My path ahead lays in Science Fiction. As a member of the Speculative Fiction umbrella genre, I’ve got a lot of material to work with in terms of tropes and conventions. But, in order to remain Science Fiction specific, I’ve got to stay focused on the “what if” of Speculative with an eye towards technology. Here and now, I’ll be discussing Ghost in the Machine, The Glowing Eyes, Murderous Machine Malfunction, Red is Bad, and Robo Cam POV. Not all of these tropes are SF only, but do occur often and are a large part of the expectations within the SF community.  

The Ghost in the Machine trope, that of a machine having, or seeming to have a soul, or being haunted, even putting an actual biological mind into a robot, is discussed in greater detail later in the paper. I intend to use it as a tool to consider the meaning of soul, as well as a way to draw a definite line of difference between the two protagonists of my thesis novel. For far out future work, I believe it will continue to be useful when considering storylines involving human copying, back-ups if you will, and to what extend one can be remade from such information.   

Eyes are the window to the soul, as they say, and the Glowing Eyes trope is no exception. Robots have been depicted with this trait for years and I believe it’s still a valid way to show emotional turmoil within a robotic character. They’re also useful to indicate that the character is turned on, fully functional, and even an additional light source for those characters that cannot see in the dark. In my thesis novel, I’ll likely be using the Glowing Eyes not to indicate emotion but functionality. The container bots in my work are still learning how to move and react to their surroundings and the reader needs to know when they are active or inactive. In far out future works, the Glowing Eye trope will probably be used in my stories to show a deeper emotional connection, anger, hatred, or maybe even a synthesis of love.

A machine malfunctioning and killing everyone around it is not a trope specifically involving Science Fiction. Like the other tropes so far discussed, if it’s happening because of a haunting or other supernatural occurrence, it’s no longer only SF. But, if it’s happening because of a technical issue, something breaking or wired wrong, then yes, we’re looking at SF. In my thesis novel, a malfunctioning soul sucking machine kills an entire star ship full of scientists. The Murderous Machine Malfunction trope will likely be used again much later on by in my work, though I think I’ll give it a little bit of a rest after my novel is completed.

Red Is Bad is a universal trait across everything. I’m pretty sure it’s not just literature, fiction, television, but everything that happens in western culture. I think it has something to do with the fact that the color red is eye catching, instantaneously noticeable, especially when unexpected, and often used as a warning of danger. This trope will not likely be used much in my thesis novel, other than to describe the warning signals and alarms trigger by my protagonists presence aboard a not so derelict ship. In much later work, I’m sure to use red again and again to indicate points where readers need to pay attention as a subconscious cue to be cautious.

Robo Cam Point of View seems like a strange decision when thinking about written fiction instead of a screen play or film. But, it can be pulled off and allows for a closer look at the working of the robot in question as well as a deeper connection to a Ghost in the Machine. An example story can almost entirely be focused on a robot guard, B-607. The trope of Robo Cam POV can then be used to indicate moments when he is thinking, processing, and searching his breaking down functions for a proper answer. It’s akin to a character thinking and the reader being privy to the information. A scroll of binary code, the actual stuff that computers, and thus robots, think in, their language could add another layer to these thoughts. In my thesis novel, there are sections where the POV shifts between one main character and the other. Since one is a robot, her sections will read at some point as a Robo Cam POV. Down the road work may or may not use this trope. We’ll see how well it works out with the novel. I also cannot foretell the future of the genre completely, so I don’t know if  the trope will become sort of stale. It’s been done a lot and for a long period of time. I wouldn’t want me work to die before it starts.

All of these tropes and many others will help me to tell a great story within the expectations of the Science Fiction reader community. Hopefully, that will help to expand the awareness of great SF stories to those that normally wouldn’t be interested in them and maybe entice them to join the crowd. I also hope to help other authors write their best stories, either within Science Fiction or not, and using these tropes in creative combination will not only allow me to showcase talent, but also may act as an example for others to follow.

Want to know more about tropes? Check out tvtropes.org.

~ Sarah Ockershausen Delp

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