Questions tagged [trope]

For questions about tropes, a common plot, cliché or meme which appears in literature or media.

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4 votes
0 answers
143 views

What was the first "Earth all along" story in Science Fiction?

In a similar vein to this other question and this other question, what is the first story where people explore a mysterious planet that turns out to be a post-apocalyptic Earth? Youtuber Liminal ...
22 votes
4 answers
3k views

First fictional lab-created plague

I'm doing my regular reread of Stephen King's The Stand and I got to wondering about the first example of a fictional manmade plague. I know in the book Day of the Triffids there was a lab created ...
3 votes
1 answer
485 views

What's the first appearance of Elves capable of shadow-melding in fantasy?

Everyone who has played either Warcraft III or World of Warcraft knows that Night Elves have the magic ability to melt away into the shadows of the night, a power known as Shadowmeld. According to the ...
8 votes
2 answers
1k views

Earliest 'space locust'/'devouring swarm' type of alien in science fiction?

Modern examples include the Zerg from StarCraft, Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000; the aliens from Alien (1979) are also central examples and seem like the immediate antecedent for most modern takes. ...
9 votes
1 answer
447 views

Who was the first to make use of the joke "You mean, when are we?"

There is a very common joke in time-travelling stories. One person asks "Where are we?" and the other responds, "You mean, when are we?". What is the earliest instance of this joke ...
13 votes
4 answers
5k views

Trying to find a forgotten science fiction plot resource website

At least five years ago, I had an idea for a website that was a database of plot elements used in science fiction books and movies, creating lists of the works that use each element. So one entry ...
14 votes
2 answers
2k views

Why do time-travel stories often have the characters "returning" to the future? [closed]

In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the duo travel all through time. After they accidentally travel to 1,000,000 BC, they repair their booth and attempt to return to their "present" but arrive "the ...
9 votes
2 answers
4k views

What is the origin of the "suddenly you have no mouth" trope?

A fairly common trope in the fantasy/science fiction/horror genre is the sudden absence of one's mouth and the inability to breathe and/or scream. Off the top of my head: Neo in The Matrix and Black ...
39 votes
8 answers
7k views

What is the origin of the "self-destruct sequence"?

As far as I'm aware, we don't have anything like a self-destruct or auto-destruct sequence in real life ships at sea or in space, so where did the idea originate? I'm thinking of a specific function ...
7 votes
0 answers
126 views

What was the first work where the main characters became the 'aliens' who crashed at Roswell?

In some science fiction works, such as Futurama's Roswell that Ends Well and DS9's Little Green Men, established characters somehow go back in time and crash-land near Roswell New Mexico, and ...
34 votes
2 answers
3k views

What was the first published SF story to use the surprise twist "and these characters were the original Adam and Eve!" at the end?

A very long time ago, I checked out a book from a library. It was 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. One of those short-shorts is "...
83 votes
4 answers
13k views

Sol Ⅲ = Earth: What is the origin of this planetary naming scheme?

It appears to be a fairly common planetary naming scheme in science fiction: Take the common name (or its bayer designation) of star and append the planetary ordinal in the form of a Roman or Arabic ...
10 votes
4 answers
2k views

What's the first instance in published fiction that shows an item from the future traveling back through time by itself?

When I say by itself I mean that it's not worn, carried or used to carry a time traveller. It also cannot be sentient, thinking or automated in anyway, no time traveling robots please! I'm also only ...
7 votes
2 answers
920 views

What's the oldest "accidental (potion) ingredient as inciting incident" story?

What's the oldest "accidental (potion) ingredient as inciting incident" story? Is it 1886's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the accidental ingredient's a "impurity of ...
3 votes
0 answers
115 views

Name for trope where a POV character has someone hanging out in their mind?

I've seen this trope in a lot of different media, where a telepathic being (not necessarily capable of telepathy with anyone, this can be limited to the one character) is just sort of hanging out in ...
64 votes
7 answers
20k views

Why do consoles explode in "Star Trek"?

In Star Trek (an indeed many/most other sci-fi shows), a reoccurring theme is the exploding console, usually ones placed behind consoles where squishy human-folk sit. Source: Memory Alpha Such ...
30 votes
11 answers
63k views

Is there a difference between a parallel universe and an alternate universe?

This was prompted by a previous question I had here, but I decided it was a good stand-alone question. This is a general science fiction question and not specific to any particular world. Is there a ...
9 votes
2 answers
723 views

First story to feature the trope "the nice self-sufficient society that welcomed us are actually cannibals"?

It is not an infrequent trope in sci-fi shows for our protagonists to be struggling in their adventure, only to stumble across a seemingly nice self-sufficient society which they are welcomed into, ...
36 votes
1 answer
5k views

Where does the "aging backwards" trope originate?

Michael Ende's The Neverending Story features the Sassafranians, people who are born old and age backwards until they die as babies. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button&...
21 votes
4 answers
7k views

Why do magically shrunken people speak with such high voices?

In many films/television series/videogames, a character who has been reduced to minuscule size either by magic or advanced technology suddenly starts to speak with a very high-pitched, squeaky voice- ...
5 votes
0 answers
263 views

Did Tolkien invent the trope of the "green glint" in the eye? If not, who did?

In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers (1954), Sméagol has a transient "green glint" in his eye when his Gollum alter ego surfaces in his consciousness. At the word hungry a greenish light was ...
17 votes
5 answers
3k views

Why are trilogies so prevalent in Fantasy?

Why are trilogies so prevalent in Fantasy? (I don't really recall trilogies outside genre-literature and even in genre, trilogies in sci-fi seem to be less prevalent). Can it be simply chalked down to ...
3 votes
3 answers
324 views

Which was the first story to feature a 'Fighting spirit'?

A 'fighting spirit' fights instead of the one summoning and controlling it, and may be visible or invisible but have.some connection to the user. In X-Men Apocalypse (2016), before Jean Grey attacks ...
24 votes
2 answers
6k views

What was the earliest depiction of the angel/devil on your shoulder trope?

What is the oldest depiction someone has seen of an angel on a person's shoulder advising him to do the right thing, and a devil on the same person's other shoulder tempting him toward an immoral act?
3 votes
1 answer
387 views

First example of mind control changing eyes?

I've noticed a common trope in SciFi/Fantasy: mind control changes the subject's eye color or, usually in more cartoonish works, gives the subject "spinning eyes". What is the original ...
2 votes
0 answers
457 views

Where did "Dungeon Breaks", a.k.a monsters flooding out of a dungeon, come from?

Where did "Dungeon Breaks", a.k.a monsters flooding out of a dungeon, come from? We know where the term for monster-zone "dungeons" came from, since that was my question... But &...
2 votes
0 answers
150 views

What is the origin of the trope of enslaved wizards/witches?

I have been reading The Wheel of Time books, and found the Seanchan Damanes to be very similar to The Tethered Mage books, where magic is rare and strictly controlled (even with minders that use ...
3 votes
1 answer
93 views

Who were the first heroes to go on an adventure because their hometown was destroyed during a festival?

In Wheel of Time (2021) S1E1 the heroes embark on their adventure because their hometown is destroyed during a festival. I assume the same happens in The Eye of the World but I don't know for certain. ...
6 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why do vampires hiss?

It is a bit of a trope that vampires hiss, typically when exposed to a cross, sunlight, or other weakness. So, my train of thought went a bit like this: Werewolves and Vampires have a "rivalry&...
8 votes
1 answer
515 views

The "superhuman speed" special effect in movies and television

What's the earliest example of a character exhibiting "superhuman" speed in either film or television (doesn't have to be Hollywood, if the earliest example is foreign, very interested in hearing of ...
10 votes
3 answers
1k views

Are clinical trials done in the Star Trek universe?

It's a very common trope in the Star Trek universe for treatments to the disease du jour to be developed and rolled out very rapidly. Many, if not most, of the main characters or even most of an ...
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Unending Series of Rooms

My instinct is that there is a fantasy trope of the hero/protagonist exploring a (seemingly) unending series of rooms. I feel like I have encountered this trope in multiple books, but the only one I ...
15 votes
1 answer
5k views

What is the origin of the “clerics can create water” trope?

All Dungeons and Dragons edition I'm familiar with have its Cleric character class. Apparently, D&D Cleric is a trope of its own. Many D&D "clerical" spells were still inspired by popular ...
4 votes
0 answers
305 views

The evil, repressive government is trying to stop the heroes! For a very good reason, it turns out [duplicate]

I have a memory of a short story in which a plucky group of scientists and researchers (and maybe students?) invent a machine that allows you to view any place and period in history. It will ...
5 votes
3 answers
3k views

Where did the hypnotic spiral originate from?

A common trope associated with hypnotists in fiction is the use of spinning spirals to hypnotize people. However, when I tried to look up articles about them online (e.g. on Wikipedia, Google Scholar, ...
42 votes
1 answer
15k views

Origin of genies (from lamps) having a three wish limit?

In the original 1001 Nights (a.k.a. Arabian Nights) story "Aladdin" the titular character gets a lamp that contains a magical being called a "genie" that grants wishes. This is fairly common knowledge ...
30 votes
3 answers
6k views

Does the Disney canon of Star Wars include any multiple-biome planets?

Star Wars is quite famous for fitting the Single Biome Planet trope to a T (warning: TVTropes link). You have the desert worlds of Tatooine and Jakku, the Forest Moon of Endor, the woodland planet of ...
102 votes
2 answers
8k views

Is there a term for the science fiction trope where a character lists two historical things and a future thing?

In Babylon 5, for example, a character lists famous bombings like "Hiroshima, Dresden, San Diego" with the first items in the list being real and the last being fictional. This dialog technique of ...
5 votes
1 answer
559 views

Why are the Elves always shown as having thoughts about leaving this world for some utopia rather than reveling in their life on Earth? [closed]

Is this trope there to reinforce the belief that Elves are a superior race, come from somewhere else and they don't have the vigour and childish imagination of the more mundane races to find peace in ...
3 votes
0 answers
131 views

Trope where Everyone Believes Something when they Should Know Better [closed]

In the novel Dune we are told that doctors from the Suk school receive Imperial conditioning so that their loyalty is unbreakable, and no doctor from this school will ever act in a way that will harm ...
55 votes
10 answers
16k views

What is the origin of the "being immortal sucks" trope?

In a lot of science fiction and fantasy, there is the trope of someone becoming immortal, but then being really sad about it, deciding that it is worse than being mortal. What is the oldest work to ...
1 vote
3 answers
1k views

Is Enfys Nest's name meant to be a pun?

In Solo: A Star Wars Story fans are introduced to a new character named Enfys Nest, a leader of a rebelling pirate group called, the Cloud Riders. Later in the film it is revealed that Enfys I have ...
-4 votes
1 answer
282 views

Is the Coraline movie trying to make a point that people should have freedom?

I know it was originally a book and I'm wondering whether the original story was trying to make a point that people should have freedom. In the Coraline movie, the main character Coraline went into ...
32 votes
16 answers
12k views

If the ship's self-destruct is such a great idea why don't real Navies do this? [closed]

Background to my question: I watched a recent episode of The Expanse where the ship's captain It got me thinking, in-universe this appears to make no sense! Ships having a self-destruct is a ...
16 votes
1 answer
615 views

Where did the concept of single-use spell scrolls originate?

It has been a standard rule in Dungeons & Dragons for as long as I can remember that spell scrolls are single-use items. Once a spell is cast from the scroll (or, sometimes, even if an ...
4 votes
1 answer
3k views

What is the significance of Axolotls in Gravity Falls?

Both in- and out-of-universe, Axolotls are a reoccurring element in Gravity Falls. In the first episode and the online game Mystery Shack Mystery, the Mystery Shack tank contains what seems to be an ...
13 votes
1 answer
841 views

Origin of "giveaway eyes for shapeshifters" trope

This use of giveaway eye flashes, changes in colour, or changes to the iris shape seems to be a common trope in several series as a way of informing the viewer when a nearby shapeshifter is listening/...
2 votes
1 answer
240 views

Trope identification and earliest examples: Stereotype exists because of banished people

Trope described: Humans live (quite far) away from race/species/distinct group of people called X. There is a lot of negative stereotypes about the X. They are all dishonorable, thieves, murderers, ...
31 votes
2 answers
2k views

Was the recurring theme of Stark creating his own villains intentional?

Looking across the Iron Man and Avengers films, the theme of Tony creating his own villains comes up quite often. He also arguably creates his own figurative villains in the form of hedonism and ...
10 votes
2 answers
1k views

Where Did the "Pinocchio" trope of Bringing Your Creation To Life Start?

This evening I was watching Coppelia, a ballet where a toymaker tries to bring a doll he made to life. Coppelia premiered in 1870 and the story of Pinocchio was written in 1870. This shows up even ...