Rick and Morty Is Actually Righteous Science Fiction

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You might not expect first-rate science fiction from Cartoon Network, but according to science fiction editor John Joseph Adams that’s exactly what you’ll get with Rick and Morty, which begins airing new episodes on July 30.

“As an editor I’m always looking for things I’m not expecting,” Adams says in Episode 265 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And Rick and Morty does that all the time. Even after they set the bar really high, where they’ve done these amazing things, they still manage to do it.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that episodes like “Total Rickall,” about aliens who pretend to be old friends by implanting false memories of themselves, are excellent examples of science fiction. “Even if you took all of the humor out of it, and told it just as a straight, serious science fiction story, it’s a good enough story on its own to get published in a science fiction magazine,” he says.

Parallel worlds are a familiar idea in science fiction, but Rick and Morty pushes the concept almost to the breaking point, with dozens of versions of its main characters scheming against each other. Author Matt London loves the show, but acknowledges that the story is at constant risk of spiraling out of control.

“I can understand why it took them years to write Season 3,” he says, “because once you open this box it’s very hard to get it closed again.”

Such mind-bending antics aren’t for everyone, and Rick and Morty also has a streak of wild misanthropy that will alienate some viewers. TV critic Carli Velocci gives the show a strong recommendation, but warns that it should be approached with caution.

“It’s definitely not a show for the faint-hearted,” she says. “There’s so much gore and violence. So yeah, there’s a lot going into Rick and Morty that you just need to be aware of.”

Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Matt London, and Carli Velocci in Episode 265 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

John Joseph Adams on Doc and Mharti:

“It’s kind of fun to hear that we have yet another example of someone creating fanfic and then filing the serial numbers off, and it results in something amazing, and way better than it would have been if they had stuck to the original thing that they were riffing on. Because once you file the serial numbers off, now you have no boundaries, you don’t have to adhere at all to anything that previously existed, and I think that really fueled the creativity behind the show. … You hear about this in novels a lot, like Cassandra Clare started off with Harry Potter fanfic, and then she filed the serial numbers off and changed it into something original. So it’s really interesting when those things happen.”

Matt London on serialized storytelling:

“I wonder how much of it is a result of advances in technology allowing us to binge-watch entire seasons of TV, having every episode on CartoonNetwork.com, on Hulu, being able to watch the whole show. Because I think back—speaking of these early Adult Swim shows—I think back to Sealab 2021, because those people went on to make Archer, which is an incredibly serialized show that has a lot of continuity from episode to episode, and tons of references back to things that occurred in previous seasons. I can’t imagine that if those creators felt back then that people would be able to watch every single episode of the show—in sequence, from start to finish—that they wouldn’t have put more content like that into the show back then.”

Carli Velocci on character development:

“I think a lot of the problem is trying to figure out what the end conclusion of Rick and Morty is, because I don’t think there is one. But I think that with Season 2 having so much character work involved with all this other crazy science fiction stuff, I think that’ll definitely drive it going forward. I don’t think Rick really needs to change his personality in order to care more about his grandkids. I think that eventually he’ll come to some sort of understanding with himself and with—especially—his grandkids. I don’t know if we’ll learn anything about how he feels about Beth and Jerry or anything. But I think that eventually something has to come of it, otherwise it’s just going to get a little stale.”

Carli Velocci on Adult Swim:

“It has a very specific audience, and it’s not really considered ‘highbrow’ or anything. I’ve been watching Adult Swim since it was on one night a week and it showed a lot of anime. Over the years it’s had great shows like Home Movies and Metalocalypse, and now Rick and Morty, but I think that before Rick and Morty a lot of that stuff was still relegated to late night—’Oh it’s these weird cartoons for a younger male audience, or people who are into weird stuff.’ So I think it’s interesting watching Rick and Morty become a thing, and watching people who don’t normally engage in cartoons because they’re ‘for children’ or ‘for stoners in college’ or whatever, watch it and get a glimpse of it and realize that it’s a very smart show.”

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