Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Crowd Hoot
July 11, 2009 3:32 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of Torchwood: Children of the Earth (screening on BBC America on the 20th for those in the US not inclined to muck about with the internets) critic Patrick West declares the British incapable of making decent television science fiction. (via)
posted by Artw (172 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
There should be SPOILERFILTER all over this?

I'm afraid to touch it even with YOUR ten foot pole.
posted by hippybear at 3:36 PM on July 11, 2009


Relatively spoiler free, though the first link does have an episode description of Episode 5.
posted by Artw at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2009


And everyones going to just be cool in the comments, right guys?
posted by Artw at 3:39 PM on July 11, 2009


But Torchwood was never good? Case in point, the 2nd episode:
After accidentally releasing a mysterious gas from a comet that landed, a new type of alien is let loose on the streets - an alien that's addicted to sex. Torchwood must find the inhabited body, and prevent any more deaths from the violent form of sex.
posted by smackfu at 3:41 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Every single epsidoe of Torchwood I have seen, without exception, has been fuckawful. This new miniseries is reckoned to be something a little special though.
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There should be SPOILERFILTER all over this?

The Spiked tag is spoiler enough for me. It lets me know that I'm about to read yet another piece of banal, contrary rubbish.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:43 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not Britain, the BBC.
posted by fire&wings at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2009


Firstly, deriding Doctor Who as camp is moronic. Doctor Who is one of the great sci-fi television programmes, and just because it has a sense of humour about itself doesn't change that.

Second, apparently the British never actually produced Jekyll, Life on Mars, Survivors, Ultraviolet, Eleventh Hour or Red Dwarf. Good to know.
posted by mightygodking at 3:51 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


And as everyone knows, ‘cult programme’ is euphemism for ‘shit programme’.

OH HELL NO

Vastly better critics than this dork have ripped on Torchwood, and while many of the criticisms hold a lot of water -- it's a show afflicted with more than its share of cliched plots, it doesn't do enough to set itself apart from obvious forerunners like The X-Files and Angel (hell, it introduced James Marsters as Spike in sci-fi drag, fer chrissake), it's sometimes just bad -- those criticisms always leave out that it's got (or, well, had) a good cast that's fun to watch, literate scripts, and the occasional honest to God fuck-yeah moment/episode. It's not great TV, or even great sci-fi TV, but it's good junk food TV. That may not sound like much, but sit down and watch (or try to watch) an episode of Heroes sometime. Uh-huh.

Also, SPOILERS, but any show that derives the plot of its five-part probable series finale from an Uncyclopedia article has my everlasting respect.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Childeren of Earth was horrible. I really wanted to like it, but it stank so bad... If you want to watch the end of the series, watch it. If you want good Sci-fi.. go read a book!
posted by Catblack at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2009


Knock, knock.

Who's there?

I Love doctor.

I love doctor who?

NEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRD!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:02 PM on July 11, 2009 [50 favorites]


Firstly, deriding Doctor Who as camp is moronic. Doctor Who is one of the great sci-fi television programmes, and just because it has a sense of humour about itself doesn't change that.

Dr Who in it's heyday was great television- and most probably more because is was a first rather than being actually good. The latest have been garbage.

Life on Mars suffered from an being all dressed up and nowhere to go. The premise was interesting-ish, but the actual substance was weak. It boiled down to standard cops and crims fare with the odd flashback/mental moment - even with Sam's "modern" methods.

Torchwood is terrible

But there is pathetically little in the way of really good scifi- Firefly was terrible- embarrassingly terrible.
posted by mattoxic at 4:04 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This begs the question: does any country make decent science fiction television? If not (and I think the answer is no), then it's not just a British problem. I like Firefly a lot, but I wouldn't necessarily call it science fiction (the mere presence of spaceships does not science fiction make). I'd say, off the top of my head, that the only decent science fiction show I can think of is Battlestar Galactica.

Also, Britain should get a partial pass for having an amazing collection of science fiction writers: Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, etc.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 4:08 PM on July 11, 2009


Not Britain, the BBC.

Not the BBC, but more specifically, Russel T. Davies.
posted by juiceCake at 4:11 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Scifi should contain subtle metaphor and satire? Subtlety of anything isn't something I'd ask for out of Torchwood...

And Captain Jack's only gay now? I guess working out of Cardiff cuts off a lot of options, alien doom magnet or no.
posted by vaghjar at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2009


I suppose it depends on what you mean by "decent".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:13 PM on July 11, 2009


Torchwood is lousy, but in a way that makes you gets your hopes up. Like the ex-girlfriend you're still in love with who calls you occasionally just to string you along. I hate Torchwood, and loathe the time I lost watching it.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:15 PM on July 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


spiked is an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free-thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it.^
posted by blue_beetle at 4:16 PM on July 11, 2009


Every single epsidoe of Torchwood I have seen, without exception, has been fuckawful. This new miniseries is reckoned to be something a little special though.
posted by Artw at 7:43 AM on July 12


I couldn't get past the third episode of the first series, or the first episode of the second series. It was sold as a more adult take on Doctor Who, but instead it was just juvenile. That said, I enjoyed Children of Earth a lot. It took a bit to get going (and didn't really need to be five hours with the amount of story it has), but it was very much worth watching.

I've heard some suggestion (on the internets) that this is a story RTD has been kicking around for a while now, not necessarily for Torchwood. That would make a lot of sense, since you could take Torchwood out of CoE it and they wouldn't be missed. It wasn't perfect, but it was quite well done, and Peter Capaldi in particular was excellent. Dismissing it because of the sex alien in episode 2 would be a mistake.
posted by dumbland at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2009


I like Firefly a lot, but I wouldn't necessarily call it science fiction (the mere presence of spaceships does not science fiction make).

If Firefly doesn't meet your definition of science fiction then your definition of science fiction needs some work. Now I don't think it was good science fiction, rabid Whedon fanbois non-withstanding (snappy dialogue is not the same as good TV), but it was clearly science fiction.

I'd say, off the top of my head, that the only decent science fiction show I can think of is Battlestar Galactica.

Yeah, uh, THE TWILIGHT ZONE (various episodes)? FRINGE? X-FILES? THE PRISONER? FARSCAPE? etc. Yeah, individual episodes have been weak but there were some pretty damn bad episodes of Battlestar Galactica so that's no objection. I loved BSG but it's extremely problematic when the best episode of a 4 season long series is its very first episode (33 1/3). With a few expections BSG never lived up to its promise. There are great parts but the whole never came together and the ending, well, yeah no thank you.
posted by Justinian at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait, this dude hasn't actually seen Children of Earth? Because there's a glaring factual error in the middle there (SPOILER: the aliens didn't choose Britain because "they make a good middleman," they chose Britain because they had previously made contact with them years earlier and had gotten something out of it. The "middleman" line is a lie the aliens tell to the world because the British government asked them to keep it quiet).

Anyway, it's kind of moot to compare the first two seasons of Torchwood with Children of Earth, because early Torchwood was kind of dopey and fun, while Children of Earth is, to quote someone I read on a discussion board, "grimmer than a burning orphanage." The focus is not so much on the Torchwood team as it is the corrupt government's reaction to the crisis, giving the whole thing a kind of 24 feel.
posted by brookedel at 4:26 PM on July 11, 2009


Some people seem to really like LOST as well which is very explicitly science fiction.
posted by Justinian at 4:26 PM on July 11, 2009


I like Firefly a lot, but I wouldn't necessarily call it science fiction (the mere presence of spaceships does not science fiction make).

Nah

Firefly was a really crap western with a spaceship thrown in.
posted by mattoxic at 4:26 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Torchwood sucks. That's coming from somebody who's seen The Room seven times. I only watched the first season of Torchwood, and I think I was forced to because I honestly don't know why else I would have kept going after the first episode. But yeah. Suck.
posted by Bageena at 4:32 PM on July 11, 2009


By that definition STAR TREK (the original) wasn't science fiction. It was explicitly pitched to the network as "Wagon Train in space." If a story is set in the future and has spaceships flying around it is science fiction. Show m a definition of science fiction that doesn't include FIREFLY and I'll show you a definition of science fiction that excludes huge swaths of excellent science fiction.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on July 11, 2009


Doctor Who both new and old series are for the most part pretty decent SciFi Fare. Yes spot episodes/seasons tend to go a bit overboard but it's not really much worse than the Star Trek Franchise on balance.

That said Torchwood is god-awful and I had much higher hopes based on the premise they setup.
posted by aaronscool at 4:33 PM on July 11, 2009


I may have to draw down upon mattoxic for besmirching the name of Firefly!

Also, the linked article cannot be complete without reference to The Tomorrow People. Damn, that's some bad British sci-fi. And if you're into those Lovecraft collections from Lurker Films, check out "Rough Magik." I had to explain to friends that British television has some radically different notions of things like "budget" and "costume;" one cannot comfortably watch the Beeb without that fact in mind.

I still haven't been able to sit through more than about ten minutes of Dr. Who, though. I've tried.
posted by adipocere at 4:36 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not only does your favorite science fiction show such, it isn't even science fiction!.
posted by yoink at 4:47 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Compared to Demons(miniseries), Torchwood is Shakespeare. Most sci-fi shows are god-awful though; there's a reason they don't usually make it past one season. (and I'm a fan of the genre)
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2009


I like ridiculous sci-fi. I dug the first series of TW. I loved the second series of TW. Children of Earth is well-written and well-acted, but because of it, I'm never watching Torchwood again.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Actually, the BBC has done excellent sci-fi in the past. For those who have not seen it, check out Blakes 7 (yes, I know, there is a missing apostrophe - that's how it is in the title credits). It's definitely a precursor to other darker sci-fi, even if it is at times a tad bit campys in that BBC early 80's production values sort of way. But overall, something pretty unique at the time, and quite good.

(fyi, you may need to search pretty hard to find it in the states)
posted by redbeard at 4:53 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


By that definition STAR TREK (the original) wasn't science fiction. It was explicitly pitched to the network as "Wagon Train in space." If a story is set in the future and has spaceships flying around it is science fiction. Show m a definition of science fiction that doesn't include FIREFLY and I'll show you a definition of science fiction that excludes huge swaths of excellent science fiction.


No very different. Star Trek had interaction with very alien species with equally alien cultures- and the intendant problems that bought. The crew worked together- and the captain had problem solving skills that went beyond punching people.

Firefly is no comparison. It is a clichéd "western" with a space ship instead of a horse. The characters without exception are wrought directly from wagon train or similar. There are no aliens- there are the invisible quasi-menace of the Reevers that are bought top bare whenever the plot needs a jolt. The Romulans and Klingons were a far superior menace.
posted by mattoxic at 4:53 PM on July 11, 2009


No very different. Star Trek had interaction with very alien species with equally alien cultures- and the intendant problems that bought. The crew worked together- and the captain had problem solving skills that went beyond punching people.

Firefly is no comparison. It is a clichéd "western" with a space ship instead of a horse. The characters without exception are wrought directly from wagon train or similar. There are no aliens- there are the invisible quasi-menace of the Reevers that are bought top bare whenever the plot needs a jolt. The Romulans and Klingons were a far superior menace.


Seriously? "It's not science fiction unless it has aliens"? Seriously?
posted by yoink at 4:57 PM on July 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


Y'know, I'm sitting through Children of Earth now, watching it on iPlayer, and...

Okay, if, like, aliens crash-landed on Earth, and they were all wacky space cultural analysts who wrote great big dissertations on how various species dealt with the potential future, and they wanted to see all our science fiction, and we just showed them Torchwood...

Then, yeah. Definitely. British sci-fi is shit.

But that totally ignores the best of Doctor Who, and The Prisoner, and the freakin' total awesomeness of Nigel Kneale.

And, yeah, okay, a lot of the time, we have awful props, and even more awful writing, but we're still looking towards the stars. Maybe not in the optimistic wonder way that Star Trek and Star Wars and JFK did, we're a bit more grim and convinced that things are going to royally fuck up, but, goddammit, we're still looking.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


By the way, if something is bad sci-fi because it has hokey sets, silly plots, soapy emoting, almost no regard for scientific plausibility, wildly uneven acting etc. etc., then Star Trek TOS is for about 70% of the time really, really, really bad sci-fi. I love Star Trek, but I remember watching it even as a kid and laughing at the ludicrousness of most of the stories they tell.

It really doesn't make much sense to judge a television series by its worst episodes. If that's your standard, then only the occasional miniseries will ever seem worthy of attention.
posted by yoink at 5:06 PM on July 11, 2009


Firefly is no comparison. It is a clichéd "western" with a space ship instead of a horse. The characters without exception are wrought directly from wagon train or similar. There are no aliens- there are the invisible quasi-menace of the Reevers that are bought top bare whenever the plot needs a jolt. The Romulans and Klingons were a far superior menace.

What does any of this have to do with whether FIREFLY is science fiction? There is plenty of science fiction without any aliens in it. There is plenty of science fiction without a realistic menace. You seem to be committing some sort of reverse No True Scotsman fallacy. "It's SHIT therefore it isn't science fiction!".
posted by Justinian at 5:07 PM on July 11, 2009


Seriously? "It's not science fiction unless it has aliens"? Seriously?

No, it's not science fiction when a writer takes a done to death genre and cynically revamps it with the inclusion of a space ship- then to stiffen the weak premise goes out of his way to actually "map" wild west culture into the series. Even the coffee pot on board the Firefly is something that John Wayne would have had bubbling away on the fire as an harmonica played a laconic backing. The food on board is beans! It has the preacher man, the woman of the night, the torn mysterious doctor, the angry roustabout- it's utter shite.
posted by mattoxic at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2009


The idea that Firefly is not Science Fiction because it employed the stylistic trappings of a traditional Western story is completely ridiculous.

By that logic, Star Wars is not science fiction (stylistic trappings of a mythological hero's journey), David Feintuch's Seafort books are not science fiction (stylistic trappings of nineteenth-century naval adventures historical fiction), Blade Runner is not science fiction (stylistic trappings of film noir), Outland is not science fiction (*direct* stylistic and plot homage to the Western High Noon), and Alien is not science fiction (stylistic trappings of a horror/suspense monster movie.)

Science fiction is not as narrow as you want it to be. You can actually employ *all kinds* of storytelling devices to make your point ... even in THE FUTURE!
posted by kyrademon at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Torchwood is guilty pleasure sci-fi. There's a place for it and an audience to watch it. Such shows are almost always character-driven. And fans will keep on watching because each episode is another opportunity to see what their favorite character will do this time. Fans of Doctor Who will watch Torchwood for the simple reason that a character from one show formed the basis of the other. And there's always a chance that somebody else from Who will show up in Cardiff, like Martha Jones did. There could even be a cross-over like the big Davros finale for Doctor Who -- made even more cross-over-tastic by the presence of Sarah Jane Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures, a kids show.

That being said, Russell T. Davies has done the series fewer and fewer favors as the show has progressed. The same can be said for Doctor Who, though to a thankfully lesser degree. RTD, for all of his wonderful enthusiasm and love for Who's canon (obvious in the commentary podcasts he's recorded), has a tendency to go all fanfic at the worst possible moments. Thankfully, Steven Moffat is taking over as Who's show-runner -- albeit after the specials remaining in 2009 and only once the new Doctor arrives.

Am I making excuses for the state of modern British Sci-Fi? No, only for the occasional lack of sense in the Who bloodline. As for the rest, I think the author is missing several examples of perfectly serviceable British Sci-Fi. Hex. Primeval. Being Human. Ashes to Ashes. I'd even call a series like Wire In The Blood a kind of sci-fi, as it often feels as creepy as quality X-Files and is just so much smarter than any US-based procedural. Are any of them the second coming of Babylon Five or the third coming of Battlestar Galactica? No. But they're decent. And they've a following.

And most importantly, the fact that so much sci-fi is being produced in both the UK and in the US can only be good for fans of sci-fi in general. More shows might mean more sub-quality material, but it also increases the likelihood of something great shaking out in the mix. The next Great Big Awesome could be just around the corner.

(One more thing ... If you're not a long-time fan of Doctor Who, you might not notice the novel feeling that comes with David Tennant being an (almost) household name. So let me tell you, it feels pretty great.)
posted by grabbingsand at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


There is plenty of science fiction without any aliens in it. There is plenty of science fiction without a realistic menace.

OK lets take an episode of Firefly where the spaceship is not involved- say its in for repairs.

What elements of the story would then be science fiction and what would be pure badly done western?
posted by mattoxic at 5:14 PM on July 11, 2009


Mattoxic -- maybe the part where it's set on another planet in the far future and using hovering vehicles to transport goods? Or dealing with issues like explosive decompression and the difficulty of firing a gun in a vacuum, which I don't recall coming up a lot in Shane?

It's possible to mix two genres. Sci-fi Western. Future noir. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I didn't like Firefly, actually, in part because some elements of it were to cliche. But the fact that I don't like it doesn't mean it gets kicked out of a genre to which it clearly belongs. It isn't an exclusive club.
posted by kyrademon at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey mattoxic, is Star Trek's "Specter of the Gun" episode science fiction?
posted by yoink at 5:29 PM on July 11, 2009


Yeah fair enough, it's in the Sci Fi genre. It' weak but its there. I really did feel that it was served up with the utmost cynicism. Very little effort indeed - "Oh train heist- we could do a train heist ep"
posted by mattoxic at 5:31 PM on July 11, 2009


I was incredibly disappointed with the latest Torchwood - now they've killed off Always Shocked Geek and Date Rapist Doctor it's got very slightly better. Unfortunately that means that it's now tedious badly-acted shit, rather than the hilarious car crash oh-god-make-it-stop homo un-erotic farce of the first two series.

It does say something positive about UK TV though - we're willing to try anything once, twice, even three times, before realising what a colossal misjudgement it all was.
posted by influx at 5:33 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK lets take an episode of Firefly where the spaceship is not involved- say its in for repairs.

What elements of the story would then be science fiction and what would be pure badly done western?


You mean, having a passenger whose brain has been experimented upon by a secret government program so as to give her telepathic and other superhuman powers the scope of which the series never had the chance to fully explore wouldn't qualify, huh? I guess I missed that character on Stagecoach.
posted by yoink at 5:33 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


West's criticism seems to be on the order of what I call an "self-identification" opinion piece, wherein to understand the argument (or lack thereof) one must more-or-less come to the article with the author's opinion already developed to some significant maturity. Knowing very little about British sci-fi outside of some scattered Dr. Who and a larger helping of Torchwood, I leave having little-to-no conception of why I am supposed to think that the British are unable to work effectively within the genre. Admittedly, as an American, I am not his target audience, I suppose.

For that matter, though, why are Flash Gordon and Quantum Leap--two shows that beg knowledge of a wide variety of cheese products in order to define their campy character--exemplars of "good" U.S. Science Fiction? They seem, to me, particularly puzzling choices for explanatory programs, given that they are supposed to stand opposite of the British "inferiority complex."

The X-Files mention reminded me of a story of a friend's father who adored watching Agents Mulder and Scully traipse after oily-eyed alien-things and bald, psychic pre-teens until the show was Emmy-nominated as a Dramatic Series. "Wait," he says. "This isn't a comedy?" Never was able to watch it again, I'm afraid.

(Though, I do leave with some uncertainty as to West's ability to critique literature: I, at least, had always thought that the overall message of Starship Troopers was more ambiguous and complex than "Heinlein is a fascist" or "Heinlein hates all forms of militarism," and that the Lord of the Rings' heroics were more of a response to Tolkien's personal traumas in WWI than any anxiety over the Bomb. As to the former work, perhaps West was thinking of the much more transparent film version of Troopers?)
posted by Keter at 5:37 PM on July 11, 2009


Nobody has shown themselves capable of consistently making decent science fiction television. But of the failed attempts, the BBC ranks highest.
posted by DU at 5:45 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


You mean, having a passenger whose brain has been experimented upon by a secret government program so as to give her telepathic and other superhuman powers the scope of which the series never had the chance to fully explore wouldn't qualify, huh? I guess I missed that character on Stagecoach.

Oh yeah, I forgot about that- man that was uncomfortable for all concerned. No wonder I repressed it.
posted by mattoxic at 5:49 PM on July 11, 2009


This begs the question: does any country make decent science fiction television?

Well, there was the uniformly excellent "Masters of Science Fiction" anthology show that ran on (I think) ABC a few years ago. It died a horrible ratings death, but it was amazing.
posted by jbickers at 5:57 PM on July 11, 2009


Hey mattoxic, is Star Trek's "Specter of the Gun" episode science fiction?

Wow, yeah you made a point. I'd be happy to dismiss Star Trek as science fiction now except it has the word "Star" in the title.
posted by mattoxic at 6:04 PM on July 11, 2009


Wow, yeah you made a point. I'd be happy to dismiss Star Trek as science fiction now except it has the word "Star" in the title.

Well, I guess there could be more graceless ways of saying "yeah, I was making a stupid argument, wasn't I?"
posted by yoink at 6:20 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


At this point I've pretty much decided to accept the existance of "not really science fiction" as a subgenre of science fiction, so I can avoid having stupid arguments with people.
posted by Artw at 6:28 PM on July 11, 2009 [21 favorites]


The first, and last, true science fiction show was The Secret World of Alex Mack. Claiming Firefly is science fiction is ridiculous; never once did someone use electrical powers to help put up prom decorations.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:33 PM on July 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


reverse No True Scotsman fallacy

Worst pro wrestling special move ever.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:49 PM on July 11, 2009 [16 favorites]


Well, I guess there could be more graceless ways of saying "yeah, I was making a stupid argument, wasn't I?"

It was graceless, and I apologise. But one episode does not make the series. There was a "western" episode of Red Dwarf, as there was Start Trek Next Generation (probably in Deep [waste of] Space nine and Voyager as well). Sure Firefly is Sci Fi, but like most science fiction now is pretty lame.
posted by mattoxic at 6:54 PM on July 11, 2009


BBC America is dead to me until they start airing QI. That is all.

Sorry, nothing really to add to this post. Just had to get that out.
posted by contessa at 6:55 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ahem. To those claiming that firefly is not sci-fi, may I present the following dialogue:
Wash: But a psychic? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
Zoe: Honey, you live on a spaceship.
Wash: So?
See, sapceship == sci-fi.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 7:04 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sure Firefly is Sci Fi, but like most science fiction now is pretty lame.

Now? I take it you hanker for the days when science fiction was about giant radioactive ants and such? Because of the lack of lameness.

Science fiction hasn't become lame (the best science fiction today is at least as good as the best old science fiction and can deal with a wider range of themes) but it has become mainstream. Which presents its own set of problems, of course, but is better than 20 or even 10 years ago when publicly liking science fiction was looked at rather askance, and not just among the high school set.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2009


Ahem. To those claiming that firefly is not sci-fi, may I present the following dialogue:

Wash: But a psychic? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
Zoe: Honey, you live on a spaceship.
Wash: So?


Yeah see, they need the characters to discuss it in case the audience missed it.
posted by mattoxic at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2009


How many examples are there of recent British sci-fi? Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Primeval? Is that it? Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars are maybe 3% sci-fi and 97% period crime shows.
posted by smackfu at 7:30 PM on July 11, 2009


Everyone watch out for mattoxic's axe. It's gotta be pretty sharp by now.
posted by flaterik at 7:40 PM on July 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


I say "Bridget Jones's Diary" is Science Fiction. Prove me wrong.
posted by grumblebee at 7:47 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, Britain should get a partial pass for having an amazing collection of science fiction writers: Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, etc.

Poor Charlie. Just an etc to you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, not exactly science fiction, but:

Ultraviolet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Second, apparently the British never actually produced Jekyll, Life on Mars, Survivors, Ultraviolet, Eleventh Hour or Red Dwarf. Good to know.

The Triffids miniseries, Blake's 7, Survivors.

(Actually, Terry Nation is kind of the anti-Russell Davis.)

Seriously? "It's not science fiction unless it has aliens"? Seriously?

Perhaps he's drawing on the face that the creator of Firefly KEEPS TELLING PEOPLE IT'S A WESTERN IN SPACE.

(But if one allows that Star Wars is Sci Fi, which I most certainly do, one ought to allow Firefly as such.)

RTD, for all of his wonderful enthusiasm and love for Who's canon (obvious in the commentary podcasts he's recorded),

New Who hardly strikes me as exhibiting love for the canon, since it mostly seemd to find it convenient to blow away everything except the bad guys and the Tardis.

Hex

Hex is Sci-fi like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look, I know less literate books stores stuff their fantasy, horror, and scifi all together, but could metafilter try a little harder than Borders?

why are Flash Gordon and Quantum Leap [...] exemplars of "good" U.S. Science Fiction?

The insistence that Quantum Leap is good sci-fi - or good anything, really - is one of those things that just puzzles me.
posted by rodgerd at 7:56 PM on July 11, 2009


I say "Bridget Jones's Diary" is Science Fiction. Prove me wrong.

Does she mention a spaceship?
posted by mattoxic at 8:01 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess I missed the part of the discussion where excellent displaced enjoyable in a mutually exclusive fashion.

(Semi-Who fan, semi-Firefly fan - both have had weak spots but both brought me pleasure. Where's the sin in that?)
posted by Samizdata at 8:02 PM on July 11, 2009


Also enjoyed Firefly. The only cool thing that Torchwood had going for it (for me, at least) was the fact that it was set in Wales. Outside of that...I never made it past the first season, but it always had the feel of a series that was trying to be both ironically funny and stone-cold serious and doing neither well.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2009


To summarize:

Torchwood = Shit.

Firefly = Sci Fi.

Majority of (nationality) sci fi is crap = Sturgeons Law is still in effect.

Metafilter : Cultural Criticism :: Overthinking : Plate of Beans

QED.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:05 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen any of the new Who yet, but I want to at least see the Eccleston ones. It's sad to hear that Torchwood isn't all that great.

I like it when science fiction doesn't have spaceships, or robots, or aliens, and isn't set in the future. It makes me feel like I'm getting away with something. Like maybe people who'd "never watch science fiction" might catch themselves enjoying some, and then have to reassess their entire position on sci-fi.

Granted, I likes me some futuristic alien robot spaceships, but sometimes it even makes me breeze out.

And I love Westerns, with or without spaceships.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:08 PM on July 11, 2009


I guess I missed the part of the discussion where excellent displaced enjoyable in a mutually exclusive fashion.

Myself, as well. I guess my question is, if Dr. Who and Torchwood, along with apparently everything else Sci-Fi on television now or in the recent past is crap, what is supposed to be out there that's better? I mean, call me a cretin, I don't care, but I don't particularly care for Twilight Zone, and to me, TZ can be a total snooze fest. A lot of people, myself included, like character-driven TV. I fail to see where that's a hideous crime.

As for Who, I loved Eccleston. I like Tennant just generally speaking, but the first new season of Who was the best so far. Sorry David.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:15 PM on July 11, 2009


Not television, but "Moon" is British, and good science fiction. Best seen with as fresh a spoiler-free mind as possible (don't even watch the trailer!).
posted by anthill at 8:18 PM on July 11, 2009


Irrespective of whether any particular episode or element of the Firefly series is itself science fiction, certainly the Serenity film does precisely what SF is supposed to be for. Without spoilers: in its revelation near the end, it hits you right in the face with one of the core questions that an advanced technological civilization must ask itself. For this alone it's SF. (It does a few other things along similar lines, but that's the real standout in that it's a more "pure" SF story element than most pop SF ever manages.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:23 PM on July 11, 2009


Science is a method, not an end unto itself. Likewise, science fiction is a particular method of storytelling, not a collection of tropes.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 8:44 PM on July 11, 2009


A couple of people mentioned "The Prisoner", which I loved, but I wouldn't have classified it as science fiction. More a sort of psychological / psychedelic spy drama. There were some instances of unusual technology, I guess, now that I stop to consider... dream-reading computers and Rover and all, but...

I dunno, I guess maybe I have a problem with a definition of science fiction that includes a show that's set in the present day? Or perhaps it's that the science-fictiony elements were largely minor plot devices and the main theme was not itself science fiction.

Is any show that occasionally has non-existent technology in it science fiction? They do some unrealistic stuff in CSI on occasion, I'm told.
posted by rifflesby at 9:13 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, at least the gentleman gave a sporting kickinnahiney to the bi-lingual Welsh menace.

Say, wait a minute...
posted by ford and the prefects at 9:51 PM on July 11, 2009


I dunno, I guess maybe I have a problem with a definition of science fiction that includes a show that's set in the present day?

Like, say, THE X-FILES or FRINGE or much of THE TWILIGHT ZONE? The Terminator series? Science fiction can be set in the future, present, or past.

Is any show that occasionally has non-existent technology in it science fiction? They do some unrealistic stuff in CSI on occasion, I'm told.

CSI is a police procedural which is a fairly well define genre. You can make multi genre works; there are plenty of examples of SFnal, historical, or alt-history police procedurals but CSI certainly isn't one of them.
posted by Justinian at 10:49 PM on July 11, 2009


Yeah, I was wondering when the Welsh jokes would start...

As long as gwen still has that tooth gap and jack still fills me with momentarily confusing urges, I'm perfectly happy to watch its fuckawfulness. Better than the genre-embarrassing made for tv movies that the sci-fi channel cranks out.

grumble grumble why'd Space: Above & Beyond disappear grumble grumble...
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:43 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would absolutely agree with the posters near the top of the thread that the problem is not necessarily with British filmed sci-fi but with the modern BBC -- who lately seem to have become some sort of bottom-feeding failure eel -- and with RTD, but I also rather enjoyed Children of Earth. It was far too long for the story it told, it had the usual "BBC music problem" (you can't hear half the incidental dialogue because the MUSic keeps THUMPing in the BACKground just to let you know that the action is still thundering along, which I suppose is easier than to actually write, direct and edit it to keep up that impression), and it had a lot of RTD cliches scattered throughout, but it was, to my mind, the best Torchwood there's ever been, and the best thing to come out of New Who altogether.

I'm hoping that Moffat can pull out a really good series from under the bad-to-average Who/Wood run, but I can't feel too bad about New Whowood since a) actual sci-fi being made again! and b) actual queer people on screen whose queerness is (sometimes) only incidental to the plot!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:45 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just finished CoE, and while the comment that it could well have not been a Torchwood series for how much Torchwood was actually involved in it was pretty spot on, it was surprisingly good TV. Unfortunately, I think too much still hangs on the Torchwood canon for it to be the sort of "ooh damn, check this out, dude" mass market show it could have been. That's sort of an uncomfortable middle ground. But I'd tune into just about anything with Gwen and Jack. They could have a goddamn variety show and I'd watch it for the characters. *sigh*

My only Dr. Who complaint (aside from Skippy the Boy Doctor next season, and that's just being prejudiced against teenagers) is how damn many episodes hang around on the Earth. Doctor Who! Time! Space! You have all that and you kept coming back to earth in various eras? hrmph. Lack of imagination.
posted by Kyol at 1:45 AM on July 12, 2009


Blake’s Seven was perhaps the nadir of British television sci-fi,

And what was the US doing in SF TV at the time? The original Battlestar Galactica! I'll keep wobbly sets if vacuous plotline insterspersed with stock footage is the only alternative.

You’d have to be stupid not to recognise [...], that Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959) was taking umbrage at US militarism, or Lord of The Rings (1954-55) was subconsciously about the Bomb (despite its author’s protestations to the contrary).



Seeing as neither of these things is true, I think it may be time to recognise that the reviewer himself is casting aspersions upon the kettle's pigmentation.

I'm not a huge TW fan though I've seen all of it. It's main problem IMHO is that most of the characters are actually quite unpleasant people who you would be genuinely irritated by if they ever started talking to you. Children of Earth was a lot better (the smaller TW cast helped) but I felt it lacked any real horror in its execution (though there were some quite good ideas) and the Aliens' ultimate rationale seemed thrown in there for the sake of a momentary creep-out and really didn't survive any extended scrutiny - often a problem for RT Davies.

But really, the reviewer is a bit gormless. Try behindthesofa.org.uk for some better Who criticism (though I disagree with them at times, they are at least better informed about the whole genre)
posted by Sparx at 2:00 AM on July 12, 2009


Chiming in as a long-time SF fan: Doctor Who had its ups and downs - one of the hallmarks of the series was IMHO its inconstancy. The episodes and actors varied so dramatically that it was often impossible to predict whether a plot arc would be absolutely ridiculous or imaginative, rich and thought-provoking (even if it involved a lot of cardboard-and-bubble-sheet costumes).

Torchwood, on the other hand, has been almost constantly disappointing; there were some good moments, but the majority of the series focused on lame ideas that were never really followed through. For instance, I liked the fact that the characters treated sex and sexual orientation as "no big deal", but I hated the way they never seemed to learn from earlier episodes or show some sort of personal growth.
Oh, and please, please lose at least some of those blue LEDs that infest every "futuristic" gizmo on the show. I can guarantee that in five years' time they will look as dated as those nixie tube digits that once suggested hypermodernity...
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:00 AM on July 12, 2009


the punctuation mistake in the above is undoubtedly the fault of malignant and powerful alien intelligences
posted by Sparx at 2:04 AM on July 12, 2009


Is any show that occasionally has non-existent technology in it science fiction? They do some unrealistic stuff in CSI on occasion, I'm told.

It's tough to draw the lines. Some common Sfnal devices - like advanced technology and alternative histories - are widely used in mainstream fiction. You could argue that Tom Clancy writes SF.

Conversely, I think it was Sturgeon who said something like "Science fiction is what I'm pointing at when I'm talking about science fiction." Maybe SF is more about the audience and their expectations. If you look at SFX magazine you'll see that despite it's title, it basically covers blockbuster and franchise movies, with a smattering of films and TV that star people who have been in SFX-type films. Hell, they cover James Bond. "This is a science fiction show" pitches your show at a given group and lets them know what to expect.

Next, you could ask whether a story would remain largely unchanged if all the fantastic or futuristic elements were removed. Many individual episodes (and some entire runs) of classic "SF" shows would fail this test. Putting a murder mystery on the moon doesn't necessarily make it SF.

Finally, you could just say that SF is a big tent. It's difficult to say that "Star Wars" and "The Matrix" have anything in common with each other (other than being movies) and ditto for "Battlestar Galactica", "Quantum Leap", "Torchwood" and "Life on Mars". SF isn't always a good or useful label.
posted by outlier at 2:41 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like, say, THE X-FILES or FRINGE or much of THE TWILIGHT ZONE? The Terminator series? Science fiction can be set in the future, present, or past.

Good point. I retract that statement.

there are plenty of examples of SFnal, historical, or alt-history police procedurals but CSI certainly isn't one of them.

Exactly. CSI isn't SF, despite the fact that they sometimes use tech that doesn't exist -- the ability to "zoom in" and get tiny details out of low-resolution security camera footage, for example -- similarly to the way much of the tech in The Prisoner doesn't exist. Granted, the stuff in The Prisoner doesn't exist to a much greater degree than the stuff in CSI, so I guess that's a bad example. Better would have been the original "Wild Wild West" series, with its various hi-tech gadgets in an otherwise purely Western setting.

But outlier has answered my question (and quite well), so nevermind I guess. Thanks!
posted by rifflesby at 3:22 AM on July 12, 2009


I'm reading this thread but for some reason I keep flashing back to the youtube video of the train versus the tornado.
posted by srboisvert at 3:29 AM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Children of Earth was fantastic/amazing/brilliant, and I'm a bit stymied as to why people are so down on it. It's a brave show that took the risks CoE did, and it should be applauded for not being a bit of focus-group driven nonsense. To my mind, it was perfect British SciFi. It felt like Quatermass, it was unforgivingly bleak & it didn't rely on cute anthromorphic robots to make the audience laugh.

Seems to me that most of the criticism levelled at it (not here, but over the web) has been levelled because the show actually dared to progress characters and move the world on. Personally, I find it shocking that our literate sensibilities now EXPECT everything to be the same at the end of the show as it was at the beginning of the show.

Not SciFi enough??? Seriously? If it's on television, it isn't going to be sci-fi enough. It may get stuff right, and it may be set in the future, but that is all. That true scifi that you love so much is only loved by you and a fraction of a percent of the population. SciFi fans haven't collectively got enough money to make the shows they want to watch. (And if you have, then you know what you should be doing).
posted by seanyboy at 3:33 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


CoE was wonderful. I wasn't going to comment in this thread, but now that I have given CoE my stamp of approval, lemme say that West's whining is a gimmick piece. He's trying to drive up page views by attacking something fan girls adore. It's just like when someone complains that Firefly or Star Trek isn't really scifi but is instead a western/pioneer story set in space how it attracts people to attack that point--what? Oh, you all talked about that already.
posted by crataegus at 3:46 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Britain should get a partial pass for having an amazing collection of science fiction writers: Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, etc.

And I wonder why none of them are writing for TV or movies (especially Charlie)? Surely some bright spark could offer them a giant pot of money? I don't blame them for not doing it, but I wish they would.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:31 AM on July 12, 2009


Only British SciFi features slightly plump people with bad teeth as heroes. Torchwood is proof of that
posted by A189Nut at 5:34 AM on July 12, 2009


I just saw the premier of Warehouse13, and watching it, I understand where it comes from. Someone at SciFi sat down, watched an episode of Torchwood, and said, "Goddammit, this sucks. I didn't want it to suck. Why does it suck? I could do it better than that, and my channel is responsible for both "Eureka" and "Dino-Croc"... here, I'll prove I can do better."

And they did, even while ripping off X-Files and Suicide Squad and Indiana Jones. It was still better than Torchwood (and Dino-Croc.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:36 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


THERE IS NO MERCY IN THIS THUNDERDOME!
posted by The Whelk at 5:48 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


People should remember (when comparing Brit v Yank scifi) that American shows are written to an American sensibility and British shows for a British sensibility. Barring the odd whey-faced NooYork hipster that prefers his films Spanish, his music Russian and his SciFi British, audiences prefer the stuff which is culturally closer.

There is crossover, but generally speaking, we're gonna love the great stuff that comes out of our own countries over the great stuff that comes from abroad.
posted by seanyboy at 6:00 AM on July 12, 2009


I don't get why everybody hates Torchwood either. It wasn't that bad, I ejoyed it a lot more than Battlestar Galactica for example.

That said, after the end of episode 4 of CoE I decided not to watch the 5th one because I'm angry with how they handled the *spoiler* ...
See all the gay-rage on afterelton.com
posted by kolophon at 6:12 AM on July 12, 2009


Foundation was only the Roman Empire in space, and what William Gibson wrote wasn't cyberpunk, it was cybercowboy.

SF is mythbuilding, and if a myth's going to work it has to say something which people recognise and want to be. That quickly strips down a set of Joseph Campbell-brand component parts, many of which are interchangeable between particular narratives, genres and settings. That's also got a lot to do with the peculiar three-way symbiosis between science fiction, fantasy and religion.

The added zizz of the UK vs US intellectual internecine grudge match and our mutually incomprehensible cultural mutations doesn't explain much about which country makes the better skiffy: that one domestic market is five times the size of the other is, I think, rather more proximate. New Who was designed for the internatonal market, had the budgets to match and has thrived as a result. It's also very comfortable skating between the skiffy, the fantasy and the god business, to the point where I wonder whether for something to truly work well it has to be comfortable with all three.

I suppose the best exemplar of that is 2001, which may be the very height of golden age SF - and was, of course, a transatlantic concoction.
posted by Devonian at 6:33 AM on July 12, 2009


I hated the way they never seemed to learn from earlier episodes or show some sort of personal growth.

So true. I gave up on season 1 after the bazillionth episode in a row that depended on one of the team members betraying everyone else in a moment of human weakness, learning and important lesson, and moving on. Granted, that's an important theme especially in a show about a dysfunctional team, but when you do it over and over again it's just hacky and by the numbers.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:35 AM on July 12, 2009


contessa: BBC America is dead to me until they start airing QI. That is all.

Oh. I get weak at the knees just thinking I might ever see QI on anything other than Youtube.
posted by schwa at 7:15 AM on July 12, 2009


We have QI on our TV just about every night. Sometimes we'll watch two or three episodes in a row.

Who wants to touch us?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:23 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So true. I gave up on season 1 after the bazillionth episode in a row that depended on one of the team members betraying everyone else in a moment of human weakness, learning and important lesson, and moving on.

I think I got to CYBERWOMAN before I threw my hands up and tapped out.

Also, as much as it pains me to say it, John Barrowman constantly seems drunk and or stoned on camera. His line delivery is so consistently flat that I think this may be more the rule rather than the exception.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on July 12, 2009


Also, as much as it pains me to say it, John Barrowman constantly seems drunk and or stoned on camera. His line delivery is so consistently flat that I think this may be more the rule rather than the exception.

Oh, man, that is fantastic. To be fair, however, I don't think there is any other way to deliver The Line.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:51 AM on July 12, 2009


Violation of Melkotian Space Law = O.K. Corral.
posted by ovvl at 9:09 AM on July 12, 2009


I thought CoE was fantastic, I loved it and was completely glued to the whole thing. I may have to throw a Torchwood party when it airs in Canada in a couple of weeks. (Wish I had a bigger tv.)

I love Torchwood, in spite of (or maybe because of!) some goofy eps. Goofy eps can be fun too. It's not all about the plot, sometimes (often!) it's about the characters, just seeing them in different situations. I'm not looking for a tv show to change the way I live my life. I'm hoping to be provoked and roundly entertained. Torchwood does that just fine.

I love New Who, all seasons, and in spite of my fondness for Billie Piper I also adore the episodes with Catherine Tate. And I keep hoping Freema will end up on Torchwood, because she is fantastic (and beautiful!).

I love all the Star Treks, including Voyager, though I haven't really seen enough eps of Deep Space Nine or Enterprise to really judge those properly. I like being in the Star Trek universe. It's comfy.

I loved Firefly, thought it was brilliant. And I love Dollhouse. There is nothing new under the sun; mashing up ideas and genres and using stereotypes in interesting and deliberate ways is an extremely resonant and powerful form of creativity, and one for which I have the deepest respect. I think mattoxic might need the help of a good therapist to work out exactly which of his issues he has stitched onto the definition of Sci Fi.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2009


From Spiked article: Admittedly, it was, as usual, well-acted by gay actor John Barrowman (as the immortal Jack Harkness), whose gay character you believe really does care

From Onion story Area Homosexual Saves Four From Fire: By now a blackened, sooty, homosexual figure, Lassally set the Widmans down a safe distance from the house, just as firefighters were arriving, and collapsed on the lawn, exhausted and gay.
posted by Kattullus at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't get why everybody hates Torchwood either. It wasn't that bad, I ejoyed it a lot more than Battlestar Galactica for example.

Oh My GoD!!!!!!11
posted by fistynuts at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2009


@Patrick Wood: "You’d have to be stupid not to recognise that War of The Worlds is an allegorical attack on European imperialism in Africa, that Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959) was taking umbrage at US militarism, or Lord of The Rings (1954-55) was subconsciously about the Bomb (despite its author’s protestations to the contrary)."

Whoa whoa whoa. I've been a fan of science-fiction my entire life and good generalist's background in Western History and Lit., but that's the first time I've heard any of those allegations. War of The Worlds -- an anti-colonialist tract, really? Starship Troopers, about American militarism despite Heinlein's numerous references to Greek patterns of citizenship in the book? And LotR?

WtF?

OTOH, I found Torchwood's CoE fairly brilliant -- and brave -- considering it was produced on public dollars. No one on this side of the pond has had the courage tto decompress alien-invasion storylines since 'Close Encounters'. Usually, it's notify the President, call out the military and spend the SFX budget, but CoE had the courage to linger on the civil servants and some of the abominable decisions they had the courage to make. American television wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole, Obama or not. This was compelling stuff and the tension grew with each succesive installment.

Sadly, there was no space for comments after Mr. Woods' essay. I guess we just have to wait until next month to get an American press response to CoE.
posted by vhsiv at 11:13 AM on July 12, 2009


You know who else was a fan of Torchwood?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:13 AM on July 12, 2009


What could have been magic X-Filey stuff with added cool UNIT soldiery ended up as bleeding Scooby Do with sex and violence, and NOT APPEARANCEIST but having Gollum as a love interest was just wrong. I just about made it to the end of the first series but gave up after that...

That said, COE was an interesting concept, dragged out for too long, with far too many RTDisms along with way (SPOILER oh look, it's another magic gadget saving the day again)

I actually only watched it because it's featured on You Have Been Watching this week.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:21 AM on July 12, 2009


Is it just me, or is this FPP merely an excuse to hash out "Torchwood sucks" and "I wanna talk about my favorite show" and "For good measure, let's go on about Joss Whedon again?"
posted by desuetude at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think I got to CYBERWOMAN before I threw my hands up and tapped out.

please stop eating your hands.
posted by iSeanyboy at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


From Onion story Area Homosexual Saves Four From Fire:

Speaking of the Onion, I'll be very sad if it dies. Maybe the Doctor can save it!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:08 PM on July 12, 2009


If theres a torchwood episode worse than either sex alien or cyberwoman I haveyet to see it. Not saying there isn't one, mind, but it'd have to be bad to a scarey level of badness.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on July 12, 2009


If theres a torchwood episode worse than either sex alien or cyberwoman I haveyet to see it.

Wales Chainsaw Massacre was not only worse than Sex Alien or Cyberarse but one of worst episodes of television evah.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:23 PM on July 12, 2009


If theres a torchwood episode worse than either sex alien or cyberwoman I haveyet to see it.

Wales Chainsaw Massacre was not only worse than Sex Alien or Cyberarse but one of worst episodes of television evah.


Well now you guys are just naming Gwar songs.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Better would have been the original "Wild Wild West" series, with its various hi-tech gadgets in an otherwise purely Western setting

I hate to say this given the, ah, complicated relationship this term has with Metafilter, but.... steampunk. WWW was one of the first examples.

Conversely, I think it was Sturgeon who said something like "Science fiction is what I'm pointing at when I'm talking about science fiction."

AHHHH! No, it was Damon Knight, that top-posting bastard.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on July 12, 2009


reverse No True Scotsman fallacy

Worst pro wrestling special move ever.


But a really awesome sex position.
posted by aihal at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to kick this off again, but Torchwood is shockingly bad. Doctor Who is as bad, just in different ways. Watching David Tennant exclaim for the 74,398th that humans are puzzling, or political commentary so jaw-droppingly simplistic that it makes me want to complain to Ofcom that the license fee is being wasted on such horrible programming.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 3:41 PM on July 12, 2009


It's a brave show that took the risks CoE did, and it should be applauded for not being a bit of focus-group driven nonsense.

"Brave" here presumably means something along the lines of "unafraid to kill off characters, and to make people face terrible choices", or something along those lines. But this isn't in itself an original or challenging thing to do, and Joss Whedon's ongoing career has pretty well demonstrated that it's not even risky. If your story lacks basic plausibility, throwing in some extra misery won't save it, it'll just add cheap melodrama.
posted by moss at 4:35 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is very little science fiction TV, and only a little bit more science fiction film.
I'm not sure that any TV series, except those with a limited run, actually qualify as science fiction. Most of what is referred to here and elsewhere as science fiction is actually space fantasy. The term 'scifi' seems to cover both endeavours, which adds to the confusion. I seem to recall Lucas accurately denying that Star Wars is science fiction, preferring the more accurate space fantasy.

Science fiction is based on plausible, consistent premises which follow from known scientific principles. It makes an effort to create a world based on the same principles of ours. Space fantasy simply doesn't give a hoot about plausibility - and can be great fun as a result of this indifference. If the space craft make noise in space - it is not science fiction. It is a thought experiment, changing a couple of variables and seeing what the results are. Space fantasy just uses it's own, more or less magical rules as it sees fit, and often works really well.

There is a grey area (or gray in the case of Dr. Who). Due to my commitment to the views expressed herein, I have to ignore a certain amount of spaceship noise happening in space, or at least pretend that it's music. Ditto with explosions. But I'm an idealist.

I think TV and films could be consistent, plausible, logical - and thereby enlightening, since the exercise is based on real life rules. But there is not much call for this idea. TV producers and writers seem to deny it's possible to write like this. Even TV that is not science fiction usually dispenses with plausibility (cf anything that involves hacking into a computer). I appreciate Artw's comment above - this is a question of definition. I think it's a useful disctinction. Perhaps the term "scifi" encompasses both space fantasy and the occasional bit of science fiction.

Yay:
Alien, Blade Runner, Both Solarii. But also: 28 Days, I Robot, Terminator - hey wait! A good science fiction tv show!!!

May:
Serenity (iirc, problematic explosions in space, refusal to deal with faster than light speed), both BSG Series (the second one gets kinda magical)

Nay:
Star Trek, Star Wars - as great as the first ones were, they weren't science fiction.

(Got a bit carried away I guess.)
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:36 PM on July 12, 2009


Science fiction is based on plausible, consistent premises which follow from known scientific principles.

What evidence have you seen that the term "science fiction" is generally used in this narrow sense?
posted by moss at 5:25 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not forgetting Lost in Austen; it wouldn't be too wide of the mark to categorise that as Jasper Fforde style SF.
posted by raygirvan at 5:35 PM on July 12, 2009


Science fiction is based on plausible, consistent premises which follow from known scientific principles. It makes an effort to create a world based on the same principles of ours.

Naw. It might embarrass you that they are fellow Scotsmen, they might have attitudes that you believe are un-Scottish, they might be from a place near the border that you don't feel is really Scottish, but Star Trek, Star Wars and so on, mi amigo, are true Scotsmen.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 PM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


If theres a torchwood episode worse than either sex alien or cyberwoman I haveyet to see it.

Wales Chainsaw Massacre was not only worse than Sex Alien or Cyberarse but one of worst episodes of television evah.


How about Amelia Earhart shifts forward in time and pre-zombie Owen nails her for 41 solid minutes? It might have been almost worth watching if it had been post-zombie Owen. Hell, that would even have a built-in punchline: "Yeah, I was doin' her for a while. Until she broke it off."
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:58 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait: noise in space makes something not science fiction, but outrageous time traveling robots, angels from God, and pilots brought back from the dead (with a corpse still in evidence) in order to tie up a plot are not a problem for you?
posted by Hildegarde at 6:38 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What evidence have you seen that the term "science fiction" is generally used in this narrow sense?

I get all prescriptivist on this subject.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 7:33 PM on July 12, 2009


War of The Worlds -- an anti-colonialist tract, really?

Yeah, really. It's not a tract in the Jack Chick sense of the word, but its comment on British colonial activities of the time is hard to ignore. HG Wells was pretty steadfast in his use of sf as commentary = try analysing the future societies of the time machine without a knowledge of british class distinctions.

That said, Heinlein was certainly not criticising the military in Starship troopers (He was fully in favour of it as a badge of citizenship), nor was Tolkein talking about the bomb in LOTR (it was mostly written before 1944), so Mr Reviewer is still mostly wrong.
posted by Sparx at 7:46 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, I agree with you Hildegarde. I was trying to be inclusive, but - scratch BSG (the first one just for being so stupid. Though technically...)

Gotta go - I see some kids on my lawn!
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 7:52 PM on July 12, 2009


Science fiction is based on plausible, consistent premises which follow from known scientific principles. It makes an effort to create a world based on the same principles of ours.

Huh. Who knew that Pride and Prejudice was Science Fiction?
posted by yoink at 7:58 PM on July 12, 2009


I didn't say it was only that.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2009


Huh. Who knew that Pride and Prejudice was Science Fiction?

I did just finish reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies... is THAT Science Fiction?
posted by hippybear at 8:44 PM on July 12, 2009


Apparently less so than the original.
posted by yoink at 8:47 PM on July 12, 2009


Depends on how the zombies got made.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:56 PM on July 12, 2009


Scratch Terminator off the list too. I don't think there's anything plausible about it.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:21 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, I guess one pretty unlikely premise could be allowed.

BSG was such a tease - I found the idea of transfer of consciousness kind of plausible in a very theoretical way. I think taking that premise and working it out logically could have been interesting. But there would have to be backup copies available (which was ruled out with no explanation, as the series went on), among other objections.

My thinking about this is decades old, and was always contentious. It might be time to loosen up a bit.

It's certainly time to go to sleep.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:37 PM on July 12, 2009


Science fiction is based on plausible, consistent premises which follow from known scientific principles. It makes an effort to create a world based on the same principles of ours.

Traditionally you're supposed to include the following:
"It's Science Fiction if, presuming technical competence on the part of the writer, he genuinely believes it could happen. Otherwise, it's Fantasy."

—John W. Campbell, Jr. (1937)
Sounds great! And Campbell is a huge name in the history of SF. So you're in good company. I will now inconveniently point out that Campbell was a huge proponent of psionics in SF and pushed his authors to include psi stuff. So even the strictest of the strict constructionalists failed at his own standards.

Your definition of SF was stillborn the minute it was enunciated back in the 30s. You've got Clarke's RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA and much of Hal Clement. That's about it. Hooray? And you've excluded most of the best SF of the past, oh, ever.

Gharlane got away with arguing your side of things back on RASF* because of his encyclopedic knowledge of golden age SF, particularly (no surprise) Doc Smith. And 'cause he was awesome. Nobody actually agreed with him, though, he was just humored as a Heinlenesque curmudgeon. Do you really want to be that guy?
posted by Justinian at 1:08 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


What evidence have you seen that the term "science fiction" is generally used in this narrow sense?

I get all prescriptivist on this subject.


I can think of another word to describe any theory that would suggest Heinlenn, Asimov, Harry Harrison, and Alfred Bester aren't science fiction writers.
posted by rodgerd at 1:58 AM on July 13, 2009


You know: some of the stuff in "space fantasy" turned out to be more realistic than stuff in this version of "science fiction". The original series Star Trek had this impossible little devices that they would just flip open and be able to talk to each other, even from a great distance. Oh: and with a computer, they could locate the device on a planet. The device in Uhura's ear that's not connected to any wires but lets her communicate with others. 3d immersive experiences and interfaces that respond to vocal commands.

Until you can adequately predict future technological breakthroughs and changes in our understanding of science, it's kind of hard to say what's feasible and what's not in a far-flung future.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:52 AM on July 13, 2009


I guess I did very poor job of trying to make my point (I had my doubts soon after posting it). Yes, I'd put Heinlen and Asimov on the science fiction side. I'm not sure why you thought I would exclude them. I'd have to re-read Harrison and Bester as I can't recall much of what I read back in the day, but I'm guessing they fit.

Hildegard, I appreciate your point about technology. My biggest objection in Star Trek (esp the Original Series) is that everyone in the universe speaks English. Some episodes were written by authors who were trying very hard to write science fiction. And, as I tried to suggest in the original post, I really hate the degree to which logic and plausibility are ignored in most other types of TV as well. I think the stories would have much more to tell us if they relied more on premises which were shared with the world we live in. I like magic too, I just think it doesn't belong in science fiction.

There was some discussion around "hard science fiction" a few years back. Maybe that 's a better frame. As a result of this discussion, I'm thinking now that it might be meaningful to consider a continuum of plausibility or something. I'm willing to put down the flog, but I appreciate the thoughtful responses.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 6:04 AM on July 13, 2009


My googefu is weak but somewhere out there is a hilarious satirical definition of science fiction that starts out all highfalutin and intellectual and ends up with something like '... featuring green-skinned aliens armed with blasters carrying off our Earth women.'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:34 AM on July 13, 2009


I'd put Heinlen and Asimov on the science fiction side. I'm not sure why you thought I would exclude them.

Almost anything with FTL (Foundation, most Heinlein, Known Space) isn't "based on plausible, consistent premises which follow from known scientific principles." The only arguable exceptions are the few works that explicitly try to reconcile FTL with a relativistic universe, and, no, throwaway lines like "There were four ways to fool Einstein" don't count.

Asimov posits a man with psychic mind-control powers. That is, the Foundation universe has hyperspace and psychic powers... just like Star Wars.

Heinlein (eventually) posits that the intelligence of a person remains in their body if their brain is scooped out and replaced with someone else's.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:36 AM on July 13, 2009


In Star Trek, they had "universal translators" that made everything sound like English. Lame, but at least they came up with a reason.

You might be interested in the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness. Ranges from Futurama-softness to 2001-hardness, with lots of room for argument in-between. Personally, I don't mind hard sci-fi, as long as they don't sacrifice valuable plot and characterisation time for 3 chapters of explaining shit I can read about in a good science textbook.
posted by harriet vane at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2009


Ok, I just... errr... "watched the miniseries legally recorded on a friend's VCR", and I have to say that this time there's hardly any SF to this Torchwood story at all.

[MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT]


The basic premise behind the episodes is that all-powerful aliens show up and demand ten percent of Earth's children; in return they won't grind us to dust beneath their sandals. So it basically boils down to a simple ethical dilemma: hand over the children (which will be used as some kind of alien dope dispensers and kept artificially alive, never aging yet immobilized and stunted) or face utter destruction.

The problem is that the series never does much with what could be a complicated choice - the leaders of mankind (or at least those of Britain and America, which seem to be the only ones directly involved) simply choose, after maybe two minutes' deliberation, to round up the "undesirables" and hand those over. Ok, there were some attempts at haggling, but the aliens never agreed to anything less than their original demands (and seriously, why would they? They are nearly omnipotent and indestructible, after all).
No real exploration of what those options would mean, no dissenting opinions, no discussion or conferences with other world leaders (come to think of it, did the British ever tell the other nations what, in fact, the aliens' demands were? Or did they plan to surprise the others by handing over their part of the presents and than smugly grinning at the empty hands of the others?).

Of course Torchwood saves the day at the last second, but really... there was not much meat to that story, and the very end left a very bitter taste in my mouth (so, Earth was once more saved by Torchwood, or more specifically Captain Jack Harkness, he of the immortal body and futuristic knowledge that saved Earth from certain doom / inhuman punishment. So he ups and leaves, beaming away, leaving earth in the hands of incompetent, helpless humans who could not save themselves when the existence of their race depended upon it. Yeah, that's one way to ease your mind over the one life you had to sacrifice to save mankind: run away and hope they will do better on their own next time. Great plan).


[SPOILERS END]

I would certainly not go as far as the author of the article in the FPP and say that all British SciFi is trash, but this one was no crown jewel - even taking the mediocrity of Torchwood into account. Just my 2 cents...
(I <3>
posted by PontifexPrimus at 9:12 AM on July 13, 2009


For a more old school approach to SF that doesn't just rely on being an assembalage of tropes you could check out Mundane SF. It seems to inspire a bizarre level of hatred in people though.
posted by Artw at 9:46 AM on July 13, 2009


So I've been reading these posts and have been fairly puzzled by the whole debate of whether any of these shows is, in fact, part of the Sci-Fi genre.

I think it's possible we have a missing word that sits in the midst of many of these diverse viewpoints. Pulp.

It seems to me that these shows: New Who, Torchwood, Firefly, etc. sit within the set of Pulp Fiction, and then within one or more subsets of Sci-Fi, Horror, Noir, etc.

If this is the case, it might explain why people who deeply prefer hard science Sci-Fi have such negative reactions to these shows. It also might explain the "crossover phenomenon" where most series have a "western episode" and so on.

Lastly, I suspect that Pulp tends to have a much looser style, and therefore a greater mainstream appeal.


On Preview: HV's post about Mohs Scale of SF hardness is quite relevant
posted by digibri at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


* reverse No True Scotsman fallacy
* Worst pro wrestling special move ever.
* But a really awesome sex position.


Especially if it's John Barrowman, in a kilt, with me......oh never mind, I've said too much.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:12 AM on July 13, 2009


It seems to inspire a bizarre level of hatred in people though.

Hmmm Steampunk vs Mundane SF.... FIGHT!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:13 PM on July 13, 2009


Hey, there's room for Mundane SF, which would be Steampunk written by someone who actually knows something about how steam engines actually work and who isn't just doing the literary equivalent of randomly throwing a bunch of brass and gears onto the casing of an MP3 player.
posted by Artw at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2009


Thanks for the link, Harriet. I had stumbled on that site just a few days ago, but had not seen the link you provided. I will give it a careful read. Your link might have made a better starting point for my screed.

>>I don't mind hard sci-fi, as long as they don't sacrifice valuable plot and characterisation time for 3 chapters of explaining shit I can read about in a good science textbook.

Not a trade I would make. But fair comment.

Thanks as well to artw for the link. I was not familiar with that genre, or the particular underlying principle.

Xenophobe:

Yes, some Heinlein and some Asimov is more plausible than other examples from either author. Some Asimov stories in particular are more truly science fiction than others (I might include his scifi mystery stories if I recall them correctly). The Heinlein I recall seemed to make an effort in relying on science, again some stories more than others. And, as I continue in my steady retreat, I am allowing for one 'whopper' as a compromise of sorts (I'd like to be able to include Octavia Butler). There is also the fact that our understanding of scientific principles has changed over the last half century, so what was plausible in 1950 might be less so today.

And, sure, "pulp" works for me as a synonym for space fantasy.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:31 PM on July 13, 2009


Battlestar Galactica is no better than Torchwood... and frankly, I'd rather see Torchwood than BG again, any day.

So, with that in mind, here is a short list of what I learned from watching BSG:

1> God's invisible messengers work in mysterious ways... especially when they get you to indulge in embarassingly exhibitionistic public sex acts.

2> There is only one God and he has very specific, largely unavoidable plan, designed to effectively rob you of free will only about 99.998% of the time. As such, your fate will be judged entirely based on the .002% where you do, in fact, have free will... unfortunately, you don't actually know which .002% that is.

3> The big advantage to having so little true free will is that you are, by definition, almost certainly following God's plan... which makes you perfect, just the way you are. (Except, of course, when you're not.)

4> When traveling on a long, long voyage across the great expanse of space, you oftentimes can't avoid traveling through perilous territory to reach your ultimate destination... except, of course, for those times when it's necessary to rapidly jump all the way back to where you started from.

5> Due to the nature of faster-than-light travel through space, it is commonplace to run out of raw materials, fuel, and food supplies well before you make a significant dent in your supply of single-malt scotch or imported cigarrettes.

6> Nothing makes a person turn evil quicker than becoming an itchy gimp.

7> What's the best way to explain ________ in a science fiction series? God did it!

8> The quickest, most certain way to get in touch with your place in God's plan is to either take drugs, perform Bob Dylan covers... or a combination thereof. (Everybody must get stooooned!)

9> There's a reason why Japanese and British TV series usually do only around 13 episodes a year. It allows them to actually stay focused on the actual storyline, while editing out all the superfluous drinking, smoking, interpersonal squabbling, and snogging. Japanese and British edit their TV shows... Americans pad their TV series like bad 6th grade history reports.

10> Science fiction is when you take a brave, futuristic group and give them difficult-to-fathom challenges to overcome with their wits, heroism, and advanced technology.

Fantasy is when you start introducing fairies, unicorns, and gods into the mix, which trump technology and the best laid plans, but which ultimately are overcome through heroism, true love, and/or purity of spirit.

Fraud is when you get 35000+ people to spontaneously reject thousands of years worth of technological advancement, modern medicine, public sanitation, their guns, and every other form of creature comfort they have, all because one sickeningly naive, idealistic prat thinks that enduring a 150,000 year dark age would somehow lead humanity to wisdom.
posted by markkraft at 3:33 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, there's room for Mundane SF

The thing that amazes me about a lot of Sci-Fi fandom is how unwilling some groups within it are to acknowledge that there is room for many different ways of doing the genre.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:48 PM on July 13, 2009


Gah, that should be "Mundane Steampunk".
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on July 13, 2009


Markkraft: you're forgetting the lesson that killing, torture, and death is nearly always the solution to every problem you are presented with. That seemed to be the overarching theme to the entire series, as far as I could tell.
posted by hippybear at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2009


I was never a fan of Dr. Who or Torchwood. I thought it was an English thing and couldn't understand why my friend who is as English as they get, loved it so. But one day out of boredom I sat and watched and then I understood. Yes the sets and costumes of the aliens are crap sometimes, but that's just it. It's not meant to be perfect. It's meant to be sci fi but keeping in with the cheese factor that most tv sci fi came from. I will say I much prefed Dr. Who to Torchood, but even so I get it and love it now. i've not watched most of Torchwood but CofE is amazing, although I think I rather preferd the build up rather than the ending.
posted by Gisela at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2009


Hey, there's room for Mundane SF, which would be Steampunk written by someone who actually knows something about how steam engines actually work and who isn't just doing the literary equivalent of randomly throwing a bunch of brass and gears onto the casing of an MP3 player.

Wouldn't that just be hard SF? That's really where my dislike for the term "mundane SF" comes in; we already have a word that encompasses the niche it's trying to carve out for itself.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:46 PM on July 13, 2009


Hard SF is generally still pretty trope-tastic.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on July 13, 2009


Mundane SF, as it was explained to me, differs from hard SF because they latter can still include spacecraft, aliens, life in the solar system (at least), whereas most of the mundane folk seem to focus more on near-future life on Earth - evolving technologies, climate changes, that sort of thing.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:56 PM on July 13, 2009


You know I should probably read some actual self-styled 'Mundane sf' before I slag it off...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:34 PM on July 13, 2009


The thing that amazes me about a lot of Sci-Fi fandom is how unwilling some groups within it are to acknowledge that there is room for many different ways of doing the genre.

Of course there are many different ways of doing things... you just have to realise that some of them are DOING IT WRONG!

I mean Steampunk is perfectly alright as literature, dressing up...? well ok, some of my best friends are Goths, music..?. you are getting dangerously close to filk there, sticking cogs on mp3 players - GET OUT! I mean you start going down that way and it's a slippery slope to the furries. Then god help you.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:38 PM on July 13, 2009


Three things:

1) not_that_epiphanius, I still think your use of language is pretty funny, but dammit, you're too good-natured to argue with.

2) If Jane Austen had written SF, it would have been fantastic.

3) Wow, this thread has really eased the transition from three days of Readercon back into the real world.
posted by moss at 9:42 PM on July 13, 2009


Jane Austen wrote a satire on Gothic fiction... if you take Brian Aldiss argument that Science Fiction came out of Gothic via Frankenstein, then it's pretty damn close.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:29 AM on July 14, 2009


I had stumbled on that site just a few days ago, but had not seen the link you provided.

Yeah, TV Tropes is a rabbit warren - some great stuff, some fanwank, and all jumbled in with mind-numbing catalogues of every incident to happen on tv ever. I love it.
posted by harriet vane at 3:48 AM on July 14, 2009


Watching David Tennant exclaim for the 74,398th that humans are puzzling

Humans aren't puzzling, they're brilliant! Brilliant!

*shakes head*

Aah, just brilliant.

Brilliant!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:37 AM on July 14, 2009


...but dangerous!
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2009


This is a golden age for British science fiction, chiefly thanks to a wave of writers who are tackling an area their American rivals tend to leave well alone - far-future set, space-operatic, hard sci-fi.
posted by Artw at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2009


That article has all the wit, intelligence, and insight one would expect from The Guardian.

...

I hardly even know where to begin. It's ridiculous on so many levels that I'll have to content myself by saying that holding up Peter Hamilton and Iain Banks as exemplars of the new wave of British SF reveals a vast and abiding ignorance. Hamilton because he's in no sense cutting edge; I'm not saying he's a bad writer by any means but he's a guy who writes giant doorstop bestsellers with all that implies. And Iain Banks because he was indeed at the absolute forefront of SF... in like 1992. I buy everything Banks writes under either name in hardcover and pay to have it shipped from the U.K.. He wrote possibly my favorite SF novel. But he's not an example of the guys who have revitalized British SF (and by extension all of SF) over the last decade.

About the only person who belongs on that list is Neal Asher.

I will now force myself to stop even though I want to continue. Because someone is WRONG on the internet.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2009


Re: tvtropes:

We're not the only ones.

Moss:

This is probably the longest exchange I've been involved on any forum, being mostly a lurker, and I did not give the first post enough editing time. I hope being good natured isn't taking away from the fun of it all. I'll try to work on that.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2009


Alistair Reynolds is certainly pretty newish (well, I've only started hearing about him in the same timeframe that I've been hearing about Neal Asher) and kind of a big deal right now.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on July 14, 2009


Alastair, that is. Interview.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on July 14, 2009


Alistair Reynolds is certainly pretty newish (well, I've only started hearing about him in the same timeframe that I've been hearing about Neal Asher) and kind of a big deal right now.

It's good to see him getting a bit of well-deserved fame and/or fortune: I remember enjoying the stuff he was publishing in Asimov's eight or nine years ago, so the comparison to Neal Asher seems apt.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:46 PM on July 14, 2009


Is it just me, or is the comparitive list of US authors that mefis own JScalzi comes up with really weak?

There's Scalzi himself I guess, but there's only so many times I can read something and think "what a delightfully pitch perfect imitation of Heinlein!". Now if Vernor Vinge were still writing space opera...
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on July 15, 2009


Yeah, it's pretty weak. British SF is clearly more vibrant than American SF right now. That doesn't make the Guardian column right, of course, as it is a bunch of bullshit.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on July 15, 2009


Is it just me, or is the comparitive list of US authors that mefis own JScalzi comes up with really weak?

There's Scalzi himself I guess, but there's only so many times I can read something and think "what a delightfully pitch perfect imitation of Heinlein!". Now if Vernor Vinge were still writing space opera...


Well, I try not to lip off on the topic too much, since I'm in SF publishing myself, but ... it's not just you. Honestly, I'm not certain that Scalzi himself has written enough to really serve as a particularly good example, though time will tell.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:47 PM on July 15, 2009


Okay, so...

It's been four nights of CoE on BBC America. It's been a not bad bit of television thus far. Pretty wrenching, nice slow reveal of plot, great amounts of character development.

Has anyone else noticed the differences between the hour-long repeat of the previous night's episode? Honestly, I love the extra character development, and the more true-to-life moments they include... But damn, if the pacing and tension of the shorter episodes isn't much better than the longer version.

I don't know if this is due to the commercial breaks (there seem to be fewer in the hour-long version) or what... I always prefer things to be more fleshed out, but I'm honestly really enjoying the edited version. Maybe even better.
posted by hippybear at 7:25 PM on July 23, 2009


« Older Newsweek has "four knowledgable sources"...  |  The 2009 Llangollen Internatio... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments