Many of our readers would have been fans of science fiction long before the recent popularity of sci-fi streaming shows, but for many others, this might not have been the case. As a genre which has traditionally been seen as a niche, despite a few massive breakout hits, there have been long periods where science fiction has been laid by the wayside.
Recently, however, science fiction has been given more opportunities than ever before. With this in mind, we want to look at how streaming and other forms of media have contributed to this resurgence in sci-fi popularity.
Streaming was consistently underestimated as a viable method of media delivery in the early days. Since then, detractors have had to eat their hats, as it now often usurps straight broadcast television as the primary means of experiencing film and television shows.
While space-based science fiction now plays a bigger part than ever before, we have to thank more literally grounded shows like the zombie-based The Walking Dead for helping prime audiences for this new generation. While the concept of the living dead has long been popular in fiction, TWD helped bridge the horror aspects with personal drama, drawing in viewers to a genre with which they might not traditionally be interested.
Recently, we have some high-profile and well-received follow-ups and remakes stepping up the variety and quality of sci-fi content on offer. The most recent entry in the long-running Star Trek, Star Trek: Discovery, is a prime example of this. Updating this show for modern sensibilities and filmmaking technology, Discovery is a huge hit for both new and returning fans. This is certainly not an easy task, especially with a fanbase as dedicated as Trekkies can be.
In terms of remakes, the modern Lost in Space has done a significant deal to display the viability of rebooting older shows on modern streaming networks. Drawing from the original 1965 series of the same name, the new Lost in Space updates the formula in a way which, like Discovery, appeals to both older and newer viewers.
Well-acted and with production values on par with many modern films, this series effectively builds an enticing, mysterious and fresh universe, while also expanding familiar characters in a way which modern audiences will find much more relatable. Hearing the robot call out ‘Danger, Will Robinson’ gave as nostalgic chills, which is certainly not a level of engagement we personally saw coming.
Driving Fan Campaigns
Another side of modern success is owed to the increased involvement which fans have shown for their favourite shows. The Expanse, another critical and fan darling, was cancelled in 2018 due to restrictive distributive arrangements. Utilising the modern technology at their fingertips, fans created an online petition to Amazon and Netflix to save the series.
Gathering over 100,000 signatures, this enthusiasm gave Amazon the push it needed to pick up the series, renewing it for at least one additional season. While these sort of ‘save the show’ efforts have been attempted many times for many shows in the past, it is only recently that centralised online communities have really had the ability to quantify their interests in such a direct manner.
Not only has this saved The Expanse, it shows the greater market that science fiction fans aren’t just here, but they are also passionate and dedicated. With this opening up opportunities in terms of revenue for potential future shows, modern fan attention such as this has shown to carry a positive feedback effect with streaming media.
Attention from Gamers
Also generating excitement into the world of science fiction is the medium of video games. As we enter the era of high-definition gaming, offerings from the last few generations have made great strides in raising a new generation on the opportunities which sci-fi represents.
A large portion owes to the flexibility of video games, and how easily the genre of science fiction might be adapted into each different form of gaming. On the first person shooter front, we have the likes of DOOM, whose most recent entry struck a chord with fans with its action-horror aesthetic, and appealed to old-school gamers while updating the formula for the new.
The same can be said for the third-person Mass Effect series. This international hit created a science fiction universe often revered as one of the most engaging of all modern gaming, with action, political intrigue, and extra-terrestrial friends and foes helping keep players engaged.
In displaying public interest in science fiction, perhaps nothing in modern history has been as indicative as Star Citizen. Now having crowd-funded over $215 million, this space-sim promises one of the biggest and most immersive experiences of all time. Constantly missing its deadlines, and only showing minimal progress after what is at least six years of progress, industry enthusiasts have serious doubt about the actual release of the project, but none-the-less, the interest among fans is clear.
Interest into science fiction games isn’t just confined to traditional video games either, as even themed online slot games are making the most of the genres current popularity. On Wink Slots, releases like Star Raiders and Ultimate Universe draw from contemporary and classic sci-fi and remained among the most popular ever since their introduction.
A New World
The answer to the question of has streaming brought a new golden age to sci-fi is, undoubtedly, yes, but it's important to note that this is only part of the picture. It is true that modern streaming technology has allowed higher levels of engagement than ever before, but we can’t forget the contributions of the surrounding groups and infrastructure.
A new generation of old classics, pulling in previously established fanbases is part of the draw, but it's the meta-structure of newer online groups which help give form, to collect them into a cohesive whole. Combine this with a newer generation raised in a technological age, especially when it comes to video games, and you have an entire system which has fostered and perfectly suited this modern streaming environment,
Fortunately for us and fans alike, this means the future of science fiction is brighter than ever, even as increasingly more of it becomes science-fact.