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October 18, 2005

Meme-statizing the Canon

This is cool -- people are taking The Canon list from The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and doing the whole "bold the ones you've seen" meme thing; it appears to have gotten its start here and moved out into the world. So thanks, Jaquandor! You've done me a solid.

Along with bolding the ones they have seen, folks are also adding their commentary with the selections and wondering why some movies are in there and other ones are not (28 Days Later... and The Incredibles are the two people seem to be having the most problems with), which is of course as it should be. Here's a pretty amusing broadside on the whole list, however, from this fellow:

At points, this list looks like a projection calendar for MST3K. I would agree with many of his selections, but he gives too much weight to both contemporary and American movies. On the latter count, he did include a few British movies, a couple of French ones, and one Russian and one German film, but these are the exception, not the rule, and they have only been added to the list because of their heavy influence on American science fiction. On the former count, though, this guy does himself in. Obviously, a *canon* is not really supposed to be an up to the minute index of what's good but a list of works that have had a large influence on the genre as it stands today. Scalzi apparently forgot his dictionary when he decided to include The Stepford Wives, which, as a poorly written pastiche, will presumably influence no one, and The Incredibles. Mr. Scalzi, don't quit your day job, unless of course your day job involves writing, in which case you should quit.

Ha! Awesome.

(Mind you, The Stepford Wives did influence at least one set of filmmakers -- which is to say, the ones that remade it last year -- but I put it on the list for other reasons, which naturally I think are quite valid. As for The Incredibles, well, just you wait. The selection will be vindicated. In any event, my dictionary definition of "canon" has it as "a group of works that are generally accepted as representing a field," which can certainly accomodate The Incredibles and Stepford. But as noted, I don't expect everyone to accept all my choices. This is the fun part -- seeing how and why people disagree.)

Aside from the occasional crankiness, people do seem to be having fun with it, and that's a good thing. I would post the meme myself, but I'm not entirely sure what that would prove; I would certainly hope I'd seen all the films in The Canon, after all.

Posted by john at October 18, 2005 06:23 PM

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Comments

Jaquandor | October 18, 2005 07:21 PM

You're certainly welcome -- and thanks for the link! Linking is good. I love the linkity goodness. (But why does the original King Kong not appear on the list? Because it's not really SF? Its effects were certainly groundbreaking.)

John H | October 18, 2005 07:26 PM

I would certainly hope I'd seen all the films in The Canon

It would be more interesting in a way if you hadn't...

John Scalzi | October 18, 2005 08:42 PM

Jaquandor:

"But why does the original King Kong not appear on the list? Because it's not really SF?"

Yup. The special effects get mentioned in the book, though.

Tom Nixon | October 18, 2005 09:47 PM

Wil Wheaton, he of wilwheaton.net and Star Trek fame, also mentions the Rough Guide to Science Fiction Movies over on his blog.

John Scalzi | October 18, 2005 09:51 PM

Yes, I saw that. Wil rocks, and I hope his path and mine finally cross in LA at Worldcon (I'll be there and I assume he's going, too).

Jess | October 18, 2005 10:35 PM

I'm with you on the Incredibles. That movie was a marvel of technological advances in digital animation. It boggles the mind how much work it took just to animate the character's hair!

niobedancing | October 19, 2005 02:38 AM

Hi there! One of my Livejournal friends did the meme, (though oddly enough I didn't notice it on my Wil Wheaton rss feed) and I was preparing to do it, but I had to google you first, since the first thing I said to myself was "Who the heck is John Scalzi?"

So anyway, hi! I'll be checking out the rest of your site, and your book(s), now. :) Just thought you might want to know you're reaching a whole new audience now.

Lee | October 19, 2005 03:13 AM

The link below will probably be of interest to all sci-fi fans. Enjoy!

http://www.krazydad.com/visco/

Stian Andreassen | October 19, 2005 03:13 AM

Hi! I was only wondering about «Metropolis»; I guess you mean the German 1927 silent movie, and not the Japanese animé from 2001 – which is also SF. Right?

John Scalzi | October 19, 2005 07:57 AM

Yup, although I mention the anime version in the book as well.

Primate | October 19, 2005 08:56 AM

I'll back the choice to put the Incredibles on the list. It's held up for me, despite repeated viewings and my own critical nature. Good pacing, good visuals, good acting, good characterization. It has more that enough science fiction elements to belong in the genre. Most importantly, it draws upon setting ideas that have been floating around the comic book community for twenty years but hadn't be spread to a wider audience by a blockbuster movie yet. Since most of the next generation of superhero writers will have had their first exposure to the genre from cartoons rather than comics, its influence in the future will be noteworthy. Along with Superman, it belongs in the canon for superhero contributions to science fiction.

Devin L. Ganger | October 19, 2005 03:02 PM

From the clip you quoted, it sounds like the guy thinks you're talking about the Stepford remake and not the original. Hell, my non-sf family and friends know what I mean when I say "Stepford Wives," so I'd definitely say that was an influence.

Martin Wisse | October 20, 2005 11:31 AM

The problem I have with having The Incredibles on the list but not King Kong "because that's not science fiction" is that that should exclude the former film as well, as it is a _superhero_, not a _science fiction_ film. It obeys a different set of tropes.

In general, I would be wary with listing films 5 years old in a list like this, as it is not obvious what influence these films will have.


As an unrelated remark: quite a lot of neat sf films can be downl;oaded totally legally from archive.org now, including Things to Come.

John Scalzi | October 20, 2005 12:08 PM

Martin Wisse:

"In general, I would be wary with listing films 5 years old in a list like this, as it is not obvious what influence these films will have."

Well, this is why I've been careful to say that I find the films "significant" rather than saying they're "influential" -- Incredibles is not influential (or at the very least, not influential yet), but I do believe it's significant.

Superhero films are their own genre, agreed, but they may also be SF. Superman is definitely SF (given his origin and nature of his powers), while the first Batman is a more straight-ahead action film. Wonder Woman, when it is made into a movie, will be fantasy (given her origin, unless they change that for the film).

Paul | October 21, 2005 02:21 PM

It's generated comments and discussion at my workplace, too, among the non-blog proficient, as well as in my blog.

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