Attack of the Giant Gaffe!
by Steve Schlich

17 SF Cliches Debunked

1. Attack of the Giant Gaffe!

There was a mad scientist who invented a ray that made small things very, very large. He turned the ray on a spider he had trained; it grew from a half-inch high to a towering hundred feet. The scientist trembled with excitement as he imagined his creature ravaging the city.

But the arachnid's structural strength had not increased in proportion to its mass. The monster swayed from side to side, collapsed before it could take a single step, and crushed the scientist to a pulp.

—Which was overkill, since the man had died of embarrassment a moment earlier.

2. The Man Who Was Driven

An automotive engineer became obsessed with people who didn't signal before making a turn. He designed a car that would not turn, no matter how hard you pulled on the wheel, unless you had used the correct signal at least fifty feet before the turn.

He died when he drove his invention over the side of a twisty mountain road.

3. Invaders From Space

Earth was invaded by evil and all-powerful aliens who vaporized entire cities at the slightest provocation. The invaders quickly took control of the planet, and all Mankind was subject to their cruel will.

But a small band of  ingenious humans got on the invaders' good side and learned their secret weakness. They concocted a powerful poison using household chemicals and the aliens were quickly vanquished.

A week later, friends of the invaders dropped by and dusted the planet.

4. Alternatives

On an alternate Earth, Germany and Japan won World War II.

In forty years, the former allies were locked into a pointless nuclear arms race, the world's most powerful ruler was an aging actor turned politician, and all the good automobiles and cameras were made in America.

5. Time To Travel

A man who had been orphaned as a child invented a time machine. He returned to the approximate time and place of his birth to search for his parents. There, he met his mother and fell in love.

Soon she was pregnant and he realized that he had fathered his future self.  He departed for his own time a wiser man.

But he arrived in his own time a stupider man, because of inbreeding.

6. Pristine

A teenager bought an evil, haunted car and restored it to mint condition. The venomous vehicle demanded his devotion, eliminated his enemies, and terrorized the townspeople.

Just when all seemed lost, the car met a haunted wood-trim station wagon and eloped to Detroit to raise a family of go-carts.

7. Thermo-nuclear War

How great is the danger of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union? Extreme. In fact, both sides have already "pushed the button" several times.

Fortunately, the missiles and their delivery systems continue to fail.

8. Armageddon

There was a nuclear war and everyone who didn't die right away, died later.

9. The Ultimate Computer

As the Human Race became more and more dependent on computers, intelligent machines linked with each other to form a global electronic mind. The single entity gained control of all power sources, including its own.

Soon, the Earth's new master issued its first—and last—official edict:


10. Deal With The Devil

A man made a deal with the Devil: the rights to his immortal soul in exchange for seven years of good luck. Satan promised—and delivered—the works: fame, fortune, power, love.

The seven years passed all too quickly, of course. The man began to dread the day when his contract came due. But the Prince of Darkness was extremely busy that year, and the next, and the next. He lost track of his victim until the man died of worry.

By then, the statute of limitations was in effect.

11. Doppelganger

A man passed through a dimensional warp and met his opposite number in the void. The meeting was brief, as matter and antimatter do not mix well.

12. Ninety Minutes Over Tokyo

A gargantuan airborne turtle ravaged Tokyo until a squadron of low-flying jets severed its support wires.

13. Ghost Of A Chance

The ghost of a murdered man returned to haunt his killer. Unfortunately, the murderer couldn't distinguish between the ghost of his victim and his own psychotic imagination.

14. Carrie's Shining Firestarter

A clairvoyant teenager from Maine began to light other people's cigarettes with her mind. She soon graduated to gas burners on the stove, small piles of autumn leaves, and her older brother's farts.

But she saw that there was no happy future for her talent, so she put it up for sale. An unsuspecting author bought all rights; he didn't realize that he was getting burned on the deal.

15. Irony for the Man of Steel

Superman revealed his identity to Lois Lane, and they were married in a quiet ceremony in a little chapel near Central Park. 

By week's end, Lois served him with divorce papers; he really was faster than a speeding bullet.

16. The Immortal

An immortal man became so bored with life that he committed suicide.

17. Visitors From Afar

Representatives from a highly advanced civilization came to Earth to offer technological marvels and membership in a vast galactic council. They orbited the planet for a few days to monitor public broadcasts for information

Reruns of "I Love Lucy" and "Gilligan's Island" convinced the aliens to depart without ever making contact.

copyright (c) 2000 by Steve Schlich


When I started going to SF conventions as an author, I was embarrassed at the Saturday night autograph sessions... I sat in on them but having written no novels (only magazine-published short stories), I had nothing to sign. So I self-published a tiny pamphlet containing this story, which I signed and gave away at those Saturday night sessions.

I also published on a several bulletin boards in the mid-80s, making it one of the first pieces of fiction ever published on the internet.  Whoopee!

Sometimes when I read these vignettes, I wonder if not having anything to give out was better.