Questions tagged [trope]

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

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111 votes
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Were the Smurfs the first to smurf their smurfs?

On Rick and Morty, Squanchy squanches some of his squanches with "squanch". On South Park, we saw the Marklar marklar their marklar with "marklar". Before those two shows, the Smurfs already smurfed ...
SQB's user avatar
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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 ...
Wickethewok's user avatar
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 ...
Alexander's user avatar
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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 ...
Chad Levy's user avatar
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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 ...
Stormblessed's user avatar
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42 votes
1 answer
16k 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 ...
VLAZ's user avatar
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41 votes
5 answers
24k views

The cliche science fiction glass tube filled with liquid and a person floating in it, what do you call it?

For nearly every other science fiction trope there is a name. A movie where the heroes travel faster than light, whether they actually name the mechanism or not, will be called subspace/warp/...
John O's user avatar
  • 17.3k
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 ...
miken32's user avatar
  • 767
38 votes
8 answers
26k views

Symbolic meanings of everyone losing their hands?

I've just had my memory jogged by a few questions on this site. It occurs to be that the men of the Skywalker family have a propensity for losing their hands in duels. Is this a common thing among ...
AncientSwordRage's user avatar
  • 81.9k
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&...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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 "...
Lorendiac's user avatar
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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 ...
user23715's user avatar
  • 1,465
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 ...
Rogue Jedi's user avatar
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 ...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
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 ...
onewho's user avatar
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30 votes
3 answers
3k views

Is there special symbolism of evil and undead in the north?

Is there a reason or special symbolism for evil to fester in the northern reaches of a world? Three examples I can remember on the top of my head is Tolkien with Melkors/Morgoths stronghold of ...
Mainstroke's user avatar
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?
Nu'Daq's user avatar
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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 ...
Danny Mc G's user avatar
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20 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- ...
Nu'Daq's user avatar
  • 26.2k
18 votes
9 answers
21k views

Why do manga characters love to eat a lot of food?

A common theme in Japanese cartoons (manga and anime) is having a protagonist that has a big appetite and the ability to eat a lot. We see examples of this in Dragonball and One Piece. Historically, ...
spong's user avatar
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18 votes
2 answers
2k views

Who first used "N Men Enter, One Man Leaves" as a plot?

The superficial similarities between the plot of Battle Royale (here's a trailer) and The Hunger Games (here's a trailer) -- and a friend's sarcastic comparison to the titular Thunderdome in Max Max ...
Plutor's user avatar
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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 ...
apoorv020's user avatar
  • 16.5k
16 votes
1 answer
617 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 ...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
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 ...
enkryptor's user avatar
  • 1,049
15 votes
6 answers
4k views

What is the first appearance of Elves in fantasy?

Elves are a common appearance in many worlds in Fantasy. From Tokien, to Harry Potter, to Dungeons and Dragons, and Eragon. Many works feature Elves in some way, all with many common characteristics. ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
924 views

Is there anything to the idea of an "Uncle Ben" trope? [closed]

There seems to be a trend of Uncles Ben who inspire a protagonist and then die (or at least appear to), inspiring them some more: Spider-Man's Uncle Ben Luke Skywalker's "uncle" Ben Kenobi (uncle in ...
Joshua's user avatar
  • 1,306
14 votes
2 answers
3k views

First non humanoid intelligent alien depiction in television?

Broken out from this related question Given that human looking intelligent aliens are so common as to be a trope, what is the earliest depiction in Television of an intelligent alien life form as ...
JohnP's user avatar
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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 ...
Jack B Nimble's user avatar
14 votes
4 answers
881 views

What was the first work to posit the equivalence of magic rituals and computer algorithms?

I have run across a small number of stories that posit a metaphysical equivalence between traditional magical rituals, and modern mathematical rituals (i.e. computer programming or proving certain ...
user avatar
14 votes
3 answers
3k views

What are the common themes present in both Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and Jordan's "Wheel of Time"?

This is probably going to be a rather detailed set of answers. Hopefully someone can come up with a "short list" of common themes. Both sets of books have a distinctive theme of good vs. evil, but ...
TristaanOgre's user avatar
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 ...
livingtech's user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
2k views

First known author to use the concept of "Bigger on the inside"

Who namely known author used the concept of being bigger on the inside first? A holodeck is bigger on the inside, the TARDIS is, on Diskworld the Home of Death and Rincewind's Luggage are, Hermione's ...
Einer's user avatar
  • 7,964
13 votes
1 answer
854 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/...
sequoiad's user avatar
  • 904
11 votes
8 answers
972 views

What is the earliest example of a "Blighted Land" created by human or semi-human activity?

Chernobyl is the ur-example of a real Blighted Land. There is an 18 mile exclusion zone around the melted reactor that is deemed not fit for human habitation (this is of course ignored by animals, ...
Sidney's user avatar
  • 5,000
11 votes
2 answers
3k views

What is a Dire Wolf? [closed]

In many fantasy stories, there are creatures called Dire Wolves. What's a Dire Wolf, how is it different from existing wolves?
user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
4k views

How many Dornishman-jokes do we know?

In Westeros, like our world, stereotypical and/or racist jokes are common. Given the rivalry between Highgarden and Dorne, such jokes about Dornishmen seem to be particularly popular in the Reach1. ...
Aegon's user avatar
  • 48.4k
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 ...
AncientSwordRage's user avatar
  • 81.9k
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 ...
Tango's user avatar
  • 107k
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 ...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
816 views

Was Smaug's treasure-hoarding a bug or a feature in-universe? [duplicate]

Smaug (and all other dragons) were created by Morgoth as species as warfighting machines. As such, the desire to amass bling seems to be a somewhat... tangential feature, to put it mildly. If I was ...
DVK-on-Ahch-To's user avatar
10 votes
0 answers
399 views

What's the significance of the boy with the drum?

Near the end of Triangle, at the car accident scene, we briefly see a boy that appears to belong to the parade they were having: This boy is sitting on the floor (crying?) with his drum in front of ...
bitmask's user avatar
  • 30.7k
9 votes
1 answer
448 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 ...
TheAsh's user avatar
  • 25.2k
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 ...
ThePopMachine's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
820 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, ...
Kitsune's user avatar
  • 1,425
9 votes
2 answers
612 views

When was the fantasy trope of psychological invisibility first used?

In the Enchanters’ End Game, the last book of the Belgariad series, the following exchange between Belgarath the sorcerer and Silk takes place, when they discuss how the Sword has been hidden: “It’...
Narusan's user avatar
  • 577
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. ...
RegorOld's user avatar
  • 109
8 votes
1 answer
519 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 ...
John O's user avatar
  • 17.3k
8 votes
2 answers
1k views

Was "American Werewolf" the first story to have a werewolf haunted by ghosts?

In the 1981 film "An American Werewolf in London" and its 1997 sequel "An American Werewolf in Paris", the protagonist is haunted by increasingly decayed apparitions of his victims. These "ghosts" ...
Omegacron's user avatar
  • 63.1k
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 ...
user402517's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
983 views

What's the history of the prefix "Age of"?

Context I came to realize that there are two recent films (probably more) which contain Age of in their subtitle: Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tranformers: Age of Extinction The thing about these ...
ThePopMachine's user avatar