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The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés:

Section I: Overused Plots and Storylines

  1. Post-cataclysmic rag-tag armies struggle to kick the Rooskies out of the good ol' US of A.
  2. Post-cataclysmic rag-tag armies struggle to survive against gangs of bandits, mutants, cyberpunks, bikers, etc.
  3. The rag-tag rebel army/fleet struggles valiantly to overthrow the Evil Empire.
  4. The Good Guys travel through time to stop a historical Bad Guy, usually Hitler.
  5. The Bad Guy travels through time to kill the Hero in his childhood, or to prevent him from ever being born.
  6. The Chronocops travel in time to catch a Bad Guy who escaped into some other era.
  7. Scientists work feverishly to develop a cure for the Supervirus or a weapon to stop the Invincible Bad Guys.
  8. An alien:
    d. Uses his/her/its alien powers to defeat the shadowy malevolent Pentagon officials, making them look foolish without really harming them;
  9. A virtual reality program is activated, and the distinction between reality and the program becomes confused or indistinguishable.
  10. People connect their brains directly to computers and get dependent on them.
  11. Aliens travel a zillion miles to loot the Earth of resources which exist in far greater and much more easily exploitable quantities on the many uninhabited bodies they pass on the way to Earth.
  12. A complex computer system spontaneously becomes self-aware.
  13. A couple files an application to the government for permission to conceive a baby.
  14. A human falls in love with a robot.
  15. A robot falls in love with a human.
  16. UFO abductions.
  17. Brain-controlling parasites attempt to wrest control of human race.
  18. Aliens put someone on trial for the sins of humanity.
  19. A high-tech amusement park goes lethally berserk.
  20. Death from old age turns out to be due to some simple, single cause, leading to an easy immortality treatment, with consequent catastrophic social implications.
  21. A great hunter decides that humans are the most entertaining prey of all, and visits Earth to bag a few.
  22. Psychedelic drugs give somebody magical power over space, time and reality.
  23. Aliens with completely incomprehensible motivations make war on the human race/invade Earth.
  24. The bureaucratic/reactionary mindset stands in the way of scientific progress. A (young, maverick) researcher overcomes it through ability, purity of heart, and use of the scientific method. Or not.
  25. Two hostile factions colonize a planet within walking distance of each other.
  26. The government ships criminals off to other planets.
  27. A man (or male alien) becomes pregnant.
  28. An android discovers emotions and loses control.
  29. A young researcher:
    b. Learns that the employer's latest discovery has a Nasty Side Effect or involves some obvious human rights abuses;
    e. Gets hounded by Shadowy Malevolent Goons;
    f. Attempts to meet with inside sources, and finds them either dead or with just enough life left to utter a cryptic clue;
    g. Watches the disaster overtake the CEO;
    h. Testifies before Congress, or whatever the equivalent government body is;
    i. Enters the Witness Protection Program;
in roughly the order given above.
  1. Aliens invade Earth in order to eat humans.
  2. An AI turns on its creators.
  3. A person from the past goes into suspended animation and wakes up in modern times, or a person from modern times goes into suspended animation and wakes up in the future.
  4. A person travels back in time to meet a major historical personage and winds up either becoming that person or taking that person's place at a critical juncture.
  5. The rightful monarch or long-lost heir is restored to the throne.
  6. A sexually selective plague kills off or sterilizes almost all of the men, or almost all of the women.
  7. A human discovers that the human race is being controlled by aliens.
  8. The Alien Invasion that flounders because their technological advantage is perfectly neutralized by their lack of resources, compared to the humans.
  9. Earth is threatened by an asteroid, and a space mission is mounted to save the planet.
  10. Humans are seen as a menace to galactic society, having developed technology over a few short centuries compared with the thousands it took the other races.
  11. The government bans music, painting, dancing, or some other art form; only the hero seems to care enough to do anything about it.
  12. A technological innovation prompts a large portion of society to violently suppress it.
  13. "Single female monster ISO single human male. Object: Mating."
  14. An entire society is run by a computer. Maybe it goes berserk.
  15. An alien being is sent to Earth on a mission of assassination or genocide; it changes its mind after getting to know (and perhaps falling in love with) one or more humans.
  16. The crew's memories are wiped. As they recover, they discover that they are Unwitting Pawns, helping the guy who did it to them.
  17. A man escapes a VR simulation, and later discovers that he has escaped into another VR simulation.
  18. An alien that is substantially like us doesn't understand love, and visits humans in order to learn. The lesson is completed after the alien gets a Dose of Good Luvin'.
  19. A Bad Guy captures the Hero, and instead of killing him, attempts to brainwash him into thinking that his powers aren't real.
  20. A Proud Warrior Race was once the slaves of a Master Race, until they decided to revolt and overthrow the masters. It is never explained why the Master Race wouldn't put more failsafes in place in order to prevent this.
  21. There is no straightforward method for distinguishing humans from robots/androids that can pass for human. It is never thought to use metal/plastic detectors or employ electromagnetic field scanners (infrared/X-rays) to determine whether a person is a flesh and blood human or a synthetic. This frequently crops up in stories where android/robot impostors should be treated as a serious issue.