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Science Fiction being "on the nose?"

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  • Science Fiction being "on the nose?"

    So I am thinking of an idea for a science fiction story based around some of the social issues of the day. But my idea could probably be considered to be too "on the nose" as they say. In regards to this...

    1. Why is being too "on the nose" a bad thing? Why should we try to hide what our story is about?

    2. How do we avoid being "on the nose?"

  • #2
    Question on clearing things up - What do you mean as 'on the nose' subject? Because it can be very different things...

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    • #3
      To be honest, I am not sure. It's a criticism I see thrown around a bit, particularly when it comes to science fiction about social issues.

      I have heard criticisms about Detroit: Become Human for being too "on the nose" in regards to commentary on slavery and civil rights. Without making this a thread about that game in particular, and whether that criticism has any merit, I am trying to figure out what that criticism really means and how to avoid it.


      • #4
        Early star trek and twilight zone episodes were pretty "on the nose" about a few subjects but still wrapped it up in enough science fiction so they weren't beating you over the head with it.


        • #5
          Often the critique is meant to express that the work feels like it was made to preach first and to entertain second, and many folks don’t like feeling like they’re being preached to. Other times, it’s used to express that an allegory is being used too literally, which can cause unintended implications. For an excellent breakdown of the latter issue, check out Jack Saint’s video on Zootopia and the pitfalls of race allegory, and potentially his two subsequent videos on Beastars.

          Without knowing more details about your story idea, it’s difficult to assess what about it may be “on the nose” and make helpful suggestions. It might be a good idea to have a sensitivity reader look at it.

          Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.


          • #6
            I don’t really mind an “on the nose” story, though as with Detroit: Become Human, a story’s treatment of social issues might strike some as tone-deaf or even irresponsible. A less “on the nose” story leaves more room for discussion and debate, more opportunities to find themes you can relate to, even if you don’t agree with its central thesis.

            If you’re writing to address a social issue, it can help to check with people affected by the social issue, to see if there are any big red flags before you get too deep in the story.

            (Edit: Ah, I see the person above me referenced sensitivity readers. Same idea.)

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            Or read my Exalted novella The Silence of Our Ancestors here:


            • #7
              This is a good general example of on the nose sci-fi expressed through satire.

              Basically, it's making fun of a really overused twist in science fiction writing by reducing the format to 15 seconds.

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