Out of phase, out of mind

By | 2010/01/08

I love science fiction. Absolutely love it. Despite what fools at the Oscars et al would want you to believe, science fiction is indeed a worthwhile genre with valuable stories to be told. There’s stories about survival. There’s stories of the future. There’s stories of hope. There’s stories of monstrous creatures and the will to surive.

And then there’s the stories of being out of phase.

Those stories just piss me off. They go like this: someone gets exposed to some spooky radiation or some machine (malfunctioning or working as intended), and then they are out of phase. If you’re not used to science fiction, let’s say it turns them into a ghost but it doesn’t kill them. It’s not quite like that, and that’s where the problem lies.

Being out of phase makes you, in science fiction terminology, not in step with regular matter. That means you can walk through walls, you can’t eat (presumably you can urinate and defecate, but it just won’t really go anywhere “safe”), you can’t talk to people, and they can walk through you.

That’s where the problem is: you can walk through walls, you’re not a ghost and you don’t have control over your situation, people can walk through you. So why the bloody hell don’t you just start sinking through the floor, and keep on sinking, and sinking, and sinking?

Out of phase stories in science fiction should work like this:

  1. Help, I’ve just been zapped by <x> and no-one can hear me or see me!
  2. Oh shit, I’m falling through the floor. I’m going to fall forever, fall out of the planet and then that’ll be the end of me!
  3. The End.

Science fiction is meant to be plausible in some way. That’s why it’s not called Science Silly. Unfortunately, out of phase stories are indeed just Science Silly, and they give science fiction a bad name. They’re used by lazy writers who want to do something “cute” or “interesting” but they can’t think of a decent way of doing it.

I’d like to see a year of science fiction without people slipping in and out of phase.

2 thoughts on “Out of phase, out of mind

  1. robert winters

    I have seen 800,000 people talk about being out of phase and “falling through the floor.”
    Maybe, just MAYBE, when you are out of phase, you are not affected by GRAVITY!@!!@@@@

    1. preston Post author

      Well, it’s a fair call … except, I’ve never seen an instance where any of these people unaffected by gravity while phased start running and end up coming off the floor. And if they’re unaffected by gravity that should mean if they hop in a lift (Stargate) or Turbolift (Star Trek) with someone, they don’t move when the lift/turbolift descends/ascends 🙂

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