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A lot of very beautiful entertainment can occur in the genre of fantasy - after all, there are no limits on what stories can be told beyond internal logic.  The thing is, its mythic value is very specific: It represents a literary opium dream - an escape into impossible simplicity and the emotional security of predestined outcomes.  When imagination is being overwhelmingly directed toward fantasy, it's an act of sheer collective cowardice and/or stupidity: The unwillingness to face a universe where people have the freedom to act, the logic to at least partially understand their actions, and yet limitless horizons in the long-term.  

Likewise, there is value to be had in dystopic so-called "science fiction" where the story is all about a world where everything sucks and people are continually brutalized either by an oppressive presence (a totalitarian state) or a destructive absence (post-apocalyptic).  But when that's all you offer, there is no real imagination being stoked, and damage is done to the overall purpose of the science fiction genre - namely, to impart the wisdom and beauty science has to offer on to a wider audience.  I'm losing my patience with entertainment media whose imaginative offerings are virtually all fantasy and dystopic science fiction.

At some point it just boils down to an insult to the audience, or an expression of malice toward those who do possess intelligence: They either don't think you can handle seeing, or aren't worth the effort to show, worlds based on ideas that don't punish the inquiry by turning it all into some kind of nightmare.  Beauty is relegated to fantasy, where the audience must implicitly concede that it cannot exist in the real world via conscious effort, but only in the imagination via irrational passions and magical forces.  Reason and free will, meanwhile, are only permitted to conjure horrors or, at best, sleazy underbellies whose innovations are only concerned with serving solipsism.  

If something that passes for science fiction today depicts a utopian world of freedom, security, and bounty, the only plotline that the gatekeepers of entertainment will allow to pass into mass-media is one that portrays it as a big lie with some horrific secret beneath it.  And it isn't just because it's slightly more challenging to come up with interesting storylines on such a basis - plenty of genius science fiction authors in previous eras managed to do so, writing classic, inspirational works that have stood the test of time.  I think it's that we are no longer permitted to believe in a better world built through human ingenuity and common cause, because such worlds would be a lot harder to control than ones where people are conditioned to expect the worst, devalue rational judgment, and associate noble values with children's fairytales rather than demanding them of real-world institutions.

On the one hand, the fantasy genre is more vibrant and beautiful than ever, with high-brow content like Game of Thrones being adapted into blockbuster TV shows while old classics like The Hobbit get new life via film adaptation, and paranormal geek-fest fantasy programs continue to spring eternal from the everlasting inspiration that was Buffy.  But what has happened to science fiction?  In the increasingly rare instances where it can even be distinguished from fantasy, we are offered not hope, not ideas, not a thorough examination of possibilities, but Monster Mash clown shtick and/or Mad Max redux.  

I realize the translational tunnel between literary and mass-media science fiction has never exactly been a superhighway, but now it seems to be completely closed, with armed sentries making sure no one crosses the barrier.  Do studio bosses demand proof that a science fiction story is either a soul-killing nightmare or a saccharine Disney cartoon before they'll even consider adapting it?  It sure seems that way, because I honestly can't believe that anything could suck as much as what they're putting out these days without a conscious effort being involved.  

A decade ago there were a few shows that seemed to be leading the way after Star Trek wound down - Farscape and Firefly chief among them.  But despite its cult following, it doesn't seem there's been any follow-up to the Farscape legacy in mass-media, and in one of the most infamous incidents of deicide in entertainment history, Firefly was cancelled in its first season despite consistently putting out genius-level scripts, superb acting, and profoundly interesting plots.  It was like the Baby Jesus being eaten by a dingo.  

What seemed to move into the vacuum wasn't science fiction at all, but sheer obscurantism - shows like Heroes, Lost, and Fringe, following on the tradition of the X-Files rather anything even distantly related to real possibilities.  Byzantine conspiracies, paranoia, dubious characters, comic book freak shows, spooky unexplained occurrences, and fear-ratcheting situations took the place of wonder, philosophy, adventure, and curiosity about the new.  Then, of course, they "rebooted" the Star Trek series into a mindless action franchise where Star Fleet - which, if you'll recall, used to have scientific exploration and diplomacy as its primary mission - has become, in the words of the J.J. Abrams script, a "peacekeeping armada."  And, of course, people are still listening to the Beastie Boys in the 23rd century on product-placed Nokia mobile devices coincidentally offered in the present time, because that's not at all painfully, embarrassingly ridiculous and corrupt.

I get it already: Democracy is evil, gun-toting know-nothing nutjobs are heroes, scientists are monsters and quacks, curiosity and ingenuity are dangerous, the future is to be feared, and the only solace to be had is in the sweet embrace of our sponsors' various consumer products, which we will now tell you about during the upcoming commercial break.  Propaganda received and duly rejected.  Can I have some real science fiction now?  Please?  It's not science fiction if all you're doing is demonizing science, ignoring everything it has to teach, and telling people they should be very, very afraid to wonder or explore.  And don't pretend it's educational to swamp audiences with worst-case scenarios followed by ludicrous deus-ex-machina resolutions - show problems that might actually occur, and then show intelligent, courageous people actually solving them in nontrivial, non-obvious ways that make sense in context, that illustrate outside-the-box thinking, and show people how they are not just victims of circumstance if they choose to be more.

Science has never stopped growing, and whole new worlds of understanding on every front have come into being in the decades since "Final Frontier" became a well-known phrase, but only the most cynical and disturbing of all possibilities are shown - mind control, genetic manipulation, etc.  The characters are not people who use science to solve problems, but victims of science whose magical Will overpowers the evil impositions of modernity without having to understand it because they're such strong people - the divinely-anointed come to restore the Natural Order.  Neo may just be a dimwitted surfer pretending to be a hacker, but he's the Chosen One, so he can just wrinkle his nose and make the whole system come crashing down around him.  Can't have networked computers on Galactica because the Cylons will invade them and eradicate humanity.  Forward motion is verboten - all you can do is fight a retreating action into blind mysticism and faith, and then your problems will be solved.  Fucking sick of it.  

In 2004, the film Primer came out - hardcore science fiction that should have been the leading edge of a new wave, but instead still stands like some kind of monolith, alone in the desert that has since unfolded.  But hey, we've got vampires, swords-and-sorcery, and troll hunters coming out of our ass, so yippee for the state of imaginative entertainment!  Now if only there was some way to translate that bullshit into a better life for real people, like has been done repeatedly with science fiction, then it would be a good thing.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And we are about to descend once more into (10+ / 0-)

    dystopia with the Hunger Games.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:14:35 AM PDT

  •  Even the original Star Trek Canon had elements. (12+ / 0-)

    TOS was basically a "space age" version of Horatio Hornblower or a western--daring captain and intrepid crew battle all sorts of bad guys.  Oh sure, they were able to use the medium to have important discussions on the cultural and social issues of the time.

    TNG showed the "perfect" society, where everyone had all they needed, etc etc, and how much did they get made fun of?  Especially the line "We work to better ourselves now".

    DS9 was all about reality--Yeah, we have these nice goals, but reality gets in the way and we have to muddle through somehow, and in the process it changes us.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:18:22 AM PDT

    •  TNG and DS9 were both honest. (12+ / 0-)

      They were about different things - TNG showed the Federation at its best and most supported, and DS9 showed the fringes where people were forced to make harder decision than most Federation citizens had to.  I don't think the latter at all delegitimized the former.  And who the hell made fun of TNG for its utopianism?  Libertarians?  That's about the only people I've ever seen ridiculing it, and they're the kind of assholes who thought the Ferengi were unfairly maligned.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:26:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's that old joke about the difference (7+ / 0-)

        between Picard and Kirk:

        Picard and Kirk:  "I'll give you until three or we fire"

        Kirk:  "One...Two...FIRE"

        Picard:  "One...are you sure you want to do this?....Two...let's negotiate...Two and a half..."

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:35:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Kirk was a pioneer. (10+ / 0-)

          Picard was a scientist and diplomat.  And neither of them were soldiers, which was a very important distinction that J.J. Abrams has completely shit all over.  

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:47:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  BSG as a remake came close (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour, zenbassoon
            A decade ago there were a few shows that seemed to be leading the way after Star Trek wound down - Farscape and Firefly chief among them.  But despite its cult following, it doesn't seem there's been any follow-up to the Farscape legacy in mass-media, and in one of the most infamous incidents of deicide in entertainment history, Firefly was cancelled in its first season despite consistently putting out genius-level scripts, superb acting, and profoundly interesting plots.  It was like the Baby Jesus being eaten by a dingo.

            slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare."

            by annieli on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:36:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, it didn't. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zenbassoon

              It was often engrossing, but it boiled down to cramming post-apocalyptic storylines down the throats of a space audience, and then wrapping it up with appeals to faith and mysticism.  The writers who came up with that finale arc can lick my balls.

              Everything in moderation, including moderation.

              by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:35:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I found BSG deeply problematic (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour

              The last episode, where it turns out that the humans who emigrated out of Africa were actually all descended from a light skinned alien female who had mated with the local "primitive tribes," was nothing more than very slickly packaged colonialism (literally).  Add in that two of the major characters who were played by African-Americans in the original were played by a white and an Asian in the remake, and that Six was played by a tall blonde actress who was a Nazi's wet dream, and I found the series unwatchable.

              shudder

      •  Trek's utopianism is held together by military (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara, Bob Love, Troubadour

        authority.   I like the Trek series as studies in leadership, but they solve a lot of the complicated mess of human life by imposing a chain of command where everyone knows their place.

        Trek is also post-apocalyptic in that IIRC, the 21st century didn't work out too well for Humanity with lots of nuclear war and fighting tribes.  The Trek utopia arouse out of this after the discovery of extra terrestrial life.  In my mind most science fiction needs to have an apocalypse to wipe the salte of modern life -- it needs is tabula rosa to create the exact conditions which the writers need in order to explore what it is that fascinates them about humanity without being tied to modern realities.

        What senses do we lack that we cannot see another world all around us?

        by fearisthemindkiller on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:48:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Apocalypse as a precipitating condition (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fearisthemindkiller

          for progress isn't the same thing as apocalypse as disaster pornography.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:31:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True that. (0+ / 0-)

            But it is still a convenient form of wiping the slate clean.  After all, there is no way to see the current trend of society as leaning towards utopia, so the only way to achieve that is to reduce modernity to rubble and rise from the ashes.

            What senses do we lack that we cannot see another world all around us?

            by fearisthemindkiller on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 11:50:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What the hell are you talking about? (0+ / 0-)

              There are plenty of reasons to see the current trend leaning toward utopia.  Three major dictatorships have fallen in the last three years due to social media.  The threat of global nuclear annihilation is at an historic low.  The promise of space exploration is once again becoming credible.  Renewable energy is gaining ground and lowering in cost, as are electric cars.  Crowdsourced sites for funding small business in third world countries are flourishing, as are sites for financing artistic projects, scientific research, and all manner of other activities.  We're one election victory away from passing laws that reverse the economic problems we face - just one.  It may be this one, or the next, or the next, but eventually we'll have it.

              Everything in moderation, including moderation.

              by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 04:15:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  It was alien contact in the movies (0+ / 0-)

          TOS didn't mention that at all, plus the Eugenics Wars that forced the change started in the 1980s.  

          Of course they later had to retcon it....

    •  It's still sad to think that... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BOHICA, Troubadour, zenbassoon

      ...that the original pilot of Star Trek was rejected for being "too cerebral."  And thus the ditched Pike for Captain Fisticuffs and booted out the female second-in-command.

      DS9 was a knockoff put into production after jms tried to sell Babylon 5 to Paramount, who upon rejecting B5 freaked out that someone else was daring to encroach on their territory of space stories.

      •  We got a more prominent Spock out of it. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sebastianguy99, zenbassoon, Aunt Pat

        So it may have been for the best.

        Regardless of the core conception, both DS9 and B5 started out lame and evolved into awesomeness, so that too turned out for the best.  That's one of the things about science fiction - when done right, it seems to bring good luck.

        Everything in moderation, including moderation.

        by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:27:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I still dream of jms having been able... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour, Odysseus

          ...to do one of the early plotlines he was planning on but couldn't.  It would have been totally awesome if it had gone as planned and Lt.Cmdr. Takashima has been able to have been the PsiCorps double agent (like Talia Winters ended up being), and in so being had been the one to shoot Garibaldi in the back.  But thanks to Warner Bros.'s insistence that B5 be part of that PTEN block of shows, and those other shows being unable to get their assess off the ground, B5 sat around for a whole year between when "The Gathering" was done and when the first seasons started being filmed having to wait for those other shows to catch up, and that triggered renegotiation clauses in all the actors' contracts, and thus the woman who played Takashima chose to not come back for the show after having to wait for so long moved on to other things, and thus what would've been an amazing plot line got shuffled around to its less successful version that's in the episodes.

          •  Studios are evil. (5+ / 0-)

            Here's a studio brainstorming session for a science fiction movie:

            X: Let's do a movie about humanity's first interstellar mission.

            (crickets)

            X: Okay, interplanetary mission.  To Mars.
            Y: On the right track.  Add in a wisecracking robot sidekick, and we've got a good start.
            Z: Hey, great idea - let's call the robot Robotiger.  I like tigers.
            X: Uh....  
            Y: And an animated unicorn.
            X:  Why, exactly?
            Y: Tie-in for our Saturday morning cartoon show.
            X: ...
            Y: And it shouldn't be Mars.  Too nerdy.  Too exotic and foreign.  Have it be somewhere on Earth, and in America.  Like, Las Vegas.
            Z: I like it!  Instead of astronauts, let's say they're a vampire, a werewolf, a witch, and an animated unicorn going on a road trip to Las Vegas.
            Y: If we get a PG-13 we could probably work multiple demographic angles.  Good call!
            X:  Uh, excuse me, the script is a science fiction film about space exploration.  These suggestions are a joke.
            Y:  Oh, they weren't suggestions.  We've already ordered the rewrites - they'll be done by the end of the day.  By the way, you're fired.

            Everything in moderation, including moderation.

            by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:48:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  When I first got my Netlix account (11+ / 0-)

    They had all 110 (or so) episodes of Babylon 5 streaming. Watched  them all in sequence. That was a trip. Best SiFi series IMO.

    "White-collar conservatives flashing down the street. Pointing their plastic finger at me."

    by BOHICA on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:29:08 AM PDT

    •  It was great, no doubt. (4+ / 0-)

      Wouldn't say best.  It gave DS9 a run for its money in the "dark politics" category, but - and I may be opening myself up to ridicule here, I realize - Voyager had better writing and more interesting characters, and I felt like Babylon 5 had a lot more sub-par episodes than any Star Trek series other than Enterprise.  It only made the superb ones stand out more, but still.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:34:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Watching it end to end (8+ / 0-)

        Really was why I gave it "best". The development of G'Kar and Londo was the best part of it. And it had an end.

        "White-collar conservatives flashing down the street. Pointing their plastic finger at me."

        by BOHICA on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:40:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I watched it end to end too. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus

          Which is why I noticed the jarring, seemingly inexplicable flying off the rails of the plot in the middle of the Shadow War that had been shaping up to be the most awesome thing in TV history.  Suddenly these fathomless, ancient, malevolent beings are revealed as...Objectivists?  WTF?  And the Vorlons are Confucianists?  It would have worked great as subtext, but when they turned it into explicit philosophical lectures the whole atmosphere that had been building for two seasons totally collapsed.  Species who had been exotic and autonomous turned instead into puppets for a badly misplaced ideological debate.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:04:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There was no other way to resolve... (5+ / 0-)

            ...the conflict with the Vorlons and Shadows except philosphofically.  Both species were so drastically older and more technologically advanced, it would've strained credulity if our heroes won the war by militarily defeating the Vorlons and Shadows.

            That ideological debate between two ancient alien species both charged with raising younger species by other aliens who had long since left the galaxy is one of the things I love most about the show.  Because it's intelligent.  It wasn't resolved by blowing up the bad guys just in the nick of time like every other show and movie out there does.  The charactes had to literally think their way, not shoot, into a solution.

        •  B5 having a definitive... (5+ / 0-)

          ...beginning, middle, and end, plotted out from before the first episode was filmed (though plotted flexible enough to allow for real-life intrusions like actors leaving the show, etc) totally opened my eyes to what tv storytelling could be.  I grew up on The Next Generation, so when a show came along in which the story didn't end at the end of the episode and the reset button was never pressed thereby causing events in one episode to be significant in postceding episodes, I was amazed.

          Babylon 5 was pioneering in so many ways that are taken for granted now.  It was the first show to use all cgi for it's effects, which though dated now were stunning when they premiered; B5 was on for several years before the Star Trek shows running at the time transitioned to cgi.  B5 was also the first show to be filmed in widescreen; though it was originally broadcast in 4:3 as there weren't widescreen tvs on the market at the time, jms could see the future coming in which we'd all have widescreen tvs and specifically filmed the show so that he could go back and rebuild the images to fit widescreen; unfortunately Warner Bros. lost or destroyed all the cgi files so they couldn't rebuild any of the shots that had cgi in it, which is why the episodes on DVD bounce between clear wide images and fuzzy cropped images.  And jms was also pioneering in terms of interacting with viewers over the internet.  He started the show back when AOL and Compuserve were the big thing.  Now a show doesn't get made without its own website full of behind the scenes videos and stuff, but it just wasn't done before B5 did it.  jms's goal with interacting with viewers online was to demistify the tv show making process.

          The story of B5 was epic, coherent, impactful, and tragic.  It has its flaws, of course, but there is significant vision behind it.  And again, it's a complete story.

      •  What you're perceiving as "sub-par" eps in B5... (6+ / 0-)

        ...is the fact that B5 had half the budget that Star Trek did.  Whereas Star Trek was being done for 1.5-2 million per episode, Babylon 5 was having to be done for around 900,000 per episode.

        Voyager was a giant yawn across the board.

        •  I'm not talking about special effects. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus

          I'm talking about when an episode just doesn't work.  Apart from the complex relationship of the Narn and Centauri, which was profoundly engaging, most of the world-building outside of the Shadow War failed.  I never quite bought the Minbari.  I have vague memories of some of the more amusing miscellaneous alien groups - like the ones that kill each other according to randomly-assigned color badges (or was it scarves?) - but I don't remember their names.  

          One of the downsides of having a Master Plan for a series is that you can suffocate episode-level brilliance, and often episodes that don't directly address the main arc may come off as phoned-in or else just fail to stick because they seem out of context.

          I recommend watching Voyager end-to-end in a marathon viewing to appreciate it fully.  Admittedly the show bored me when it was on the air and I only saw one episode per week, but when I watched the whole damn thing on Netflix in a couple of weeks, I found it was brilliant and engrossing.  It didn't have the annoying stiltedness that sometimes crept into TNG, never gave in to the cynicism that DS9 toyed with, and also managed to stay remarkably nuanced in a setting that would tend to encourage TOS-style cowboy sensibilities.  I'm likely in a small minority, but I consider it the crowning jewel of the franchise: A gem that snuck under the radar, and yielded some of the best work ever put in that universe to the sound of collective yawns.  But I'm content to evangelize it, knowing someday it will get its due.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:55:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, I think you're very much... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            high uintas, Odysseus

            ...in the minority re: Voyager.  That show as a severe disappointment.  It had a great premise, but the actors were bland, the characters had no characterization whatsoever, and the plots were boring, always resolved with meaningless technobabble.

            •  I think that Voyager started with great potential (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour, vacantlook

              However, when they replaced the complex character of Kes with the ever-increasingly more skin tight fanboy fodder that was Seven of Nine, I pretty mich stopped watching.

              "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies" - Jon Stewart

              by LivingOxymoron on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:29:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Seven wasn't just eye candy. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                IreGyre, cynndara, One Little Victory

                She was a very compelling character in her own right, and joined the canon of logical characters wrestling with the nature of emotion - Spock and Data being the others.  And Jeri Ryan is a terrific actress.  There were many scenes of very strong pathos.

                Personally, I thought Seven was a better character than Kes with a lot more room for development, and Jeri Ryan had a lot more range as an actress than Jennifer Lien.  Regardless of what their motives were for putting Ryan on the show, she worked out great.  I wouldn't have found her sexy if she sucked at the role, and neither would the other Trek nerds - they would have rejected her faster than you can say Pulaski.

                Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:51:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Motives for putting her on the show... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...wasn't one of the execproducers dating her or married to her at the time?  Of course Trek nerds didn't reject her, the same way the fawn over every nearly naked twi'lek female in Star Wars.

                  There were definitely times that I enjoyed watching SevenOfNine stories, but she got way too much screentime at the expense of other characters who just stood around to mumble mumbojumbo instead of being actual characters.

                  •  Her chemistry with the Doctor was brilliant. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Aunt Pat, a2nite

                    And dude, don't compare Trek to Star Wars.  That's not even science fiction.

                    Totally awesome scene:

                    Doesn't really matter why she got on the show, she made a go of it and the show benefited.

                    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                    by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:47:55 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Yep. She was dating one of the producers (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Troubadour

                    I thought the character and the actress were fine, but the costume drove me NUTS.  Zero reason for it, especially the heels.

                    •  I...uh...didn't mind...heh. (0+ / 0-)

                      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 04:16:51 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Of course not. It's called "the male gaze" (0+ / 0-)

                        And though I like me some cute boys, the whole "women in fantasy/SF must be SEXAY SEXAY SEXAY" is ridiculous and, honestly, pretty insulting to the women who actually read and like this stuff:

                        http://genrereviews.livejournal.com/...

                        http://rosalarian.tumblr.com/...

                        http://www.jimchines.com/...

                        •  It's just demographics. (0+ / 0-)

                          The overwhelming majority of money spent on science fiction comes from males in the peak sexual age range.  If the core audience were female, like that Twilight horseshit, you can bet the men would all be soft-spoken emo metrosexuals or suave romance-novel types - which seems from the outside like what women who read fantasy seem to prefer.  And men don't complain about that, because honestly we don't give a shit - we just don't read that crap.

                          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                          by Troubadour on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:47:14 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  The readership is much closer to 50/50 (0+ / 0-)

                            Ditto the writers.  SF and fantasy haven't been a boys' club since before I broke into fandom back in college.  Add in that some of these books featuring strong female characters are supposedly targeted at women (especially fantasy and paranormal romance), and you can see that there's a big disconnect between readership and art departments.

                            SF and fantasy cover art is generally terrible, of course, but the sexism is maddening.  

                          •  The most recent figures I could find (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Troubadour

                            indicated that the SF readership is 60/40 male/female, over twenty years ago.  

                          •  Exactly. (0+ / 0-)

                            Women will consume content that skews toward male fantasy, but men are far less interested in content that skews toward female fantasy.  Ergo, the only strategic option for producers is to default in favor of male sensibilities.  Show creators and writers, meanwhile, have to compromise with producers on superficialities like how attractive female characters dress in order to maintain their freedom over larger subject matter.

                            Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                            by Troubadour on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 04:06:45 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

              •  I totally agree re: Kes. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Troubadour, Aunt Pat

                I thought she was a compelling character, had the writers and execproducers had the courage to actually explore a character that was analagous to someone having a terminal illness.  They just couldn't resist dumping her character in a blaze of evolving to a mindnumbingly cliche advanced mind being of immense power.  I was truly hoping to see some profound story about facing death and the impact on one's friends and family.  But no.  :(

            •  Neelix, Kes, and Wesley. (0+ / 0-)

              Three of the top 5 worst SF characters of all time.

              -7.75 -4.67

              "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

              There are no Christians in foxholes.

              by Odysseus on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:46:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Neelix was very endearing. (0+ / 0-)

                And Kes was kind of cute.  I had nothing against Wesley.

                My list of three Trek mistakes: Tasha Yar, Dr. Pulaski, and Jadzia Dax.

                They should have spent a little more time auditioning before picking the actor for Harry Kim.

                Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:28:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It didn't matter what actor they used as Kim... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Aunt Pat, Troubadour

                  ...as, like most the rest of the cast, he did nothing but stand around speaking mindnumbling boring technobable lines.

                  Though it wasn't the initial plan, I liked what eneded up happening with Tasha Yar.  I would be more impressed if it had been planned.  But I like the whole Tasha dies, alternate timeline Tasha comes to the regular timeline to have a child with a Romulan, who then becomes a villain (who should've reoccurred a few more times than she did, but still).

                  I found Ezri Dax far more interesting than Jadzia.  I was a bit annoyed when it first happened, but once I got to see Ezri a few times, I started thinking that they should've killed Jazia a long time prior.

                  I've liked Pulaski more in reruns than I did initially.  But ultimately, the character was, at least at first, an attempt to have a female McCoy.

                  •  I am currently going through TNG episodes... (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Troubadour, vacantlook

                    ...and I have to say, I really don't understand the hate against Pulaski at all. I really felt she was more compelling than how Beverly started out. Her age against the crew's alone screams Bones-redux, but I think she had a better relationship with the crew than the mother-doctor. I especially enjoyed her natural curiosity towards Worf and Data. The Klingon tea ceremony being my favorite of her exploits to bond with Worf.

                    "With maturity, the concept of 'self' expands towards the Ghandian, and retreats from the Randian."

                    by One Little Victory on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 10:50:29 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  "Why you green-blooded point-eared... um wait..." (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Troubadour

                      To me it seemed like they were trying to recreate the Spock/McCoy banter between Pulaski and Data.  Except the former was an ongoing argument between Logic and Emotion.  In the latter, the argument... well, it was never really an argument.  She would call him a machine.  He would agree that he is a machine.  She would harp on the subject.  He would be puzzled.

                      That was my impression at the time.  Perhaps re-watching the episodes I might revise it.

                      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                      by quarkstomper on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 06:56:31 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Totally agree about Ezri. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    vacantlook

                    The episode about her family was amazing.  

                    It isn't that I have anything against Pulaski per se, she just never had chemistry with the rest of the crew.  Crusher had far more presence.

                    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

                    by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:37:49 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  The aliens with the colors (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour, vacantlook, Aunt Pat

            Would be the Drazi.

            "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies" - Jon Stewart

            by LivingOxymoron on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:22:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Green! Purple! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour

              The complete randomness of how the Drazi pick their political leaders is totally indicative of ancient Shadow influence in their culture, which one can see in reading between the lines in rewatching the episode after having learned that the Shadows' motivation is in believing that the best way for younger races to evolve comes through essentially random combat.

              I'm still distrubed that A Call To Arms revealed that Drazi genitals are in their armpits.

              •  Except (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Troubadour

                I'm pretty sure the Drazi were Vorlon-influenced, as evidenced by the fact that the Drazi Ambassador "saw" Kosh's true form as an angelic being from his own mythology.

                "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies" - Jon Stewart

                by LivingOxymoron on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:49:43 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well, it's not like Vorlons and Shadows... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Troubadour

                  ...were never in the same place at the same time.  After all, consider the Narn.  We know that a Vorlon once resided on Narn because G'Kar identifies Kosh as G'Lan.  But we also know that the Shadows used Narn as a base during their war 1000 years prior to the show, as the Book Of G'Quon says that G'Quon and the Narn telepaths fought against the Shadows, and the Vorlons were known for secretly breeding telepathy into the younger races.  So, there's nothing to say that there wasn't also a Vorlon trying to fight against Shadows on the Drazi homeworld too that was the origin of the Drazi belief in Droshalla.  

        •  Nothing can make me like Believers. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour

          Nothing.  Dr. Franklin could have been so much more.

          -7.75 -4.67

          "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

          There are no Christians in foxholes.

          by Odysseus on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:44:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I like the story behind the episode. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour, Odysseus

            But the specifics of the manufactured alien culture, some of the dialogue, and some of the performances definitely needed work.  I liked the sequence of the aliens going to each of the alien ambassadors asking for help and each ambassador for their own unique perspective and reasons saying no.

      •  have to disagree (6+ / 0-)

        I loved Star Trek as a kid; but the trouble with the single story each week format is that we get a little tired of hearing the ship is going to explode in one minute. "Do Something and do it now!"

        Babylon5 created several real histories and showed them all developing over long periods and through great wars and changes. Of 120 episodes there were only a handful of truly weak episodes. And unlike X-Files, Babylon 5 didn't divert from its main, most interesting thread all but a few episodes a year. It was a story start to finish with few episodes diverging far from the main thread.

        I'd rather be spat upon than ignored

        by William W Wraith on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:30:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And as much as I love TNG... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour, William W Wraith

          ...and as much as I love some TNG episodes, that they would have huge events that would instantly be forgotten about is bothersome.  Take for example the episode in which LaForge is captured and brainwashed by Romulans to assassinate a Klingon in an attempt to spark a war between the Klingons and the Federation.  That's a huge thing for Geordie to go through, but once the end credits hit, it's never heard from again.  No one, no matter how awesome the psychiatrist, would permenantly get over being brainwashed to assassinate someone.

    •  Just wondering when I would hear mention of... (5+ / 0-)

      the greatest SF television series ever. Babylon 5 is huge, complicated, hopeful, expressive of the whole range of concerns and attitudes we all know. The villains were huge and real, the heroes real people. Chalk it up to great writing.

      I'd rather be spat upon than ignored

      by William W Wraith on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:24:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some of the final words of the show... (5+ / 0-)

        ...sum up the show perfectly.

        Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations.  There would never be another.  It changed the future.  And it changed us.  It taught us that we have to create the future, or let others do it for us.  It showed us that we have to care for one another, because if we don't... who will?  And that strength comes from unlikely places.  Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope... that there can always be new beginnings, even for people like us.
      •  I cried like a child at "Sleeping in Light" (0+ / 0-)
        "Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future, and it changed us. It taught us that we had to create the future, or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for each other, because if we don't, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope that there can always be new beginnings, even for people like us. As for Delenn, every morning for as long as she lived, Delenn got up before dawn and watched the sun come up."
  •  So (8+ / 0-)

    If I ever get around to writing that dystopic novel set in a future inspired by Ayn Rand, you aren't buying?

  •  You might want to try (7+ / 0-)

    The "Merchant Princes" series by Charles Stross. It's science fiction, though marketed as fantasy, and it's a very deliberate reaction against the fantasy tropes you're complaining about.

    The premise is that there are parallel worlds, and some people can learn to travel between them. The protagonist is a modern woman from our world, Miriam, who discovers a way to visit a fairly typical High Fantasy world, in which her estranged family is wealthy and powerful and where those with the ability have built fortunes by moving stuff between the worlds.

    What's interesting about this is how she reacts: by working to overthrow the feudal power structure on which her family's wealth is founded. So these books are a complete reversal of the usual fantasy storyline, where the goal is the preservation of the old nobility and the subjugation of the rebellious masses.

    Stross has said that, by conventional fantasy standards, Miriam is the Dark Lord. Not surprising, since he's a leftist Brit opposed to the monarchy.

    I should add that the rest of Stross' many books are quite awesome, as well.

    •  Sounds like my kind of thing. (0+ / 0-)

      Any work where the main characters demonstrate autonomy rather than being plot puppets tends to be engrossing, and any where the heroes are heroes because they choose to be rather than because some mystical force anointed them or circumstance of privilege enabled them tends to be inspirational.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:13:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Firefly was canned... (13+ / 0-)

    ...because Fox screwed it from the start. They aired the second episode first. They put them on on Friday night, never a good night for TV ratings IMHO. Then, when it didn't have awesome ratings straight out of the box, they moved it to another night. Then it wasn't aired for a week or two, then it came back on another night, then it was cancelled for poor ratings. Also, they never announced, to the best of my knowledge, that it was changing nights. You had to hunt for it.

    I can only conclude that someone at Fox really didn't like Firefly; Or they were simply inept. Probably the latter. Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.

    Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

    by Alumbrados on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:42:11 AM PDT

    •  And then there's folks like me (6+ / 0-)

      who will never watch Fox.

    •  BTW, re: Galactica... (3+ / 0-)

      and Lost, it seems Deus ex Machina is all they can come up with these days.

      I thought a cool and ballsy ending for Galactica would have been if those "evolutionary" tests the Cylons were using to create better Cylons would have gone into a rapid cycle and actually created advanced "godlike" Cylons. They would have been so evolved and outstripped humanity in progress they would have left humanity on it's own, simply due to their nature of having become far more advanced. Imagine using "evolution" as the solution, instead of, "God did it."

      As for all of the post apocalypse crap coming out, I think that's more due to the mood of the country and what we've been going through, more so than anything well thought out.

       I'll have to check out Primer, I haven't heard of that.

      Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

      by Alumbrados on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:54:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree with the 'mood of the country' (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, IreGyre

        explanation.

        I think Joss Whedon is very gifted, and Fox just didn't like him, for whatever reason. The Firefly debacle, and then cutting Angel off early.

        The entertainment people with money lack vision, and are too fond of their money so they go with the old standbys, imo.

        If you do not believe that there is an ongoing war on women, then you aren't paying attention. h/t The Pootie Potentate

        by glorificus on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:04:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I loved Galactica until Hendrix showed up. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        One of my favorite shows on TV, with a few major fail points:

        • All Along the Watchtower. WTF
        • Starbuck is an angel. WTF
        • Deus ex Machina. WTF/BS.

        I thought Caprica had a mildly interesting take on the latter, but the execution was relatively poor.

        The whole idea of a polytheistic society with advanced tech was fascinating to me, though. Too bad they had to water-downedly-Greekify it for most people to get it.

      •  BSG's ending... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        ...pissed me off to no end.  To me it revealed two things.  One, they never had an actual plan for the show.  Two, the idea for the ending must've come from Moore sitting on toilet reading an issue of National Geographic or some such and going, "That'd be cool if..." regarding having the human-cylon hybrid be that real-life ancestor of all currently living human life found in Africa.

        But the whole music the cylons hear having no explanation, and how Starbuck's father knew that music and taught it to her as a child, and how it magically gave her the coordinates of Earth, and how the hallucinations Baltar had the whole show were him literally seeing an angel, and how Starbuck had literally died and came back as an angel; the whole show truly ended in nothing but a giant "God did it."  That's not quality storytelling; it's cheap and reveals a storyteller who doesn't know how to actually write.

        •  BSG pulled a massive Stephen King bitch-out. (0+ / 0-)

          King is fond of writing 900-page books that are mostly awesome, and then ending them with God coming down from heaven to smite the monster just because he feels like it.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:02:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Actions having consequences (0+ / 0-)

        is always a revolutionary way to develop a show.  They generally prefer to just wave their hands and say "Happily Ever After," "God did it," or show some meaningless artsy nonsense like at the end of the Sopranos.  If more people could deal with a world big enough to contain infinitely-cascading consequences, the real one would be a lot more interesting and a lot better.

        Yeah, I don't think apocalypticism is about the mood of the country - if anything, people are being brainwashed by the tenor of the media, not the other way around.  It's just that fear is the easiest of all things to sell, and the cheapest lever of plot development and audience-control.

        Definitely check out Primer.  It is a tightly-wound, supercharged coil of pure science fictiony goodness.  Quotes from the movie:

        Abe: Aaron, I can imagine no way in which this thing could be considered anywhere remotely close to safe. All I know is I spent six hours in there and I'm still alive... You still want to do it?

        ...

        Abe: Look, everything we're putting into that box becomes ungrounded, and I don't mean grounded like to the earth, I mean, not tethered. I mean, we're blocking whatever keeps it moving forward and so they flip-flop. Inside the box it's like a street - both ends are cul-de-sacs. I mean, this isn't frame dragging or wormhole magic, this is basic mechanics and heat 101.

        Aaron: This is not mechanics and heat.

        ...

        Narrator:  They took from their surroundings, and made it something more.

        Everything in moderation, including moderation.

        by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:17:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Probably, but... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan, IreGyre, One Little Victory

      Like I said, it's like Baby Jesus being eaten by a dingo.  It's very difficult not to see it as deliberately malicious when the outcome is so radically out of whack with the merit.  Firefly was the kind of show that could have generated Trek-like volumes of lore, franchises, and syndicated episodes - it was plain to see.  I don't believe in the studio executive so moronic they couldn't have recognized that instantly.  So I think some Satanic dickwad saw how awesome it was and decided it had to die.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:17:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That second episode "The Train Job"... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan, Troubadour, IreGyre

      ...was only filmed in the first place to be a secondary pilot after Fox told Joss that they weren't going to actually show the two-part "Serenity" (aka the real pilot/first episode).  And then stupid Fox turns around and actually broadcasts "Serenity" as the last episodes they broadcast.  The way Fox messed around with the show's broadcast order to this day is appalling to me.

      Fox consistently seems to not know how to treat intelligent, complex sci-fi.  I'm glad that we were able to get two seasons of Dollhouse, though they were totally on the edge of cancelling it after only just one season.  Though not sci-fi, they also cancelled Wonderfalls after just one season, and it too was a very intelligent, quirky show that they didn't even get beyond three episodes of before they stopped showing it; I'm glad it was released on DVD though so we could see all the episodes filmed but not broadcast, as it is an excellent show.

  •  I've noticed how the movies usually seem (4+ / 0-)

    to make the future look like somewhere no one would really want to live.

    The Hunger Games books are excellent, though, and there's a series begun by the book Wither that is also good, although similarly grim.

    If you do not believe that there is an ongoing war on women, then you aren't paying attention. h/t The Pootie Potentate

    by glorificus on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:48:11 AM PDT

    •  People who hope for the future (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus

      spend less on consumer goods and entertainment, and are less attractive to commercial sponsors.  So the more people who view the future with trepidation and/or disdain, the better for the bottom line - as usual, to the detriment of human progress.

      BTW...you're named after a Buffy villain, aren't you?

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:21:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That's a good word for it (5+ / 0-)

    "obscurantism"

    Covers everything from "Lost" to "Fringe" to the truly painful "Terra Nova."

    I don't think the blame rests solely with the studio bosses. Shows like Star Trek worked because they aired in an era where everyday people still looked forward to the future. I see the lurch towards dystopian sci-fi and escapist fantasy as simply reflecting that shift in our overall view of the future rather than driving that change.

    •  Everyday people still look forward to the future. (0+ / 0-)

      They're just not the part of the population being reflected anymore, because it's less profitable and corporate media hate people who are optimistic.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:19:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I truly doubt that. (0+ / 0-)

        The pressure to be optimistic in America is so strong that people have to live on drugs in order to cope with the demand.  Being sad or cynical is constantly derided.  I do believe I've read studies demonstrating that happy, optimistic people are MORE likely to spend money, while anxious, unhappy people are less likely because anxiety triggers a natural tendency to hoard and conserve resources.  Certainly the MUSIC that is pumped in the background of damned near everything is frantically upbeat as well as loud and irritatingly fast ("peppy" is one standard descriptor, isn't it?).  Every effort is made to encourage the slaves to work faster and more cheerfully!

        •  No, optimism does not serve consumerism. (0+ / 0-)

          Insecurity does.  People need a hole in themselves to fill.  They need to be lonely, anxious, and filled with just enough fear to keep them moving but not enough to make them retreat into themselves too deeply to care.  People who are optimistic explore new ideas and make an effort to make things better.  Pessimists and cynics just hang back and let assholes who confirm their worldview control everything.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:46:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  T&R ....and cool GOT shout out :-P season 2 soon (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, Troubadour

    april 1

    I so can't wait

    Winter is Coming

  •  SciFi mixed with alternative history (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, Troubadour

    Is one genre are enjoy. See Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series

    The saga opens with a conquest fleet of aliens arriving on Earth at the time of World War II. These aliens have planned invasion for centuries, based on the findings of a probe that examined Earth at the time of the Middle Ages. "The Race" expected to find life and technology on Earth (to them known as Tosev 3) the same as when their probe found it, as the Race themselves develop very slowly. The first series deals with the war, diplomatic negotiations, and the establishment of Race control over most of the world.

    "White-collar conservatives flashing down the street. Pointing their plastic finger at me."

    by BOHICA on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:58:46 AM PDT

  •  the old future is dead (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, Odysseus, cynndara

    Something happened in the culture that discredited the idea of the utopian future.  It's mocked at worst and at best is packaged with nostalgia for the 1920s-1950s that believed in it rather than hope for the hypothetical future it portrayed.  I don't know what killed it; it's probably a combination of events and ideas, not all of them bad.  Electronics and telecommunications displacing propulsion at the cutting edge of space exploration is one example I've heard of.

    That being said, the Enlightenment-Modern mythology that's dominated Western civilization from the late 1700s to the Space Age really is dead.  We view its fundamental premises - strong rationalism, materialism, universalism, etc. ... and above all the idea of "progress" - as either false or dangerous.  Many on the left also reject it, albeit for very different reasons than the right does.  Deconstruction really is pretty nihilistic.  It has far more power to destroy ideas and knowledge than it has to create them.  Nietzsche definitely believed that a bad idea was better than no idea at all.

    Steampunk might be the closest we've got to a bright and happy future, even as it looks backwards to transparent and human-scaled technology rather than streamlined casings and "Big Science".  I could argue that steampunk could reflect our changing idea of what the future will or should be rather than giving up on the future entirely.  It grew out of dark and gritty cyberpunk, but people have taken it in a distinct direction and in my opinion a more optimistic and playful direction: there aren't any regular cyberpunk costume parties that I'm aware of.

    Never attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by malice; stupid people couldn't hurt us so effectively.

    by Visceral on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:01:24 PM PDT

    •  Speaking of steampunk... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      ...I'm so excited about the "soon" (to use the specific word that one of it's co-creator's used) to premier Avatar: The Legend Of Korra.  Man, people freaked out when Bryke first used the word steampunk in relation to it as if it came out of nowhere, but Avatar: The Last Airbender had all kinds of steampunk moments, from all of the Fire Nation's navy, including jetskis, to the submarines Sokka and the Mechanist invented, to everything the Mechanist did actually, it makes sense that a 70-some year of prosperity would allow for an industrial revolution to occur.

      •  steampunk usually not magic, but it's an aesthetic (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, quarkstomper, cynndara

        The world of "Avatar" is explicitly magical; everything they have that looks like technology is made possible by the efforts of magic users.

        That being said, in many ways steampunk is more an aesthetic than anything else. Depending on how hard or soft a particular work is, the 19th Century technological base is often demanded more by the aesthetics than by the plot; the real 19th Century had far more in common with the cyberpunk hellscape.  But it's an aesthetic that I think resonates with the new idea of a greener and more human future that hopefully isn't dominated by profit-crazed megacorps and invasive technology.

        Steampunk works perfectly with things like slow food and wind power.  On one level, yes, it is a step backwards and sometimes a big step backwards.  But at the same time it represents a more profound understanding of the way the world works.  It reflects a shift in our priorities from technology to relationships and social structures and from the idea of a future handed down by governments and corporations (for better or worse) to a user-generated future.

        I think that steampunk can embody the idea of Progress more fully than the old tech-heavy future of food pills and nuclear-powered plastic everything since it can incorporate what we've learned and how we've grown in a way that retreads of yesterday's future can't.

        Never attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by malice; stupid people couldn't hurt us so effectively.

        by Visceral on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:49:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  To pedantically quote Katara and Sokka... (0+ / 0-)

          Katara: It's not magic. It's waterbending, and it's—
          Sokka: Yeah, yeah, an ancient art unique to our culture, blah blah blah. Look, I'm just saying that if I had weird powers, I'd keep my weirdness to myself.
           Katara: You're calling me weird? I'm not the one who makes muscles at myself every time I see my reflection in the water.

          :D

          But no, everything they have that looks like tech isn't magic.  Burning coal to produce fire in a combustion engine isn't magic, but that's how the Fire Nation powers their navy, for example.

    •  Speak for yourself. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, kakumeiji maru

      I don't think anyone who ever understood the concept of progress in the first place has abandoned it because space exploration is taking longer than expected, or because of climate change - a phenomenon whose discovery and eventual mitigation both depend(ed) on progress.  What has happened is that people with strong economic influence have become hyperconservative - i.e., totally opposed to any kind of progress - because they've attained an extremely disproportionate level of power and want to hang on to it rather than enabling innovative future competitors.  

      But when you talk about progress being ridiculed, you must be thinking of the kind of hipster-clown aesthetes who boil reality down to style and think science fiction is about the Jetsons or Barbarella.  The Space Age is not in the past, it's still unfolding - rockets are becoming more reliable and cheaper, and several affordable human transport systems are under development with full and credible funding.  People who think progress is a joke are just pig-ignorant.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:32:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  perhaps I exaggerate, but ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, cynndara

        I don't think Progress in general is part of the zeitgeist the way it was in the past. We all - right and left, mainstream and fringe - have serious doubts about where our civilization is going and where it's capable of going (good or bad) to an extent that previous generations did not.  I think that space exploration has definitely fallen off the culture's radar even as it's become cheaper, more effective, and more commonplace ... just like cars and airplanes did before it or even at roughly the same time.

        I also think that the definitions and goals of Progress have changed and practically as well as aesthetically.  People do not take the future portrayed in the golden age of scifi seriously anymore and not just because they think they're too cool for it. Most are too busy trying to survive and most of the rest are more interested in living well than shooting themselves through space in a glorified thermos.

        Never attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by malice; stupid people couldn't hurt us so effectively.

        by Visceral on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:10:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's just novelty wearing off. (0+ / 0-)

          Aesthetes and entertainers used space as a theme in the 1960s because it was a totally new possibility.  It'll happen again big-time this decade when human access to space ramps up via Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, and the economics of it won't matter because universities and businesses will be able to sponsor people.  All it takes is one win to get people's engines revving again.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:10:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  We've also become more aware (0+ / 0-)

          of the limitations.  Look, my L'il Brother is in charge of the NASA project to design the first interplanetary freighter.  I asked him -- a man whose self-interests is 100% invested in manned space exploration, and who therefore should have the most positive realistic expectations possible -- if space travel/exploration would really ever be cost-effective?  If it couldn't eventually pay for itself through extraterrestrial mining, or manufacture, or even low-g biological production, given long enough capital and infrastructure support to come to maturity?  His answer was a flat and resounding "No.  Never."  Why?  The gravity well.  The energy cost of getting "up" out of earth's gravity is just too damned high.  There is NOTHING out there within achievable range without faster-than-light drive, that can offset the cost of launch.  Space exploration will always be a romantic toy and a military tool, not a practical part of the human economy.  And that's from a very hard-headed engineering expert on the subject.

          •  So we build an elevator (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour

            Problem solved! :D

            Seriously though, I have no idea if the "gigantic elevator to a space station in geosynchronous orbit" idea would actually work, and it would have to be a huge-ass elevator.  The gravity well is definitely a problem, but if we could bypass the problem by building something in space, then it would go a long way towards fixing the problem of the gravity well.

            It's either that or we wait for someone to invent a teleporter.

            •  There was such a space-to-surface elevator... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour

              ...in last week's episode of Star Wars The Clone Wars.  It was kind of stupid that in the episode it was explained that they couldn't use a ship but had to use the elevator because "the atmosphere is completely pressurised" and the ship would "implode".  They never explain how the elevator doesn't implode though.  That one thing aside, the episode ("Bounty") was actually kind of fun as it actually gave us some nice character moments for Assaj Ventress and the episode didn't shoehorn Anakin, Obi-Wan, or Ahsoka into it at all.

              This week's episode, we weren't so lucky.  For containing the much hyped return of Darth Maul, it was so totally, completely, and unbelievably boring.  The whole episode was quick scenes of characters talking about feeling some miscellaneous sinisterness juxtaposed with scenes of Savage Oppress screaming about his necklace not glowing.  And Darth Maul, who was awesome for being so kickass is now a blathering insane half-robotic spider living in a Shelob's Lair like location on a trash planet.

          •  Your bro needs to talk to Elon Musk. (0+ / 0-)

            Everything in moderation, including moderation.

            by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:47:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Extrapolation - Financiers Don't Write the Stories (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA

    So why should stories portray the wonderful world they've created for themselves and their chums?

    best,

    john

    Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:13:31 PM PDT

    •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:32:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry - I Got Involved Editing the Subject End (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        and inadvertently deleted the beginning. Ideally it should have read, "SF is Extrapolation, etc."

        Some people seem to think that JK Rowling as she is living these days represents the lot of the typical writer. But the reality is that even her experience of  'being on the dole' when she first started writing is now out of reach of most writers in these austerity days. Especially in the US.

        Wanting authors to write more optimistically reminds me of the t-shirt slogan, "Beatings will continue until morale improves." When someone has been living on mostly flour tortillas for the past several months, it really does start to look like a Crapsack World. You know what they say about writing what you know.

        In the meantime, it's a pleasure to read things such as your solar system diaries. That whole business of proto-earth smashing into another planet and swapping mantle-stuff for core-stuff informed some of the background for the novel I wrote for the NaNoWriMo challenge.

        best,

        john

         

        Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

        by jabney on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 04:36:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    I liked the new Star Trek just as much as I liked the old one. Also the reimagined Battlestar Galactica is, for 4.01 of the 4.5 seasons, one of my favorites behind Firefly/Serenity.

    That said, I'm totally with you on the post-apocalypse. I've always hated the Terminator, Predator, and Matrix movies for just rolling over and accepting that shit would happen.

    •  It's very hard not to like those movies (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      keirdubois, Troubadour, cynndara

      Perhaps their sequels left something to be desired, but not the first installments.

      That said, it isn't hard to pick apart any work art and it really comes down to personal taste.

      "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.".. Buddha

      by sebastianguy99 on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:46:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I liked the first two Terminator films... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, Odysseus

      ...because they both ended with a sense of hope, that we can change our future if we choose to act.  But the desire to keep the franchise going has prompted the revitilization of that future that the first two films worked to change, and in my opinion has tainted what made the first two films work.  The Matrix started out cool, but the writers sacrificed making sense on the altar of pseudophilosophical blathering.

    •  It's forgiveable as long as the movie is awesome. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      Like T2, Predator, and The Matrix are.  But now it's the damned default setting for studios.  If it's not post-apocalyptic, they'll demand to know why not.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:35:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm still pissed at Turner for canceling Crusade (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    The 13 episodes that did get made were better then anything Paramount has ever put out with the Star Trek label on it.

    •  The story that has come out... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, IreGyre

      ...re: Crusade's production is amazing.  So, TNT had given B5 it's final fifth year, and they wanted more so they had jms begin work on Crusade.  During the filming of its first few episodes, TNT completed an analysis of it's past 5 years of ratings and learned that though B5 got great ratings, normal TNT viewers turned to other channels when it came on and all of us who turned to TNT to watch Crusade didn't stick around for other programs.  And thus executives at TNT decided that since B5 didn't grow their core audience, they didn't want Crusade anymore.  Problem was that they were contractually obligated with the show in production, so they devised a plan to make as many insane demands on the show that they could cite as them not being given the show they asked for and thus be able to end production without breaking the contract.  And thus jms was given such rediculous suggestions from TNT execs as how he should write Captain Gideon as arranging to have Dureena raped so that he could get some dirt on some Earth gov official.  Crusade crashed not because of some exec ineptitude but out of full-on exec-planned destruction.

  •  And Hollywood hacks make Phillip Dick their hero (5+ / 0-)

    For some reason the Hollywood screen writers and producers have fallen in love with the craziest nut job writer whose stories are ALL dystopian screeds...

    Either that, or they spend a billion dollars making the most visually stimulating series of movies based upon a stupid story scribbled on the back of an envelope by a movie guy who thinks he knows what "good" science fiction is....

    Between the Dickian Dystopias or the George Lucas Worst Sci-Fi Ever Award, they're working extra shifts while they destroy the public's image of science fiction.

    Where's the big-screen, multi-release version of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red, Blue, and Green Mars, the most epic story ever told?

    Imagine the big screen production of Ringworld that we never got?  (Imagine the fun the Pixar guys and gals would have portraying the three-legged, mouth-handed Puppeteers!)  (And not only that, LouisWu is a Kossack!)

    Imagine the dark, scary monster story they could make out of Kristine Kathryn Rusch's very scary wreck-diving stories....

    They make a total hash out of R L Heinlein's Starship Troopers, but they'd never even think of giving us the Revolution-in-the-Lunar-Penal-Colony story, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

    The people who make visual arts are simultaneously geniuses and idiots.  We're DOOMED.

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:38:52 PM PDT

    •  I hate and fear PKD. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, kakumeiji maru

      Everything of his I've dared to read has been psychologically caustic, and I've come out the other side feeling diminished by it.  His works are weapons, not stories.

      That said, Total Recall is pure fun.  I just can't be mad at Hollywood for making that one.  You do have a point though that they keep making movies out of his toxic psycho shit and totally ignoring the vast majority of great, real science fiction.

      Honestly I'm not sure if I want them to adapt the Mars trilogy given their record of fucking everything up.  When they got through with the script, would it even be on Mars?  It would turn into a movie about Russian vampires stalking the streets of Cleveland.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:22:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They did a good job with Lord of the Rings (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        they spent a lot of time and money doing it and it shows.

        The right people with enough money could cover Red/Green/Blue Mars very well....

        "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

        by leftykook on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:59:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm curious as to how the two Hobbit films... (0+ / 0-)

          ...are going to be.  The first of which comes out at the tailend of this year with the second one coming out at the same time next year.  In terms of the books, I actually liked The Hobbit so much more than LOTR.  Disappointedly, I did not like the LOTR books.  Any book that takes a quarter of a page to tell the story of Gandalf arriving with the Rohirim at Helm's Deep and the conclusion of that battle, but takes a page and a half to have characters discuss what day of the month it is is the epitome of boring storytelling.  And don't get me started on Eowyn wanting to commit suicide-by-war-service all because a man wasn't interested in her.  I always thought that complaints about the books being sexist must be exagerations, and then I finally read the books and realized the complaints really were spot-on.  Hell, Arwen isn't even a character, she's just prize-pussy for Aragorn if he can win her dad's approval.

        •  Yeah, but that's fantasy. (0+ / 0-)

          Studios have no ideological objection to worlds that are completely made up and have no implications for reality.

          I do agree, though, that the right leadership could make a go of it, but that's exceedingly rare for a science fiction movie.  Studios that respect writer/filmmaker vision generally aren't interested in science fiction because the other guys have made it unrespectable by flooding the market with disaster porn and monster mash crap.

          My pick for a director for the Mars trilogy: Michael Mann.  His visual sensibilities would be perfect.  Although there would have to be a strict no-Audioslave rule for the soundtrack - it's supposed to be optimistic, not make people want to kill themselves like Collateral and Miami Vice.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 11:59:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this thought provoking post and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    comment discussions.

    So many interesting ideas here that I'm at a loss for words.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:47:00 PM PDT

  •  Futurama (9+ / 0-)

    Here you have a multicultural world. People move around in hover cars and pneumatic transportation tubes. Sure there is still global warming in large caused by alcohol powered robots, but much of the dangers has be mitigated by a giant ice cube dropped in the ocean...orwas it a nuclear winter? It might have been when they move Earth into a higher orbit.

    While poodles are now extinct, people often keep spotted owls as pets. There is a  unified world government and finally the Star Trek Fandom religion has been band. Robots are self aware and the great people of the past are kept alive like Nixon and Groening.

    Sure it is not a utopia, but hey who cares when there are hot cyclops babes.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:17:50 PM PDT

  •  Good Points, but ... (7+ / 0-)

    ... I disagree with some of your statements, especially when you bring out that old saw about fantasy being "an escape into impossible simplicity and the emotional security of predestined outcomes" and the idea that science fiction's primary reason for existing is "to impart the wisdom and beauty science has to offer on to a wider audience."

    These both certainly are true for a lot of people, but you're defining the conflict as an either/or binary that smacks a little to close to One True Way-ism for my comfort. Your definitions are only one possible way to define what's good about genre fiction: there are sooooo many others! I'd argue that there's much less "impossible simplicity" in the Lord of the Rings and even pulp luminaries like Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard than meets the eye.

    I love Firefly, Farscape, and Star Trek in all of its incarnations, even the new JJ Abrams version: we forget just how pulpy and whiz-bang the original series was at times, and that's the spirit that I think the new version taps pretty well. But I also love the "obscurantist" shows that are popular now, like Lost, Fringe, the X-Files, etc. They were never designed to push the same buttons as Star Trek or other more hard sci-fi shows; instead they draw upon the traditions of Weird Fiction, which is its own genre. Not every mass media product needs to push the same ideals in order to be considered worthy, and different flavors will wax and wane in popularity over the years. Complaining about the current trends is kind of like complaining that nowadays, everyone likes strawberry ice cream, when they used to prefer chocolate.

    In any case, movies like Primer have always been a rarity. I don't think that the fantasy and post apocalyptic spectacles that are so popular right now are doing any more harm to pop culture than any other trend we've survived over the years.

    •  Even forgoing "One-True-Wayism"... (0+ / 0-)

      it's hard to deny that one way in particular is being neglected if not actively suppressed - hopeful, optimistic, inspirational science fiction.  Where is it?  Where are its new movies and TV shows?  How many damned shows can these people create about some countrified guy in a small town in post-apocalyptic America?  I stopped counting at five.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:32:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Something not being popular (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara, TiaRachel, Troubadour

        ... isn't the same thing as something being actively ignored or suppressed. Also, I think it's easier to find a wider variety of styles in books than in movies/tv. I'm not married to a particular narrative tone, I'm happy with hard sci-fi, science fantasy, horror, surreal weirdness, straight up high fantasy and grimdark deconstructionist fantasy. The darkness or optimism of a show doesn't matter to me as long as the work is interesting in some way: I don't seem to have any problems finding great books, movies, and shows to watch, in fact I think it's an embarrassment of riches out there.

        The pendulum will swing back eventually; in 10 years we might be saying "how many inspirational and optimistic shows do we really need?? Give me some post apocalyptic cynicism!" We might even be ready for more non-glittering vampires by then. :)

        •  A thing can't be called unpopular (0+ / 0-)

          if it's not even reaching the market.  It's like how the car companies used to insist people just didn't want electric cars, even though there were waiting lists a mile long for the trivial, deliberately-poorly-designed crap they did offer.

          But I agree that developments in the near future may swing things back pretty radically.  Although, then again, they may just use more realistic space settings in their disaster porn and monster mash crap.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:04:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Look, I too enjoyed "Firefly" and even own (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madmsf, Troubadour, cynndara

    the DVD's, but it was not all that innovative.  It was simply a well done western set in space, nothing more.

    That said, in the past few years I have seen 5 sci-fi series cancelled that should have had at least one more season - Defying Gravity, SGU, Outcasts, Caprica, and now Terra Nova. Even the reboot of "V" was starting to improve at the end of its last season.  

    I'd count the re-boot of BSG but at least that show was able to complete its story (however clumsily).  

     Meanwhile, pieces of crap like Falling Skies get another season and the SyFy channel runs schlock like Lost Girl and Being Human.  

    I don't want to seem too grumpy, but it's not a good time for sci-fi on TV even with Fringe seeming to be the top dog in the genre.

    Don't be so afraid of dying that you forget to live.

    by LionelEHutz on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 01:53:40 PM PDT

    •  Agree and disagree on some of your points here. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      Defying Gravity was a really good show.  Have you had the chance to read the synopsis of where the creators where going to take the series if it had continued?

      Where Defying Gravity Would Have Gone

      and

      How DG would have ended pt. II

      It really makes me wish the series hadn't been so mis-promoted by the network.

      I agree about Firefly.  I can't add to your description.  It was a very good show.  No tears over the loss of Terra Nova.  Never saw SGU or Caprica or Outcasts.  Although I started off liking the V re-boot, by the end it really had to be put out of it's misery.  It just became a mess.

      Regarding Lost Girl and Being Human.  Well, those aren't really Sci-Fi.  My wife and I gave Lost Girl a couple of episodes. I was OK with the premise, but the acting really kind of sucked so we gave up on it quickly.  However Being Human is not bad at all IMO.  But it's also horror rather than sci-fi. So I have different expectations for that compared to a sci-fi series.  My wife and I are fans of both the original BBC version and the American version.  Yea - the American version has some clunky moments both in the acting and writing, but overall, it works for us.

    •  Any show that involves space travel (0+ / 0-)

      and has brilliant, witty dialog, great characters, great actors, deeply humanistic plotlines, and great special effects at very least has the strong potential to become great science fiction.  How many awesome premises might have been explored if the show had gotten its due run?  Sure it's a western, but that's just a matter of tone and pacing.  

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:37:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't understand SyFy doing Being Human. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      Why in the world did we need an American version of it?  The original British version is good enough, no need for America to bastardize it.

      •  "Americanizing" British shows - QED. (0+ / 0-)

        It's because any level of exposure to cultural differences causes people to think and wonder, which makes advertising less effective.  Need to keep those alpha waves going so the message is implanted effectively.

        Everything in moderation, including moderation.

        by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:05:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Lost Girl and Being Human (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      are perfectly fine escapist fare.  Not everything has to be at the level of Shakespeare to have worth.

      Now I wont deny that SciFi (I will NEVER type that abomination they use as an ID these days) runs a lot of shlock, but it's mostly their original movies, which tend to be mostly bad, with a few falling into that coveted "so bad it's actually awesome" category.  

      "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

      by Whimsical on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 02:50:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ST TNG (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour
    It's not science fiction if all you're doing is demonizing science, ignoring everything it has to teach, and telling people they should be very, very afraid to wonder or explore.
    First 'new' character introduced- essentially the devil played by Q. Then the evil commie borg.

    We got it--  or at least some of us did.  Thanks for screwing up a great concept- jerks.

    Hopefully our Next Generation will be wiser. They already seem to be more 'engaged'.

    Blessed be.

    Great diary- thank you!

    “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway” ~ Henry Boye~

    by Terranova0 on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 02:11:57 PM PDT

  •  PLEASE READ THE CULTURE NOVELS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, IreGyre

    by iain banks.

    the best treatment of a post-scarcity, pro-science i have ever seen.

    no book's film adaptation is worth two shits of your time, frankly.

    •  I've read a couple of them. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      scorinaldi

      Excession and Look to Windward.  A bit confusing because I hadn't known at the time they were part of a broader literary universe, but I got enough of the picture to know what you're talking about.  Banks nicely walks the line between Singularity porn and traditional space opera, all with his trademark tongue-in-cheek wit.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:20:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  good, good. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        player of games ( The second in the series ) And use of weapons kind of get into post scarcity societies in an interesting way.

        also, ursula k leguin's the dispossessed is another that approaches this stuff in a grown up , thoughtful way...

  •  So Stargate is not on the radar? SGU? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cheminMD, Troubadour, Terrapin

    I liked SG Universe. Interesting concept and wide open possibilities... and then it got the plug pulled like so many others... and a Sci fi channel that does not really have much actual Sci fi any more.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 04:34:32 PM PDT

    •  Haven't gotten into SG yet. (0+ / 0-)

      I intend to give it a go-round.

      Yeah, "Syfy" was never exactly as advertised.  They've always been mostly about stupid monster movies, but at least they gave rise to brilliant miniseries adaptations like Children of Dune - a work I still consider one of the most brilliant literary adaptations ever with some remarkable acting talent on display.  Since then, I haven't heard much from them - they're now a joke like MTV or CNN.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:09:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This explains a lot about your rant. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, quarkstomper

        The original Stargate series, SG1, would seem to be exactly what you are pining for.  The entire premise of the show is that they are 'killers of false gods'.  They destroy magic with reason and science.  They enlighten they minds of the oppressed.

        I would suggest that you start at the beginning with the first season before you expand out to the later franchise productions.  Not that they are bad but the series builds on everything that went before so to get a clear explanation of the universe that they have constructed you need to start at the beginning.

        Sure, it isn't perfect but it was the hardest scifi out there for the entire decade that it existed.

        Please do not be alarmed. We are about to engage... the nozzle.

        by Terrapin on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 06:00:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sounds good. I'm in. (0+ / 0-)

          I had been intending to rewatch Farscape, but I guess I can put off a second viewing of that for a first viewing of the Stargate stuff.  I've seen the original movie, BTW, although I'm sure it's different.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 06:40:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not as different as you might think. (0+ / 0-)

            They picked up right where the movie left off - well, a year or so later.  So you probably should start with a re-watch of the movie before you start the series.  The actors are different, of course, but the characters are all the same.  Actually, I think some of the actors are the same too (I am thinking of the girl's father on the first planet the Stargate goes to.).  It all just opens up from there.  It follows the 'next logical step' principle of scifi and they freely recite Clarke's 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' quote.  They are scientists with fully automatic weapons - as nature intended!

            Clearly, I am a fan.  If you ever want to chat about it just drop me a line.

            Please do not be alarmed. We are about to engage... the nozzle.

            by Terrapin on Sun Mar 18, 2012 at 08:15:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely agree! Represent! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IreGyre, Troubadour

      Not just SGU - SG1 showed a 'next logical step' treatment of a world where a Stargate is discovered.  Nearly everything that transpired from that point on was believable and consistent across the series.

      One of the few series that I went to the trouble of buying DVDs for.

      Please do not be alarmed. We are about to engage... the nozzle.

      by Terrapin on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 05:53:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have to throw in with those who think that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, Troubadour

    the "dystopian nightmare under the facade of glory" theme is popular today because that is how people feel about reality. Society today has a pampered elite living on the efforts of a teeming mass of Morlocks that go unheralded.

    It's the oldest convention of science fiction-- well, second oldest. The oldest are just the imaginings of a Utopian society, which doesn't provide much by way of plot or character growth.

    •  I disagree that utopia doesn't provide (0+ / 0-)

      plot or character growth - IMHO, it provides far more possibilities than nightmares do.  There's only so many different versions of people oppressed, starving, and disheveled.  The whole point of utopia isn't that it ends human creativity, but enables it - the successful ending of long-term problems creates whole new ones.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:11:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Regarding utopianism, (0+ / 0-)
        ...the successful ending of long-term problems creates whole new ones.
        --if that's the case, then I'd say the featured society wasn't a "utopia", then. But then I have a narrow view of "utopianism", based from Sir Thomas More's 1516 book, which simply outlines a fantastic society and how cool it would be to live there. Star Trek isn't "utopia" because there are still lots of problems, including corruption and political dirty tricks (especially if you like Deep Space 9, which I found to be among the best Trek).

        Trek, if anything, is a setting where the common man believes he lives in a utopian society, but again, there are subtleties going on behind the scenes that keep the society going (in every era, political sausage must be made, after all) so it could be argued that the Federation is actually among the most perverse systems, since no one knows that the system may deserve questioning-- it's too good to be true, but no one's going to rock the boat by asking things like "where does all this replicator chow really come from, anyway? Is it soylent green?".

        There will always be people, corrupt and undermining, who will game the system for themselves from within positions of power and influence-- unless there's widespread behavioral modification by drugs or force, which is another kind of horror.

        But then, I have a very cynical view of any society formed by humans, or aliens who are compatible enough with human psychology that we can get along and form meaningful alliances with them.

        •  Any society more positive than the status quo (0+ / 0-)

          is, in literary terms, utopian.  If we stuck by the literal definition of a perfect society, then the concept is defunct because perfection is undefinable.  Rather, it's just a question of whether the future is better than the past, and in the case of Star Trek the answer is obviously Yes.  In nearly everything that gets made now, the answer is plainly No.  And there's far less justifiable basis for that answer than there was in the 1960s when we faced nuclear apocalypse.  It's just being spoonfed to us by cretins who don't want to think.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 05:29:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hard Sci-Fi books (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Troubadour

    Perusing the comments I didn't really see much mention of some of the "hard" sci-fi authors out there.  There are a number that I read regularly, but the best, by a wide margin for me, is Stephen Baxter.  He has probably around 30 books out there and the vast majority will leave you feeling like you just dropped a few tabs, but it's worse because the science is real (well, of course, real-ish, but about a billion times more accurate than, say, star wars or star trek).

    If you're looking for books by him I recommend the Manifold Series (doesn't matter what order you read them in, really.  And that should tell you something about the craziness), The Destiny's Children series which spans from ancient Rome til 500,000 years in the future and anything based in the Xelee universe.

    Another "hard" guy that I've been into lately is Peter F Hamilton.  He has a little less science and a little more story telling than Baxter, but still very good.  I've been really enjoying the Starflyer seriers (Pandora's Star, Judas Unchained and the distant sequels).

    Hope this inspires someone to check out some serious sci-fi out there.

    •  You and i must have been separated at birth. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      I'm a huge fan of both Hamilton and Baxter.

      Have you read anything by Alistair Reynolds?

      Lenin Cat says "In soviet Russia Cat chases Dog"

      by DanceHallKing on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 10:20:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've read some of both Hamilton and Baxter. (0+ / 0-)

      Hamilton was very engrossing early in the Reality Dysfunction series, but kind of went off the rails as it moved into Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God.  The guy actually had the balls to call his concluding chapter "Deus ex Machina," because that's what it was.

      Baxter seems to be in love with dark futures and deterministic outcomes - a lot of kamikaze actions are used as the climax.  He does have compelling ideas, but seems averse to choosing wonderful ways of exploring them and instead prefers desperation as the central motivator.  The science doesn't demand those choices, it's just his inclination.  I like his work on occasion, but I don't love it.

      It's kind of sad that there hasn't been anyone to continue the traditions of Clarke, Asimov, and Kim Stanley Robinson as far as I know.  There are optimistic futures, yes, in a kind of passive way - i.e., there are nice places, but they're not very compelling.  But works that draw you into the future are sorely lacking.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:21:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sci-Fi and Cynicism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    Thanks for the interesting and thought-provoking diary.  I linked it to my Nifty Sci-Fi/Fantasy Club Index.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 06:15:07 PM PDT

  •  Fantasy need not (0+ / 0-)

    be mere escapism -- although as Professor Tolkien pointed out in his essay On Story, if you happen to be a prisoner -- perhaps of a rampaging corporatocracy that exists to foment war, pillage and loot the Earth, and turn everyone who isn't a member of its sociopathic "elite" into their slaves -- Escape is neither trivial nor irresponsible.  The true value of fantasy, as Ursula LeGuinn points out in her The Language of the Night, is to strip away the commonplace assumptions of our own society with its setting cues, and then reintroduce essential issues and problems to be solved in a setting that like a mirror-image slightly distorts our preconceived notions and forces the reader to examine the problem from new angles and without the "box" of normal expectations to limit that consideration.

    Much of the social and "appropriate tech" underpinnings of the Occupy movement and its liberal social roots derive in some fashion from the experiences and concepts first introduced in Fantasy, whether "hobbit-houses" built into the earth of cast-off materials and unsquared timbers (see) or fairy-tale buildings made of beer-bottles and mud (Earthship.org) or communities laboriously rebuilt on a sustainable AND truly democratic basis (Federation of Egalitarian Communities, or my current favorite, the movement to reduce the ecological disruption caused by massive urban concentrations by using roofs as biospace (Living Roofs).  These as well as much neopagan spirituality and work in preserving, archiving, and recovering archaic technologies and adapting them to modern uses, all have some inspiration in Fantasy.

    As for science fiction, well, I find the remake of Gallactica quite good, myself, in its consideration of the psychological and moral issues raised by true artificial intelligence.  The Cylons are no longer slow, ugly, stupid and unattractive.  They are not Borg.  (And Seven of Nine was a move in this direction, too, of considering the human social and moral aspects of collective Mind).  They have both rational and ethical basis for their actions, and the humans opposing them aren't always perfectly heroic either.

    So I'm thinking, perhaps you simply pine for the Good Old Days of the 30's and 50's, when technology could be looked to as the solution to every human problem, and the world was bright and shiny and resources weren't running out because we had been blithely consuming more than we produced for a couple of centuries.  I have a book like that, not fiction.  It was written in 1923, and it's all full of gee-whiz golly-glory everythings-so-grand-because-we-have-SCIENCE, everything from the wonderful new antibiotic drugs to the first transatlantic flights, to the beginning of broadcast radio and Free Music For All.  I keep it around to remind me just how things change over time.  How what looks marvellous at first can turn out to be a can of worms once you get into it.  That and the gushing House Beautiful write-up of the elegance and charm of Adolf Hitler's mountain retreat.

    I think much of what you decry in the current run of science fiction is that it reflects a fundamental realization on the part of our society that the wonderful promises made to us about how Science was going to give us the moon and our little dogs too turned out to be illusions, often deliberately perpetrated by liars with a vested interest in utilizing our naivete.  We no longer believe that noble scientists and engineers can save us, because practically speaking, the last fourteen times they turned out to be working for Dupont, Monsanto, General Dynamics or The Carlyle Group.  And let's not get started on the charms of Nuclear Power, okay?  I'm not a science hater or scientific illiterate -- I dearly appreciate the contributions of various sciences to my ability to grow wonderful plants , keep myself and my critters healthy and access the knowledge base of the world from a small box in my study.  But to present scientists as pure, unalloyed heroes after all the demons we have seen unleashed by them in the last century, is surely a cartoon fantasy if ever there was one.

    •  I totally disagree about everything you just said. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terrapin

      More or less all of it.  I don't mean any disrespect, but what you just wrote is a treatise on social degeneration.  You implicitly identify faith in humanity and commitment to progress with Nazism, and characterize "appropriate" technology as mere problem-mitigation rather than attempts to open up new capabilities.  Screw that.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:28:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow. (0+ / 0-)

        I realized we were in disagreement on basic principles, but throwing the Nazi card around?  I mentioned the Berghof writeup specifically to demonstrate how attitudes change and people become aware of the shortcomings of their, ummm, heroes and enthusiasms.  I could spin you some tales about "new capabilities", too, but you undoubtedly wouldn't believe them.  Too bad.

        •  It was my sense of your comment (0+ / 0-)

          that you were characterizing progressivism - i.e., faith in the pursuit of knowledge and new possibilities - as some kind of monstrous, appalling ideology, and that humanity's salvation lies in retreating into some fantasy of idyllic localism and simplicity.  Reality doesn't allow it.  We can go on vacation to Hobbiton, but we can't live there unless we're making a choice to die.  And I don't consider it hubris to state my preference for a limitless future across unbounded space and time.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 04:19:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, me too. (0+ / 0-)

            I just think we have different ways of getting there.

            Hobbiton?  Arrggh, no.  The entire description of the place delineates the petty-mindedness of an inbred community with no real challenges and strong suspicions of anything unconventional.  I don't think I'd get along well there at all .

    •  I found the Galactic remake (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      Problematic in the extreme for its racial politics, especially the last couple of episodes.  The one saving grace is that the kid who ends up being "Eve" isn't a blond.  Other than that, shame on the producers for basically erasing dark skinned humans from our evolutionary tree.

      I also think you're putting words into Troubadour's mouth - I didn't see any nostalgia for the superscience of the 1930s, just a plea for hard science fiction that isn't completely dystopic.  There's nothing wrong with that.

      •  To be clear, I do yearn for Clarkean SF. (0+ / 0-)

        Science as an engine of wonder, evolution, and human empowerment is not a fiction, it's all around us.  We just have to start dreaming big dreams again.  And I think we will, very soon.

        Everything in moderation, including moderation.

        by Troubadour on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 04:20:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well troubadour, you'll be glad to know (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    that my studio is very interested in your input.

    Check out my sig line, vote for ppptv.org and then go check out the website. I think there's room for a discussion about sci-fi in the way you describe it.

    I need your help for the NN booth for People-Powered Public Television (ppptv.org). Please help me out with your vote! CLICK HERE

    by mdmslle on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 07:16:40 PM PDT

    •  Repulsive movie I saw today - "Ghost Rider 2" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, mdmslle

      I left feeling this thing must've been conceived, written and directed by psychopathic, pyromaniac teenage meth-heads. The story was a thin excuse for about 500 fiery explosions, car wrecks, and monstrous special effects. In 3-D no less!

      Just a single female character (MILF type, mom to spawn of Satan), whose makeup remained perfecto throughout nonstop disasters.

      I mentor a 12-year-old "Little Sister" - bright but a bit young for her age. She plays with dolls and enjoys childlike movies like the "Madagascar" series.

      Today she requested I take her to this movie. She had seen the first one and was eager to see the second. I had my doubts seeing it was PG-13, but her family said okay.

      I hated having to sit through this violent junk! And astonished that she was riveted. I saw kids as young as eight there.

    •  I would, but I'm not on Facebook. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mdmslle

      I do like the concept you're advocating though.  Feel free to mention my views if you ever think they'd be helpful.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:30:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 07:44:14 PM PDT

  •  If Primer had a few hot teens (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    it would have fared better.

    I've only seen it twice, but it's almost certainly the smartes sci-fi movie ever made.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 07:47:29 PM PDT

    •  A substantive female character (0+ / 0-)

      would have added to the film, I think, and not just sex appeal.  But I understand why they didn't have one - if something like that really happened, it wouldn't involve women except tangentially.  There's the demographics of the entrepreneuria tech hardware industry, and then the even more skewed demographics of the kind of people who would cast themselves headlong recklessly into the completely unknown.  Still, they could found a plausible reason to have a woman involved.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:39:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In Eglish, maybe. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      There's a Spanish movie called "TimeCrimes" that gives "Primer" a serious run for it's money.

      "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

      by Whimsical on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 02:51:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've seen that movie. (0+ / 0-)

        It is hardcore science fiction, yes, but I disagree strongly that it compares to Primer.  It comes nowhere near.  Primer is very much about the process of discovery, of exploring possibilities, and the corruption of power that comes with possession of superhuman capabilities.  Time Crimes is more of a murder mystery involving closed-loop time travel.

        Everything in moderation, including moderation.

        by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 04:24:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  In terms of making my brain hurt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour

          they are definitley almost equal :)

          "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

          by Whimsical on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 04:36:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Then you haven't even begun to plumb the depths (0+ / 0-)

            of Primer, because it goes way beyond the immediate logic of time loops.  There are time machines within the time machine, leading to nested loops and the presence of unbounded numbers of the same person in the same time.

            Everything in moderation, including moderation.

            by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 04:43:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Righteous rant, Troubador (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    As someone who enjoys both science fiction and fantasy, I had never considered the problem in this light, but I see exactly what you are talking about. Part of the problem stems, I think, from the fact that science has been somewhat discredited over the last fifty years, and not entirely fairly. The same technologies that create miracles (nuclear energy, genetic engineering, etc.) can also create, and have created, monsters.

    I confess to a certain nostalgia for a simpler age, and to being something of a Luddite on occasion. But at the same time, I know that we cannot reasonably expect to go back to that world, and if we did (by way of societal collapse), it would be a very miserable life. And I have no end of contempt for post-modernism, deconstructionism, and other modern-day variations on Obscurantism. This denial of rationalism, of the scientific method, of our promise as humans, and of the very existence of truth, is an empty doctrine indeed.

    You've actually given me an idea for a science fiction novel. It would be a sort of subversion of the dystopic SF genre. It would be about the world after an almost total societal collapse, but it would focus on people who were not eager for this collapse and who did not revel in it, but rather who attempt to collect all the knowledge of the "old world" and preserve it and protect it, so that humanity will have the chance to rise again. Kind of like the Foundation books, except on a much smaller scale.

    All that being said, my knowledge of SF is actually rather shallow. I've read maybe five books that could honestly be classed as SF, and some of them not even all the way through.

    •  You might be interested (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quarkstomper

      in David Brin's "The Postman."  The book, not the movie adaptation - whatever you do, don't watch the movie.  Basically the plot is a guy lives in a post-apocalyptic world terrorized by marauding survivalist wingnuts, and slowly rebuilds the country by lying to people that it already exists and is regrowing in power.  Eager to join the recovering US that he's just made up, they start acting more and more like they're already Americans again.  Really hopeful stuff.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:45:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a hobbyist author, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tomtech, Troubadour

    I have used the dystopian setting for a few of my stories, as well as "a brighter future from the ashes" trope.  Also, I have a tendency to leave my story's endings open to interpretation.  It is a design feature, not a bug...

    Dystopian stories are not about hoped for futures, but rather warnings of possible futures that can (hopefully) be avoided

  •  Should Have Mentioned... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    I should have mentioned in my previous comment this week's Sci-Fi/Fantasy Club diary, which is a look at the manga series 2001 Nights.  It's a series of short stories chronicling mankind's exploration of space over a span of centuries.  At the core of the series is a tension between hope and disappointment.  Space is harsh and unwelcoming; many of the colonies fail, some spectacularly so.  And by the series end, humanity has turned it's back on the stars and has begun to retreat back to the Solar System.  And yet, even as they do so, a new wave of exploration is beginning.

    It's a good series, and I recommend it.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 08:50:59 PM PDT

    •  As someone familiar with the Japanese side, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      what did you think of Neon Genesis Evangelion? It's one of my personal favorites.

      •  I've Heard About It... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        That's one I've heard about, but never actually seen.  From what I've heard, it had a really good beginning, and they partway through they ran out of money, and started doing really psychadelic stuff on the cheap, and in they end they pulled a major reversal that had half of the original fans howling for the creators' heads and the other half hailing the series as a masterpiece.

        But that's all third-hand.  I recently read an interesting review of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but now naturally I can't find it.  If I do, I'll post a link.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 07:13:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It was a good one (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          quarkstomper

          At least in my view, it was. It's true that they did kind of run out of money towards the end, and you probably need to watch "End of Evangelion" to see the "real" ending. But in general it was a good one. Certainly one of the most interesting and innovative SF works created in recent years, in any country.

    •  Great, I'll check it out. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quarkstomper

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 12:46:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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