This is particularly true of science fiction, or speculative fiction. While the franchises have largely repeated themselves, it is up to science fiction writers to push the envelope. Literally. They must ignore the “trends,” or the “box office gross” which consumes the media and the public’s attention. Spinoffs, sequels and prequels exist because people become enamored of things they already like. “They are conditioned to ignore things that are different or new,” says both the authors of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, and Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One With the Universe. People do not like to change anything, and this leads to pseudo-scifi blaster battles with one-liners. Or first person shooters, including the killing of cops and innocents in games like the Grand Theft Auto series. Billions of dollars are generated, but the net effect on society (and imagination) is negative. As Ray Bradbury said. People end up reading less, and killing more time. Says Derek Thompson, “only a microscopic few achieve fantastic wealth in a winner take all culture.” While Jim Davies advises, “You must force yourself to resist the irresistible, marketed to you everywhere you turn.” A great analogy here is junk food: the taste rewards for sugar, fat, and salt are like crack cocaine, and just as difficult to quit. The result is disease, physical or mental, while drug costs to treat these diseases are “going viral.” Meaning sky high.
Avatar 2, 3, and 4 are said to revive dead characters somehow (prequel or supernatural or science?) Game of Thrones is nearing the end due to George RR Martin moving on to Nightflyer, with the post-George episodes “becoming more chaotic,” as one reviewer put it, “spinning out of control…both glorious and maddening.” Consider the series LOST, which got lost because the writers wrote themselves into a corner, and were not pro science fiction book authors to begin with, but rather fans. (Like JJ Abrams, the geek director of Star Trek Beyond, who also wrote Super 8, a visually stunning but inexplicable mess. He once introduced vampires to a Bourne-like spy series.) Writers are not respected in Hollywood, much. Producers with a calculator decide. “How many more stunts should we add here, instead of characters interacting?” Characters mainly interact (as in 300) by bludgeoning one another, and in slow motion blood splatter, no less. It tends to diminish viewer trust in diplomacy or compromise. The lure of money is the same as junk food, too. They can’t stop making what people buy. You buy it, they will make more. It’s really that simple. To discover new things actually future-positive instead of apocalypse “walking brain dead” negative, viewers often must get up off the couch and go outside…which means turning off the TV altogether, and listening to an audiobook—a way to extend your reading time while stuck in traffic, hiking, doing chores, cooking, cleaning, or exercising. Or as they say on ESPN, “Just Do It.” Your mother, whether in her grave like mine or not, will thank you.