When is the premise of a story too ridiculous for you?

Here’s another question for you guys: When do you find a work of fiction’s (book, game, etc) premise so ridiculous that it prevents you from picking it up?


For me, as a science fiction/fantasy/anime/video game geek, an open-minded attitude towards far-fetched concepts comes with the territory. I mean, I’m currently playing a game about demon-fighting schoolchildren who summon their guardian spirits by pantomiming suicide! Even by JRPG standards, that has to take the cake for bizarreness. But on this blog, I’ve also mentioned a TV series about people who cross the galaxy by walking through wormholes, a time-travel-steampunk American Civil War game, and an anime about a biplane-flying pig, none of which cause me any problems.


Yet  one concept never fails to make me howl with disbelief: a foreign power invading the continental United States (most famously, Red Dawn). Aliens with the technology to fly dozens of light-years are landing on the White House lawn instead of lobbing giant rocks from orbit? No worries! Giant two-legged robot lizards are tearing up California? Pass the popcorn! But the moment the first jackboot touches down on American soil, having apparently teleported past a US Navy and Air Force that are the most powerful in human history, is the moment I say, “Not interested.”


The underlying principle here is similar to the Uncanny Valley. Just as we are repelled by robots and animated characters who look like humans, but aren’t quite right, so I roll my eyes at settings that are obviously meant to be the real world, but aren’t quite right. In other words, I have a much higher threshold for suspending disbelief in real-world settings, and these scenarios (as with any other that suggests the author failed to grasp the basics of a real-world issue, whether it’s politics or a financial crisis) fall egregiously foul of that. And that is why it will be a very long time before I ever look at THQ’s Homefront, not to say Red Dawn itself.

What are your favourite genres?

I have three questions for you guys reading this:


1.     What are your favourite genres in any medium (games, books, TV, movies, etc)?


2.     How have these changed over time?


3.     And why have these changed over time?


In my case, when it comes to games, I spend most of my time playing strategy and RPGs, but I’ll dabble in almost anything except sports – and many of my favourite games, such as Star Control 2, Okami, and God Hand, are neither strategy nor RPGs. My tastes were even broader when I was younger – I grew up playing Civilization and SimCity 2000, but also everything from Street Fighter 2 to Zelda: Link to the Past and Herzog Zwei. The subject matter of a game, more so than its genre, is what usually interests me, and it just happens to be the case that the narratives/historical periods/imaginary worlds that I find most appealing tend to be in strategy and RPGs.


When it comes to every other form of media, if you asked me one or two years ago I would have called myself a pure science fiction/fantasy buff, but since then I have identified less and less with that genre. Most of my recent book purchases have been history books, always a love of mine, and what fiction I have read has increasingly been historical fiction. I read these to satisfy my growing interest in trade, prosperity, the course of empire and the slow birth of the modern world, and these are issues for which I find speculative fiction increasingly irrelevant.