I’ve been kind of preoccupied with some minor things over the past couple weeks.
I’ve been kind of preoccupied with some minor things over the past couple weeks.
One of my favorite aspects of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction is the worldbuilding and its never more apparent in his centuries-spanning Foundation series.
Indeed, the Galactic Empire and the many of the ensuing interstellar governments were ones I kept in mind while fashioning the Imperium for Rogue Tyger. I’m actually re-reading the series while working on new seasons of the show (it’s easily been over 20 years since I last read them).
So imagine the delight when I saw this teaser trailer for a “prestige” TV series adaptation due out next year? I know they’re likely going to make some noticeable changes to some of the characters and connective plot in order to keep a cinematic throughline, but I’m hopeful it will be a great mix of the clear production design combined with the themes that made the novels so engaging.
Heck, I’ve even written a Jabberwocky Audio special that parodies the many tales of crews boarding derelict ships.
This is quite established, as the crew over at Generation Films knows well:
Warning, this will have spoilers for
I’ve posted about science fiction tropes before, but as we’re now deep into the Era of Social Distancing, at least some writing has got to happen, right?
So here’s another list ranking tropes via Ross Johnson for Barnes & Noble. I might quibble with the ranking of the top 5 (dystopian governments and time travel would be my 2 and 1 respectively), but everything on the list should give you a knowing nod or a smile.
And who doesn’t like space pirates?
I finished up my rewatch of seasons 1-3 of The Expanse this past weekend and it was just as good the second time.
If you don’t know this hard sci-fi series, the original trailer isn’t a bad way to gauge whether you’re interested or not:
There is a running theory that SyFy will cancel any series you love, like Lucy pulling away the football from Charlie Brown. SyFy did not disappoint, even as The Expanse got to be bigger and bolder and beloved by audiences, so they canceled it at the end of the third season. I mean, in fairness, it can’t have been cheap to produce, but perhaps Syfy resents spending more on something than Sharknado.
I loved the show since its slow-burning first season and continue to enjoy how they’ve layered in more complexity and world-building. That a big chunk of the show is the small-crew-in-lone-ship-encountering-adventure sub-genre certainly doesn’t hurt (as regular readers may recall, I like that sci-fi sub-genre so much, that’s the basis of my own not-nearly-as-hard-sci-fi show).
The Expanse is frequently compared to Game of Thrones for its multi-character storytelling and far-reaching world-building. I’d also point out that many of the characters and situations can feel very, very real even as they deal with fantastical occurrences. This is hard sci-fi, but with some of the Arthur C. Clarke-style sufficiently-advanced-technology-indistinguishable-from-magic.
Anyway, Amazon picked up the show and are about to drop season four this Friday. In fact, you can begin your binge watching with a modicum of solace as they’ve already renewed it for season five. Early looks at the series are positive and I have to agree with Alicia Lutes over at Vulture who urges you to check it out.
And if that’s not enough, there’s the season four trailer:
I saw Ad Astra this past weekend, which is doing its part to make sci-fi hard like vibranium not squishy like flubber
Scientist James O’Donoghue decided to make an animation to demonstrate how “warp speeds” worked in Star Trek, its various incarnations known for loving science… while certainly not being beholden to rigidly adhering to known norms because writers.
In any case, even though vast distances can be crossed in three days or three weeks “at maximum warp” based the needs of the episode, official unofficial definitions of how faster than the speed of light Star Trek‘s warp speeds have been documented. So, Warp 9.9 –basically the point where Scotty would presumably tell Kirk in no uncertain terms that the Enterprise is about to fly apart– is 2,083 times the speed of light. That’s fast.
But space is big. Really, really big. So fast is, wait for it, relative.
So I don’t agree with the headline that warp speed is “achingly slow” –I mean I’d like to get to the next star system in the same time it take us to get to the other side of the planet– it only goes so far, so fast.
As an inveterate geek who can pass as a “muggle,” I’m well acquainted with the concept of downplaying any connections to nerd/geek culture. My reluctance to unfurl my own weird flag has waned greatly over the past 15 years or so, but I understand that reticence.
Sarah Ditum, writing in the Guardian, details how authors have historically, and even today are averse to their work being labeled “science fiction” even as “nerd culture” has never been more dominant.
George R. R. Martin, however, has been to just about every Worldcon he could for several decades running.
This year’s WorldCon is in Dublin, so the Irish Times caught up with him and he mused on WorldCons and fandom and all sorts of things.
A brief, but excellent remembrance is from Mark Evanier, who knew him for almost 50 years. I think he put it best when he said:
Harlan was a writer who made other writers proud to be writers.
He goes on to… not go into how Harlan Ellison turned “cranky” into an art form. Indeed, in the past decade or so, I’ve read numerous anecdotes lauding Ellison’s influence, but noting that he could switch from congenial to cantankerous depending on when you approached him.
But time and again in those anecdotes you will see how Harlan Ellison stood up for himself and other writers. He was not about to let writers be disrespected, dismissed, and above all, be unpaid. And he backed up this attitude in word and deed: do not underestimate the writer.
Seriously, in D&D terms, Harlan Ellison is the person you bring up when someone muses whether bards could ever be dangerous.
Dungeon Master (DM): You see a bard standing in your way. He has pulled out his lute.
Player One: A bard?!?
Player Two: I unsheathe my sword
Player Three: Seriously, DM? We’re ready for a Tiamat-level monster and you–
DM: The bard starts playing his lute. He steps into the light. It’s Harlan Ellison.
Player One: @#$%!
Player Two: I lower my sword and back away slowly
Player Three: I toss him a couple gold coins and say, “Semper reddere scriptor.”
If you’ve only known Ellison for his excellent work in television (Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits), I urge you to seek out some of his other works. The short stories ” “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman” and “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.”
I also have a certain fondness for his 1987 graphic novel anthology with Ken Steacy, Night and the Enemy.
I’ll leave with the author in his own, not-safe-for-work words, regarding paying the writer:
R.I.P. Harlan Ellison. I mean, I don’t think it’s your style, but R.I.P.
Rockets and starships and especially naval ships getting spacefaring analogues occupy my thoughts from time to time. Okay, a lot of the time. I know I’m not alone in this gentle obsession, so it was nice to come across this lengthy article by Jeff “Hageshii01” Venancio all about military ship types in actual naval history and how they’ve been applied in science fiction settings.
This is probably a good time to mention that, if you want to scratch your sci-fi itch and you’ll be in the DC area around Memorial Day, you should check out Escape Velocity. I will be there as part of the Jabberwocky Audio Theater performance of War of the Worlds, but there’s a lot of other fun stuff that weekend, including a panel about Aircraft Carriers in Space and also one about Honor Harrington.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the original poem alluded to in the title above, that’s “Sea Fever” by John Masfield. You may remember a certain captain referencing it: