5

Solo

Anyone else planning to see this over the Memorial Day weekend?

I am not expecting much so perhaps I will be pleasantly be surprised. Playing outlaws with hearts of gold is a tricky business. Make them too villainous and the audience loses all sympathy with them. Make them too nice and you lose the storytelling possibilities. Of course since we know how everything turns out, perhaps it doesn’t matter. The film will make several ton loads of money whatever its quality, and give obsessed Star Wars fans living in the basements of their mothers something new to fight about for the next few years.

9

Weird Al Parody of Star Wars Before Star Wars Became a Parody of Star Wars

“A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The bad penny first dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boys eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guess that one day they would explode.

‘I would love for you to do something for me,’ I said.

“Anything! Anything!’ the boy said rapturously.

‘You won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do.’ I said.

‘Anything, sir, anything!’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?’

He bursts into tears. His mother drew herself up to an immense height. ‘What a dreadful thing to say to a child!’ she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”

Alec Guinness,  A Positively Final Appearance (1999)

 

 

 

 

 

13

Lost in Space

Something for the weekend.  Theme songs from Lost in Space.  As a kid I loved the show, even though even at the age of eight I realized the show was science fantasy rather than science fiction.  The 1998 Lost in Space movie left me cold as it was too dark for my tastes and did not fit the lighter tone of most of the episodes of what was often an especially silly show.

 

 

 

A new Netflix take on the show debuted yesterday.  The episodes I have thus far watched aren’t bad.

 

 

 

Why We Fight

 

Time to refresh my Chief Geek of the blog creds.  The Axanar film project has produced huge fan interest, and well it should.  The Prelude to Axanar video below is the best Trek I have ever seen.

 

Jonathan Lane has written, and Mark McCrary has illustrated,  the first illustrated fan short story set in the Axanar universe.  With their kind permission I am posting it here.  Give your comments in the comboxes.  Go here to view the Fan Film Factor Blog.

 

 

Stardate: 2244.9
Location: The 602 Club, Mill Valley near San Francisco, Earth

At a table…

MATT: Apollo

THALEK: Ares

DARIA: Artemis

RON: Demeter

MATT: Dionysus

THALEK: Hades

DARIA: Um, um…Hecate

RON: Hephaestus

MATT: Hermes

RON: Wrong!

THALEK: Incorrect!

DARIA: Crash and burn, Matt!

MATT: Which one did I miss?

ALL: Hercules!!!

MATT: BLAST IT!

RON: Take a shot.

DARIA: Hey, why is it called the Hercules and not Heracles?

MATT: Huh?

DARIA: All the other human Ares-class ships are named after GREEK gods.  Hercules was the ROMAN name for Heracles, which was the original Greek name.

MATT: Hey, Daria, when did you get transferred from biochemistry to ship’s cultural historian?

DARIA: Pulse you, Decker!  When I signed up for Starfleet, I figured I was gonna EXPLORE alien societies…not shoot at them.

[Long, quiet stare.]

MATT: Yeah, I think that’s true for most of us.

THALEK: Not me.  I wanted to fight!

RON: Well, you’re just an idiot is what you are.

MATT: Hey, I thought Hercules–excuse me, HERACLES–wasn’t even a full god.  Wasn’t he just a half-god?

RON: Don’t tell Captain Travis that.  He’ll knock you right into San Francisco Bay…from here!

DARIA: So how many Ares-class cruisers do we have in service now?

MATT: Twenty-two.  And there’s two more in dry dock, ready to join the Fleet.  Nemesis and, um…the god with the two faces…

THALEK: Janus.

DARIA: Huh?  Thalek, how is it that an Andorian knows the name of an ancient Earth god?

THALEK: I don’t.  But the USS Janus is getting an Andorian crew, and I’m being transferred from the Poseidon as soon as the new vessel is ready.

DARIA: Ah.

RON: Speaking of Andorians, Thalek, why is it that you hang out with us humans here at the bar?

THALEK: I don’t understand…

MATT: What he means is that most of the crews stick with their own species.  Look around.  The Tellarites drink with other Tellarites.  The Andorians drink with Andorians.  The Vulcans…well, I don’t think they even drink, but they certainly don’t socialize with us.

THALEK: One could say that you humans don’t exactly socialize outside of your own species either.

[Looks of embarrassment.]

THALEK: Hah!  As you humans say, I’m just pulling your hair.

MATT: Leg.

THALEK: Why would someone pull a leg?

MATT: Good point.

THALEK: It’s true that we are all still a little leery of the other races—Vulcans, Humans, Andorians, Tellarites, Nausicans, Deltans.  The Federation covers a vast span of the galaxy, and our races don’t get many opportunities to interact with each other.  Without warp-six capable starships, it can take weeks or even months just to get from one star system to the other.

DARIA: But now we’re all here on Earth together, fighting a common enemy.  You’d think we’d make more of an effort to get to know each other.

RON: I don’t want to get to know each other…

DARIA: Ron!

RON: I don’t!  That’s my choice.

DARIA: Thalek, he didn’t mean that.  He’s just a little drunk…

RON: Pulse you!  I know what I said!

MATT: Ron, don’t be a dunsel…

RON: I’m just saying what we’re all thinking!  Tellarites—they’re obnoxious!  They think they’re hot plasma, but they’re just a race full of angry, pig-nosed bloodworms!  Deltans…they’re supposed to be so “sexually mature” that we aren’t even supposed to talk to them!  What in blazes is up with THAT???

DARIA: Ron, keep your voice down, you’re making a scene.

RON: Nausicans are just animals!  Orions are blasted thugs.  Denobulans…

MATT: Seriously?  You’ve got a problem with Denobulans?

RON: Well, no, I suppose they’re okay.  But all the rest of them.  Look at those Vulcans sitting over there…

MATT: Oh, man, here we go.  I knew he’d get to the Vulcans…

RON: Why shouldn’t I???  They think they’re so blasted superior to us.  For a hundred years, they held back technology from Earth—even though we were supposed to be allies—said we weren’t ready for it.  We had to claw our way to a Warp 5 engine that they’d already had for centuries.

THALEK: That doesn’t surprise me.  The Vulcans used to be quite protective of their technology.

RON: They still are!

MATT: Hey, did you know my great-great grandfather worked with Henry Archer on the Warp 5 project?  Or was it three greats?

DARIA: My great-grandfather served under Henry Archer’s son on the Enterprise during the Romulan War.  He was their helmsman.  I think Captain Archer’s first officer was a Vulcan.

RON: Probably sent to spy on them…

THALEK: I don’t beleive  so.  I seem to recall that she helped reveal the existence of a Vulcan listening post that was covertly monitoring my people.  I doubt that a Vulcan spy would assist in a mission that would so jeopardize a clandestine operation like that.

RON: Doesn’t it bother you that they were spying on your planet in the first place???

THALEK: That was nearly a century ago.  The Vulcans have changed.

RON: HAVE THEY????

DARIA: Ron, please quiet down.  You’re embarrassing all of us.

MATT: Yeah, Ron…

RON: Shut up!  The Vulcans haven’t changed at all.  They’re still arrogant know-it-alls who think they’ve figured out what’s best for the galaxy.  The “great awakening”?  Don’t make me laugh!  They weren’t even going to enter this war!!!  And they’re still withholding technology from us!!!   The weapons on board the Zeus?  The Andorians gave us those…

THALEK: You’re welcome.

DARIA: And the Vulcans gave us shields and life support systems.

RON: But they held back the weapons!!!  Why?  YOU HEAR ME, YOU POINTY-EARED HOBGOBLINS?

DARIA: Ron, sit down!

RON: DON’T IGNORE ME, YOU GREEN-BLOODED COWARDS!!!  Why didn’t you give us weapons?  We know you have them!  And they’re probably much more advanced than ours.  Or maybe you could have helped us, worked with us, to improve the weapons that we ALL have.  DO YOU WANT THOSE BLOODTHIRSTY KLINGONS TO WIN THIS WAR???

DARIA: Matt, we need to do something…

RON: LOOK AT ME, BLAST IT!!!  You Vulcans–you’re not even fighting!  You’re just PRETENDING to fight!

MATT: I’m going to find someone from security.

RON: You could have saved the crew of the Tecumseh!  They were being decimated by the Klingons!!  The Nike was the first ship to arrive at Altair VI.  But instead of engaging the Klingons, you held back.  WHY???  My sister was on that ship, and you sat back and didn’t fire a shot!  You cowards hid behind a stupid moon!!!   WHY????  Why didn’t you engage sooner?  WHY DID YOU WAIT???

[A loud voice answers from elsewhere in the 602 Club…]

GARTH: Because I ordered them to.

[Captain Kelvar Garth walks over to their table.]

DARIA: (whispering) Holy…is that who I think it is?

THALEK: It’s Garth.

MATT: Captain present!  Ten-hut!

GARTH: At ease, everyone.  You, too, Lieutenant…. Lieutenant?

RON: Tracey, sir.  I’m a weapons officer on board the USS Zeus.

GARTH: Lieutenant Tracey, I’m sorry about your sister.  I truly am.  We lost 184 valiant men and women in that battle…but it could have been more.  I gave the Vulcans on the Nike the order to wait behind that moon until the rest of their squadron could arrive.

RON: But why, sir?  The Tecumseh was crippled, defenseless.  They had no chance against the Klingons.

GARTH: And neither did the Nike, son…not alone.  Over half a dozen D-6 cruisers came out of warp to ambush the Tecumseh.  Had the Nike gone in before our other ships arrived in the system, it would have been a blood bath…and it would have cost us one of Starfleet’s most advanced warships.

RON: We still lost an entire ship and crew!

GARTH: But not two, Mr. Tracey!  Not even an Ares-class could have held off that many Klingons!

[Closes eyes, composes himself.]

This war isn’t fair, Lieutenant.  It isn’t just, and it certainly isn’t clean.  It is, quite literally, the ugliest and most daunting test we have ever faced as a planet.  And every choice we make, every command we give, will cost us something…because the enemy we are facing is ruthless.

RON: My sister wasn’t even a soldier, sir.  She worked in their sickbay.

GARTH: Look, I know most of us didn’t sign up to be warriors.  That’s not what Starfleet’s about.  But we have to prove that we can do what we need to do to defend the Federation…no matter the cost.

[Pause.  Thick silence.  Deep breath.]

GARTH: That order…and the destruction of the Tecumseh…will haunt me for the rest of my life, Mr. Tracey.  I see those faces and hundreds like them every night when I wake up from my nightmares.  One day when you’re a captain—and I hope you will be—I pray you never have to make the decision of who gets to live and who has to die.  I hope that, by the time you have a ship of your own, that there is peace in the Federation and we can all return to simply being explorers.

DARIA: I think we all want that, Captain.

GARTH: But in the meantime, understand this: we are all—ALL—fighting for each other.  Humans, Andorians, Vulcans, Tellarites…we are a FEDERATION of Planets.  We must have each other’s backs.  We fight the Klingons—we DON’T fight each other.  And remember this, as well: none of us, no race, no individual, is perfect.  No one has a monopoly on bravery or intelligence or common sense, and no one is morally superior.  We’ll all make bad decisions…or sometimes even good decisions with bad outcomes that can’t be avoided.  But we must be willing to look past the bad and see the good in all the races of the Federation.

[Garth turns toward the window and looks out at the stars.]

Someday this blasted war will be over.  It HAS to end, and we HAVE to win.  There is no alternative for us.  And when that finally happens, we’ll be left with what we’ve been fighting for this entire time: the United Federation of Planets.  Don’t tear apart the very thing that we have been risking and sacrificing our lives to preserve.  Do you understand, Lieutenant?

RON: Yes, sir, I do.

GARTH: I think it’s time you head back to your quarters…all of you.  That’s an order.  Sleep this off.  There’s a still a war on, and we need you all to be at your best.  Dismissed.

[The four officers get up to leave.  Ron walks over to the Vulcans and raises his glass in a toast.]

RON: To our losses: Vulcan, Human, Andorian, Tellarite…all of the races in the Federation.  We fight together.

[The Vulcans take a moment, look at each other, stand up, and raise their glasses.]

Vulcans: To our losses.

SONYA: That was quite the speech, Kel.  You trying for Ramirez’s job?

GARTH: No way.  He can keep it!

SONYA: Well, your words do lead to actions.  I admire that.  I think you really reached that young officer.

GARTH: I hope so, Sonya.  But I meant what I said: this war HAS to end, and we HAVE to win.

SONYA: I agree.  But the twenty-five thousand credit question is “How?”

GARTH: That’s why I asked you here.  I’ve got an idea…and it’s a pretty crazy one.  But I actually think it could work.

SONYA: What is it?

GARTH: Sit down, Sonya, and order a drink.  I have a feeling you’re gonna need it.

The beginning of the end…

9

Robert E. Howard

Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars – Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.

Robert E. Howard

In my misspent youth I devoured the works of Robert E. Howard.  The creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard was a writer for the pulp magazines of the twenties and the thirties.  He had a knack for creating literary worlds and populating them with unforgettable characters.  His characters were men of violence, but usually not without a sense of honor.  His puritan hero, Solomon Kane, set in sixteenth century Africa, had a faith in Christ:

“Nay, alone I am a weak creature, having no strength or might in me; yet in times past hath God made me a great vessel of wrath and a sword of deliverance. And I trust, shall do so again.”

Not to be mistaken for great literature, Howard’s stories almost always make great, rattling reading, and sometimes even give a thing or two to think about.

Catholic science fiction author, a convert from atheism, John C. Wright, has a good review up of a Conan tale:  The Tower of the Elephant:

Conan is young here. The internal chronology of the stories is subject to some guesswork. But it is fair to say that this is the second or third tale in Conan’s career, taking place after Frost Giant’s Daughter (1934). We see him for the first time in what will be his signature costume: “naked except for a loin-cloth and his high-strapped sandals.”

I found, as I often do, that not only is Robert E. Howard a better writer than I was able, as a callow youth, to see he was. He also easily surpasses the modern writers attempting to climb his particular dark mountain. From the high peak, brooding, he glares down at inferior writers mocking him, and, coldly, he laughs.

Particularly when Howard is compared with the modern trash that pretends to be fantasy while deconstructing and destroying everything for which the genre stands, he is right to laugh.

Let us list the ways.

Howard, as many pulp-era writers had to be, is a master of structure.

The Tower of the Elephant is divided into three chapters. The first introduces the set-up. In the most lawless quarter of a city of thieves, in a stinking tavern where rogues and lowlifes gather, rumors are spoken of a silvery tower that looms above the city in an isolated garden on a hilltop. In it is a gem of fabled worth and eldritch powers, that is the talisman of a sinister wizard. The tower seems strangely unguarded, or, rather, guarded strangely.

The wall is low, the way is not difficult: but none of the famous thieves will dare approach it. Our very own Conan (whom last we saw as a king) is here a barbaric lad who asks about the tower and the gem, is rudely answered, and rashly vows to make the attempt. Words are exchanged, and a fight ensues. We soon see how tough Conan is.

The second chapter is a heist. We are introduced to Taurus the Prince of Thieves. He and Conan join forces, attempting to elude or outfight the dangerous or unchancy defenders, human or otherwise, guarding the treasure. When even the Princes of Thieves is unable to overcome a particularly strange peril, a second fight ensues. We soon see how tough the Tower is.

The final chapter is pure awesomeness. The weird and supernatural secret of the Tower reveals itself. Even bold Conan, who fears no mortal blade, is petrified, if only for a moment. The dire and supernatural revenge which follows those who meddle in the outer secrets unfolds.

Howard is also the master of the one trick that always seems to elude postmodern writers. He knows how to pen a proper ending: As in a fairy tale of old, Conan is wise enough to obey the supernatural being when it speaks, and a pathway to safety is opened for him. He escapes with his life.

Go here to read the rest.  Howard had a short and sad life of thirty years, ending in suicide when his beloved mother slipped into a coma, but he left behind works still being read 82 years after his death.  Not a bad feat for any writer.

 

 

 

 

6

Star Wars Redux

 

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars:  A New Hope

 

 

Seeing The Last Jedi tomorrow with my bride and kids.  I have been dutifully trooping to see the Star Wars franchise for four decades now, and I sometimes wonder why since the story lines are usually variants of what was portrayed in the initial Star Wars movie.  Inertia I assume, and the fact that the bride and kids always wish to see the latest film.  Having said that, I will never forget the immense impact of the initial Star Wars.  In the days of the anti-hero it was a return to good guys and bad guys.  The swashbuckling aspect seemed like an old Errol Flynn movie brought forward to the seventies and placed in space.  Alec Guinness, who regarded the movie as “fairy tale rubbish”, was superb in his role and added a badly needed element of good acting.   (The film made Guinness very, very wealthy, he having shrewdly negotiated for 2.25% of the gross.  The cash he raked in made him no fonder of the film.  He would toss Star Wars fan mail away unread, worried about the impact of the film on young fans who repeatedly watched it and regarded the more fanatical Star Wars fans as barking mad.) The special effects, which now seem embarrassingly dated, were rightly considered revolutionary at the time.  Sigh.  You can never step into the same river twice, and the freshness of Star Wars is only a memory for me.

 

 

 

 

8

GoodFacts v. RealFacts

A stand out performance by the late Jerry Doyle, who was one of the few contemporary outspoken Hollywood conservatives, as Security Chief Michael Garibaldi in the always underestimated sci fi show Babylon 5.  This sequence shows the difference between GoodFacts and RealFacts.  Orwell put it succinctly:

 

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

First Look at The Man In the High Castle Season Three

 

“The Nazis have no sense of humor, so why should they want television? Anyhow, they killed most of the really great comedians. Because most of them were Jewish. In fact, she realized, they killed off most of the entertainment field. I wonder how Hope gets away with what he says. Of course, he has to broadcast from Canada. And it’s a little freer up there. But Hope really says things. Like the joke about Goring . . . the one where Goring buys Rome and has it shipped to his mountain retreat and then set up again. And revives Christianity so his pet lions will have something to—”

Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

 

 

The televised version of Philip K. Dick’s tale of alternate worlds, one of which is ruled by the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan, is going into a third season in 2018.  I have greatly enjoyed the first two seasons, which stands head and shoulders above most of the drek broadcast these days.

 

17

The Man in the High Castle

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

 

The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin. Continue Reading

11

Star Trek Continues

Time to renew my Chief Geek of the blog creds.  As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a Star Trek fan.  (No, I do not own a Star Fleet uniform, let alone worn one to court!)  Over the weekend I watched the three episodes thus far produced by Star Trek Continues, go here to their website, an unpaid volunteer group making episodes to complete the final two years of the original Star Trek five year mission.  Other Star Trek “tribute” episodes have been produced by other groups, but I have seen nothing that comes as close as Star Trek Continues in capturing the feel, and the fun, of the original series.  Judge for yourselves.  The video above is the third episode produced:  Fairest of Them All, which is a continuation of my second favorite Star Trek episode, Mirror Mirror, which introduced the alternate “bearded Spock” universe where the Federation is an aggressive interstellar empire.  Long may Star Trek Continue continue!

2

Quotes Suitable For Framing: Walter M. Miller, Jr.

 

 

 

“The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.”

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

A writer can be considered a grand success if he manages to write something that will endure long after he is gone.  In that case the poor, tortured Walter M. Miller, Jr., who ended his life by suicide, was a successful writer.  After participating as an air crew member in the bombing of the abbey at Monte Cassino during the Italian campaign, Miller converted to Catholicism.  During the fifties he wrote science fiction short stories.  In 1955, 1956 and 1957 he wrote three novellas which were combined into the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz which was published in 1959.  He won the Hugo award for this novel.  He never published another novel or story in his life after this novel, as he descended into mental illness and left the Faith.  Towards the end of his life he worked with Terry Bisson on a dreadful novel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, published after his death and which is best forgotten.

Spoilers warning for those who have not read A Canticle for Leibowitz: Continue Reading

9

Science Fiction as Politicized Drek

Science Fiction Leftism

They began by controlling books of cartoons and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.

Ray Bradbury, Usher II (1950)

 

John C. Wright, Science Fiction author and a convert to Catholicism, laments the ruin wreaked on Science Fiction by leftist ideologies and pathologies:

Establishment SF is Politically Correct SF, in that it pays slavish homage to all the tired tropes and foolish dogmas of Political Correctness. With its emphasis on collective rights, victimology, and radical egalitarianism, there is no place in the PC SF universe for things like heroes, adventures, inventors, exotic locations, space princesses, or technology portrayed as beneficial.

Politically Correct SF is astonishingly parochial, because it is always assumed that the society of the future will be caught in the grip of the selfsame political controversies as the Victorian Age, which is the age when this worldview was first formulated by Marx. Hence, for all other SF stories, the future differs from the present. For PC SF, the future is just like the past, and nothing changes.

In other words, the stories of PC SF promote the opposite of SF.

SF is about a sense of wonder. PC is about a sense of despair. The two are opposite. Hence, PC SF is a contradiction in terms. What it produces is simply not science fiction. Continue Reading

7

The Closing of the Science Fiction Mind

If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

 

 

I have read science fiction since I first learned to read as a child.  I enjoyed the exposure to new ideas and the frequently iconoclastic opinions, many of which I disagreed with, by the great authors of the field:  Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, Dickson, etc.  Their imagination and writing skills took me far away from the small town in which I lived and enlivened my life by revealing to me that books could be tickets to strange worlds and stranger people.  They helped to teach me to like to read and to like to think, both of which I have found handy throughout my life.  It is sad then to see that science fiction in this country is now beset by those who wish to impose a stifling political orthodoxy on it.  John C. Wright, a science fiction writer and a convert from atheism to Catholicism, gives us the details:

Robert Heinlein could not win a Hugo Award today.

If you are a fan of science fiction, you know how shocking that statement is. If you are not a science fiction fan, I salute you for having better things to do with your time than read stories about space princesses being rescued from bug-eyed monsters by stalwart and clean-limbed fighting men of Virginia; but please let me explain why this is shocking.

Robert Heinlein is without doubt the leading writer in the science fiction field. He was the first to break into the slick magazines or into hardcover. Were it not for him, science fiction would still be languishing in a literary ghetto, no more popular than niche-market stories about samurai or railroad executives.

He was a gadfly. Heinlein’s two most famous novels are Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. The first challenges the orthodoxy of the Left as much as the second does that of the Right. But in his day, few science fiction readers were offended by his or anyone’s ideas. Science fiction was proud to be a literature of the new and startling. A spirit of intellectual fearlessness was paramount.

A darker time followed. The lamps of the intellect were put out one by one, first in society at large, then in literature, then in our little corner called science fiction. What we have now instead is a smothering fog of caution, of silence, of an unwillingness to speak for fear of offending the perpetually hypersensitive.

Science fiction is under the control of the thought police. The chains are invisible, but real. For a genre that glories in counting George Orwell as one of its own, this is ironic, to say the least.

Myriad examples exist. Orson Scott Card publicly expressed the mildest imaginable opposition to having judges overrule popular votes defining marriage in the traditional way. The uproar of hate directed against this innocent and honorable man is vehement and ongoing. An unsuccessful boycott was organized against the movie Ender’s Game, but he was successfully shoved off a project to write for Superman comics.

Got that? The award-winning Mr. Card, one of the finest science fiction writers today, was forced off the project because the dictates of his religious faith (not to mention his faith in democracy over rule by activist judges) did not agree with the political beliefs of the thought police.

No one accused him of attempting to write a Superman story belittling homosexuals, or belittling anyone. Sales would have grown, not fallen. This was not about money or hurt feelings. It was about this: if a man thinks what St. Paul thought about homosexual acts, he cannot write a children’s yarn about a friendly alien Hercules saving a spunky girl reporter from mad scientists or moon-apes. Continue Reading

3

Science Fiction and Tolerance

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilised nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.

From a White Rose resistance pamphlet (1942)

 

 

I am happy that Dale Price is back to blogging on a fairly regular basis since it gives me a renewed opportunity to steal borrow blogging ideas from him.  He turns his attention at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings to the insane purge going on within science fiction fandom of anyone who has political beliefs that do not coincide with the politically correct bromides du jour:

Orwellian group-think comes to real-world science fiction writing.

 
A little recondite, but instructive: the Hugo Awards and SFWA are the latest (if minor) institutions to have succumbed to the left’s jackbooted tolerance enforcers. The issues have risen to the attention of USA Today, so it’s newsworthy instead of merely nerdworthy.
Larry “Monster Hunter” Correia explains part of the problem (the Hugos) in a link within the USA Today column.
Finally, Sarah Hoyt (not exactly a charter member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy herself) and John C. Wright both lower the boom. Continue Reading
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The Ten Commandments of the Science Fiction Writer

Ten Commandments

 

 

My co-blogger Darwin has a good post at his blog, Darwin Catholic, expressing his irritation at three laws proposed by the late science fiction writer Arthur Clarke.  Go here to read it.  The proposing of laws seems to often go with the territory of being a science fiction writer.  Asimov had his laws of robotics, for example.  Reading Darwin’s post propelled me into imagining the ten commandments for science fiction writers, and here they are:

 

 

1.  You are a science fiction writer, and will write only science fiction:  no fantasy, no (spit) urban fantasy, no (gag) romance novels disguised as fantasy.  This rule is subject to being overruled if you really, really need the cash.

2.  You will not bow down to the idols of popular taste or to what will sell in the mass market.  Kindle and e-publishing will have your sole worship.

3.  You will not take the name of science in vain and have more than three scientific absurdities in each story that you write.

4.  All the rest of creation labors for only six days.  For science fiction writing wretches remember the words of Heinlein:  “Six days shalt thou work and do all thou art able; the seventh the same, and pound on the cable.

5.  Honor your father and your mother as they may well be the ones supporting you as you seek fame and fortune by scribbling endlessly for a living. Continue Reading

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A Foundation of Determinism

Paul Krugman recently did a Five Books interview with The Browser, talking about his five favorite books. The books are: Asimov’s Foundation series, Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, two books by Lord Keynes, and a book of essays by economist James Tobin, one of Krugman’s old teachers. Of Foundation he says:

This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilisation, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that. The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

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Death Comes For The Brigadier

A sad day for Dr. Who fans everywhere.  Nicholas Courtney, who brilliantly portrayed the Brigadier in over 100 Dr. Who episodes, has died at age 81 of cancer:

Nicholas Courtney (born William Nicholas Stone Courtney on 16th December 1929) played first Colonel and then Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, beginning in “The Web of Fear” and finally in “Battlefield”. He reprised the role for the fan video “Downtime” (later adapted into one of the Virgin Missing Adventures), and for several audio dramas for the BBC and Big Finish Productions.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a British diplomat and educated in France, Kenya and Egypt. He served his National Service in the British Army, leaving after 18 months as a private, not wanting to pursue a military career. He next joined the Webber Douglas drama school, and after two years began doing repertory theatre in Northampton, and from there moved to London.

His first appearance in Doctor Who was in the 1965 serial The Daleks’ Master Plan, where he played Space Security Agent Bret Vyon opposite William Hartnell as the Doctor. The director Douglas Camfield liked Courtney’s performance, and when Camfield was assigned the 1968 serial The Web of Fear, he cast Courtney as Captain Knight. However, David Langton, who was to play the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, gave up the role to work elsewhere, so Camfield recast Captain Knight and gave the Colonel’s part to Courtney instead.

Lethbridge-Stewart reappeared later that year in The Invasion, promoted to Brigadier and in charge of the British contingent of UNIT, an organization that protected the Earth from alien invasion. It was in that recurring role that he became most famous, appearing semi-regularly from 1970 to 1975. Courtney made return appearances in the series in 1983 and his last Doctor Who television appearance was in 1989 (in the serial Battlefield). Continue Reading

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The True Star of the Fringe

My credentials as Chief Geek of this blog need refreshing.  The smartest, and best written, science fiction show currently on the air is The Fringe.    The show relates the adventures of a team working for the FBI that explore fringe events involving advanced science, extra-terrestrial aliens and other paranormal events.  It is a much better written and funnier X-files.  The team consists of two FBI agents, a mad scientist, the mad scientist’s son and a cow. John Noble does a superb job as mad scientist Walter Bishop as indicated in the above video where he engages in an inflora experiment on the friendliest of fruits.  Go here for some of the best of Walter clips. Continue Reading

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Junk Science Part II

A follow up to my initial post here on what is becoming known as Climategate.  Now news comes from New Zealand about massaging of data by global warming proponents.

The New Zealand Government’s chief climate advisory unit NIWA is under fire for allegedly massaging raw climate data to show a global warming trend that wasn’t there.

The scandal breaks as fears grow worldwide that corruption of climate science is not confined to just Britain’s CRU climate research centre.

In New Zealand’s case, the figures published on NIWA’s [the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research] website suggest a strong warming trend in New Zealand over the past century.

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"Hope and Change" Lizards Are Here!

If I can tear myself from the election results tonight, I plan on watching the pilot of the new V series on ABC which will premier at 7:00 PM central tonight.  I wrote about this new V series here in a post last May, a remake of a cheesy, yet entertaining, alien invasion show from the Eighties.

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Movie Review: District 9

MrsDarwin and I grabbed a rare chance to take an evening out last night and went to see District 9, a science fiction movie that came out a couple weeks ago. Contrary to stereotype, it was actually MrsDarwin who had latched onto this as the movie to see, and I’m glad she did as it was one of the more enjoyable SciFi flicks that I’ve seen in a while. (Movie Trailer here.)

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Krugman's Foundation

This Newsweek article about Nobel Prize-winning economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman contained an interesting biographical detail:

Krugman says he found himself in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, especially the “Foundation” series—”It was nerds saving civilization, quants who had a theory of society, people writing equations on a blackboard, saying, ‘See, unless you follow this formula, the empire will fail and be followed by a thousand years of barbarism’.”

His Yale was “not George Bush’s Yale,” he says—no boola-boola, no frats or secret societies, rather “drinking coffee in the Economics Department lounge.” Social science, he says, offered the promise of what he dreamed of in science fiction—”the beauty of pushing a button to solve problems. Sometimes there really are simple solutions: you really can have a grand idea.”

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