Posts

Showing posts from March, 2009

Doomed to Repeat It: Battlestar Galactica, Thoughts at the End

I truly do believe that if Moore and his writers don't find a way to tell a story that mirrors present-day events without being overwhelmed by symbolism, Galactica will flounder. In all forms of writing, story must come first: the characters need to be real, the plot needs to make sense, you can't demand too much suspension of disbelief from your viewers. Place story second to ideology, and you'll soon find yourself with neither.

"Dear Ronald D. Moore: Scattered Thoughts at the End of Battlestar Galactica's Summer Season", September 27th, 2005

I think Moore is going to slide into the realm of metaphysics and go completely insane and I want to be there when it happens, not because I think the end result will be moving or awe-inspiring or even any good, but because I think it's going to be really, really big.

"The Episode That Broke Me and Other "Crossroads II" Thoughts", March 27th, 2007

Oh, God, it's totally going to end in mass suicid…

More Saturday Afternoon Sci Fi

I'll probably have some more substantial thoughts about Battlestar Galactica in a day or two, but in the meantime it's worth noting that it was a big weekend for science fiction all around, with several interesting developments.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles, "The Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" - a strong conclusion to last week's equally strong episode, which brings the Jesse-Riley storyline to a satisfying close. There are lots of good character scenes, and the flashbacks-to-the-future aboard the doomed Jimmy Carter are tense and quite creepy, and do more than the rest of the season put together to make Jesse sympathetic while stressing that she's caused as much suffering and horror as was caused her. On the other hand, the plotting is still middling-to-poor, most notably in the first and only encounter between John and Jesse, when the two of them have to pause what is otherwise a riveting conversation in order for John to spew exposition, alternately tell…

Hugo Season

The Hugo nominations are also out this week, somewhat sooner than I had expected. In all the fun and exasperation of trying to figure out what my own nominees were going to be, I sort of lost sight of the fact that the shortlist would be what it has always been--stodgy, middle-of-the-road, and old-fashioned. So I'm probably a little more disappointed than I ought to be by a ballot that does include a sizable proportion of stories I liked. Niall has the whole ballot, but here are my thoughts on the categories I can speak knowledgeably on (by the way, I note that Niall reprints the nominations in the order listed on the Anticipation website, which is not alphabetical by either title or author's name; should we draw conclusions from this about the number of nominations received by each work?):

Best Novel:
Little Brother by Cory DoctorowThe Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanAnathem by Neal StephensonZoe's Tale by John ScalziSaturn's Children by Charles StrossIt was pretty obvi…

Kings

I've been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading Kings since I first heard about it in the fall. Its premise--a retelling of the Biblical story of the first two Israelite kings, Saul and David, set in a modern-yet-monarchic alternate reality--is completely off the wall, especially for network television, and though I had to believe that anyone crazy enough to dream up such a story would also have a very specific vision of how to realize it and what they wanted to do with it, there's often a gap between what writers want to create and what their skill allows them to. The pilot episode, "Goliath," leaves me very intrigued, and absolutely planning to keep following the series. It's extremely well-made, with a strong cast, wonderful production values, and good direction (the scene in which David defeats Goliath--in this version, an enemy tank--in order to rescue some prisoners of war is especially impressive, a tense and engrossing sequence). At the same …

Clarke Season

Another cool thing that happens in the spring is the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the most consistently entertaining, interesting, and, judging more by its winners than its nominees, rightheaded major genre award. Torque Controlposted the list of novels submitted for the judges' consideration last month, and today has the shortlist (with many links to reviews of the nominated novels):
Song of Time by Ian R. MacLeodThe Quiet War by Paul McAuleyHouse of Suns by Alastair ReynoldsAnathem by Neal StephensonThe Margarets by Sherri S. TepperMartin Martin's on the Other Side by Mark WernhamI had already decided to take a pass on writing a Clarke shortlist review this year before the nominees were announced (mainly because I suspected that Anathem and The Quiet War would be on it, and felt that I'd already said all I had to say about bothnovels), and the actual shortlist isn't making me regret that decision. Of the two novels I've read, The Quiet War is well-done but underwhelm…

The End is Nigh? Thoughts on Serialized Television

It's spring, a time when, in recent years, a television aficionado's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of new pilots, and the faint but ever-present hope that unlike the fall selection, this batch will include at least one that doesn't suck. So far, the prospects are not good. The jury is still out on Dollhouse, but let's be honest: if the show had anyone's name but Joss Whedon's stamped on it, we'd all have dropped it by now. Nathan Fillion's new series Castle is fine in the sense that it'll keep him on our screens for what I suspect will be a much longer time than either Drive or Firefly managed, but if the pilot is any indication it's a cross between House and The Mentalist with both of those shows' already not very prominent rough edges filed off. Last night saw the premiere of Kings, quite possibly the highest concept non-genre series since Dexter hit the airways. I haven't watched the pilot yet, but it would be nice to think that …

Self-Promotion and Other Stuff

Michael Froggat and I do a double review of Adam Roberts's Yellow Blue Tibia in today's Strange Horizons.

Also, I haven't said anything about the Recent Unpleasantness because I honestly don't feel either qualified or sufficiently well-read to add anything to an already voluminous conversation. Fortunately, Niall has posted a short but characteristically lucid post on the subject (which also provides a handy primer for those of you who, perhaps mercifully, have no idea what I'm talking about) to which I can point and say "Yes. That."

Watchmen

In hindsight, it seems strange to have given so much credence to the conventional wisdom that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen was an 'unfilmable' comic book. As Zack Snyder's version proves beyond doubt, the book is its own screenplay, not only in the sense that it storyboards its action scenes and provides an aspiring adapter with a wealth of memorable images and set pieces, but because its narrative is a step by step guide to weaving together its interlaced plot strands of past and present into a single coherent, comprehensible story. All that was required to bring Watchmen faithfully to the screen was a filmmaker with sufficient courage to do just that, not to mention a judicious sense of what to cut away.

This is not to downplay Snyder's accomplishment. For one thing, to have had that courage, and what must have been a monomaniacal dedication to the original work, to undertake such a task is no small thing. More importantly, Snyder's Watchmen is a…

Matter by Iain M. Banks

It is surely one of the chief pleasures of making some substantial inroads into the bibliography of an author as prolific and imaginative as Iain M. Banks that one can debate, vociferously and at great length, the question of which of his books are good and which bad. Somehow, any discussion of Banks's novels tends to include a debate of this kind. It happened in the comments to my review of The Algebraist, and in those of Gwyneth Jones's review of Matter for Strange Horizons, and, perhaps inevitably, in the 20 best SF books of the last twenty years discussion at Torque Control. You would think that the further I get into Banks's catalogue--Matter is the sixth of his ten SF novels that I've read--the more inclined I would feel to join in these deliberations, but instead I find myself moving further and further away from the question, feeling less and less certain about the differences that make some Banks novels good and others bad.

I've enjoyed some of Banks's …