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Superheroes and Monolithic Evil in sci fi

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litdawg

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I've read more than a few recent releases with characters that have incredible strengths, from ingenuity to strength, dexterity to lethality. They have messiah arcs and emperor arcs: peasant to general kind of things, or dystopic everyman/everywoman who is actually the key to everything. Psychologically and sociologically, these are fantasy novels (as in wish fulfillment, not elves and magic) with some sci fi trappings. Seems very much like Marvel entertainment with a blaster or FTL drive.

The worlds are more or less just class warfare fantasies--evil companies, mass delusions about an equitable society that is built on a conspiracy of exploitation. They do very little to trouble the pervasive American myth that nonconformity will save us from every evil economy or government system. This wouldn't bug me if the scenarios weren't so simplistic. Good and evil is obvious even if some protagonists have a charming inconsistency with regards to their alignment.

What genre markers should I add to my search in order to find work that has more realistic models of human behavior? I like how sci fi can be used for social critique, but what I'm reading these days seems like bandwagon reductivism, and it's hard to see the future societies the characters rebel against ever developing in the way claimed.

Bottom line: they have characters and not people, and fables not human futures.

As a result, my reading is discouraging me rather than helping me to find comps. My work features fairly average people who do good things commensurate with their abilities. Moral failing is distributed fairly evenly throughout my society, with a villain that's able to manipulate the pedestrian weaknesses of subordinates to wreak a lot of havoc. The principal source of plot conflict in terms of world construction is humans vs nature, whether that be genetics or hostile ecosystems/atmospheres.

I haven't been tripped up by such unreality in work by Ursula Le Guin or a few other classic writers. I've liked the societies and characters in Czerneda's work, and Andy Weir seemed to have a believable society, even if his protagonists have extraordinary powers.

Is this just the way the genre is going? Or can someone suggest a modifying tag for the genre that would help me navigate towards works that are less like Marvel fables?
 

Roxxsmom

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Hmm, I think it's a matter of finding a few authors who write the kind of SF you like. Once you've done that, the algorithms will likely cough up more.

A few who pop to mind would be Martha Wells, Robert Charles, Wilson, Becky Chambers, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kameron Hurley, Ann Leckie, Emma Newman, Elizabeth Bear, Andy Weir. I don't know if these writers' stories are what you are looking for, but they are all pretty good at characterization.
 

Klope3

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The Battlestar Galactica reboot is pretty good at moral ambiguity and complex protagonists/antagonists. Not really any superheroes or evil villains to be seen.

And yes, I know it's a TV series, not a book, but the writing itself is really excellent.
 

litdawg

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Following up on this to say that I've recently been reading the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I very much appreciate her handling of these issues.
 

Laer Carroll

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SF/fantasy is a hugely various field that has all sorts of stories. It most certainly has what you're looking for. I'm a bit surprised that you haven't found it yourself. Perhaps you haven't read a lot of it.

Simple characters, of good or bad, certainly pops up in some SF/F. But read more; you'll find more complexity.
 

Albedo

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The only thing bad about class warfare fantasies in space is the assumption that capitalism and its attendant evil megacorps will survive this century, imo. All extrapolations of current society involve a large amount of fantasy, almost guaranteed to be wildly wrong, whether or not society is the antagonist of your work.
 

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