Is a nihilistic view of the future in SciFi...groundbreaking?

***WARNING*** I am about to vaguely spoil the end of a host of movies and the following TV shows...X-Files, Buffy, Angel, Farscape, Babylon 5, Torchwood CoE and Beauty & the Beast!

One of the teeth-gritting problems I have with those people raving about Torchwood's Children of Earth is the idea that it is not only "realistic," but also, somehow original to present a grim, dark view of the world or the future. These are the people saying, "Oh, this is so astounding and groundbreaking!" Yeah...RIGHT! A dystopian view of society in the future is the norm in science fiction, not the exception.

One assumes listening to the claims of "bold originality" given to Children of Earth, that we have been innundated with happy, sappy science fiction, over and over again. That joyous uplifting endings are so commonplace we are sick of them. Fed to the back teeth, sci-fi fans are celebrating the grim ending as a refreshing change of pace. Let's look at this idea more closely.

Far from being an original concept, the idea that the world is a sad, dark place requiring terrible sacrifice is the premise behind...The Man Who Fell to Earth, Silent Running, Soylent Green, Alien, Alien 3, A.I., Dark Knight, No Blade of Grass, Day of the Triffids, Pitch Black, Blade Runner, Dr. Strangelove, 12 Monkeys, 28 Days Later, V is for Vendetta, Planet of the Apes, THX 1138, Metropolis, A Boy and His Dog, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Dark City, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Solaris (Russian Version), Fail-Safe, Lathe of Heaven, Omega Man, I Am Legend, The Fly, Vanilla Sky, Event Horizon. Brazil fits in here somewhere and that's the list off the top of my head. Give me a film guide and I am sure I could go on and on.

Grim, dark sci-fi worlds and scenarios are, in fact, completely cliche. They are yawnably predictable. Dystopia is coming. We know it.

And I'm not even touching on those films that can be considered uplifing simply because our hero survives. Films which are nihilistic in Matrix, Aliens & Alien Resurrection, Riddick, Mad Max, Road Warrior, Terminator, Terminator: Salvation, Reign of Fire, Serenity, Outlander, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Day After Tomorrow, Children of Men, Minority Report, Deep Impact, Escape From New York, Resident Evil, In The Mouth of Madness, Unbreakable. I am wondering about Enemy Mine. It does have a bit of hope at the end. Still, the universe presented isn't a happy place. There is a boatload of grimness.

Let's face it Grim and Sci-Fi appear to move hand-in-hand.

But what about those space opera feel good flicks? Star Wars or Star Trek or ET...or Close Encounters or Independence Day? Well, lots of people die in Independence Day, but Close Encounters is rather uplifting and ET is bittersweet, not unlike Wall-E. I wouldn't say ET has a happy ending. But children's fantasy stories offer your best bet for something like hope in the science fiction genre. You smile, but often with a tear in your eye. You know that there is heartbreak all around the little fellas as they grow toward adulthood. Elliot's friend leaves, even if he's still "right here." This I think was what they meant to sell us with Doctor Who's Journey's End. The Doctor will carry Rose with him, but must go. Still he's right there, too. The idea presented is that there is no perfect solution. Life is not about hope but is instead all bittersweet poignancy.

That's a view of the world and a valid one. But my point is that it isn't groundbreaking. Not in Torchwood's genre. A happy ending, a storybook ending, would be FAR more groundbreaking, brave and memorable.

The Star Trek and Star Wars movies are generally feel good, happy ending movies...what I call cowboy sci-fi. White Hats and Black Hats. Literally. Like Westworld or Armaggedon or I, Robot, these are big, bold films designed to make you cheer at the end. But even so, they often flirt with the idea of the dark side. "I have been and always will be, your friend," Spock says as he dies. More often we have a lone hero or group of heroes standing against the march of grimness. The last Star Wars film was quite grim (and not just because of the acting). For that matter, Return of the Jedi has that "heroic sacrifice" thing going on, doesn't it? But you could argue that in Jedi, Vader's sacrifice is truly redemptive.

Alright, no need to hammer the point home. Movies might have leaned a little toward the cliche of unhappy, hopeless futures or endings. But what about the very persuasive notion that it is cutting edge to kill off some major characters for "reality" in your art? Didn't Cyclops and Phoenix and Professor X have to die to make the war "real" for us in X3? I mean, don't you need to teach those complacent viewers a lesson about life? Perhaps the lesson that you learned as a geek who likes sci-fi so much you stayed home to watch X-Files on Friday night rather than date? Don't you want to say that life isn't fair? Heck, even our superheroes are tormented losers, look at the weepy depressive state of Spiderman or the Dark Side of the Dark Knight.

But surely Children of Earth is a television show. And television is a bastion of happy endings. Don't the television audiences really needs to get this grim, hopeless lesson to balance the happy endings they are used to having? Hmmm!

In Buffy, a show Russell T. Davies admits admiring, two major characters die in the finale, though they are supposedly "redeemed" by this. In Angel, we lose Wes, more unforgivable in my mind than Ianto, Tosh and Owen combined. In Farscape, we lose D'Argo. In Firefly we lose Wash and Book (since I count the movie as the last episode of Serenity). In Beauty and the Beast we lose Catherine. OMG! Sadly, BATB tried to reset for a third season after this meaty hunk of "reality" was jammed down our throats. Much as I fear New Who might try to reset to cheerful Doctor, ignoring how hard they've hit the grim tragedy button on him. In Babylon Five we lose Marcus (so unfair) and Sheridan (totally foreshadowed, but...OMG!). And let us not forget the X-Files took down ALL of the Lonegunmen. Which was a travesty! And don't get me started on Forever Knight or Battlestar Galactic or we will be here forever.

Maybe it would be easier to list those science fiction movies or series that ended happily. Everybody lives. The world sucks less than it did or, wonder of wonders, the world didn't suck at all only the situation involved conflict. Again, we can find this in the original Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry was a real groundbreaking genius.

But come on, if happy-endings are cliche, there must be a few more examples. I can't think of any just now, but let's see what you all come up with in the next day or so. Remember, you can't count the ambigous Prisoner or Blake's 7 endings as happy. Nor, can you count those shows that wandered off the air with no resolution.


who wonders if she can count Ghostbusters and Lost in Space.
Has Eureka ended? probably doesn't matter...I don't think they will go dark.

They might go Cowboy hanging in the balance...Sheriff to the rescue. But I wouldn't put it past them to kill a main character for the "realism" and "creativity" of it all.

being all sarcastic. probably doesn't matter...I don't think they will go dark.

Yeah. That's why I mentioned it. It *is* in the minority, though, as you pointed out.
And when you think about it...our Rose/Ten happy for her lifetime Pony...isn't even a happy ending. It is a bittersweet see him accept what little joy he can have in his life...knowing Rose is going to die and leave him all on his own carry on with the story. All it is a balm from the relentless assault of cliched grimness we endure in SciFi.

That we endure it under the pretense of "originality" is just insulting our intelligence.

The Tomorrow People ended with the defeat of the aliens and Earth joining the new, intellectually revived Galactic Empire.

Yeah, obscure, but still.
There you go. I sort of remember that show...but I didn't follow it. Anyway...chalk one up on the happy side of the board.

Was it directed at children? And oh...I forgot that even Lost in Space went south at the end, I think.

I remember it from Nickolodean but it was a British show on... Thames?

I would say it was intended for children but some of the stories were very grim for a kids show - thinking specifically of a Russion Tomorrow Person who had a chip implant in her head and she suicided before it could blow up and kill the rest.... There was a lot of kid torture, and kids being beaten and thrown into dungeons for having witch powers....

But it ended happily! :D

(I realize now that a large part of my affection for the show is that the lead kid looks like my dad)
Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy? (Aside from the utter annihilation of planet Earth, of course. ...And the sad ending to the whale and to the pot of petunias.)

(P.S. - I know you said not to get you started, but as you brought it up: I still growl a bit when I recall the ending of Forever Knight!)
I thought about doing a Comedy SciFi entry...which is where you get the closest thing to happy endings...Men in Black...and Hitchhiker's Guide did come to mind.

I understand Highlander ended okay...I never watched it, so I don't know if it was ambigous or not. Like Stargate...I liked the original movie but not the television show. I did, however, like Alien Nation on TV.

I liked both the movie and the TV show versions of Alien Nation.

Did you know that there was a TV series of Planet of the Apes? It somehow didn't seem as grim as the movie.
Yes...I knew that. I thought for a bit that we could count Time Tunnel...but...they end up back on the one would assumed...doomed. Though they do save the world, first.

And, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea is happy in both the film and television that's a good one.

Do you happen to know how Stargate goes on TV? I believe the movie has one of those teach them a lesson deaths...I can't really remember, though. Oh, of the people stays behind...but he's happy ending there.
I love James that's why I watched Stargate the movie...and it was his character that stayed behind when the movie ends. This (and the inevitable recast) is why I didn't care much about Stargate the series. Like you, I watched two or three episodes and then gave up on it. This isn't a reflection on it being a movie I I said...a few shows I really loved came off of movies I also liked. I'm one of those people who liked the original Buffy movie...and also liked the series.

The Stargate movie was interesting, but I only saw it once, long ago, so I can't recall a body count, beyond the defeat of the alien/god. Was it James Spader's character that remained on the other side?

And I saw a few SG1 eps, but it never engaged me, so I dropped out and ignored it for most of its run. I did stay for a season or so when BB & CB came aboard, but still didn't stick around for the finale.

SG:Atlantis started out strong, but then I got busy and missed a season and when I came back to it I couldn't re-connect with it.

Sorry not to be more help.
(And for the edit. My thumbs are tired!)
Well, but Highlander the Series ended on a downer. Besides, the entire show was premised on Duncan Macleod having a zillion friends, all of whom show up just in time to be tragically killed where he can't save them. Then they killed Richie. Bastards! ::still bitter:: The ending of Highlander the movie was ... okay, if you didn't know anything about the sequel, you could assume it was a happy ending. Connor was the last immortal, so theoretically alone, but all the other immortals in the movie were douches, or immediately killed by douches, and the movie ends with Connor fondly remembering his friends, and hanging out on a romantic hillside with the cop lady. Reporter lady? Whomever. But then in the sequel he is alone and old, so ... Ambiguous?
Ah...see? Didn't watch it. So, taking someone's word that it ended happy. Didn't see how it could, myself...given you have to behead everyone else...but...was willing to go with their greater knowledge.

Pssst...."Catherine". Sorry, rabid BATB fan here. :)

I completely agree with you. I get enough reality in my real life, thank you very much. I don't have any problem with a happy, if slightly unrealistic, ending.

BATB utterly BROKE me at the time. So did Forever Knight. And the Gunmen!!!! WAH!

Even Quantum Leap was terrible disappointing. Sam never gets to go home. WTH? So not fair. And anime sci-fi is just as bad. Cowboy Bebop anyone? *bawl*
That's okay...I could have gone Wikipedia and looked it up...but I was lazy. I was also a huge fan of BATB and just about had the same reaction to it that I had to JE. I couldn't actually process it being real...and then...the red-haired chick...she grated my cheese.

And you are correct about Quantum Leap...though I rather liked that Sam was dead (or one of the heavenly hosts or something)...but was a WTH? Because it came out of left field and really the set up was for him to go home.

Also...yes...the Gunmen...that was inexcusable.

Re: That's okay...I could have gone

Well, yes and no: my WTH came much sooner than the finale. As part of the internal logic of the show, Sam wasn't supposed to be leaping into famous people when the stories in the final season started having him do that, they broke faith with me and I bailed out of the series rather than watch them ruin my favorite show. After that, I didn't trust them to end it well...and I was right not to. Just like Donna and Rose, Sam's wife - a woman for whom they'd created a backstory - was abandoned.
You make a very good point
...about the last season of Quantum Leap...Sam begins to go further and the stories begin to unravel at the end. Of course, we could say that was because Sam was losing his grip on his own life and heading into his "angelic" work...but I still feel that the ending wasn't completely just felt sort of unfinished. I remember having trouble with it at the time...but it didn't leave me furious like some of the others. I should rent the final season and look at it with older, more jaded eyes.

Oh! Oh! The Questor Tapes! That was hopeful!

(I'm really more used to reading my Sci-Fi...and thinking about it, perhaps this is the crux of the reason why!)
Frankly, there is a lot of grim... science fiction books as well. One of my absolute favorite stories, "The Sparrow" is relentlessly grim. And I loved a short story called "There will come soft rains"...which was all about the world after people were annihilated by nuclear war. Oh...I left out On the Beach...there's a grim one.

But there are so many stories about the end of the world via plague or nuclear annihilation or environmental disasters...oh...No Blade of Grass...another grim one.

who had not heard of the Questor Tapes...must investigate.
However, literature does offer more variety that television or movies when it comes to revelations and original concepts.

I asked, and I was given:

The Day the Earth Stood Still
Fantastic Voyage
Cocoon (?)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Andromeda Strain

...more may follow...
I almost included Andromeda Strain in my nihilistic views...and Day the Earth Stood Still (modern) more like a stand-off than a real happy. The original might have a more hopeful end...can't really remember.

Cocoon quite happy! The other two...sort of cowboy films...but still yes...I am happy to have them.

thinking you must have gone for the movie guide.
thinking you must have gone for the movie guide.

No such thing! I simply read your post aloud and asked!

I was wrong to doubt you
I apologize.

Are you asking a room...or are you dredging from your memory?

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was a good one. As for Andromeda Strain...I didn't know quite what to say about all of those Michael Crichton I would say Jurassic Park is more of a Cowboy picture...even though there is a pretty high death toll...nobody we care about dies. So...I would suppose that this is the sort of film the people who find Torchwood CoE are using as comparison.

who will allow that Torchwood is more Cowboy SciFi and so a turn into general grimness might be considered unexepected...but it's still not original.
Totally agreed.

And as for Star Trek - ST II was pretty gut-wrenching at the time it was released, actually. Even knowing that it all turns out ok in III, that scene still loses none of its impact. And as for ST VII, the less said about that, the better. (Also, for the series - Deep Space Nine ends on a pretty bleak ending as well - the war is resolved, yes, but there's been massive genocide on Cardassia, Sisko's wife is left alone with their unborn child, and the Federation only just survived, barely - it's not what I'd call a happy ending, either.)
I didn't watch the end
Of Deep Space 9...or much of the rest of it to be honest...but I suspect it wasn't going well at all. Babylon 5 which I consider one of the great series...because it DOES have a logical and plotted progression...still ends with that "noble sacrifice" business so popular in nerd-world.

Oh...Trip Tucker...on Enterprise...yet another "realistic" loss of the team player so the audience understands that things come at a cost.

Oddly enough..I fully expected we would have this valuable lesson in I was expecting Donna to die. Yet, the cost of NOT sacrificing to sacrifice the Doctor's integrity and any semblence of character continuity for Rose. It really is like these writers don't get that they are treading the same ground.

Star Trek Voyager (sorry, I know!): Tom and B'Elanna's baby is born, they all get home, the Borg are dealt a massive blow, I think all the cast survive (Chakotay doesn't die, Seven doesn't die and Tuvok doesn't get the melty brain disease), except for Future!Janeway, who would cease to exist once she'd changed the timeline anyway.

However, the happy ending of the tv show is rather stamped on by the sequel books - it gets rather bleak in them from what I can remember.

As for Stargate, SG-1 still technically isn't over 'cause they're doing the dvd movies, but Atlantis did have the silly happy ending - they all survived, got back to Earth and beat the baddies (although I can't remember how).

I thought Tuvok DID get the melty brain disease.

Maybe I misunderstood.

Anyway...yes...Voyager does an inspiring ending. TOS just stopped. I think TNG was ongoing adventure. DS9 was grim. And Enterprise did the "heroic sacrifice" to save the day. So, overall, I would say Star Trek covered all bases with endings...and good for them. That could be why their fanbase is so enduring. But it is also enduring, I think, because TOS and TNG were both shows about hope...and humanity getting BETTER instead of shows that reflected us at our worst. I think storytellers need to do more to show that we CAN improve. Instead, they seem to just be underlining the idea of our worst selves.

Stargate is...ongoing story, then. That's what my sister said, too. Doctor Who must ultimately be ongoing story. So, really what I am looking for is a happy ending to this CHAPTER in the Doctor's life. And I feel that they only ending that works is for him to spend a lifetime with Rose...or for this damaged part of him to switch places with 10.5 so the new Doctor is healed. I look on Ten now with lots of I believe 10.5 IS the real Doctor, the next Doctor...I think Ten just wanted to stay with Rose so much...just wanted to stay...that he couldn't let go...and that's not good. If I was writing this...that would have immediate and unhealthy consequences...and, in fact, it has had those...if RTD agrees with me about JE. <<<---Which he might not.

I thought Tuvok DID get the melty brain disease.

Maybe I misunderstood.

He did but unlike the first part of Endgame (where he is permanently debilitated by it) the Future Admiral Janeway came back so that they could get home in time to save him. In other words the timeline which VOY is set in is a happy ending while the timeline which the future Admiral Janeway comes from is not so sweet (Janeway doesn't have the option to try for Chakotay, He and Seven die and Tuvok is permanently disabled). Basically there's a "pick your own ending" type of ending to Voyager. The first one is bittersweet (and overly bitter for shippers like me) and only semi-sad in the second (and bitterwseet but with alternative possibilities for shippers like me).

As Captain Katherine Janeway once said "Time travel gives me a headache."
As Captain Katherine Janeway once said "Time travel gives me a headache."


Yes, but it does give you a possibility for a Doctor Who pony. And if I get a pony...I will put up with a bit of a headache.

Amen. The Dr.Who view of time does seems to be a bit different from the ST view. In ST it always seems that only the things in their personal future is in flux while in DW the only points set in stone are those where a time lord seems to be present (whether a person who travels with him is present or not).
What about Wall-E? As far as I remember they never lose anyone to death in that story. True the earth HAD been dying due to overuse but humanity survives and in fact comes back to earth to try again and in fact seems to be recuperating.

I do have to agree that overall SciFi is dark (I don't just watch Sci-fi regularly I also read Science Fiction/fantasy stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley and a couple of Mercedes Lackey's series) but in many ways life itself has both the good and bad.

I also think you need to define which Star Trek you're talking about. When you're talking about TOS the "cowboys in space" motif fits (and I remember reading somewhere that is exactly what Roddenberry was going for). TNG was much less of a cowboy setup and much more diplomacy-oriented and much more like an ambassadorial staff in space for the Federation. DS9 I cannot speak to because I never watched it but I've heard that it got VERY dark. As for VOY I would kind of describe it as a return to the TOS roots (with them being totally in the dark in their journey home). Voyager did definitely get dark (the "Equinox" and "Scorpion" stories are perfect examples) but overall was a good ending (despite the loss of 20 people besides the people lost in the travel to the Delta quadrant).

Eureka seems to dabble in dark but never really cross the line (at least from what I can tell of last season and the season before).
I do mention Wall-E! It seems to me to be children's movies that have the best shot at true uplifting ends. Or children's television The Tomorrow People.

The Questor Files...mentioned above...turns out to be Roddenberry again. He definitely did want us to have a more hopeful view of the future of humanity...and of our ability to accomplish things. We seem to have lost any sense of our ability to do wonderous things and have settled into a grim march toward the grave. I feel that is partly a failure of our storytellers to inspire hope.

Wall-E is definitely hopeful...there is a bittersweetness to it I mention above...a tear in the eye for the poignancy of the loss. I think that might be what RTD wanted us to feel about JE...that sense of hope and loss...but it was so out of character that it just didn't work.

When I am speaking of the Cowboy nature of Star Trek...I was speaking of the films. They are true heroic stories...because the hero saves the day...and usually the cost is born by random people killed by the villian. On television...the original an ongoing story, I think, it doesn't end. I also thought TNG was ongoing at the end...not completely sure. Voyager has a happy ending...with sacrifice of Tuvok but not an immediate sacrifice. Enterprise...sacrifices what's his face. DS9, apparently, had a dark end...which it looked to be heading for all along.

Eureka will probably go with a last minute save and a sacrifice of a minor character at the end. I would like them to just lose their funding and have to wander away to work at Starbucks...but that probably won't happen. See? Realism isn't really a part of's not about "life". Life is a mix of good and bad...but mostly life is just a series of mundane, unfilmable things...minor eating a doughnut or having a good hair day. When it is time to save the need film and a crew. :grin:

I was raised on true hero SciFi...Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein and Isaac well as Phillip K. Dick, Bob Shaw, Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg and others. To me, it was generally a mixed bag...but I noticed a few years back...we started going relentlessly grim. Now, there always was grim. There was No Blade of Grass and City and 1984 and Brave New World and On the Beach...The White Plague...I am Legend. But was a more realistic look at possibilites. I would like our films and television shows to reflect that broader spectrum of reactions.

In other words...if you are going to kill everyone off on Torchwood...and make the hero an antihero...then you need a sweepingly romantic end for Ten/ balance your scales. Currently...the Whoverse scales are all tilted and slippy and rather Buffy would say.

(sidenote alert)

I was raised on true hero SciFi...Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein and Isaac well as Phillip K. Dick, Bob Shaw, Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg and others. To me, it was generally a mixed bag...but I noticed a few years back...we started going relentlessly grim. Now, there always was grim. There was No Blade of Grass and City and 1984 and Brave New World and On the Beach...The White Plague...I am Legend. But was a more realistic look at possibilites. I would like our films and television shows to reflect that broader spectrum of reactions.

Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury are both my sister and I's heroes when it comes to science fiction (my sister collected the Bradbury books as much as possible).

I find the fantasy books probably tend to have a "happily ever after" ending than the science fiction and in part that could be due to the stereotypical nature of the fairy tales (that they always ended happily). The thing is if you go back to the original versions (the original Grimm translations and further back) they were never a happy ending (then again, many a time those same stories were never meant for children either).

You know, maybe I should try delving into the difference between fantasy and science fiction (besides the obvious difference that the latter plays at being scientific).
I read my fair share of fantasy
Nancy Springer, Mercedes Lackey, Mary Stewart's Arthur Series...Narnia...Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony...Terry Pratchett...assorted others...but what I found with fantasy is that it is generally predictable. Like romance novels, the characters are more important than the plot...which too often is "a youth, a wizard and dwarf hit the road to recover a magic whatzit and/or stop evil from consuming the land."

Of course, there are the alternative universe, world building types of fantasy, as well. But the easiest way to get me to heave a book across the room is to have some simple farmer's daughter discover her secret power when her father is killed by a mysterious stranger. <<--odd that as, at least, two of MY original stories follow this pattern. Oh, Rabid we are so disappointed in you! LOL

Anyway...I had a full set of Edgar Rice Burroughs by the time I was 14...Tarzan, Pellucidar, Venus, Mars, The Lad & the Lion (which really should be made into a movie by someone). And my mom, at the time of her death, owned 88 of the 91 possible Andre Norton titles. Some of those stories are also very important to Beastmaster...I loved those stories.

Re: I read my fair share of fantasy
You probably should consider reading "The Elementals" series of Lackey's if you haven't. It's partially historical fiction but has a fantasy element (and usually loosely based upon some of the classic fairy tales). I have to agree with predictability for the most part (probably why I've only read some of the later series by Lackey and Narnia of the ones mentioned) which is probably why I'm more likely to read ones which are loosely passed upon the classics (Robin McKinley is another of my faves) than ones which are fully original (when a large part of the time they are only playing at being original).
Yeah...there is not a lot of originality the fantasy genre. I was also exposed to mythology and fairy tales as a child. My mother was a huge fan of Arthurian legends and I came to mythology on my own...took all the classes I could get. As for the fairy family is one generation out of Scotland...and so we know all about the fey people and how dark the world can be. I don't think I've read the Elemental series...I know that I haven't if it is relatively recent.

Have you read any Robert J. Sawyer? I love his work. Very old school SciFi. He's about to have a big film break...with Flash Forward. Also, if you like Arthurian...I adore Yolen's Merlin series. The prose is so lyrical it practically floats off the page as you read.

Re: Yeah...there is not a lot of originality
Same here although it was the reverse. I grew up devouring the fairy tale and mythology sections of the children's books even into my teens. When I started to get older (my teens) there was a forum/community called Ancientsites (a community which was based around the greek and roman histories among other historical communities) which both my sister and I had pages on. That's where I "became" Athene Solon (even though Athene was spelled "Athenae" at the time...I just wanted something original). Ancientsites as it used to be is no more but became AncientWorlds (which in my experience is much more difficult to use and experience so I moved on from that).
Re: Yeah...there is not a lot of originality
(Whoops forgot to answer the question). No I hadn't read either of those.
Another myth-taken youth here!
On mythology:

I had read out the children's section of my library by the time I entered my teens. (Luckily we moved, and I got to start over on a whole new library.)

I read or had been exposed to countless creation and cultural myths, scientific, historical and offbeat (Chariots of the Gods, et al) -- and once wrote one of my own in the manner of Bulfinch's & Hamilton's texts. The fables (Aesop!) and fairy tales led naturally into ancient mythology, and while favoring the Greco-Roman pantheon, I also consumed many others, most notably Norse.

I took mythology courses in Middle School & college; took science fiction courses in HS & college.

- - -
On sci-fi:

McCaffrey's Restoree is one of many on my keeper shelf. Wish-fantasy SF, but interesting.

Several years ago I read through Lois McMaster Bujold's works: I enjoyed the SF ...but haven't discovered in myself a desire to reread them (is that good or bad, I wonder?). The Sharing Knife series and some others, I'd label fantasy (Not SF), but were also well-written.

I enjoyed some Heinlein, some Asimov (Robot stories more than Foundation books), Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, etc. With the exception of LMB (above), I never could get into Card and other popular writers of the '80s & '90s. On your recommendation, I now plan to look up Robert J. Sawyer...with which book(s) would you suggest that I begin?
Oh, I love Restoree
Gorgeous! But I am a great fan of The Ship Who Sang, as well. In fact, that is probably my favorite book of all time.

If you are either liberal in your views of evolution and the environmental movement...or you can suspend your belief for a bit...I would recommend you start Sawyer with Hominids. It actually has quite a lot in common with Restoree. The story isn't the same but there is a similar meeting of differences in the male and female elements.

I am not sure I can recommend the full trilogy that Hominids is part of, because I am a raging liberal and a militant environmentalist but even I got a little tired of some of the "utopian" elements by the second book. But that's fine...because Hominids really is quite satisfying on its own, I think.

Asimov is probably the only scifi shoot em' up writer that I really enjoy. I am not so fond of the empire building that happens in a lot of hard scifi. What I like is the old fashioned presentation of new ideas. What I do myself in Disheveled and other places. I like to take a premise and expand upon it...and I enjoy those stories that do that sort of thing well. Like Heinlein's Door Into Summer takes on the butterfly effect and the "kill your own grandfather" princple.

Or, in Hominids...the idea that Neandrathal man was just as smart as us...maybe smarter...and if he'd gotten a break, he might have created a superior society.

If you are not liberal...then I would do Sawyer's "Illegal Alien" which is the closest thing to Heinlein you are going to get in this day and age. Or, if you can find it, a young adult series he did that starts with a book called, "Far-seer." Another brilliant book in my opinion...taking a completely alien culture and making us part of it. This time...the aliens are territorial reptiles...and what that does to the world is wonderous and strange. Sawyer is very interested in concepts about God and always puts a lot of religious questioning into his books...not so much "What Would Jesus Do?" But in Far-Seer for example...he has a Galileo situation...where the inventor of the telescope (the Far-Seer) discovers that what everyone considers "The Face of God" is actually a planet...and that discovery has earthshaking ramifications. Good stuff, in my opinion.

I do hope you enjoy him.