Battlestar Galactica



While last week’s start to Caprica, SyFy has launched its second show in its Battlestar Galactica franchise, looking to the roots of the conflict that forced out the Galactica and a small group of refugees across the stars. For me, Battlestar Galactica was an incredible effort, a show that helped redefine science fiction storytelling for the television, and did so in grand style. Following it up would be an incredibly difficult task for the show runners, given the complexity of Battlestar’s stories, but also in the fact that the audience would be entering a show in which they knew the ending, and would undoubtedly disappoint some viewers with unveiling some of the more shrouded elements of the show’s past.
I think Caprica will be a good success for the SyFy channel, and with the pilot, they have demonstrated what is most likely the most important thing with a sequel: creating a new story and mythology, rather than trying to recreate the prior show’s success by running it through a photocopier. Caprica shares some vital links to it’s predecessor show, through some of the vocabulary, locations, characters (The Adams or Adama family in particular) and through one of the main elements of Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons.
What impressed me the most was not so much the continuity of the two shows, but the continuity of storytelling. In the early seasons of Battlestar, critics praised the show for its examination of real life issues in a science fiction background, such as the use of torture in the midst of wartime, military and civilian relations, and the use of terrorist bombings against two sides of any issue. This was a strong element, coupled with other, loftier issues, such as gender identity in science fiction (and in television in general), religion and the responsibilities of leaders. Caprica seems poised to take the helm with this style of storytelling, and where Battlestar was a product of current events out of 2001 through 2003, SyFy’s new show is the product of the past decade.
Where Battlestar Galactica was primarily focused on the survivors of the colonial holocaust and their search for a new home, Caprica is not necessarily limited by those same constraints, instead able to focus on an entirely different set of issues, all the while putting forth a story that will help examine the underlying society and events that preceded the human/cylon war. From the pilot alone, it looks like there will be an entirely new set of stories to tell, themes that Battlestar never touched on, which gives Caprica (thus far) an entirely different tone and feel; themes such as religion and society, immigration and racism and the conflict between a learned, modern society and the tug of older, established belief system. All of these are stories that are highly relevant in today’s society, given the hostility of extremist jihadist movements in the Middle East towards the West, but also our own societal growth spurt with the digital revolution.
One scene that stuck out for me took place shortly after a train bombing killed a number of people, and brought together two families, the Adams and the Greystones, both of whom lost family members in the blast. The bomb was triggered by one of Zoe Greystone’s friends, who shouts out: “The one true God shall drive out the many!”. Extremism has always existed within organized religion, and it is a particularly notable topic considering the age that we live in today. This particular storyline, expanded upon in the pilot, is one that I hope will remain in the show, as the creators work more towards unveiling the vast differences in the different planets of the colonies. Already, viewers can see that there are many sides to the issue, from the legal standpoint to the cultural impact that such violence brings to the table.
At some point on the franchise’s canon, the colonies will be united under one government, and at this stage, there’s clearly quite a bit more in the way of problems between the planets – this was an issue that was only touched on for a couple episodes in Galactica, but it seems to be brought up to the forefront, not only with the religion aspect of the show, but also with the perceptions of others in the form of racism. In this set of worlds, we see a society that is not too dissimilar from our own. While we’re on only one planet, issues with race and religion are prevalent within the United States, as well as across the world, and Caprica shows us that even in space, we will be just as dysfunctional as we are on the ground.
This is the primary strength of science fiction: to examine the world that we live in by taking our everyday problems and taking them out of context, putting them into new stories so that people will read or watch and think about problems in new ways. This has been a trait in the genre for a long time, and Caprica is a shining example of a continuing example of this, much as Battlestar Galactica was when it was first launched. While I still have some doubts that the show will live up to Battlestar, it’s clear that it’s already well on its way towards doing so, because of the changes that the show’s production team have made. Where Battlestar Galactica showed us what would happen to humanity in its darkest hours; Caprica will show us what happens when we are at our best, and between the two shows, it will show us the distance that we can fall, and just how much we can lose.

Top Geek Things of 2009

Now that it’s close to the end of the year, it’s time to look back, like everyone else and their mother on the internet, on the past year. 2009 has been a fantastic one for all things geek. There have been a number of fantastic movies, books, television shows and so forth, as well as a bunch of things that really didn’t come off as well. Here’s what I’ve been geeking out (or complaining about) this year:

The Best:

Moon is easily one of the best Science Fiction films that I’ve ever seen. Ever. It’s been added to a very small list of films (The Fountain, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, etc) of exceptionally conceptualized, produced and thoughtful SF/F films out there. Moon is one of two really good films this year that I really enjoyed and for a number of reasons. The story is fantastic, playing off of common themes with new eyes, it’s visually stunning and it’s a largely original story, one that’s not based directly off of prior works. And, it has a fantastic soundtrack by Clint Mansell.

Star Trek
This appears three times on this list, because I’m still largely split over how I feel about it. The best parts of this is that it’s a fantastic, visually stunning film, and really does what Enterprise and Nemesis failed to do: reboot the franchise in grand style, with over the top action, adventure, everything that really comes to mind when you think Big Budget Space Movie. The cast, pacing and visuals made this one of the most successful films of the year, and the best of the big budget films that came out this year.

District 9
When it comes to fantastic Science Fiction films, Moon and Star Trek didn’t have a monopoly on this at all – District 9, coming out of San Diego Comic Con with an incredible amount of buzz and a good viral marketing campaign showed that there was still a place for an innovative filmmaker armed with a good story. The end result is a compelling take on first contact. Instead of an us against them, or invaders from outer space flick, we see refugees from outer space, with an acute political message that makes this movie even more interesting.

The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button
This was an interesting film, one that got a bit of press, but wasn’t a blockbuster by any means. The story of a man who ages backwards from birth, one that proved to be a powerful and somewhat heartbreaking love story leaves much room for discussion, but at points, was slow and ponderous. Brad Pitt did a fantastic job, as did the special effects artists who provided the CGI throughout.

The Magicians, Lev Grossman
The Magicians was a book that came out of nowhere for me, until a Borders email let me know about it. Picking it up, with few expectations, I was enthralled with Lev Grossman‘s take on the fantasy world. Drawing much from C.S. Lewis‘s Chronicles of Narnia and elements of Harry Potter, this book looks at a boy in a magical academy in a far more realistic sense, injecting a good dose of post-college reality into a field that is often ripe with monsters and epic quests. A quest of sorts is in here, but the buildup is fantastic.

Wired For War, P.W. Singer
Wired For War is a book from earlier this year that looked at the developments of robotics in warfare. P.W. Singer takes a long and comprehensive look at not only the state of robots and their use in combat operations, but also looks to how the use of robotics is integrated into wartime planning, and how this impacts command and control structures already in place. From this point, he looks to the future of warfare, where robotics will go through the next decades and what the face of futuristic warfare might look like. It’s also peppered with numerous Science Fiction references. I had a chance to speak with and interview Mr. Singer, who was extremely pleasant and eager to talk about his book, and write up several major articles for io9, which was a thrill as always.

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
Recently selected as one of Time Magazine’s top books of the year, Paolo Bacigalupi‘s first novel, The Windup Girl is a stunning one. Taking place in the near future, in a world without oil, alternative energy has become paramount, while agricultural firms have put profit before common sense and as a result, plagues ravage the world, except for Thailand, whose isolationist policies hold back the outside world and its problems. The book covers a lot of ground, from governmental policy to corporate greed to bioethics, with a wide range of characters who all fall within a gray area. This book is fantastic, and if it doesn’t win a Hugo, there’s seriously something wrong with the world.

The Moon Reigns Supreme – 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 & Water on the Moon
This year marked 40 years since 1969, when man first landed on the moon with Apollo 11, and with a successful follow-up mission with Apollo 12. Easily one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments and it has been followed up with a number of projects. NASA found and restored footage of the landing and EVA activities, cleaning it up a little. NASA also took pictures from orbit of the Apollo landing sites, down to footprint trails with some stunning work from LCROSS.
In addition to NASA’s efforts to celebrate the anniversary, there were a number of other things out there. The Kennedy Library launched the website ‘We Chose the Moon‘, which documented, in real time, the Apollo 11 mission. I listened at the edge of my seat, following along with the mission transcript and listened as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface. Finally, Craig T. Nelson‘s book, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men On The Moon, was released earlier this year to also commemorate the mission, which proved to be a detailed and fantastic read, one that helped to influence my thinking on the lunar mission.
The Lunar landing wasn’t the only press that the moon got this year – the LCROSS mission launched a component that slammed into the surface and let up a plume of debris – analysis revealed that there is water on the moon – a lot of it. And for all of those people who complained about this, keep in mind the number of craters that are already there.

Last servicing mission to Hubble.
NASA wasn’t just in the news for Apollo 11; this year marked the last servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990. Despite its troubled history, the satellite has returned some of the most fantastic, beautiful and stunning images of the universe around us, and will continue to do so for a couple more years. Space Shuttle mission STS-125 was launched in May, where a new camera was placed onboard and several other minor repairs. The satellite is slated to continue operation through 2014, so don’t fret yet.

James May’s Toy Stories
James May, one of the three presenters on Top Gear, has been doing a limited TV show on classic toys, including Mecano, Plasticine, and eventually, Lego, looking a little at their history and then building something supersized out of them. It’s quite a treat to watch.

I called Fringe one of the worst things last year, but it’s turned around for me. Picking up the boxed set, I was hooked. It’s a bit cheesy, gory, but a whole lot of fun. Walter, weird science, teleportation and alternate universes make this show a huge joy to watch. Season 2 is proving to be just as good, now that they’ve locked down a story, and I’m eager to see where it goes.

Dollhouse debuted earlier this year with a short, 13 episode season that started off slowly, but picked up an incredible amount of steam. While it’s more uneven than Joss Whedon‘s earlier show, Firefly, Dollhouse‘s better episodes help make up for the slack by introducing some of the most challenging moments in Science Fiction, and deal with issues such as the soul, personality and consent, while also offering cautionary tales on the uses of technology. Unfortunately, with the show’s cancellation right as it gets good, there’s a limit to what can be told, but with plenty of time for this show to wrap up all the remaining storylines, I think that this will become a cult classic.

Battlestar Galactica
Where to begin with Battlestar Galactica? It’s been a rush over the past six or so years, with a miniseries and four seasons of television and two movies, and like all good things, it had to end sometime. Fortunately, it ended when it was good, and while the finale garnered quite a lot of talk and dismay from some people (io9 listed it as one of the bigger disappointments), I think that it was carried off well, with a rich blend of religious allegory, action and a satisfying ending that few science fiction shows seem to get.

Sadly, Kings was another short lived show that was cancelled before its time. Taking the story of David and Goliath from the Bible and updating it in a modern, alternate world with inter-kingdom politics, faith and destiny. The stories were superb, well told, with a fantastic cast. This is precisely the type of show that should have been on SyFy, especially with their upcoming show Caprica.

Stargate: Universe
SyFy’s latest show from the Stargate Franchise, Stargate: Universe is possibly the most interesting and compelling installment in the series. Taking the very basics of Stargate SG-1/Stargate Atlantis, this show takes more cues from Battlestar Galactica than it does Stargate. The result is a far more realistic show, with more personal stories and situations that are much darker, and more grown up from the first show.

Landing At Point Rain
The Clone Wars thunders on, with mixed results, but easily the best episode that’s aired thus far is Landing At Point Rain. Taking influences from Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan and other war movies, the show finally lives up to its title: The Clone Wars. There’s plenty of action, less of the stupid lines and fantastic animation that really made this episode one of the most exciting moments in the entire franchise.

The Hazards of Love, by the Decemberists
The Decemberists have long dabbled in interesting and wordy music, as well as fantasy, with their last album, The Crane Wife, and The Tain, but The Hazards of Love is their most ambitious attempt at a concept album to date, one with an overarching story of Margaret and William, a town girl and a cursed man, their love for one another and the Forest Queen who conspires to keep them apart. The album is filled with supernatural elements, and seems to draw from Lord of the Rings and traditional mythic stories to put together one of their best works to date. The band in concert was also a treat to see.

Do You Want To Date My Avatar?
I’m not all that familiar with The Guild, but Felica Day‘s clever music video is hands down fantastic.

Dr. Horrible Wins an Emmy
Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog was one of the coolest things to come out last year, and this year, it received an Emmy, which helps to solidify the web as a growing platform for serious and professionally produced entertainment. Hopefully, its success will mean that we’ll see smaller, independent productions going online and succeeding.

Symphony of Science
Symphony of Science is a project that puts noted scientists (notably Carl Sagan) to music by using an auto tuner. The result is a series of music videos and songs that help to convey some of the beauty and wonder of physics though some fairly clever songs. I’ve been listening to them constantly, and as a sort of electronica style music, they’re quite fun, and very geeky to listen to. Best of all, there is plans to make further songs.

Star Wars In Concert
One of the most iconic elements of Star Wars isn’t just the action and epic story; it’s the music that it’s set to. For much of this fall, a travelling show, entitled Star Wars In Concert has been travelling around the nation. Unfortunately, it’s winding down, but it will likely continue into next year. The 501st was called out at most of the events, and through that, I was able to watch the show. Combining a live orchestra, clips from the movies and narration from Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), the entire evening was a fantastic experience that gave me chills throughout.

Tauntaun Sleeping Bag
The Tauntaun Sleeping bag started out as an April Fool’s Joke, but the demand and interest was so prevalent that ThinkGeek actually went out and made it. What a fantastic idea – I kind of want one.

The final thing on this list is Slingers, a short conceptual teaser for a show that’s heading towards production. The 3 minute teaser is easily one of the best moments in SF that I’ve seen in a while and I’ve been bouncing around, positively giddy at the prospect that this might be made. It’s got humor, some interesting characters and a very cool look to the future. Plus, it’s a space show, and there aren’t many of those around now. It left me seeing more, and I’m sure that we’ll see more in the next year or so.


For all the hype, Fanboys was a bit of a letdown. The cancer story was kept in, but so were some of the immature and cheap laughs that brought the entire film down. It’s good for a laugh, and there’s a lot that went right with it, but still, I was left wishing that there was more to it, without the frat boy humor in it.

Don’t get me wrong, Watchmen was stunning. It looked, felt and acted like the comic book that it was inspired by, and the transition to the screen worked fairly well. At the same time, for all the hype that there was here, I’m not that enthused to see it more than once or twice. It’s still on my to get list, but it’s not necessarily a priority. I think my biggest issue with this is that it’s too much like the comic book, and that the drive to make everything exact harmed the overall production. It’s less of a movie than it is an homage from the director. Sin City was the perfect comic book movie, this wasn’t, and it really should have been. Still, it’s worth watching.

Star Trek
Star Trek, one of the best, one of the eh, moments of the year. It looks and feels spectacular, but when you get down to it, there’s the shoddy science, and an incredibly weak story that pulls the movie along. The story’s really not what the film was about, this was a character start for more Star Trek, but for me, story is central to Science Fiction, and this just didn’t have it.

The trailers for 9 looked great, and there was quite a bit of interest in this. I went into the theater with high expectations, and those were largely met – the film looked spectacular, and it was a fun ride, but the story and characters were pretty lacking. It needed quite a bit of story and character development that was needed, and that harmed the film. Plus, it didn’t seem to know if it was a kid’s movie or one for an older audience. This is probably something to rent, not to buy.

The new V should have been great – the cast, producers and network put together a good premise, but with the first couple of episodes sped through just about everything that made the show interesting. The themes of first contact, of a ship arriving over earth with a message for peace contain so much when it comes to religion, science and society, all rich territory that could be exploited, but instead, it’s gone past too quickly, with crappy teenage romance storylines. I’ll probably not pick up watching again, but I’ll see what’s going on in the show, in case, by some miracle, it’s picked up for a second season.

The Prisoner
AMC’s The Prisoner was another show that should have been great. The trailers presented a fantastic looking story of psychological stress with a weird desert backdrop, but honestly? I can’t tell you what it was about. It was convoluted, unconnected and dull, and while it looked very pretty, and had some decent episodes, it was a pretty big letdown.

Spirit gets stuck in the mud
The Spirit Rover on Mars got mired down in a patch of sand earlier this year. Put into operation in 2004, and only intended for a 90 day mission, the rover was still going strong until it got stuck. Hopefully, the boffins over at the JPL will be able to get it out and about once again, although if I remember correctly, the last thing that they were intending to try was to back it out the way it came in. I would have thought that would have been the first thing to have tried.

Google Wave – lights are on, but there’s nobody there.
Late this year, Google Wave got turned on, and like any major Google product with exclusive access, it was, well, popular. But nobody really seems to know what it’s for, and unlike Gmail, which could be used as an e-mail client from day one, its limited access restricts a lot of what you can do with this. People aren’t using it like e-mail if it was designed today; it’s essentially a glorified Gmail chat window, or a really good business collaborative tool. Still, it’s pretty nifty, and I really hope that they can integrate it into Gmail someday.


G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Transformers, Terminator & Big Budget Crap
I know I’ve singled out Star Trek a couple times here, but more than ever, especially with far superior, low budget films competing with them this year, we see once again that tons of special effects doesn’t necessarily equate to a good film. G.I. Joe landed with horrendous reviews, Star Trek had a smaller plot than a television episode and Terminator: Salvation was a huge disappointment, critically. (I thought it was decent, but nowhere near as good as the trailers led me to believe). My biggest gripe is extravagant use of CGI and an over-reliance on special effects for a dumbed down audience. Among other things, Moon and District 9 demonstrated that a good looking, intelligent film could be done for a fairly low cost, and I know that I’ll be going back to those far more than the others. Still, big budget summer movies aren’t going anywhere – a lot of these films made quite a bit, and the jury is still out on Avatar, which drops in a couple weeks.

Karen Traviss Quits Star Wars – Twice
Karen Traviss was really a shining star within the Star Wars Universe. Her first entry, Republic Commando : Hard Contact, was followed up by several very good novels, with some different and intelligent views on the Clone Wars. Then, there was a bit of a row over Mandalorians, causing her books to come into conflict with the Clone Wars TV series. Since then, there’s been a bit of a row about this, and Traviss has left the universe for others, such as Gears of War and Halo, and hopefully, her other works. Karen explains everything here, and makes some good points. She will be missed, however.

Black Matrix Publishing Row
With harder times coming around, some publishers found a new revenue stream: aspiring writers who have little common sense. One notable SF ones was Black Matrix Publishing, called out by author John Scalzi recently on his blog, Whatever. While Scalzi had quite a lot of very good advice in his usual up front fashion, there were a number of people who went on the offensive and critizised him as an elitist writer, issuing some of the most ridiculous arguments for why Black Matrix had been wronged. I’m not necessarily involved in either side, but Scalzi presented a reasonable argument. Why is that so hard?

The ending to Life On Mars
I really got into Life on Mars. It wasn’t as good as the UK version, but it was unique, interesting and divergent from it. While the show basically adapted the original show to a large extent at first, they had an interesting pace and storyline starting up, and far better than the first pilot that was shot, which was just terrible. The creators had a delicate balancing act to follow, and did a very good job with giving their characters their own personalities and stories that diverged from the UK version. Then, the show was cancelled and they ended it, and the last ten minutes of the show just dropped like a rock. Clunky, very, very poor production values that made me wonder if this was all slapped together at the last minute, and quite honestly, it dimmed the entire series for me, especially compared to the brilliance of the UK version. I’ll watch the show again, but I’ll be doing my best to forget about the conclusion.

SciFi becomes SyFy, nobody cares
One of the biggest furies of the year was when SciFi became SyFy, and the internet erupted into such indignation that I thought the world was going to end. Quite simply, the channel changed names to create a stronger brand, not change content, and so far, they seem to be doing pretty well, with Warehouse 13, Stargate Universe, Alice and presumably, Caprica doing really well in the ratings. All of which is good, for the network to expand further and really show that geek is really in right now. While the name looks silly, it’s really a superficial change. Now, if they would just get rid of wrestling. Or pick up Slingers for five seasons.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashes – Mission Failure
This was a satellite that I tracked earlier this year while really watching the space stuff. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory was an expensive one, designed to monitor global carbon levels to get a better idea just how climate change is progressing and providing us with a very good look at just how the environment is changing around us. Ultimately though, part of the nose failed to separate from the capsule, and with the extra weight, the rocket crashed into the south Atlantic.

Heroes continues. Meh.
I’ve given up on Heroes, after the dismal decline in quality, storytelling and characters. They should have stuck with the original plan, and killed off the first season’s cast when they had the chance, instead of bringing people back time and time again. The fact that ratings are declining is just stunning to me, especially now that the show is into it’s fourth season, and I have doubts that it will return. Hopefully not.

Look, if I want to watch LOST, I’ll watch LOST. I’m not going to watch a show that’s a poor copy of it.

Every year, there are a number of deaths in the geek genre/fan community. A couple notable ones were Ricardo Montalbán, who played Kahn in Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, Michael Jackson, who’s song Thriller places him on the Geek spotlight, Kim Manners (X-Files/Supernatural Producer), Philip José Farmer, author of Riverworld and numerous other SF books, Dave Arneson, one of the D&D co-founders, and Norman Borlaug, who saved the world through science. There are others I’m sure, but it’s still hard to see people in the genre leave us forever.


A couple of unknowns for me include The Lovely Bones, Sherlock Holmes, Avatar and Zombieland, which I haven’t seen, Deathtroopers, which I haven’t read, and Halo ODST, which I haven’t played. (Okay, haven’t played much. I’ve liked what I’ve played. And the soundtrack. And the fact that the entire Firefly cast is somewhere in there)

What’s coming up for next year? The new Tron movie is coming out, which I’m horribly excited for, especially after watching the trailer and then the old movie. Slingers is likely going to get some more buzz. Iron Man 2 will be big, as well as Clash of the Titans, Inception (Really want to see that one), Chronicles of Narnia 3, The Book of Eli, and Toy Story 3. Hopefully, Scott Lynch will have his third book out, and Caprica will be beginning (High hopes for that one), as well as the second half  and second Season of Stargate: Universe. Who knows what else?

But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate

I almost hardly know where to start with a review such as this. Battlestar Galactica is finally over, after an unprecedented run over the past five or so years. Over the course of four seasons, a miniseries and film, Galactica has far and above exceeded expectations, and will likely be known as one of the greatest Science Fiction television shows to appear on our screens, indeed, one of the best television programs to have ever been created. There will be spoilers for the finale of this episode, so be warned.

The final episode has come amidst years of speculation and expectations, and was something that seems almost impossible to have been able to successfully wrap up a show with so much momentum and story behind it; yet, while watching on Friday night, I found my expectations blown away and replaced with genuine surprise throughout. There were many things that I had essentially accepted would happen – I predicted that Adama would die aboard the Galactica in a blaze of glory, that Lee and Kara would be finally united, that we would have a fundamental happy ending for the show, something to redeem the last four seasons of misery and heartbreak for the colonial survivors. But, in the way that good stories often are, Ron Moore and his fantastic team of writers have crafted something more. None of those predictions happened – Adama survived (although the Galactica was destroyed, for sure), Kara and Lee go their separate ways and the result is a fulfilling end, something far better than what I had predicted.

From the miniseries, Battlestar Galactica has remained a show that was consistently good, and one that held broad appeal to a wide audience. On the surface, for the first couple of seasons, the show was mainly a science fiction adventure, with space ships, action, robots and the vague notion that the fleet would continue on towards earth, giving the show’s creators an easy out once the show started to wind down. But at the end of Season 1, the seeds of something far greater started, with the discovery of Kobol, which brought the show to something much more interesting, injecting religion, destiny, fate and a number of other heady concepts into the plotlines.

The finale itself has been described as brilliant, fullfilling and uneven by a number of reviewers, and each point has its merits. The finale is indeed well done, and a fantastic end to the series, but it is at the same time uneven, with the first half essentially an entire season’s work of special effects work, and some of the best action that we’ve seen in the entire series, from ground combat against Cavil’s forces, to some spectacular space sorties (although I have to say, my favorite space battles include the Battle of the Asteroid in Season 1, and the opening battle for Season 4). This first episode essentially brings everything to an exciting head, and brings out some of the best in the most unlikely characters. Baltar has his heroic moment after his talk with Lee about his self-centered nature, Cavill agrees to negotiate, and Boomer sacrifices herself to hand over Hera. It is here that we essentially learn the nature of the shared visions between Baltar, Roslin, Athena and Caprica 6. The climax of this part helps to fulfill Kara’s destiny as well, giving purpose to the song that she has been hearing, and brings the story to its natural conclusion that has been building since the miniseries: she brings the fleet to Earth. Not the bombed out and uninhabitable Earth that they discovered earlier in the season, but the Earth that we now call our home.

Starbuck has been one of show’s hallmark characters since the beginning, initially, because the character had been turned from a male in the original to a female in the new version, which caused much uproar from fanboys before subsiding. Since early in the show, Starbuck has been singled out as a special character, one with a growing significance over the course of the show, the highlight of this coming with her ‘death’ in the Season 3 episode Maelstrom, and her rebirth at the end of the episode Crossroads.

Kara Thrace’s story arc has been an interesting one throughout the show, especially between her tent pole episodes You Can’t Go Home Again, Scar and Maelstrom. Her story is complex, and where it would have been easier for Moore & co. to have simply explained away her special nature as being a Cylon, they resisted this temptation and made her something more – her true nature is never explained away, but in the finale, when Starbuck simply vanishes into thin air, her true nature almost doesn’t need to be explained – there is a certain mystery and allure to her character that enriches the experience, and I believe that a straightforward explanation of her character would cheapen that.

Gaius Baltar is possibly one of the characters that has changed the most over the course of the series, beginning his life as a brilliant scientist who rejects the notion of a supreme being and religion, to someone who not only accepts the idea, but embraces it and that he holds a purpose in a larger picture. He fills the role between the side of faith and religion and reason and science.

Intertwining with Balter’s evolution has been the presence of model # 6, known as Caprica. For the first chunk of the series, she really only existed in Baltar’s head, until later on, when the Cylons split, and a number were captured or fled to the fleet. Capica, the flesh and blood model, likewise saw Baltar in her head. Both stated that they had destinies, that they had a place in god’s plan. To someone like Baltar, this provided both amusement for the audience, but also an excellent story mechanism that helped drive his character, and provided some of the initial development. In the end, this ties together with Hera’s fate, as well as the hallucinations that Sharon and Roslin saw.

Hera was a central part of the story from fairly early on, and she is essentially responsible for the last story arc of the series, with her capture and experimentation, and the subsequent rescue that the remains of the Colonial Fleet mounted to get her back. This has been building from the end of Season 1, where we learned that an upcoming hybrid child would have enormous consequences for the fleet. While a lot of the fanbase suspected that there was something to this, such as that she had abilities or something along those lines, this was something more simple, more elegant – Hera united the fleet and Cylon/Human factions, and brought forth a new era on their new home.

Halfway through Season 4, Kara leads humanity to Earth, where they find it bombed out and uninhabitable, after having found Kobol and New Caprica and left them. Having left Earth for new pastures, Starbuck once again brings humanity to salvation by randomly jumping the Galactica to safety after the battle with Cavill’s forces, jumping right on top of the Moon and is joined shortly thereafter by the rest of the fleet, hundreds of thousands of years in our past.

As Adama notes to Roslin, Earth is an idea, and this is their Earth. In a way, this explains why the colonists never settled on the Kobol and New Caprica after the fall – this wasn’t their Earth. Obviously, the story wasn’t finished, but neither location would have provided any fulfilling conclusion to the human race – neither location was Earth. Earth, in this show, essentially provided humanity with hope, a reason to continue, and a home in which the slate was wiped clean, where they could completely start over. Kobol had too much history wrapped up in it, too much blood, while New Caprica was a convenient stopping point to appease political pressures, while sporting an unpleasant climate. The second Earth, our Earth, represented everything that Kobol and New Caprica didn’t – a rebirth of society. The refugees rejected technology and in essence, everything that had happened before, to break the cycle and bring about Six’s conclusion that humanity would not follow the same path that is had been consigned to before.

The last five minutes of the show proves to be the most on the nose and profound when it comes to delivering any sort of message in the show, as the episode jumps forward 150,000 years to modern day New York City, while Baltar’s 6 and 6’s Baltar (whom we now know are Angels or similar messenger) observes that society has become decedent with commercialism and technology, much like it had before in Kobol, the first Earth and Caprica, part of the repeating nature of parts of the show’s mythos: “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.” Yet, as Caprica notes, any complex system that tends to repeat itself will have its anomalies. The real question at the end of the episode, of course, is did the colonists break the cycle, or did they merely slow it down?

The balance between science / technology and human maturity is a theme that has long been used in science fiction. Numerous writers have talked about the subject, noting that our ability to create is often not outpaced by our ability to utilize our creations wisely. Such has been the case in Galactica’s world, where humans create, but are ultimately destroyed by their creations, as we see throughout the show on Capria, Kobol and the first Earth. As the episode draws to a close with Jimi Hendrix’s version of All Along The Watchtower, we are treated to a short series of clips of modern day robots, which had an odd prophetic feel to it – will we, in this world, follow in the footsteps of stories past, or, will we follow in Six’s prediction that we will be the anomaly in god’s complex series of systems?

The episode Crossroads ended with a Galactica version of Bob Dylan‘s fantastic song All Along the Watchtower, and so this episode ended with Hendrix’s version, playing on a boom box in Times Square. While this was a bit of an odd choice for a musical selection for the show, there are many elements of the song that make this a fitting choice, one that has a lot of meaning wrapped up within it – in particular, the imagry of a god overlooking his creation, with its subjects trying to figure things out within – this fits very closely with the show, especially with this conclusion, to the song. It is an appropriate and fantastic way to conclude this fantastic show.

So Say We All.

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.


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.