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The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés

Those of us who have read or seen a lot of science fiction have seen certain story elements pop up over and over and over. Some of these elements were actually pretty good ideas, and when handled well make for a pretty entertaining story, but have become hackneyed from overuse by the unimaginative. Others came into being through the deliberate effort to avoid another cliché. Still other ideas were lame from the get-go, and should have been dismissed from the author's thinking.

Clichés are not in themselves necessarily bad, but their overuse shows that the writer has forgotten what separates the strong tale from the hollow: "the human heart in conflict with itself," as Faulkner said. Where there is this conflict, the tale stands; where the conflict is absent, the tale falls flat, and in neither case does it matter how many ships get blown up.

The sophisticated reader will note that some of these clichés are not found solely in SF, but in other genres as well, and of course the lampooning of clichés is a time-honored part of good comedy.

An updated version of the original list can be read here.