of a black hole, and remained in his 40s? Only to return and find she had lived a long and productive life and produced children and grandchildren?
Babylon 5 was a long-form story told over five years. It impacted me so deeply that when it ended I went through a period of grieving indistinguishable from losing a loved one. This may sound melodramatic, however it was not the series alone that did this, but also the period of my life I associated with it. The drama, the highs and the lows, were shared with a group of friends who would gather, on the edge of our seats (especially when the status quo depicted by the show shifted suddenly and dramatically in the pivotal episode Severed Dreams) to watch each episode together then spend the next week raving and speculating on what it meant and what would happen next. When we watched the final episode (a real tear-jerker, be warned), we all knew this experience would never come again and I wept openly as much at that realisation as at the closing of the series.
Babylon 5 was the first of its kind. The long-form story told in an extended episodic format had never made it this far on TV screens before. Nothing prior came even remotely close. It’s something taken for granted now, however and most people – especially those with no interest in sci-fi – do not know how groundbreaking it was. Without Babylon 5’s precedent there would have been no 24, no Sons of Anarchy just as there would have been no Battlestar Galactica, another emotional thrill-ride sci-fi spectacular.
Five years ago, for a bit of fun and primarily to amuse myself and a few hardcore Bablyon 5 fans who had a similar political outlook, I started making a series of clips named ‘A Minority of One’, using Babylon 5 as a backdrop to dramatise current political issues. What started off as a bit of fun has, with every passing year, become ever more prescient relative to real world events.
The analogies and metaphors I applied to make Bablyon 5 and current events afflicting us congruous were stretched beyond breaking point to be sure. And yet – and yet – the draw is still there. The emotional impact of what was actually depicted in the series still resonates with what I see around me. If you’re a science-fiction fan in general or a Babylon 5 fan in particular it may do the same for you too. If you’re neither, then a bit of imagination may just be enough.
The ‘Minority of One’ trailer is here.
I made others – actual ‘episodes’ – unfortunately youtube has blocked them on ‘copyright grounds’ (despite each being only a few minutes long and fair use as far as I was concerned). If you’re interested in seeing them, do say so in the comments and I’ll find an alternative platform to host and share them on.
What strikes me in particular is how these half in jest videos suddenly became all the more relevant with May’s betrayal over Brexit. I felt like my head had been rung like a bell when she said “we do not seek a competitive advantage”. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom actually said that, and to the audience of vampires who would gladly suck our sap dry and leave us a husk.
Andrew Breitbart and others empasised both how culture is downstream from politics and how we need to wrest the regressive’s dominance of culture. I contend something more specific – they have also monopolised emotion; the right tends to reason whilst the left (especially in this century) tends to emote. We need to provoke emotional reactions through our creations – and sci-fi is a beautiful way to do so.
Another key aspect to this is the emotional resonance carries some things we cannot always speak out loud, articulate or rationalise. We all feel it, as Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix “like a splinter in our mind”. Dark forces at work, manipulating behind the scenes. We cannot always clearly delineate who, what or even how but we know they are there. We witness the subervsion of our will and their abandonment of their duties and covenant with us almost every day. Many of us certainly felt it keenly on Friday as our hopes were dashed like playing pieces carelessly swept from the table by a great arm.
Every special interest group and minority interest it appears is to get a piece of the pie except for the minority that matters most. The minority that has been at the basis of our legal system and our culture for centuries.
The Minority of One.
More from Katabasis here.