My chum Vinay points me towards this article, which scores a selection of science fiction stories against the prototypical hero’s journey.

Personally, I think the genuinely informative parts of that post are the first few comments. It’s more that the Hero’s Journey is an abstraction of a satisfying story structure, vis: there’s a protagonist who advances the story and serves as our proxy; shit happens to him, by definition; some form of conflict occurs; conflict is resolved, leaving the world in a different state.

I’m slowly wading my way through Christopher Booker’s “Seven Basic Plots”, which is terrific. There’s a lovely section where, in two pages, he compares Gilgamesh – the oldest known story, we have a written version from something insane like 5,000 years ago – and Dr. No. Basically the same story. Genius.

What I think is interesting isn’t that many sf stories are basically similar, but that:

  1. There are so few fundamental narratives.
  2. None of these appear to be ‘new’ – ie. enabled by technological advance.
  3. Despite these limits and repetition, we still find stories satisfying.

I think one is gently pushed towards a position where stories are less about individual expression and creativity, and more about discerning how one relates to the world, and judging oneself against others.