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The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés:

Section II: Overused Settings and Characterizations

  1. Aliens whose thinking is so different from ours that no communication is possible.
  2. Alien races that find our women attractive, while we find theirs to be repulsive.
  3. Alien races who differ from us only in skin color and/or facial features.
  4. Extra breasts on the alien women.
  5. Aliens that are incomprehensible to humans but understand humans perfectly.
  6. Alien species depicted as having no ethnic, religious, cultural, philosophical or political variance, especially:
    1. Wise mystics
    2. Stoic warriors
    3. Pastoral innocents
    4. Cowardly sneaks
    5. Amazon babes
  7. Alien species with personality traits or cultural mores that are treated as invariable laws of nature.
  8. Alien races whose names all have lots of hard consonants. Alien women whose names coincidentally end in 'a' or 'ia'.
  9. Lots of apostrophes are packed into alien words and phrases for no apparent reason.
  10. Humans of the future have no ethnic, religious, cultural, philosophical or political variance.
  11. Cities of the future are depicted as though sanitation workers have been on strike from now until then.
  12. The entire story setting is dominated by huge impersonal business conglomerates.
  13. Planets with the same exact climate planet-wide (planets without atmosphere excepted).
  14. Super-intelligent AIs that speak, behave, and act in a manner indistinguishable from the human characters.
  15. The incredibly competent man-of-action with more skills/degrees than you can shake a blaster at.
  16. The incredibly competent woman-of-action with large breasts, no sexual inhibitions, and more skills/degrees than you can shake a blaster at.
  17. Shadowy malevolent Pentagon officials.
  18. Each and every character has a tainted history.
  19. A society consists of:
    1. A handful of ultra-powerful ultra-rich;
    2. Criminal lords who control everything not controlled by the ultra-rich;
    3. Police whose only principle of operation is maintenance of the status quo;
    4. Hordes of poor people starving in the streets;
    5. Absolutely no middle class whatsoever.
      Nonetheless, the society manages to remain at a high technological level.
  20. Societies where all technology has been destroyed except automobiles and their equivalents, which are still running yet there are no mechanics, workshops, or gas stations.
  21. Heroes who are so emotionally stunted that they don't care about close friends/relatives that die as long as they complete some mission.
  22. Any character with a perpetual two-day growth of beard.
  23. Futuristic societies where only the ultra-rich can afford quality healthcare, and everyone else is reduced to selling their bodily organs.
  24. Beings of pure energy.
  25. A society in which everyone is required to die on his or her Nth birthday.
  26. Creatures from our mythology (e.g., centaurs, dragons) occur among the wildlife native to an alien planet.
  27. Aliens whose sociology, values and beliefs are indistinguishable from those of an Earth culture, e.g., feudal Japan.
  28. Eccentric scientists.
  29. The assistant to the scientist who is either deformed or dating the scientist's daughter.
  30. Future societies that have relapsed into feudalism.
  31. Alternative Earths where society is just like some society of the past, with some technodoodads added.
  32. Palace guards who are ineffectual due to ineptitude or inattentiveness.
  33. Fantastic but non-viable creatures (men with tortoiseshell backs, gigantic insects) made possible by high levels of radiation, and which don't suffer any ill effects from it.
  34. Aliens that speak human languages without error, having taken no pains to learn how.
  35. An alien tongue is translated into perfect English; that is, except for profanity and units of measurement.
  36. Aliens whose vocal apparatus is just like ours, so that they can speak human languages with only a slight accent.
  37. Omnipotent pacifist aliens who impose their philosophy on us without bothering to protect us from the races they have left alone.
  38. Men and women live in separate societies (and we're not talking Mars and Venus, either).
  39. Clones are inexplicably different from regular people in a particular manner (mentally unstable, don't mind being used as cannon fodder, etc.).
  40. The vast majority of alien races consider 20ºC to be room temperature.
  41. Societies that are utopian in every regard except for one serious drawback that completely outweighs the utopian aspects, such as having the death penalty for some really minor offence.
  42. Disembodied live brains living in tanks.
  43. Eyes that glow (sometimes accompanied by minor-key chords in TV and film).
  44. Sentient artificial intelligences that wish to eliminate the human race.
  45. Sentient artificial intelligences that select a human figure to holographically represent themselves.
  46. Computers with voice synthesizers either use a sensuous female contralto, a threatening male baritone, or a nasally tinny neutral voice.
  47. Bad guys who miss everything they shoot at.
  48. Beginning warriors who hit everything they shoot at.
  49. Characters who are always ready for intimate relations.
  50. All genetically superior humans have an innate drive to rule, conquer, or kill everyone else.
  51. Alien vampires that feed on brainwaves/life-force/exotic biochemicals/psychic energies that can only be obtained from sentient life forms.
  52. Post-cataclysmic societies that treat items of the lost technology as holy relics.
  53. Alien monsters that find humans edible, tasty, and non-toxic.
  54. The evil duplicate of the hero, sidekick, universe, etc.
  55. The grammatical differences between the languages used by humans and aliens are cited as conclusive proof of radically different ways of thinking.
  56. Sentient AIs that communicate with other sentient AIs via their voice synthesizer.
  57. The intelligent and confident woman who can be bribed with a dress.
  58. Androids with intelligence equal to an IQ of around 1000 who can't seem to figure out human emotions, humor, or verbal contractions.
  59. Everyone in the post-catastrophic future dresses like heavy metal musicians.
  60. A common proverb gets "translated" into more generic terms, resulting in obfuscation of the meaning.
  61. An alien race has a trait that greatly complicates interacting with them, but even after centuries of contact with humans they still manage to keep it secret.
  62. The ancient spacefaring alien race that:
    1. Has existed for zillions of years;
    2. Went into hiding, left this universe/dimension, or went extinct so long ago that no current spacefaring race has ever met them;
    3. Is known solely through legends, ancient artifacts of amazing technological advancement, and/or evidence that they created one or more (sometimes all) currently living races.
  63. Aliens whose language is not pronounceable by humans, but who can still speak human languages with relative ease.
  64. The villain who can infallibly predict how the protagonists will react to a given turn of events.
  65. All religious figures are:
    1. Intolerant hatemongers who make Hitler look like Jesus;
    2. All-tolerant lovemongers who make Jesus look like Hitler;
    3. Ignorant, unwashed rabble.
  66. A society of aliens and/or villains that are amazingly similar to an infamous human political movement.
  67. Societies wherein gender roles and attitudes are completely reversed.
  68. Whiz kids.
  69. Most aliens breathe oxygen, just like humans do.
  70. Bored, omnipotent, immortal beings.
  71. An immortal being that wants to die.
  72. People with cyborg implants will needlessly exhibit the benefits of this hardware just to relieve boredom or show off.
  73. Children with access to the highest levels of military planning, scientific research, and governmental decision-making.
  74. A smart, courageous, gorgeously attractive woman who is rarely if ever asked out.
  75. Every planet seems to have a surface gravity of 9.8 meters per second squared and rotates around its axis in about 24 hours, just like Earth.
  76. All of the spacefaring races have roughly the same level of technology.
  77. Aliens that transform into a colorful puddle when they die.
  78. The Free Love Utopia, populated only by fabulously good-looking people, that somehow remains free of sexually transmitted diseases, has no relationship turmoil, and is not inundated with hordes of people looking for easy sex.
  79. The untrained, average Joe who can take on and defeat highly trained and well-equipped operatives.
  80. The Wise Race of Ancients who do nothing for the protagonists except offer advice.
  81. The Wise Race of Ancients that secretly supports the protagonists.
  82. The former Great Man of Action who is now just a washed-up drunk.
  83. An interstellar realm is ruled by a handful of powerful families, each scheming to eliminate the rest, instead of forming alliances.
  84. Except for the distinguishing marks on aliens and bad guys, everyone has perfect skin.
  85. Upon arrival in a distant epoch, the time travelers can speak the local language without accent.
  86. The city's main computer can be accessed from any of a number of public-access terminals located conveniently throughout the city.
  87. The less technologically advanced a culture is, the more spiritually advanced it is.
  88. The modification of one custom, law, or common belief would transform Western society into Utopia.
  89. All female scientists are good-looking; male scientists are average-looking.
  90. Except for full-blown dictatorships, government officials of the future never abuse their powers.
  91. Not even the soldiers or marines make vulgar jokes.
  92. In the future, everyone's taste in music and literature extends solely to the classics.
  93. Immortals who assume many identities over the course of human history.
  94. Everyone's counterpart in the parallel universe has, as his/her associates, the counterparts of the same people that the primary knows in this universe.
  95. Whenever the captain walks onto the bridge, the same people are always on duty.
  96. Superheroes wear primary colors (red, blue, and yellow).
  97. Supervillains wear secondary colors (green, purple, and orange).
  98. Only bad guys have goatees.
  99. In the future, everyone is good in bed.
  100. Entire cities whose buildings use the same architectural design.
  101. World governments are enlightened and efficient; nation-states are backward and primitive.
  102. In the future, everyone either supports their government fully, or is engaged in a terrorist campaign to overthrow it.
  103. In the future, government corruption has been eradicated.
  104. The tribal chieftain's eldest child is a defiant free-spirited youth, and if female is the sexiest member of the tribe.
  105. The alien's superpowers become manifest when he/she/it is exposed to Terran conditions.
  106. All alien females, galaxy-wide, use cosmetics the same way that Western women do.
  107. Although humans still have multiple languages, each alien race has only one language.
  108. Kindly enlightened races are native to beautiful planets with congenial climate; cruel, benighted races arise on ugly planets with brutal weather.
  109. The ship's computer is programmed to track the location of each and every person aboard, but is never programmed to report personnel in unauthorized areas, or those who suddenly disappear.
  110. Among the intelligent creatures, man-sized beings predominate.
  111. The token black guy is the muscular scion of a Noble Warrior culture.
  112. The entire population of the planet lives in one city.
  113. The Energy Being takes the form of a mass of flickering lights.
  114. Military spacecraft have a light-colored exterior, making them easy to see. Only the Bad Guys ever appreciate the danger of this.
  115. The time traveler meets an ancestor who looks so much like him that the same actor can play both characters.
  116. In the future, all that remains of Earth's flora is a small garden, or even just one plant.
  117. All girlfriends are hotties.
  118. An AI which can understand ordinary speech, and hold a conversation with ordinary people, but communicates with beeps and tones or inserts meaningless noises into otherwise ordinary speech.
  119. Despite globalization in recent decades, ever increasing ethnic diversity, general cynicism and disillusionment regarding "The American Way", and despite future world wars in the work's mythology, mainstream American culture of the future still revolves around classic images of Americana: baseball, rock and roll, cheeseburgers, Mom's apple pie, cowboys, etc.
  120. The Captain or other main heroic protagonist always grew up as a either the simple farm boy or some other variation of The All-American Boy. He will usually be from a part of the American midwest, a region that is frequently regarded in culture as cleancut, grounded, straightforward, humble, and unpretentious. He will retain that image even as an adult. Most of the early American astronauts having the signature Midwestern drawl may have contributed to this but the trope does predate the space program, especially with pilots such as Chuck Yeagher.
    1. Urban characters, while not neccesarily depicted as unlikeable, are almost invariably written to be more cynical, snobbish, or dubious, and less charismatic than the wholesome protagonist.
  121. Marine Biologists, Oceanographers, Wildlife Biologists, and other types of Environmental Scientists are Granola Girls or Bourgeois Bohemian.
  122. In Post Apocalyptic eras where remnants of humanity subsist on things like canned goods from before the end, the usually long past expiration date of these canned goods is never taken into account. Neither do they ever seem to aquire food poisoning (usually botulism) as a result.
  123. The ruling elders or wise ones of a society always dress in robes or toga-like garb, even if it's a futurisic society.
  124. Black actors in science fiction offerings from The '70s and The '80s are given costume and makeup designs that would make them fit perfectly in a lineup for the Parliament Funkadelic or Earth, Wind & Fire.
  125. Prodigies or other super genius types always turn down a more lucrative or secure career in their field (usually science or engineering) in place of being in the more dangerous military/starfleet/police lines of work. The reason being a variation of "It's just more fun and exciting" or "Just to prove that I can do it" (both reasons that a real admissions interviewer in these fields would probably reject an applicant) And they always seem to meet all of the requirements for admission and matriculation, despite never having developed those skills that one would expect a military candidate to have, such as athleticism, coordination, teamwork, and leadership. And on top of that, they are allowed to be a Bunny-Ears Lawyer despite having chosen (not been drafted into) professions where conformity is expected.
  126. Regional cultures and ethnicities retain the same tropes as today and yesterday, no matter how far into the future. British persons still drink tea and have a stiff upper lip. Americans are still blunt, direct, and represent Eagle Land type 1note . French people are still snobbish. Irish people are still hardcore drinkers.
  127. Africa is now a unified federation of nations (similar to the European Union) in an attempt to dodge the Africa Is a Country misstep. However, it is usually still just an excuse to write a black character who is a continental African but not take the time of doing the research as to where in Africa they is from.
  128. A character in a futuristic setting has a fetish or fixation on a certain historical period, even if that historical period in reality would be restrictive or unwelcoming to persons of his/her gender, race, color, or ethnicity. Computer or holographic simulations of said historical setting will usually display Politically Correct History, even when the characters would know better.


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