Sample Essay

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A common technique in Science Fiction is to situate the ‘Novum’ in the everyday world or the reader or in an Otherworld that is familiar to the reader. Commenting on Herbert Frank’s  ‘Dune’, Adam Roberts says that Dune describes the familiar world of a romanticised Arabia, complete with desert tribes, a ‘Laurence of Arabia’ style Caucasian hero and the equivalents of Ismaili ‘Hashishin’ style Assassins. In this familiar, though mostly imaginary or at least highly over-exaggerated, world, the novelist brings in the novum of giant sandworms. Adam Roberts says, “He [Frank Herbert] is able to throw the alien into relief against a background of familiarity and therefore make the otherness all the more striking, all the more powerful” (Roberts 2006, p. 34).  This highlighting of the strange against the background of the familiar, or in other words, telling a familiar story through the workings of strange characters and devices is a common technique in storytelling.

The Flintstones and the Jetsons both live the same sorts of lives and have the same sorts of problems, which are the common everyday problems that the viewers of the two cartoon series are familiar with, but the comedy element is mostly derived from the settings in which these problems occur and are solved.

In the Harry Potter books too, much of the humorous and interesting content is based upon the magical equivalents of the devices and the social and government institutions of the real world.

A more Science Fiction example is the movie ‘Star Wars’ (i.e. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). This is basically the story of a farm boy who rescues a princess from the clutches of a malevolent supernatural entity with the help of a benevolent supernatural entity. This same formula can be seen multiple folklores legends and works of fiction from Jack and the Beanstalk to Aladdin (Lynn 2005, p. 6). It’s just that the powers of the Jedi knights are not based on ‘magic spells’ but based on some kind of ‘psychic’ or ‘psionic’ manipulations of an invisible energy and unlike the magic flying carpet, the workings of the strange transports and weapons is based on high technology. In the background of this familiar story the advanced technology of the Star Wars universe and the ‘mental abilities’ of the Jedi Knights are highlighted.

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