John Scalzi on the Redshirt Trope and the Economy of Fiction

“Being eight years old and aware that either way, Ensign Jones is going to be doomed is something that sticks with you. We become aware of metafictional tropes, and it’s specifically because of the nature of storytelling itself: Storytelling is economical, right? It’s the Chekov’s gun thing – don’t put a gun on the mantelpiece in the first act if it’s not going to go off in the third. Everything that’s dragged onstage is dragged on for a reason, and because we know that, eventually, subconsciously we’re aware of the economy of fiction. So when we have the occasional random person who suddenly becomes Very Important, something’s going on with that guy.”

 – John Scalzi, author of Redshirts.