AI: Flying Snowman

AI: Flying Snowman

I was recently introduced to a term that I’ve fallen in love with: “Flying Snowman”

It refers to something in fiction that causes your suspension of disbelief to break down despite having been able to accept everything before that. The term comes from someone’s reaction the the children’s book “The Snowman” when a walking, talking, sentient snowman takes flight. The reader could accept the magic of the fictional world that allowed the sentient snowman, but the flying crossed the line for them and snapped their engagement with the story.

Do you have any flying snowman moments to share? 

By Ryan
Ryan Consell is a skeptical artist, tap-dancing armorer, juggling scientist, rock-climbing writer, sword-fighting math teacher, uni-cycling gamer, fire-spinning academic and devout nerd. He has a Masters in Applied science, most of a bachelors in Fine Arts, and a very short attention span. He is the author of How Not to Poach a Unicorn and half of the masochistic comedy duo that is Creative Dissonance. Follow him on Twitter @StudentofWhim

12 Comments

  1. My personal flying snowman was in Avatar. Body switching, alien dragons, glowing foliage… all that I could handle. But the magic resurrection tree? Couldn’t do it.

  2. Midi-effing-clorians.

  3. Is this the “Flying Snowman” that John Scalzi is talking about? Or did he get it from somewhere else?

  4. All of the anglophone aliens in Stargate SG1.

  5. @scottsigler, that does seem to be the origin of the term, thanks.

    Here’s a link to his blog that discusses the term:
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/12/11/the-flying-snowman/

  6. I don’t have a personal example off the top of my head. However, I remember having a conversation about this during a lit class in college: One of the students mentioned that a friend his watched the movie “Hancock,” in which Will Smith plays a character with superhuman abilities including flight and invincibility. Apparently at some point during the film, Hancock paints a message on the moon. My classmate’s friend apparently could not get over the unrealistically large amount of paint you would need in order to make something painted on the moon visible to people on earth.

    Never mind a person that can fly–no one has that much paint!

  7. That someone could go colonize a planet called Roanoke and not realize there was some seriously messed up shit about to happen kinda threw me a little.

  8. “Signs” I know that many hated it from start to finish but for me the sticking point was the aliens being damaged by water. Traveling interstellar distances to create cryptic crop circles? Fine, I like my aliens spooky and inexplicable. Some sort of mystic order to the universe that sets up everything just so for the characters. Fine, it’s a fantasy movie. But being able to travel those distances and not being able to mitigate the damage water does, like, oh I don’t know, putting on something like a space suit? GTFO.

    Mind you, the only other example I could think of was “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. I either buy in wholly or not at all.

    *Spoiler Alert*

    The characters in TUBLB go through all sorts of hardships over the course of a too long movie, and at the end they finally settle down and find some measure of peace….and then their beloved dog dies. I despise people who talk at the movies but that bit of manipulative pathos made me interject out loud “Oh come ON!”

  9. My kids watch Spongebob Squarepants. I’m OK with the talking sponge, starfish, crab, etc. But Mr Krabs’ daughter is a whale. Come on! They’re not even in the same phylum!

  10. I’m with coelecanth on this one. Signs pissed me off no end for the exact same reason. I remember sitting in the theater and thinking “There is moisture in the air, ALL THE TIME!! How is it that they even got off of their ships without withering away?!”

    I am also reminded of listening to Lord of the Rings cast commentary:
    The cast make fun of a reviewer who made a criticism about the Hobbits
    eating tomatoes. The reviewer said something like, “Tomatoes are from the New World, they wouldn’t have had them!”
    And the cast had a good laugh and brought up things like,
    “Oh? What part of the world does a Balrog come from then? Orcs and magic are fine,
    but a tomato in a made-up, alt history Europe is one step too far.”

  11. Spoiler Alert

    In the final Harry Potter movie…

    The snake is the last horcrux and Voldemort is just walking around in front of hundreds of people who want him dead, with his snake out in the open. Even if he thought Harry was dead at the time that snake was his one safeguard to immortality (not to mention is like only friend)- Why is it not hidden somewhere safe? He could even have had it in one of those Mary Poppins purses.

  12. I was once reading a history of the United States revolution and was having some serious trouble with the author’s various explanations of the events. I ended up having to put it down when he started calling various members of Parliament psychopaths.

    I know I’ve had FS moments for various things, but it’s hard to recall specifically.

    I remember reading a Velikovskyan book that said Venus was some sort of comet ejected by Jupiter, hence why it was so hot, and that all the biblical plagues were caused by that event and that the Earth used to be one of Saturn’s moons and all sorts of crap. Dinosaurs were able to be so big (after all, if a human doubled in size it would die die die!) only because of the ameliorating effect of Saturn’s gravity. Oh, and this was in recent history, hence our myths of giants. There actually were giants. I was in high school and I knew it was all crap.

    I read the book but it clearly didn’t make too much of an impression on me because I can’t even remember anything about the plot other than “Whoops, Jupiter is acting up again.” A scientific hypothesis is bad when a fifteen year old can point out all of its flaws in five seconds, and a book is bad when you have a kid rolling his eyes halfway through the first chapter.

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