The Grand List Of Overused Science Fiction Clichés


An Old Friend
Dec 6, 2004
Gulf Coast
At this site you can find out if the Idea has been done to death

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés

Those of us who have read or seen a lot of science fiction have seen certain story elements pop up over and over and over. Some of these elements were actually pretty good ideas, and when handled well make for a pretty entertaining story, but have become hackneyed from overuse by the unimaginative. Others came into being through the deliberate effort to avoid another cliché. Still other ideas were lame from the get-go, and should have been dismissed from the author's thinking.
Clichés are not in themselves necessarily bad, but their overuse shows that the writer has forgotten what separates the strong tale from the hollow: "the human heart in conflict with itself," as Faulkner said. Where there is this conflict, the tale stands; where the conflict is absent, the tale falls flat, and in neither case does it matter how many ships get blown up.
The sophisticated reader (one who reads more than just SF) will note that some of these clichés are not found solely in SF, but in other genres as well, and of course the lampooning of cliches is a time-honored part of good comedy.


Creative Writer
Jan 16, 2005
i think the most common mistake made by writers is when you have read another authors story long ago and whilst you cannot clearly remember having read the story, your subconscious provides the story in a disjointed and unclear fashion that you then take as your own imaginations. you then start writing the story and judging on how lucky you are, you either end up with something original or waste a lot of your time!

luckily, as time progresses, new ways at looking at science fiction arrive. whether by thought or by hard science. science fiction is not stagnated like i see fantasy, so less chance of churning out stories looking like they have been written from the same drawing board.

a writers unique style can help to seperate the stories, choice of names for worlds and characters, although morals and politics stay the same generally.


An Old Friend
Dec 6, 2004
Gulf Coast
Section I: Overused Plots and Storylines
An alien:

1. Is stranded on earth;
2. Befriends a human child or falls in love with an earth gal;
3. Is pursued by shadowy malevolent Pentagon officials under the pretense of national security;
4. Uses his/her/its alien powers to defeat the shadowy malevolent Pentagon officials, making them look foolish without really harming them;
5. Makes teary farewell and returns to its home planet.
A young researcher:

1. Gets a job at a Mega-huge Corporation or Ultra-secret Government Agency;
2. Learns that the employer's latest discovery has a Nasty Side Effect or involves some obvious human rights abuses;
3. Confronts the employer, who casually dismisses the researcher's concerns and chides her/him for not being a "team player";
4. Tries to blow the whistle to avert disaster;
5. Gets hounded by Shadowy Malevolent Goons;
6. Attempts to meet with inside sources, and finds them either dead or with just enough life left to utter a cryptic clue;
7. Watches the disaster overtake the CEO;
8. Testifies before Congress;
9. Enters the Witness Protection Program;

in roughly the order given above.
Section II: Overused Settings and Characterizations
Alien species depicted as having no ethnic, religious, cultural, philosophical or political variance, especially:

1. Wise mystics
2. Stoic warriors
3. Pastoral innocents
4. Cowardly sneaks
5. Amazon babes
A society consists of:

1. A handful of ultra-powerful ultra-rich;
2. Criminal lords who control everything not controlled by the ultra-rich;
3. Police whose only principle of operation is maintenance of the status quo;
4. Hordes of poor people starving in the streets;
5. Absolutely no middle class whatsoever.

Nonetheless, the society manages to remain at a high technological level.
The ancient spacefairing alien race that:

1. Has existed for zillions of years;
2. Went into hiding, left this universe/dimension, or went extinct so long ago that no current spacefaring race has ever met them;
3. Is known solely through legends, ancient artifacts of amazing technological advancement, and/or evidence that they created one or more (sometimes all) currently living races.
Section III: Overused story events and plot devices
A Big Surprise awaits the reader/viewer at the end of the tale:

1. The Barbaric Society is really post-cataclysmic Western civilization.
2. The man and woman who flee from a doomed civilization and start rebuilding on the third planet of a medium-sized yellow star are named Adam and Eve
3. The alien children, slaves, or pets are really the parents, masters, or owners
4. The head of Terran government is a disguised Bad Guy or is under direct control of the Bad Guys.
5. A major figure in the conflict is really another major figure in disguise.
6. The Kindly Benevolent Aliens are neither.
7. The reputedly inhospitable Outdoors is not only inhabitable, but markedly better.
8. It was all just a dream/game/simulation.
9. The alien threat was just a hoax to unite humanity.
10. An ancient civilization was actually founded by space aliens.
11. A major historical figure (Jesus, Einstein, Lincoln, Elvis) was really a space alien.
12. The apparently-human leader of the robot/cyborg army is also a robot or cyborg, and this becomes appartent when his/her/its "skin" falls off.
Section IV: Silly Science
A group of aliens is smart enough to steal someone else's technology, but too stupid to make any improvements on it.
Just a taste...


An Old Friend
Dec 6, 2004
Gulf Coast
Nice site, I don't ever go to google answers. Looks like it might be fun to play at that house for a while...


Feb 26, 2005
very interesting this list isn't it? I also came across
- 100 Things I would Do if I Were a Black Evil Sovereign &
- Small Typical Set for Those Who Want to Create a Fantasy Story

They are humorous ones as you may guess... oh, there's also "How to Survive in Horror Movies" with phrases like "run away if you hear mysterious music"
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