In the interest of getting away from political content on this blog, I want to write something I’ve been dying to write for awhile now–a critique of the stupidest thing in science fiction. No, it’s not Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda (though that’s close.) No, it’s not Star Trek Into Darkness, though that is one epically stupid movie by anyone’s standards. It is Star Trek related, however, but it has nothing to do with the transporter problem, everyone being a rubber forehead alien, time travel shenanigans, any number of nerdgasmic miniutiae about the warp drive, or Wesley Crusher.
No, it’s actually one of my favorite things about Star Trek–the Mirror Universe.
Now, I’m a huge fan of parallel realities, alternate histories, and other dimensions. Get me a dimension hopping story and I am just about guaranteed to read it. And I actually do like the Mirror Universe, a parallel timeline that, throughout the entirety of the franchise, is considered to be something more than just a parallel timeline (or quantum parallel, as in that episode where Worf jumps around and ends up in a universe where he banged Troi. Now there’s a time you really need to be using protection.)
I simultaneously wish more stuff was done with the Mirror Universe, and perhaps other “parallel universes,” but at the same time, I must admit…the Mirror Universe is pretty fricking dumb. I mean literally, there is no way that it should happen. Even by “Relax, it’s only a TV show” standards, it should have never come to pass. Only by the most radical version of Many Worlds Interpretation, where every single path is taken, is the Mirror Universe even feasible. Feasible, mind you, not definitely existing. I’ll explain why now. Let’s get the big thing out of the way first.
5. Spock With A Goatee
This one is just straight dumb. Spock, in a goatee? What the hell were they thinking? It’s just as ridiculous as saying that Twi’leks serve in Starfleet. Oh, wait….
In April, Banks posted a brave message announcing that he was suffering from terminal cancer, and fellow author Charles Stross has confirmed that Banks died this morning. It’s difficult to express Banks’ contribution to science fiction, engrossing readers in the vast and complex universe of the Culture for a quarter of a century.
I read the first novel in the Culture series, Consider Pheblas, last year. It was genuinely brilliant and I have been looking forward to reading the rest of his Culture novels, though I haven’t due to dealing with Darth Real Life lately.
Consider Pheblas was like reading a version of Star Wars with modern sensibilities. While I didn’t like all of it (the part with the degenerate wretches on the island on the doomed Orbital grossed me out and I thought it was unnecessary) it had the same sense of majesty, the wide open vastness of proper space opera, and even a bit of space fantasy. Obviously the tone is quite different–there’s no Force or quasi-mystical elements, at least in that book–but it was really something that I got into and thoroughly enjoyed. The man was a fantastic writer, even outside the science fiction genre, and in terms of scifi I wish it got more traction in America and help shape science fiction here. Mainly because a lot of the scifi I see these days is very postmodern introspective junk that just bores me.
Star Trek director J.J. Abrams will be helming the next Star Wars movie. “It’s done deal with J.J.,” a source with knowledge of the situation told Deadline today. Argo director Ben Affleck was also up for the gig, the source says. Despite saying publicly that he didn’t want to direct a new Star Wars, Abrams was courted heavily by producer Kathleen Kennedy to take the job. Expected in 2015, Episode VII will be the first new Star Wars movie since 2005?s Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. Michael Arndt is writing the script for the first installment of the relaunch of George Lucas’ franchise by Disney. The company bought Lucasfilm in October for $4 billion, with the Star Wars franchise the jewel in the crown. At the time, CEO Bob Iger said three more Star Wars films were in the pipeline. Abrams’ other space-based franchise sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, comes out May 17. This weekend, the PGA will honor the Lost creator and Revolution producer with its 2013 Norman Lear Award For Television. Abrams is repped by CAA and Oasis Media Group.
I never wrote my feelings up about the Star Trek reboot, but basically summed up, I gave it a 5/10–and all five points came from the soundtrack and the visual techniques. The story was an absolute train wreck, a senseless mishmash of one testosterone-fueled fantasy after another, completely lacking any of the logic or intelligence that was the original series of Star Trek had. The original series, from the 1960s, had serious science fiction writers writing the scripts, exploring topics of racism, sexism, collectivism vs. individualism, the rising might of technology, and what it meant to be human. Abrams’ movie was about kicking ass and scoring ass. I mean, the instant promotion from cadet to captain (oh, sure, that makes sense), the bar fight idiocy, even the very part about not going back and resetting the timeline, because they’ve always done that–there were a great many things about the plot that were just dumb.
It wasn’t all dumb–the characters were kinda enjoyable, in their own way, and there were some funny lines. But by and large, it was pretty bad.
I’m not going to all of a sudden write off Star Wars now that J.J. Abrams is directing it. He has done good stuff. Lots of people liked Lost. I’m a big fan of his show Fringe (except the last season). But, to paraphrase one rebel…
Earlier, I wrote about how technology was advancing, and because of that advance, we were well and truly in the future. Now, I want to write about something much more pedantic:
Now that we’re in the year 2013, we are officially in the future.
I know it sounds really silly, but think about it. In science fiction, particularly television shows, the 21st century was always “the future.” It was always 20XX (some older shows were based in 2001, 2006, 2010, or even 2012, but it usually it was around 2020 or later.) For some reason, that first “20” was both insulatingly distant and yet tantalizingly close. The 22nd century of the original Star Trek, or the 4th millennium (so, 3000-4000 if my math is right) were just a bit too distant for the same feeling.
The feeling that this was going to be us soon. It wasn’t going to be some fictional land. It was going to be us.
Naturally, most of those visions never panned out, and thank goodness for that. Many science fiction writers were small-minded, pessimistic eco-socialists, and so penned many a story with giant megacorporations pillaging the common man and ruining the Earth. Fortunately, though, the future has turned out to be far better; even with the cronyism run amok in the country’s financial industry, which led to a catastrophic and disastrous recession, we now have iPhones which contain the entirety of human knowledge in the palms of our hands; our economic liberties–while having taken a beating–are not out of the fight; our planet is actually as beautiful as ever (thanks to rapidly developing recycling, cleaning, and energy technologies); and though I am deeply disturbed about our personal and civil liberties taking one shellacking after another by consecutive Republican and Democratic administrations, I am still optimistic in the long run they will be fine.
And here we are, in 2013, a realm of limitless possibilities. We’re in the Future. All those science fiction stories you read when you were younger are us today. Make the most of it.
This is truly a great list here from the folks at BuzzFeed. The past year–indeed, the past decade–have seen some amazing technological leaps and discoveries. The science fiction world of even the 1980s, or even the mid 1990s, is within our grasp. And I suspect that by 2022, only ten years from now, ideas that we have floating around now in our heads will be within our grasp too.
The only thing I quibble with is 18. No doubt that’s cool. But are solar panels really reaching the point where they’re competitive with fossil fuels? No. Not by a long shot. I don’t care if that thing is half the price of traditional solar panels. You need more than just the input cost to make that kind of evaluation. What kind of energy levels do you get out of it? Is it anywhere near enough energy to supply the world? I don’t think so. Robert Bryce in the Wall Street Journal notes that demand for electricity increases so fast we would have to add one Brazil worth of power generators to the energy sector every year. You can’t do that with solar panels; they just don’t generate enough.
Also, 13, 19, and 26: they’re cool and all, but is that really the “future”? Hardly. They are discoveries out there, but the “future” is really predicated on technology. That stuff is just seeing things from very far away and in the past. Even though 19 is really cool.
Otherwise, though, a stupendous list. I look forward to the next article BuzzFeed writes in 2013.
You may ask why I put down “Part 1” in the title. That’s because I was originally planning on doing a “Welcome to the Future” post in January, after the apocalypse ended, because in 2013, that’s when the notion of the “future” in terms of science fiction really hits home. But I’ll save that for January.
Until then, welcome to the future. It’s already here. And it’s getting better all the time.
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for some time now, but every time I tried to get at it something came up. Well, come hell, high water, or a rent check, I’m going to pen a few words here about how I think Transformers: Prime is one of the better shows on TV, and why I think it should be the model for most children television. Or why, maybe, I just haven’t watched cartoons in so long.
“It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ to on to a new generation of filmmakers,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement.
With all due respect, Mr. Lucas, no, you don’t.
I understand that we pass on stories between generations all the time. In the earliest era of human history, all stories were passed down orally. Different speakers, undoubtably, would change or alter these stories. But that was then, and I’m not talking about that. This is the 21st century, and to me, the very idea of an author “passing on” a story doesn’t really work.
When you write a story–really write one, and by that I mean create the characters, the backstory, the setting, the conflict, to generate all those players and then put them into action, arrayed against another–it is yours. It comes deep from the depths of your mind, and even, perhaps, your soul. Excellent writers do that; the story they create is not just a story, it’s a piece of them.
Imagine reading a story by a person with no opinions, no feelings, no real life experiences beyond the humdrum, and no real impetus to embue said story with those qualities. An automaton, if you will. (Or a droid, if you prefer.) It would be very wooden. Technically proficient, but utterly cold and dreadfully boring. It would have no spark, no life.
It would be dead.
Lucas, when he created Star Wars, didn’t do that. He took his childhood wonder and fully immersed his story within that, with the amazing scenery and boundless breadth of the Star Wars galaxy. He took his personal sense of heroics and swashbuckling bravery, the interest in mysticism, basically what was there and made it into one of–if not the–greatest franchises in the history of humanity.
I could not make the same story Lucas did. Neither could Spielberg. Or Michael Crichton. Or Faulkner. Or anyone else. Stories are personal. That’s why there are so many fanfic authors out there. Because when you write a story, you’re pouring a little bit of yourself out and presenting it to the world. (Don’t worry, though, you’re a never-emptying teacup, even when your throat is dry.)
I understand what Lucas is saying, in terms of pure commerce, but let’s be real here. He could never truly pass on Star Wars. Look at the Expanded Universe. Look where it has gone astray in recent years. That’s not George Lucas writing there. It doesn’t feel like Star Wars because it doesn’t have him in it. To be fair, this is understandable and to a degree acceptable in modern, large-scale, sprawling continuities with multiple authors and a large Expanded Universe. A media company is going to hire on writers to actually create the extra content, and generally selects authors who are similar to–or at least, can write appropriately close enough to–the original. (Unless they deliberately want to take a different tack, which is a technique that can, on occasion, work. But that’s dangerous ground to tread, in my opinion.) At the end of the day, however, it is still the baby of the original writer. None of the other Expanded Universe authors, even if they create new characters and new settings within that universe, really own it. They’re just playing in Mr. Lucas’ sandbox with his permission.
I’m not terribly afraid that Disney will totally destroy Star Wars. (I mean, it’s kinda been destroyed already, if you ask me and a bunch of other fans.) I just think that Mr. Lucas can’t do what he’s saying. He will never be separable from his creation. He can never pass it on.
Whatever Disney does, it will be “Disney Star Wars,” not Star Wars. We must all search our feelings. We all know this to be true.
5:03 p.m. | Updated LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Company, in a move that gives it a commanding position in the realm of fantasy movies, said Tuesday it had agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. from its founder, George Lucas, for $4.05 billion in stock and cash.
The sale provides a corporate home for a private company that grew from Mr. Lucas’s hugely successful “Star Wars” series, and became an enduring force in creating effects-driven science fiction entertainment for large and small screens. Mr. Lucas, who is 68 years old, had already announced he would step down from day-to-day operation of the company.
Snark aside, while Twitter is predicatably blowing up about this, I’m not terribly worried. It might even be good. They might reset the Expanded Universe, which after the horror of the Yuuzhan Vong and the New Jedi Order would be a good idea, and is absolutely mandatory for the garbage Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series that came after. After all, the stories are more or less done, it’s not like they’re really going to make any new movies–
In a hastily convened conference call with investors Tuesday afternoon, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said the company plans to release a seventh “Star Wars” feature film in 2015, with new films in the series coming every two or three years after that. Mr. Lucas will be a consultant on the film projects, Mr. Iger said.