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ABF Friday:  Special Science Fiction Edition!

It’s so great to see that this guy has his very own blog.  Though he should update it more often if he wants to become a real A-lister.  I kept telling you that the giant enlightened insects were coming, but would you listen to me?  Noooooo.  Well, we’re all Multi-National United now.

Blogs are so 2005, though.  And in the spirit of aught-five, I’d like to say a couple of things about the first season of Battlestar Galactica.  The opening miniseries is very effective, and sheds new light (for me) on how much of the wingnut mentality depends on seeing apocalyptic threats everywhere, like that time when the inscrutable Cylon Soviet Mexican Islamists killed all but fifty thousand of us.  And this household hearts Starbuck.  Who wouldn’t?

But we have two complaints.  One, the setting in the distant past.  Yes, we understand that this will all be explained in the end, and the polytheistic humans and monotheistic Cylons will eventually be us, and the twelve colonies will become the twelve constellations, got it.  But didn’t any of the writers see that this would pose a spot of trouble along the way when it came to accessories and backgrounds?  Like, for instance, why is it that ancient humans had corded telephones and suits and neckties and stuff, and then lost them, and then got them back again?  Take the victory celebration after Baltar’s election as vice-president: are you telling me that ancient humans danced to swing music, then forgot it, then invented it again in the twentieth century? 

More important, the distant-past thing takes a lot of sand out of the bag, so to speak.  I mean, I don’t know about you, but for me, nine-tenths of the fun and interest in science fiction is the depiction of a more-or-less plausible future.  (See below for today’s Arbitrary game!) And I didn’t realize I felt this way until I started thinking for a while about the whole entire premise of BSG, so it’s not like I came to the series with a bad attitude.

Two, we hate the Number Six / Gaius Baltar plot.  Hate it hate it hate it.  And all its silly devices, too.

After we started season two last night, I asked Janet to remind me just why we were doing this anyway.  Weren’t we going to catch up on Deadwood or something instead?  She said that a friend and colleague told her that we absolutely had to see Battlestar Galactica first because, in the friend’s words, “it’s like The West Wing with sex.” When Janet told her that we’d never seen The West Wing, our friend did what all our academic friends do when we tell them we’ve never seen seen The West Wing: she fell out of her chair. 

Apparently we were supposed to watch The West Wing

Anyway, now that the enlightened insects are here and one of them has his own blog, which SF movie most plausibly depicts what the Earth will be like in the next few decades?

2001, except for the floating-fetus bit and, oh yeah, except for the whole “set-in-2001” bit.

Blade Runner, except for the flying cars.

Children of Men, except for the global-infertility epidemic.

I Am Legend 28 Days Later, except with extra zombies.

Independence Day, except that the First Lady survives the helicopter crash and becomes President of the Twelve Colonies.

Terminator series, except that after the terminator comes at us in a big truck carrying crude oil or liquid nitrogen or something, and we crush it in a drill press or maybe shoot it and shatter it into a million pieces, but then his metal forearm survives and provides scientists with the basis for creating a whole new kind of artificial intelligence, and then the liquid-metal terminator re-forms and we have to shoot it with one of those huge exploding bullets and make it fall backwards into a vat of molten steel, and then we send ourselves back into the past (that is, the present) to protect ourselves from the terminators who want to start a global thermonuclear war, but then it turns out that the war happens anyway, which is kind of complicated, because we thought we’d avoided it when we shot the liquid-metal terminator with the huge exploding bullet and he fell into the vat of molten steel, but then we win the war in the future and also there’s a sequel to the molten-vat part that’s also a prequel to the ... never mind, I meant to say “except for the part where the terminator becomes governor of California and turns the state into a barren, nightmarish landscape of twisted steel.” Because that’s from Demolition Man.

District 9, except for ... no, that one seems pretty much spot on.

Your suggestions?

Posted by on 02/12 at 12:33 PM
  1. Idiocracy.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  02:09 PM
  2. I think Blade Runner was a good depiction of the near future when it came out, and it depicts the present pretty well now. Except robot warriors are in Afghanistan and not on the shoulder of Orion.

    Even if you disagree with that, don’t you think we are living in Phil Dick’s X. universe now?

    Posted by Steve Muhlberger  on  02/12  at  02:25 PM
  3. Obama talking to Congress or the press reminded me of Idiocracy. Also I like their portrayal of a future Fox News. Supposedly Fox Corp. didn’t promote the movie b/c of that insult.

    I liked Battlestar Galactica, it has its moments of greatness. West Wing seemed too smug to me. Just got around to watching Arrested Development (c. 2004) which is the funniest show ever.

    Posted by Peter K.  on  02/12  at  02:32 PM
  4. Serenity, except you all have to mine mud on backwater planets while I get to motor around on Firefly having superficially dangerous, fun adventures. And the Chiwetel Ejiofor Operative character, freed from bureaucratic thrall, now hunts down apologists for the Bush Administration.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  02:33 PM
  5. But a lot of people who I admire like the West Wing. WW and BGC do deal with a lot of issues. I can’t remember for sure, but I think BGC gets better in seasons 2 and 3. I watched it from the beginning and was sad when it was over.

    Posted by Peter K.  on  02/12  at  02:34 PM
  6. Like, for instance, why is it that ancient humans had corded telephones and suits and neckties and stuff, and then lost them, and then got them back again?

    Well, I was going to take this seriously with a rambling discourse on how it’s meant to allow an immediate sense of identity with the setting without lengthy infodumps (This is an infamous problem in speculative fiction, which is rife with colonists riding j’drook, which are like horses, except six-legged and purple).  Then I suddenly remembered that this show was Ron Moore’s baby, so I suspect that it was just sloppiness.

    Anyway, I’m totally holding out for a Things to Come future.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  02:48 PM
  7. are you telling me that ancient humans danced to swing music, then forgot it, then invented it again in the twentieth century?

    Platonic recollection, duh!

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  02:55 PM
  8. Waterworld.

    Michael, why would you want to watch Deadwood? A show about aging college faculty doesn’t sound that interesting.

    . . . and then lost them, and then got them back again? Because sometimes an invention feels right, like you discovered it rather than inventing it, because your soul remembers Beauty from its days in the World of Forms before you were born, and therefore certain aesthetic forms, like swing jazz, are Human Universals that must always be invented. And corded telephones.

    When I click on that blog I see Chinese characters. Is that part of the joke, or is it my browser? Is it a blog by the Prawnified guy from District 9?

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:02 PM
  9. PWNED in three words. Aaaargh.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:03 PM
  10. You mean aside from the obvious choice: Tron?
    Gattaca might still be a few years off, but genetic testing, an end to privacy and class immobility…
    Ok, so Gattaca is also pretty spot on.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:07 PM
  11. The Road, except less optimistic.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:10 PM
  12. it’s meant to allow an immediate sense of identity with the setting without lengthy infodumps

    For some reason this reminds me of this classic.

    PWNED in three words. Aaaargh.

    And PRAWNED in comment seven, too!  That’s not the Prawnified guy, that’s “Christopher” himself.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:16 PM
  13. Ok, so Gattaca is also pretty spot on.

    I love the fact that the genetic counselor is black, as is the person who rejects Vincent at his first “interview.” (The way the counselor smiles at the line “fair skin” is pretty priceless.) It’s like we created a society obsessed with genetics and completely oblivious to race—and the movie handles this with the lightest possible touch.

    But the idea that we would have passed a law making it illegal to discriminate genetically?  Please.  That one wouldn’t even make it out of committee.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:19 PM
  14. Well I just watched The Bourne Ultimatum again - it’s not exactly SciFi but boy is it overtaken by events. I mean their CIA assassination program is, like, secret. Hilariously naive.

    Also, Reign of Fire, but without the dragons.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:41 PM
  15. And Snow Crash - if without the Mafia-controlled pizza delivery service.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:44 PM
  16. I mean their CIA assassination program is, like, secret. Hilariously naive.

    And remember when it becomes public knowledge?  There’s, like, a scandal of some kind?  Preposterous.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  03:46 PM
  17. Wall-E, except without the robots, which I guess isn’t that different from Idiocracy really.

    Not that you have any reason to believe me, but Deadwood is superior to BSG--I kind of can’t believe that someone who teaches postmodern lit wouldn’t have seen Deadwood yet. As for BSG: I too enjoyed the “what if the Bush administration’s version of reality was actually true” ramifications of the premise, but the soapy elements grow tiresome and some of the acting is intolerably bad.

    Posted by Rob  on  02/12  at  03:59 PM
  18. Re: BSG and past/future. It doesn’t matter. People who were anal about it got pissed, I suppose, but when it took place wasn’t the point. It was an ambitious series about identity, politics, military/government conflict, religion, and the kitchen sink, with cockeyed parallels to our own world. Past or future? Who cares?

    Philip K. Dick wrote a jillion novels that were set in the future, because he was paid to write science fiction. But somehow, no matter what futuristic universe he concocted, and no matter how many gelatinous lifeforms from another world he tossed into the mix, the books were all about life in Dick’s present. WWIII might happen, powerful alien cultures might have taken over the earth, but the hero was always a neurotic guy with lady problems and a complicated relationship with his boss. Long-time Berkeleyans, if any are reading this, will appreciate that after one nuclear holocaust in a Dick novel that left only a handful of people living in the remnants of the Bay Area, Edy’s Ice Cream Parlor was still standing. (None of this applies to the late, post-Valis stuff, but I’m one who thinks the last good one was Scanner Darkly.)

    Posted by Steven  on  02/12  at  04:00 PM
  19. BSG has alot of problems, one of which is that the creators didn’t seem to have thought the entire thing through to the end when they were making the first season. 

    As for the seeming anachronisms, you have to remember that BSG is set 40 years after the Cylong war, after which there was a major anti-tech backlash.  If you watch the first few episodes of Caprica, the prequel that just started airing, they have all kinds of nifty tech stuff 58 years before the miniseries supposedly occurs (like virtual sex clubs and headsets that project a computer user interface onto a piece of paper), though technology is clearly very limited to those with resources.  At the point in time when the miniseries occurs, stuff like networks and the internet are just coming back into vogue, but the whole reason that Galactica survives is that the Commander is basically a Luddite. 

    Also, the line “all this has happened before and all this will happen again” gets repeated so many times you may eventually want to smash your TV, but it’s the concept that allegedly explains all the continuities between BSG and the present (i.e. humanity keeps inventing the same crap and playing out similar histories over and over again).  If it bothers you, prepare to be upset with the Season 3 finale.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  04:07 PM
  20. I kind of can’t believe that someone who teaches postmodern lit wouldn’t have seen Deadwood yet.

    But I don’t teach postmodern lit anymore, because Alan Sokal proved that it was all false.

    Re: BSG and past/future. It doesn’t matter. People who were anal about it got pissed, I suppose, but when it took place wasn’t the point. It was an ambitious series about identity, politics, military/government conflict, religion, and the kitchen sink, with cockeyed parallels to our own world. Past or future? Who cares?

    Yeah, I tried to take that attitude for awhile.  But then the series itself kept reminding me that people were, you know, looking for “Earth.” And telling me that this had happened before and will happen again, again.  So clearly, the premise matters to the writers.

    But when I manage to forget the premise, I mostly like the series so far.  And we totally like the fact that it has approximately infinity percent more women in leading roles than your average action/ adventure film.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  04:15 PM
  21. Alan Sokal proved that it was all false.

    But that was before Deadwood successfully arrived at a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity. Actually, I’m not such a huge Deadwood partisan; I just think someone who thinks a great deal about language would enjoy it.

    You’re right about the women in leading roles thing though. In that sense BSG is decidedly not just The West Wing with space-sex. And watching that show’s alternate version of reality while remembering the actual political climate at the time is even more bizarre than BSG’s timeline.

    Posted by Rob  on  02/12  at  04:56 PM
  22. And Snow Crash - if without the Mafia-controlled pizza delivery service.

    Oh, come on, Professor h.  Try to have just a smidgen of optimism.  I’m sure that a Balkanized [insert hysterical giggling here] future America will still be tops at coding and pizza delivery.

    and therefore certain aesthetic forms, like swing jazz, are Human Universals that must always be invented. And corded telephones.

    First, I’m still not sure how this explains neckties.

    *SPOILERS*

    Second, the emphasis on telephones has brought to mind The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, in which the people of Golgafrincham rounded up their version of the Tea Party Patriots(TM) and other such “deadwood,” and sent them off to colonize another world.  Unfortunately, some of the deadwood they sent off were the telephone handset cleaners, and so their remaining civilization was wiped out by a disease contracted from a dirty telephone.  Meanwhile, the telephone handset cleaners and their brethren colonized prehistoric Earth.  Is this really a coincidence, Ronald D. Moore?

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  05:06 PM
  23. I just think someone who thinks a great deal about language would enjoy it.

    Indeed.  For instance, exactly how many nouns can be replaced by a crude term for one who performs fellatio*?  Answer: all of them.

    *Which is not the same as “teabagging,” something that many right-wing internet commentators seem unable to grasp.**

    **Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  05:10 PM
  24. It’s not SF, but the technology is SF-ish enough that I’m going to say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think we’ll be there in a few minutes. Or we already are and I had my memory of it erased.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  05:31 PM
  25. I have a question for the perfesser. Is Nabokov mocking sci-fi in Ada, or is he paying homage?

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  05:41 PM
  26. Still waiting for the Asimov Foundation Trilogy to be made into a movie, sequel, sequel.

    Then we’d have something.

    captcha “why” as in some people ask why, then some politician asks why not?

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  05:57 PM
  27. In the past week, I’ve seen Bruce Sterling and Kim Stanley Robinson both say, “The Future is Now” and mean that any future we can imagine is actually happening now, today, somewhere on our home planet.  William Gibson doesn’t write about the future any more either.  His new novels all take place in the present day.

    My future is the past plus the revival of some old technology. 
    Thirty years of experience with the public demonstration of solar technology is available in eight installments for a total of about a half hour of video:
    http://solarray.blogspot.com/2009/09/simple-solar-parts-1-2-and-3.html
    http://solarray.blogspot.com/2009/12/simple-solar-parts-4-through-8.html

    It is basic, survival solar, refugee camp solar but also a rise in the standard of living for the poorest third of the human population.  But it ain’t dramatic or big or makes a lot of $$$$s for the right people so it will probably never happen.

    Posted by gmoke  on  02/12  at  06:00 PM
  28. Admittedly, I can’t be trusted ... our cats are named Starbuck, Six, and Boomer ... but when I said past/future didn’t matter, I meant relative to our real lives. Folks spent a lot of energy trying to figure out if BSG occurred before or after 2010, but I assumed it occurred in a fictional universe with a relationship to real life that was far more metaphoric than actual.

    Posted by Steven  on  02/12  at  06:06 PM
  29. look, I love BSG as much as the next guy, except if the next guy is Chief.  But you haven’t really addressed the single greatest problem of the series: Edward James Olmos is disturbingly miscast, and watching him try to portray complex emotions is like watching a bear try to work an ipod. It’s upsetting. There are only four of us left in space!  Cylons attack every fifteen minutes and I"m tired!  Laura is superhot!  Where is earth?!  Starbuck plays by her own rules but I love her anyway! My uniform is way too tight! It really itches a lot!  It’s all exactly the same.  Everyone else seems to have pretty good acting skillz. Except for Edward James Olmos’s son.  He’s upsetting too.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  06:09 PM
  30. Gamer, except the plot where gamers control death-row inmates is better organized and more pragmatic than anything that our present House and Senate could manage. smile

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  06:16 PM
  31. Surrogates, except that the whole ‘celebrity doppelganger’ thing is so last week thanks to Facebook.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  06:19 PM
  32. Edward James Olmos is disturbingly miscast, and watching him try to portray complex emotions is like watching a bear try to work an ipod.

    I can see you don’t care for the every-word-in-a-gravelly-whisper delivery, Stephanie.  But don’t worry—we’ll always have “it’s too bad she won’t live!  but then again, who does?”—and Cityspeak!

    It’s not SF, but the technology is SF-ish enough that I’m going to say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think we’ll be there in a few minutes. Or we already are and I had my memory of it erased.

    That’s the weirdest feeling, isn’t it?  Just this afternoon I was thinking ... I know I’ve seen that “the terminator comes at us in a big truck carrying crude oil or liquid nitrogen or something” riff somewhere before.

    Is Nabokov mocking sci-fi in Ada, or is he paying homage?

    Hmmm.  Is this an either-or kind of blog or isn’t it?

    Posted by Michael  on  02/12  at  07:24 PM
  33. Oh, now it is on, Stephanie!  For your information, many bears would be perfectly capable of operating an iPod.  Especially if it’s a Shuffle.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  08:36 PM
  34. I can’t believe no one’s gotten this yet: it’s Avatar, right? Except without the alien planet. We just have lots of technology, but our planet is dying and we can’t get any unobtainium. And we still don’t have universal health care.

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  08:45 PM
  35. Eraserhead

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  09:24 PM
  36. Oh, come on, Professor h.  Try to have just a smidgen of optimism.

    What, you want optimism?  Sorry but i just don’t see it that way either.  Beginning in near future to farther:
    Handmaid’s Tale
    Soylent Green
    Caprica
    Gattica
    BSG
    Idiocracy

    the End

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  09:48 PM
  37. A Boy and His Dog.

    “It’s people! The Alpo is people!”

    Posted by David J Swift  on  02/12  at  10:42 PM
  38. "Alien.”

    Because the notion of corporations viewing humans as expendable means to find perfect killing tools for profit is practically here (if it hasn’t arrived already).

    Posted by Mr. Trend  on  02/12  at  11:31 PM
  39. Rollerball: Original version--my favorite scene (along with the party itself).

    THX-1138

    Posted by  on  02/12  at  11:32 PM
  40. Robocop.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  02:21 AM
  41. elliot,

    don’t hold your breath for Foundation, something wicked this way comes:

    “Roland Emmerich, the writer/director/producer behind Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012 is planning to adapt Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. The plans include using technology developed for Avatar including 3D and motion capture technology. When asked about using this technology Emmerich responded: ‘It has to be done all CG because I would not know how to shoot this thing in real.’”

    many snarky comments follow…

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  05:19 AM
  42. Robocop. Yes, good one. Replace THX-1138 in 38 with this one. (It’s really just the part of the video I linked that I really liked in THX, where they abandon the chase due to cost-benefit calculations and being over budget. So leave that part of it in. (Brazil has some of that flavor, so it gets a partial nod as well, along with Idiocracy and sorta, kinda Wall-E.) Snowcrash if it were a movie--but there isn’t one, right?

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  10:05 AM
  43. No true - no Snowcrash movie (I’d say “thank god"), I forgot this was only about movies earlier.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  10:28 AM
  44. Videodrome, except for the videotapes which are now outdated technology. Everything else seems pretty spot on to me.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  02:05 PM
  45. Videodrome except for the videotapes:  now there’s a remake just asking to be made.

    OK, so now we’ve got THX 1138 except with more hair, Robocop except for the happy ending, Avatar except for the aliens, and Alien except for the alien.  Things are looking good!  Remember, everyone, Tuesday is soylent green day.

    True fact:  I watched Robocop one night along with The Milagro Beanfield War.  (What can I say?  It was Mixed Genres Night.) And was surprised to find that Robocop was the smarter movie, politically.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/13  at  02:14 PM
  46. Well, maybe this is too idiosyncratic, but when my wife, who is as tall and as badass as Ripley, was pregnant, Alien jokes abounded.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  02:38 PM
  47. Gee, as a prof at State Pen writing about science fiction today, I’d think you could spare a sentence or so to note the passing of William Tenn.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  02:51 PM
  48. This counts as “writing about science fiction today”?  Who knew?  Anyway, here’s to William Tenn and his family.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/13  at  03:40 PM
  49. Staying with Verhoeven, Starship Troopers. Although it may be out because it’s scifi aspects was even then a thinly-veiled cover for the real world. That is, it didn’t attempt to predict the future but rather describe the present.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  04:39 PM
  50. Damn it, wrong apostrophe alert. “Its scifi aspects...” of course.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  04:40 PM
  51. Once again, Christian, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/13  at  04:59 PM
  52. After reading all the comments, I guess my plan to become a delivery boy in the year 3000 is kaput.

    Doh!

    Not only is Gattica the right answer, but after reading Stewart Brand’s “The Ecopragmatist’s Manifesto”, it appears to me that Jude Law won’t be the man we’re all pining to be. That place belongs to either Ricky Bobby or Ali G, far likelier prospects.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  05:23 PM
  53. The X-Files.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  06:43 PM
  54. which SF movie most plausibly depicts what the Earth will be like in the next few decades?

    I think, that to a certain extent, we are in for some surprises in the next few decades; changes that have not been forecast in film nor books.  Stepford Wives presents a negative view of transhuman consciousness that may very well be with us in this decade.  There is a very real chance that humans will become a mix of Robocop, Avatar, Terminator etc., albeit much more positive and productive.

    Posted by  on  02/13  at  11:11 PM
  55. triozyg,

    If they make Hari Seldon blue I’m personally going to put a serious ass-whupping on somebody.

    captcha “business” I will make it my business.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  01:32 AM
  56. West Wing was fine for a while, and then a Republican congress was elected (and Peggy Noonan came on to consult) and the show spent like three seasons just concern-trolling liberalism.

    As for our sci-fi future, I’m tempted to say Children of Men, but I think that movie is overly optimistic about how exciting the world will be as it winds down. If I could isolate the last half-hour in the fugee camp Bexhill, that’s how I picture it. A fully exploited, fully bored world. The Road, as Moonbatting Average posits above, but without the mobility.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  02:07 AM
  57. Never watched “West Wing” either, partly because of what #20 Rob mentions. The surreal cognitive dissonance of a soap opera about a liberal, intelligent White House administration being aired during the Dubya years was straight out of a Philip Dick novel.

    There was too much torture for my taste in BSG but it had its moments, and the Number Six/Gaius scenes actually get more amusing as the series goes on. The weirdest impossibility for me on that show is that with only 50,000 humans left in the universe, there’s a huge news crew following President Mary McDonnell and Lockjaw Olmos around whenever there’s a plot controversy. Uh, who’s paying them? There doesn’t seem to be any advertising, so how do you become press?

    Sci-fi future film that’s about to come true? John Wyndham’s “Day of the Triffids,” the British TV movie rather than the cheesy Forrest Tucker film. In fact, John Wyndham is a useful guide to all kinds of dystopias.

    Posted by sfmike  on  02/14  at  04:16 AM
  58. What about The President’s Analyst? TPC* is listening!

    (*that’s The Phone Company)

    Posted by Alex  on  02/14  at  08:55 AM
  59. … When asked about using this technology Emmerich responded: ‘It has to be done all CG because I would not know how to shoot this thing in real.’”

    Yeah, the first volume, especially.  All those people talking in rooms.  Since I still haven’t seen Avatar, has technology actually advanced sufficiently?  If so, perhaps someday someone will finally be able to adapt To Kill a Mockingbird to film, too.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  09:24 AM
  60. Mds is on to something: Imagine finally really getting to “see” 12 Angry Men or Glengarry Glen Ross.

    Always Be CGing.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  09:58 AM
  61. The weirdest impossibility for me on that show is that with only 50,000 humans left in the universe, there’s a huge news crew following President Mary McDonnell and Lockjaw Olmos around whenever there’s a plot controversy. Uh, who’s paying them? There doesn’t seem to be any advertising, so how do you become press?

    There isn’t any advertising—it’s the CBC, the Caprican Broadcasting Network, and it’s all paid for by ... um, cubits and hexagon basketball or something.  Or the bear tax.

    What I want to know is, where’s the Twelve-Colonies version of Jeff Gannon?

    Posted by Michael  on  02/14  at  10:37 AM
  62. I’m thinking Quest for Fire.  When it comes down to cavemen v. astronauts, cavemen win, every time.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  02:21 PM
  63. I’ve got to say Max Headroom continues to rack up prediction successes at a disturbing rate.

    Posted by s9  on  02/14  at  02:26 PM
  64. Theo, got yer William Tenn right here:  my obit and the NYT’s.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  03:01 PM
  65. which SF movie most plausibly depicts what the Earth will be like in the next few decades?

    That’s the question? (Thanks, spyder, for isolating it from the distracting “post” and “comments.")

    Slaughterhouse Five.
    Because I heard that once they get the kinks worked out of some Collider or other, we will all be unstuck in time.

    That, or all will look like Dresden. WAAGNFN.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  07:06 PM
  66. West Wing was fine for a while, ...  and the show spent like three seasons just concern-trolling liberalism.

    Actually that was the direct result of Aaron Sorkin going to jail and rehab, at the peak of the show, for his cocaine addiction.  That’s “life” (captcha) in the fast lanes for ya.

    Posted by  on  02/14  at  09:48 PM
  67. The weirdest impossibility for me on that show is that with only 50,000 humans left in the universe, there’s a huge news crew following President Mary McDonnell and Lockjaw Olmos around

    That’s easy: they’re the news crew that was following then-Secretary of Education Roslin to the dedication ceremony on Galactica before the ball dropped, and, being journalists, they have no other useful skills.

    Captcha: “has”, as in “Cheeseburger, I can”

    Posted by Calton  on  02/14  at  10:31 PM
  68. @Calton: Thank you for that explanation. It all makes sense now.

    Posted by sfmike  on  02/14  at  11:55 PM
  69. "It’s not SF, but the technology is SF-ish enough that I’m going to say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

    It’s totally SF. It’s basically Solaris set on Earth.

    As for Michael’s question, Gattaca is obviously the prime candidate. It’s still my favourite SF film of the 90s.

    Posted by  on  02/15  at  08:49 AM
  70. It’s definitely District 9. I mean, look at the aliens.
    They live in poverty and squalor, and a lot of them eat cat food. They speak a language that few others understand, their culture is obscure and their clothing bizarre, and they’re disliked and despised by the people in the surrounding town. (No one’s quite sure how they managed to get that vehicle up there in the first place, either...) Despite this, their technological skills are superb; they produce devices - in particular, weapons - that no one outside their community really understands, but which nevertheless are eagerly sought after by the large international corporations which ring them round. Every now and again, they are harassed with incomprehensible paperwork by mediocre bureaucrats.

    Basically, it’s like being at MIT.

    Posted by  on  02/15  at  12:18 PM
  71. "I’m thinking Quest for Fire.  When it comes down to cavemen v. astronauts, cavemen win, every time.”

    Or Clan of the Cave Bear. Yes caveman or Viking movies. My new favorite is the 13th Warrrior which stars Antonio Banderas as a cultured Muslim amongst a bunch of barbaric heavy metal band Vikings.

    Posted by  on  02/15  at  12:31 PM
  72. What #1 sed.

    And, Putney Swope.

    Posted by  on  02/17  at  04:12 PM
  73. How about cowboys vs. astronauts (mk12’s History of America)?  Not that I think it’s relevant, just funny.

    Back on topic, since according to Samuel Delany all sf is a “significant distortion of the present,” and since we can’t “plausibly depict” what is unknown, I think we should get a chance to talk sf again next Friday with a similar but suitably reworded question.  Can I get a motion?

    Posted by The Constructivist  on  02/19  at  03:19 PM
  74. About the telephones and neckties, I disagree - it’s a great idea and it’s not meant to be taken literally. It’s just a way of moving all those details into the “this part doesn’t matter, because it’s normal” category - just like the way everyone speaks English in English-language shows that are set on other planets or in ancient Rome. There are already some obvious differences between these people’s world and our world that really do matter, and a big part of the story is the abrupt loss of “normal” life, so it makes sense to make the “normal” actually feel normal rather than make it all an exercise in anthropologically sound world-building.

    It also makes it a lot easier to convey when something is supposed to be a little out of the mainstream, like the ‘70s-style phone handsets on the Galactica which instantly read as out of date, as they’re supposed to. If they had instead made up some futuristic/alien design for phones and then tried to imagine a clunkier-looking version of that, that’d be an interesting exercise but (I think) really unlikely to work as intended.

    This kind of thing is totally unremarkable in theater, but it’s rarely done so blatantly in TV/film - and probably won’t be again, because now it’d just be taken as a reference to BSG.

    Posted by Hob  on  02/20  at  02:43 PM
  75. Thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed and informative article. It has given me a lot of inspiration and I look forward to more like this in the future.
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    Posted by  on  02/21  at  12:22 PM
  76. hey David J Swift, I’m with ya on “A Boy and his Dog”.  Whatever happened to Harlen Ellison anyway?  We may be on more of “A Canticle for Leibowitz” path but the next few decades might a little tight to realize the timeline.

    Posted by  on  02/23  at  10:42 PM

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