What is Science Fiction?

The Guardian Newspaper posted up an article about the label of Science Fiction when it comes to regular literature. Science Fiction as a broad genre has a number of connotations and images associated with it, for sure, but what exactly is the definition of the grouping?

According to Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers to ever live, Science Fiction is: Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions. (There are some other fantastic takes on this here.)

Over the past couple of years, as I have gotten more interested in the history and study of the genre, I’m leaning more towards an anti-genre sort of bias. I am a fan of the genre, and of the elements that commonly make it up – space ships, time travel, aliens, etc. What I find interesting though, is at how horror, science fiction and fantasy genres are generally grouped together, and how fans from one genre tend to be interested in the others.

According to the Guardian article, there are several authors whose books tend to fall under the SF/F genre heading, but aren’t generally considered part of the genre, either by the publisher or the author. For example, the following paragraph raises some eyebrows:

“The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway has just had its paperback release, and is a tour-de-force of ninjas, truckers, Dr Strangelove-type military men, awe-inspiring imagery and very clever writing. It’s also undeniably science fiction. Harkaway is an unrepentant fan of the genre, but his publishers William Heinemann have taken a lot of care not to market the book as such. Harkaway himself said in a recent interview: “I suppose the book does take place in the future, but not the ray-guns-and-silver-suits future. It’s more like tomorrow if today was a really, really bad day.””

The last sentence is revealing one: “It’s more like tomorrow, if today was a really, really bad day.” Off the top of my head, I can list of a number of science fiction novels and films (Halting State, Children of Men, Wess’Har series, Firefly, etc), where this fits the description perfectly. Science fiction, in my opinion, is little different than most regular fiction, while just taking on a fantastic premise.

Margaret Atwood is somewhat misguided when she states: “Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space.”

Science fiction is not just about rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space, although these can certainly be elements, but it is not the individual elements that really make up the core of a science fiction story. The core premise is the story. The best science fiction stories, the ones that hold up, are the ones that explore the human condition – not unlike most “literature”. However, these elements do help to define the genre, and, if present in a story, help to define the novel. Stories with things like this are invariably labeled SF/F. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the point of the book is.

Matthew Stover posted an interesting view up on a message board a couple months back:

“Literature is narrative fiction in which the author’s intent is to express his individual vision of a fundamental truth of existence.

[Feel free to substitute other pronouns. I say "his" because, y'know, I'm a guy.]

The label of capital-L “Literature” is not a judgment of quality. It is a statement regarding the author’s objectives. If the author’s objective is simply (not “merely”) to entertain or divert, the work in question is not Literature. It’s still small-L literature (by definition), but that’s not really what we’re talking about. (I use the capital L to keep the distinction clear.)

And there’s plenty of crummy Literature out there. It may be bad, but it’s Literature nonetheless. “

At this definition, at a very broad angle, this encompasses a majority of SF/F genre stories, and separates out the ones that are essentially tie-in novels. The split is at the point where the view is either the author’s, or someone else’s. I’m content with this definition, because I’ve never seen the term Literature as something that automatically means quality. From there, everything can be broken down into the general elements that help to qualify the book. Science fictional type books tend to be grouped together with the ones that have the space ships, the aliens and things like that, but, above all, the story is such that the reader needs to be able to accept the premise, no matter what the story elements are. Battlestar Galactica and Firefly are two television shows that really did a good job at this – they took a situation, and focused on the way the characters reacted. Ron Moore has said that they didn’t want to do a science fiction show, but they wanted a drama in space. It has science fiction elements, but that’s not the focus.

Now, that might not be the main focus of these books that the Guardian has laid out, but they do contain science fiction elements. The article cites Jeanette Winterson with the following quote:

“”People say to me, ‘so is the Stone Gods science fiction?’ Well, it is fiction, and it has science in it, and it is set (mostly) in the future, but the labels are meaningless. I can’t see the point of labeling a book like a pre-packed supermarket meal. There are books worth reading and books not worth reading. That’s all.””

I think she hit the nail on the head – essentially, it doesn’t matter what the book’s label is to the reader or storyteller – these labels seem to be more a thing concocted by publishers and booksellers in order to target certain audiences who might be more inclined to buy something with weird aliens and space ships as opposed to something else. That being said, even though Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road wasn’t published or marketed as such, it’s still gained quite a bit of a following in the SF/F genre crowd.

I’ll always be a fan of the SF/F label though, despite the elitism and mockery that it might get – it’s really the only genre that has a real geek following, and no matter the status that the genre gets from other authors and critics, it is still one of the sources, for me, of some of the best literature out there.

Sometimes a Great Notion

 

 

This review will contain major spoilers for Episode 411 of Battlestar Galactica. 

 

After 271 days, Battlestar Galactica has returned for its final ten episode arc that will bring us to the conclusion of the series. This has been a long time coming, and there has been a huge buildup of anticipation. Who is the fifth Cylon? What happened to Earth? What’s up with Starbuck? What will happen next? This episode helped to answer a number of questions, but in doing so, raised more, and I suspect that the next ten weeks will be just as intense and rewarding as this episode was. It certainly lived up to the anticipation. 

 

In the last episode, humanity finally reached earth. Had that episode ended about three minutes earlier, it would have been the perfect end to the entire series, minus a couple of things. Humanity reached Earth; cue the dramatic and heartwarming music. Three minutes later, it all comes back down. Earth, as we find in the episode, is a wasteland. We discover that two thousand years prior, there had been a conflict of some kind, and the skeletons that they recovered were Cylon. Tyrol, Tigh and Anders begin to remember flashes of their lives on the planet, and Starbuck finds what brought them to Earth – her own Viper, with her own body in the ruined cockpit. This has a huge impact on the fleet. Moral seems to have plummeted, Roslin is depressed and burning her bible, and Duella committs suicide. And our fifth Cylon turns out to be Tigh’s wife, Ellen. 

 

Throughout the series, I’ve seen just how dark the writers can make the show, even from the beginning. Lee had to destroy a passenger carrier. Cylons are tossed out the airlock, Kara is experimented on, the Cylons come and enslave humanity, and so forth, but this is easily the darkest turn, and one of the more brilliant things that they could do to the show. Take humanity’s, and our entire ride, and turn it to ashes. This episode was very bleak, and I’ve often said that nothing can surprise me with this show any more. It certainly did, this time around, and I’m wondering where we’ll go next. 

 

There are several storylines that have just been opened up, that we’ll hopefully see some conclusions to. Will we see Ellen again? What happened to Cavill’s fleet? What will Admiral Adama do with the fleet? And so forth – we have plenty of things to do with the next ten episodes. I’m especially interested in seeing what will happen with Kara’s storyline, because she’s been central to this entire arc, finding earth, and the shock of finding her own body on Earth, and also discovering that she is NOT the final Cylon comes as a bit of a relief and a shock, but also brings in an unknown to the series – what happened to her and her Viper? 

 

This episode also pulls itself into some of the things that had been said before in the show: What has happened before, will happen again. It certainly seems that there had been a massive civil war, that there were humanoid Cylons and Ellen’s cryptic saying at the end of the episode: We will be reborn together, all tie in together. I suspect that we will be seeing more of this theme over the next nine or so weeks as the show wraps up. 

 

The episode wasn’t perfect – it seemed a bit scattered to me, bouncing between a number of stories, and that could have been cleaned up a bit more. I had put my money on Starbuck’s mother being the fifth Cylon, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. The worst thing, however, has nothing to do with the episode – it’s back to waiting another week for Episode 412. I have high hopes for the remainder of the series, and this episode has done nothing to suppress that. If anything, it’s brought my anticipation up a notch. 

 

But, Battlestar’s back. And it’s good. So say we all.

Best Television of 2008

My top TV episodes of 2008:

10 – Fringe: Pilot / Leverage: The Nigerian Job

This was a bit of a tie, because both these shows aren’t all that great, but they are fun to watch. Fringe was one that I was really looking forwards to, and I’ve been somewhat disappointed by how it’s been handled over the season that I’ve watched thus far. Hopefully I’ll get to marathon the entire thing at some point. That being said, the pilot for the show was very fun to watch – it was interesting, had a fun concept and was so over the top that it’s laughable, but again, fun.
Leverage is a show that I’ve started watching because I like Heist shows, and this one is certainly one of the better ones that I’ve seen, ever since the show Smith a couple years ago. There’s a fun cast dynamic and some good hooks in this episode for future episodes.

9 – Big Bang Theory: The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis
I’ve been wary of this show until this season, and now, I’ve really gotten into it for some reason. The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis really takes the show away from some of the easy jabs at the characters and makes some room for some real character development at the end. Plus, the following quote from Leonard is just plain gold:

Do you know what this means? If I can get a healthy ovum, I can grow my own Leonard Nimoy!

8 – Barack Obama 30 Minute TV Spot
No matter what side of the aisle you support, this TV spot was a brilliant move on the part of the Obama administration. It consumed a news cycle of talk show, talking heads and really outlined the priorities of the incoming administration and helped put Pres/Elect Obama into the lead, furthering his momentum. I personally was a supported of the Democratic Ticket, and while this TV spot showed us nothing terribly new to supporters, and essentially reiterated his position, it was a good introduction to people who still weren’t sure who to support.

7 – John Adams: Join or Die
The John Adams miniseries was a very well done series based off of the book by David McCullough by the same title. This pilot episode demonstrated fantastic production values and is an outstanding adaptation of history, from the characters and casting to the look and feel of the sets. These first episodes showed the American War for Independence, a crucial time in our history, in a way that has largely been glossed over in a few short lessons in school.

6 – Lost: The Constant
This was possibly one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, where Desmond begins his own time jumps back and forth through. While Lost has overdone the lifes of some of the other characters like Jack and Kate, this episode really got into Desmond’s head and proved that the writers could still write compelling and interesting characters, while advancing the story forward while doing so, rather than just exploition on why the characters are the way they are.

5 - Battlestar Galactica: Revelations
Episode 410 of Battlestar Galactica brings the show to a point that we’ve been looking for for the past four years on the show : Earth. Four of the last unknown Cylons come forward to their friends, and Kara finally leads the fleet to the people, only to find a devastated landscape. There was a lot of emotion and storylines caught up here. Characters were not what their friends thought they were, and the episode represents a culmination of a number of storylines, and ends on a killer cliffhanger.

4 – Pushing Daisies: Comfort Food
I’m very sad to see this show go – it’s one of my absolute favorites. Comfort Food follows Ned and Olive during a cooking contest, while Chuck has brought her father back to life, at the cost of Dwight Dixon. This was the end/middle of a mini-arc, and it really does a fantastic job with both Ned and Chuck – Chuck with seeing her father return, and Ned for having his trust betrayed. And there’s a Colonel who’s been deep fried.

3 – When We Left Earth: Landing the Eagle / The Explorers
This year was the 50th Anniversary of NASA, and to celebrate, Discovery released a documentary on NASA’s human exploration of the solar system. This episode, Landing the Eagle, details the Apollo program through to Apollo 11, while The Explorers follows the remaining five moon landings. The footage here is absolutely stunning, and even includes interviews with Neil Armstrong. I get chills watching the landing.

2 – Life on Mars: Out Here in the Fields
I was very skeptical about the remake, and the first pilot didn’t leave me with any confidence here at all. But Out Here in the Fields, the second pilot to the UK remake, helped to allay my fears that this would be a poorly done show and showed not only could this re-make be a good one, but one that would stand on its own, with its own qualities. I can’t wait for its return later on.

1 – House, MD : Wilson’s Heart
Season 4 of House was pretty lackluster. The change up with new staff only marginally worked, and while we saw some new characters, they’re not quite to the point of Chase, Cameron and Foreman. The newcomers are interesting, but too similar, except for the fanatic character Amber, whom I can’t stand. This episode made me entirely rethink her character, but also saw an incredible amount into the characters of House and Wilson. These episodes of House are the best ones, when we see real development, and it’s happening fewer and further between episodes now. The last ten or so minutes of this episode are possibly the best minutes of the show that I’ve seen yet.

Top Geek Things of 2008

It’s coming up to the end of the year, and looking back, 2008 has been a very fun year for geeks everywhere – in books, television programs and films, among other things. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking back over the year to see what was the best and worst of 2008.

The Best:

Starbuck returned from the Grave; The Fleet reaches Earth. (Battlestar Galactica Season 4)

The third season of Battlestar Galactica was a little rocky in the middle, but the last episodes set up a real bang. Starbuck was presumably killed, only to turn up during a major confrontation of the Human and Cylon fleets. Season 4 opens even bigger, with one of the best space battles that I’ve ever seen. Our four new cylons are freaking out, Starbuck’s back and everything culminates in the discovery of Earth in episode 10.Galactica has long been one of my favorite shows, and with a certain end point in mind, Season four was where Galactica got somewhat back onto the tracks, with a fairly tight story arc, only to get to another long wait for the final ten episodes. It’s been well worth it though.

Pushing Daisies… back from the Grave, and back to it

After a long hiatus due to the writer’s strike (more about that in a bit) my favorite show of 2007-2008 came back with a new set of episodes. There are not enough good things that I can say about this show. We left off last year with Chuck learning that it was Ned that killed her father, only to end up at the end of this season with him being awoken. It was another season of fantastic storytelling, character development and extremely fantastic dialog. Unfortunately, the show has been axed due to low ratings. Fortunately, Bryan Fuller will be going to Heroes for the latter half of Season 3.

Lost Gets Better – Again.

Here’s the situation. LOST season 1 blew everyone away. Season 2 drove them away. Season 3 brought some people back, and Season 4, everything got interesting again. This season was the best since Season 1, in my opinion. We had several new characters (my favorite was Daniel Faraday, the physicist), and a couple people killed off. We started seeing flash-forwards, where Jack has a beard and addicted to pain pills, Hurley’s in a mental institution and Sayid is channeling Abram’s Alias. Oh, and they get off the island. Then the island vanishes.

I have Leonard Nemoy’s DNA? (The Big Bang Theory)

This show started in 2007, where I was annoyed by its laugh track and annoying characters. But this year, I started watching it and enjoying it. While it’s certainly a very stereotypical portrayal of nerds and geeks, it’s fun, because the creators have put in place a series of fun characters, and the writers make some jokes that are actually funny. This week’s episode was absolutely priceless, when Sheldon gets a napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy. Now, if they’ll just ditch the laugh track. This show’s likely to be around for a while longer – it’s been getting better and better ratings as the year goes on.

Back in a Nick of Time (Life on Mars)

One of my absolute favorite shows of all time was Life on Mars. Up until this year, it was only a BBC drama, until ABC picked it up and made a pilot. That pilot sucked, horribly, so the cast was ditched, except for Jason O’Mara, and the show was redone, set in New York City, given a good cast and started up. The result? A solid TV series that’s mirrored the original (but it’s starting to diverge a bit now), a wonderful soundtrack of classic rock and a story that’s actually interesting. I can’t wait for its return in 2009.

The Joker raises worldwide GDP. (The Dark Knight)

First, there was excitement when it was announced that the Joker was going to be the villain. Then Heath Ledger signed up for the role. Then he died earlier this year after filming was completed, leaving some people to wonder if the film would be released on schedule. Then Warner Brothers covered every surface they could find with Dark Knight ads. When the film was released, it went on to gross $996,680,514 in theaters. The film was a huge success, and a fantastic film at that. It was a comic book movie with true darkness, some real symbolism and good storytelling throughout. It’s a pity that we won’t see Heath Ledger reprise his role of The Joker, because he’s done the best portrayal of a villain in recent film memory.

I am Iron Man (Iron Man)

Before The Dark Knight blew the doors off the box office, there was Iron Man. Iron Man has long been a favorite marvel superhero of mine, and everything fell into place for this film. Good story, well directed, fantastic casting (Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was brilliant) and of course, the Mark II set of armor. Marvel proved that they could make a good superhero movie, one that was relevant and not stuck in the low-humor that characterized other comic book adaptations. Already, I can’t wait for Iron Man 2. And Iron Man 3. And The Avengers.

Eeeeevvvvvaaaaaa (Wall-E)

Pixar has released what is possibly their best film to date. (Except maybe Toy Story and The Incredibles). Following a robot far from home, Andrew Stanton has presented a film with a cute, romantic science fiction story with some social commentary (said to be unintentional) woven into the CGI. Wall-E is easily the most appealing robot since R2-D2 hit the big screen in 1977, and his antics as he’s pulled along for the ride (literally) are cute, heartbreaking and funny.And with very little real dialog.

Roar. Crunch. Repeat. (Cloverfield)

Monster movies meets social networking video and America gets its own monster. This film was brilliantly shot with an extremely fun concept. A monster comes and plays t-ball with the statue of liberty, and it’s caught on camera by a bunch of twenty-somethings as they escape. The project was conceived of by LOST creator J.J. Abrams, and his fingerprints are all over it. From the lack of explanation of everything to the weird stuff, this is a very fun film to watch. Rumors are that there’s a Cloverfield 2 being talked about.

With My Freeze Ray I Will Stop… The World (Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog)

This project was a huge success for Joss Whedon & Co. Conceived of during the Writer’s strike, Whedon presents an aspiring supervillian, Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), his buddies and his quest to finish his freeze ray, avoid Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) and win over Penny (Felicia Day). We’re treated to musical numbers, crazy plots and a fantastic venture to prove that the internet is a viable place to release content.Take a look here.

Up, up and away! (When We Left Earth/NASA)

This year was NASA’s 50th year in operation, and the Discovery channel released a fantastic documentary entitled When We Left Earth that touted its major achievements and failures throughout the years, bringing viewers some of the most incredible footage of space that I’ve ever seen, and telling a fantastic story of how NASA has come to be, with interviews with astronauts and support personnel. I get chills when I watch it, and wonder when we’ll return to the moon and beyond.

Hobbit’s Labyrinth (The Hobbit)

After long rumors, production problems and drama with Peter Jackson (who directed Lord of the Rings), Guillermo del Toro signed on to direct the upcoming Hobbit film and prequel. (Or two Hobbit films?) This is extremely good news, because the people who can adequately fill Jackson’s shoes after LOTR are few and far between. del Toro is the perfect director for this project, and has already proven that he can do fantasy brilliantly, with his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. Plus, he can play in other people’s universes, as per his work with the Hellboy films. (Which weren’t as good, but fun)

Watchman Trailer (Watchman)

What’s called the greatest graphic novel ever is coming to the big screen, much to the annoyance of its creator, and to FOX, apparently. A trailer for Watchman aired with The Dark Knight, and it made fanboys everywhere sit up and take notice. There’s still complaints about how it’s unfilmable and that it’ll be too short or too long, but from my eyes? This looks like it’ll be THE comic book film to see next year. It looks like it captured the feel of the comic book pretty well, and it’s embellished a bit to look badass. Plus, Rorschach looks dead on. Just like I thought he’d be like.

Large Hadron Collider (Science)

The Large Hadron Collider was turned on on September 10th, to many worries about the world ending. Contrary to popular opinion, the earth didn’t vanish in a tiny black hole. It was set to uncover the mysteries of the universe, but then it broke down again nine days later and won’t be up online until 2009. But, it’s still cool!

Geeks in Politics (Obama [spiderman, conan, superman] Patrick Leahy [Batman Cameo])

There’s been a lot of geekiness in politics this year. No lightsaber waving from McCain this time around, but President Elect Obama has claimed to be a big Spiderman and Conan fan, and did a superman pose in Metropolis, IL. In addition to him, VT senator Patrick Leahy, a huge batman fan, had a cameo in The Dark Knight. He’s also the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ironic.

Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (Costumes)

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted an exhibit earlier this year (it’s since closed) called Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy. It featured a number of costumes from a number of classic films, such as the original Superman and Wonder Woman films, but also things as recently released as The Dark Knight and Iron Man. The fashion section was a bit of a miss for me, but the exhibit as a whole was just outstanding. Plus, they had several original copies of Superman and Batman, Spiderman and Iron Man on display. Covered in a plastic shield of course…

Star Wars Encyclopedia (Star Wars)

Del Rey released a new and expanded Star Wars Encyclopedia this year, one that is not only complete, but still remarkably up to date. That’s not likely to last as long, given how fast LFL churns out canon material, but it’s a beautiful repository of information in the universe. I can spend hours just paging through reading things.

Anathem” By Neal Stephenson

I actually have yet to read this book, but it’s caught my eye, and it’s made a splash when it comes to the sci-fi literary world. All I really know about it is that it takes place on an earth-like world, and doubles as a philosophical text for knowledge and religion. I’ll have to pick it up, and only expand my to-read list further.

A Game of Thrones picked up by HBO (Song of Fire & Ice)

Another book that I have yet to read, but I actually own this one. HBO has picked up the book for a series. If there’s one thing that HBO does well, it’s TV shows, because they can pour money into them and get a good result. And, they have a good track record with adaptations, with things such as Band of Brothers and John Adams. I’ll watch this when it’s released.

We’ss Har Wars End (Karen Traviss)

Several years in the making, Karen Traviss has finally finished her Wess’Har Wars series with book 6, Judge. Starting back in 2003, she introduced readers to a fantastic story of first contacts filled with alien races, political commentary and expert storytelling. Judge didn’t deliver quite as well as I’d have liked (It certainly wasn’t the strongest of the series), it carried the momentum well, and proved to be a good read, one that finished up one of my favorite series satisfactorily. Hopefully, Karen will be back to writing hard scifi again, because she’s incredible at it.

Trooping (501st)

This year I got back into trooping with the 501st Legion. All in all, I did a total of 30 or so events, ranging from small affairs here in VT to much larger ones. The most memorable ones were the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Burlington Kid’s Day, the Weird Al ConcertSt-Jean-sur-Richelieu Balloon Festival, Walk for Autisms, and the 2008 Woburn Halloween Parade. All my events are listed here.

With all the good things that have happened this year, there’s the other side of the coin, and some letdowns, disappointments and pure flops.

Worst:

Writer’s Strike

Okay, this started in 2007, but it messed up television for the foreseeable future, by ending some shows and putting others on a long hiatus that has really hurt ratings. Pushing Daisies was one casualty, Terminator was almost one, LOST was put off for a year, as was 24, and already, we’re on the eve of another major strike over pretty much the same issues – internet distribution. Hopefully, some lessons will be learned.

Surviving a Nuclear Detonation (Indiana Jones)

Indiana Jones came back, and he came back bland. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was an impossible undertaking to fill the hopes of fans for the past twenty years. While it’s not a horrible film, it’s nowhere near as high quality as Raiders or Crusade (although I did like it better than Doom). There was no passion, a crazy storyline and some annoying characters. It does have its moments, but they are few and far between.

Skyguy/Snips/Roger Roger (The Clone Wars)

Star Wars was another big LFL franchise that came back this year, and while The Clone Wars certainly had its moments, even high points, this film just extends the image of money grubbing that LFL is involved with, which is a shame. There’s too much bad dialog, characters and situations to make this a good part of the Star Wars universe, but the TV show has been making some improvements. The animation is stunningly good, some of the stories are actually good, but every time the battle droids start talking, I want to throw something at my TV.

Michael Crichton Eaten by Cyborg T-Rex and Flesh eating Space Bacteria from the Past.

While my interest in Michael Crichton has waned over the years as he began to write crappy books (Such as Prey and State of Fear), there’s no doubt that he’s shaped my reading. I’m still a huge fan of Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man and a number of his older novels. He’s one of the most popular scifi authors (although he’s resisted the genre title) out there with his works, most of which were made into films. It’s a shame that he’s passed – I was always hoping for another good story from him.

Gary Gygax failed his saving throw

Geek-God Gary Gygax likewise passed away this year, leaving behind a legacy that has shaped nerd-culture in the US forever. His creation, Dungeons and Dragons, along with co-creator Dave Arneson, was one of the defining features of geeks everywhere, something that I got into back in 2001. Along with giving geeks something to do in groups, it helped define a generation’s activities, reading materials and conceptions of fantasy through to this day.

Arthur C Clarke becomes the Space Child

Arguably one of the greatest science fiction authors ever, Clarke’s death hit the world hard. He helped to define the literary genre, and the actual science behind it, and was responsible for such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rama, Childhood’s End, and numerous others, as well as the telecommunications satellite. He will be sorely missed, and is one of the last of the golden age of science fiction to be with us.(Today would have been his 91st birthday)

CNN Hologram technology

On election nigh, CNN touted their new thing in news casting, a hologram of Will.I.Am. Looked cool, and it looked like a hologram, but it was nothing more than a lot of cameras and empty space plus some CGI. Blah. Let’s see some real technology in action please.

Close the Iris! (Stargate Atlantis)

I was a huge fan of Stargate SG-1, and same with Atlantis for the first couple of seasons. This season has just plain sucked. It’s a shame, because there’s a good concept there, amidst the horrible characters, stories and situations. Not long now, because Atlantis has been canceled, and will be replaced with Stargate Universe next year.

Even more Confusing and Confounding! (Heroes Season 3)

Heroes Season 1 was brilliant. It introduced a new spin on superheroes, only to fall to its own success and have a fairly slow and boring second season. (To be sure, the writer’s strike had something to do with it, because it got better). Season 3 was promised to be bigger and better. And it was certainly bigger, with heroes coming back from the grave, more time travel and action, but none of it really made the same impression that season 1 did. I’m still behind episodes, but apparently it’s been getting better. Now that Bryan Fuller’s returning to the show, can we PLEASE start off really good and get better? Please?

Weird Science (Fringe)

I was really excited for Fringe, the latest show by JJ Abrams. It was a fun concept, and had a good couple episodes at first, but just became so dull that I stopped following it. I might pick it up again at some point, but only when I can marathon the entire thing at once.

Forrest J. Ackerman Dies

Forrest J. Ackerman, one of the first science fiction fans out there recently passed away. He was a key element of the spread of science fiction fandom, and he helped to found the LA Science Fantasy Society, among other numerous achivements, as well as influencing numerous authors over his long life.

Borders Downsizes SciFi Sections

I ranted about this earlier, as did a number of authors. Borders has been downsizing their sci-fi sections. While it’s understandable that they have to sell items, and that they can’t put everything on the shelf, you can’t predict what the next big hit will be, and you can’t know that until you actually start selling things.

That’s it for this year. Next year, there’s already quite a bit coming up. Should be a fun year.

December is SciFi Month

I know exactly when my tastes in Science Fiction and Fantasy began to change to what they are today – December, 2003. While driving a friend up Burlington, we stopped by the University Mall in South Burlington, ostensibly to do some Christmas shopping. Earlier that week, I was reading a copy of SciFi Magazine, which had run a review of the recently released Firefly DVD set. It had an outstanding review, and with a little more followup research on Amazon.com, I was stunned to see this with a full five star review almost universally. I hadn’t seen any of the show, so picking it up from the mall that day was a somewhat whim purchase. It looked interesting, and with the coming vacation, I would have plenty of time to watch it.

When I returned home, I sat down and watched the first episode. It wasn’t until a couple minutes into the show, after the opening introduction that the show hooked me, hard. There was something about it – the superior CGI, witty dialog and interesting storytelling that I really hadn’t seen in a whole lot of television shows before. To be fair, I hadn’t really watched a lot of SciFi TV prior to this – some Stargate, some Star Trek, but not a whole lot beyond that. For the next three days, I watched the entire series, bouncing around the house humming the theme song, before telling my siblings about the show and marathoned it with them over the next couple days.

I can extoll the virtues of the show endlessly. After Star Wars, Firefly became a new series for me to completely obsess over. Watching the show from that point, and eventually watching the commentaries, I began to view science fiction in a far different manner than I had before. Whedon’s technical commentaries on how the show was shot – how they did the lighting, what the dialog meant, and how the characters came to be – as well as seeing something completely different – made me begin to look at television and how science fiction should be in a far more critical level.

Shortly on the heels of Firefly came a second franchise that I like just as much – the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica, which was released as a pilot miniseries in December. I watched it after reading several articles (again from SciFi Magazine) and like Firefly, fell completely for the show, but in a different way. Like Firefly, Galactica presented a non-conventional approach to space sci-fi with its presentation and storytelling, and I really liked that, along with the fantastic CGI, characters and stories.

Both shows are rarities in the genre. There are very few shows that have similar content, which is a huge shame. I like space ships, visiting new planets, especially in the manner that Battlestar Galactica and Firefly went about it. A third show that I came across several months later, Farscape is also up there.

The way that I viewed these shows percolated down to other elements of how I viewed television shows, movies, books and comics. I began to take in these while paying far more attention to the story, characters and the smaller details that I’d previously missed or never paid a whole lot of attention to. Instead of taking things at face value, liking things simply for the sake of liking them, a critical perspective helps to fully realize and enjoy the story for all of its points.

So, this December, I’ll be back to my roots and revisiting some of my more favorite episodes. It’s liely been a year or so since I’ve actually sat down to watch an episode of Firefly, and it’s been a while since I’ve watched Battlestar Galactica. It will be a fitting thing to do as that paticular show draws to a close with the final season this spring.

Frackin' Hell

Battlestar’s back! Finally, we’ve got a nice run of the nine remaining episodes for the rest of the season after another long wait and cliffhanger. After the Eye of Jupiter, Dianna’s been boxed, everyone gets off of the algae planet in one piece, the star went nova, Six is on board Galactica (again), Baltar’s back as well and in the brig and whee! Some of the best ground combat that the show’s had was in there as well, not to mention some of those visuals.

The Dresden Files premired as well, and it was okay. Not as good as I’d hoped it would be, but it’s got the makings of another fine show. As far as the book went, there’s a lot of similarities, a bunch of things that are a real departure, and some things that were improved upon. Dresden himself looks the part, and he’s got a better jacket than the one in the book – he seems a little more realistic. Some of the sarcasm was there, and the general Chicago environment of the underworld stuff was present. However, Bob’s kinda weird, Murphy’s nowhere near her character from the books (almost angry and sarcastic in the books, while she’s pretty mellow here), and Dresden seems to be pretty well off, not at the complete desperate bottom-of-the-barrel that he’s in in the books. Ah well, there’s time for improvement.

I’m not going to continue with the weekly TV-This-Week thing, just because I don’t have time. If I like a show, I’ll probably gush about it. If I don’t, I’ll bitch. Savvy?

The Best TV of 2006

Now that Christmas is over and it’ll be the New Year tomorrow, I figure I’d do a bit of looking back on things. So, the best TV of this year:

New TV

This was the year that the television networks picked up on the fact that serialized TV might sell really well. Following the sucesses of LOST and Prison Break, it seemed like a no brainer. Odd thing is, it didn’t really work as well as people’d predicted. Critic favorites like the Nine and Six Degrees bombed and were cancelled, although a couple held on nicely.

1- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – I like TV, the industry, writing, everything. I’d heard about the show earlier on in the year and thought that it sounded bad, but when I saw the pilot episode online, it hooked me from then. This show’s the most important one on there. It takes on religous, governmental, politics, broadcasting theory and ethics in its episodes, stuff that you don’t really see. This is smart TV. The dialogue, characters, plots, all fantastic stuff, and it’s a shame that this show didn’t catch on as well as it should have. Hopefully, we’ll see a season 2 to this.

2- Heroes - This is a fun show. Can’t take it too seriously, but it’s just one of the best geek shows out there. There’s a good kick back to the community with references and things like that that makes it fun to watch, as well as a really cool storyline and characters to match it.

3- Day Break – This was cancelled just the other week, which makes me very unhappy. The good news is that this show’s got all the 13 episodes filmed, or so I heard, so they’ll be out sometime. Detective Hopper’s reliving the same bad day, and while this show couldn’t last very long, it’s got the strongest of all the storylines of any tv show. They should have just billed this as a miniseries or something.

TV That Came Back

Battlestar Galactica – I didn’t think that it could get any darker, but it did, and man, the opening five episodes just blew my mind. There’s been a couple of episodes that I wasn’t thrilled with, but on the whole, Battlestar’s back and kicking ass. Can’t wait to see the next ten episodes. As far as Season 2 went, this year’s half of the episodes was weaker than season 1 and the first half, but they really pulled themselves together towards the end.

Veronica Mars – Season 3′s on a new network and doing pretty well, although they’re not going to be doing an overall mystery this time around. The rape mystery was brought to a conclusion, which was pretty good, and the writing and characters are just as good this time around. Can’t wait to see the next half of the season.

House, MD – House was cured! Sort of. After getting shot, he could walk for four months. Then he’s back to drugs again, and he’s got a cop after him, a former actor from the show Hack, who’s one of the cooler new characters that’s been in the show, much better than Vogler from season 1. House is sarcastic still, and downright mean at times, and they’re really pushing his character around, which doesn’t happen that often.

Prison Break – Okay, they broke out of Fox River, and they’re on the run. A good chunk of them have been killed, right from the first episode. It was good to see the show change gears so quickly, but I don’t think that this has much life left in it. While they’re still alive, they’re still running, and they’ve done a terrific job with it.

Other good ones this year – Supernatural, LOST, Stargate SG-1/Atlantis. Supernatural‘s gotten into more of an arc, which is interesting, and they’ve really forced some characterizations out of the brothers, LOST has been interesting and Stargate‘s really gotten into it’s stride again, only to be cancelled.

Foreign TV

1- Life on Mars – Aired earlier this year on BBC1 while I was over there. I didn’t catch the show while I was in England, but I did recently. It’s one of the more imaginative and interestin series that I’ve seen, mixing police drama with science fiction and the 1970s. Brilliant show.

2 – Green Wing - This show is hilarious. Simply brilliant show, great acting, really fun sense of humor there.

Misses this year were The Nine, which should have been a movie, Six Degrees, which had an interesting concept, but handled poorly with some bad characters. Smith was promising, but it never took off, which was a shame, that one I actually liked.

In the upcoming year, I’m only looking forwards to one show, and that’s The Dresden Files, airing on SCIFI in January, based off of the books by Jim Butcher. It looks really good, and I can’t wait to watch it.

When We Collide

I’m going insane.

Between my mad rush to get my final papers in and my co workers at work, I think that I’m going to be insane by the end of the year. If you see a babbling idiot in the corner, that’ll be me.

My final exam for Gothic lit was pushed back a day, which was nice, because I got some extra time to polish it up a little and get some things done with the assignments. I did have a scare when I went to print off my Reading Journal – turns out the copy that I was saving was somewhere else, while the one that I printed off was somewhere else. Arg. However, it gave me some extra time to slack a bit and I essentially lost a day to study for History and work on my remaining English project for American Short Stories. I’ll be doing that tonight, and probably pretty early in the morning, before I go off to work.

And I have nothing against my co-workers. They’re nice people, but just too damn hyper. And immature at times. It’s just… arg. Too much stress to think about.

It’ll all be over soon, when exams are finished on Sunday, which will be a huge relief for me. I’m more than ready for this semester to be over.

New Galactica tomorrow night, then a break. I was just reading an article on what’ll be happening in the next part of the season. There’s supposed to be a major death – something that’ll shake up the entire season. I’m betting it’ll be Starbuck, because… I have my reasons. I’m just guessing that’ll be her that’ll bite it. Which’ll suck, because I like her, if it does happen like I think it will, and for the reasons that I suspect it’ll happen.

In other news, Gateworld just announced that there’s a third Stargate series in the works! Good timing too, because SG-1 is going off the air after ten seasons. AND, Jewel Straite, best known for her work as Kaylee from Firefly, will be a regular in Stargate Atlantis!

Dropping like a rock

Want to see what made Friday night’s episode of Galactica so good?

Keep in mind that that’s something the size of an Aircraft carrier, if not bigger, and isn’t designed for atmospheres. And it’s falling. There’s more to the episode that’s just plain awesome, but that part made everyone in the room just cheer.

Stunned…

Galactica is officially the best show ever. Resistance moving up. Adama’s back. Decoy Battlestars. Raptors and vipers. GALACTICA JUMPING INTO NEW CAPRICA’S ATMOSPHERE AND JUMPING OUT. VIPERS IN ATMO. The Pegasus, oh god, the pegasus. The fleet and humanity reunited.

Best. Episode. Ever.

Major squee.