Trek Into the Past

So. Star Trek turned 45 last Thursday. Wow.

It’s been nearly twenty years since I lost my Star Trek innocence. I wasn’t much of a sci-fi fan as a teenager, especially not the teevee shows. I loved Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica and… that was just about it. I truly believed most of those shows were horribly corny, with awful special effects and atrocious writing. I was above all that. I would never ever in my entire life become a Star Trek fan. Star Trek fans were pathetic and weird.

Ah, youth. So full of certainty and so full of shit.

Then my friend Ryan spent a few days with us on his summer break from college. This happened at the same time they’d started releasing Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS. Yes, I am dating myself. Shut up. Anyway, Ryan saw these while we were at Wal-Mart one afternoon and snapped them up with evident glee. His little face just glowed. And he assumed that I, of course, would watch them with him.

“No,” I said. “I hate Star Trek.”

His face. So shocked. He pitched. He pleaded. He cajoled. He seemed to give up in the face of my continued refusal. I should’ve known better. Ryan was a man who could hear the word no, but not when it came to entertainment he believed in. And he could be a devious little bastard.

He also knew me very well. Since he was staying at my place with a herd of other friends, he had easy access to both me and backup. So at 8 in the ay-em, when I was still dead unconscious, he came into my bedroom. “We’re gonna watch Star Trek.”

I think I meant to say something like, “That’s nice, dear. I’m going to continue sleeping,” but what I really said was, “Groan.”

He started in on a let’s-watch-Star-Trek-together sales pitch, ending with, “C’mon. Just one.”

“If you want me to watch Star Trek,” I said, “you’ll have to carry me out there.”

And so he did. He scooped me right out of bed. He’s not the strongest man in the universe, but he was determined. Picture him staggering through my chaotic bedroom, trying to avoid tripping over debris, navigating hazards, while I watched the approaching door with the certainty that I was about to have my head cracked open upon it, if he didn’t fall and squish me first. I was about to die because a friend wanted me to watch Star Trek.

We made it to the living room with only minor bruising. He deposited me in front of the television whilst the other houseguests laughed and roared their approval. Ryan may not have been a strong man, but he was a smart man. He stuffed a Coke in my hand, knowing that at this hour and so equipped, I wouldn’t have the will to move for at least an hour, and an hour was all he needed. Then he turned on the telly.

The episode, for those interested, was “The Naked Now.” Yeah. If you know it, you’re already laughing.

By the end of that hour, I was hooked. By the end of summer, I was a full-on fan. I became an officer in our local fan club. I dressed as Deanna Troi for Ryan’s next visit (which didn’t shock him half so much as the fact that I was wearing makeup). I loved the friend who constantly wore his starship captain’s uniform, and didn’t think it at all weird that he’d spent months figuring out how to say, “Take your ticket and get on the damned boat” in Klingon. He worked for a boat rental company, it made perfect sense.

I owned the Enterprise’s manual. I wrote Star Trek fan fic. I read the books (and to this day, Q-in-Law is one of my favorite reading experiences. Read it. You’ll laugh). I watched all the movies. And I discovered a wealth of stories I hadn’t even known existed.

Star Trek taught me that sci-fi could be awesome, even in the television industry, even when the special effects weren’t all that. It taught me that this genre could tell amazing stories.

I rather drifted away after those halcyon early years of passion. I no longer read the books or write the fan fic. I don’t belong to a fan group, or keep up on the new spinoffs, or even all of the movies. But I haven’t stopped loving Star Trek.

I’ll always want my tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

I’ll always want to see them boldly going where no show has gone before, even if I’m not along for every voyage.


Goodbye, Our Sarah Jane

Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who played Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith, died of cancer today.  Russell T. Davies gives a worthy tribute to her here.  All I’ve got is this clip from YouTube that doesn’t do her justice, and some fangirl memories.

She was brilliant.  So very brilliant.  I’d never known her – my obsession with Doctor Who begins with Series 1 – but the instant she appeared on the screen in “School Reunion,” I didn’t need my friend to tell me she was someone special.  You didn’t have to know who she was.  She just blazed out from the screen.

It would have been such an honor to have gotten a chance to meet her.  I have to agree with Steven Moffat:

“Never meet your heroes’ wise people say. They weren’t thinking of Lis Sladen.”

We’re all going to miss her terribly.  One of the best companions ever.  She was brilliant.

If scientists ever manage to build an actual TARDIS, I can guarantee there’ll be one hell of a queue forming to go back to shake her hand.

People With No Understanding of Fantasy Probably Shouldn’t Review It

I have now, like every other fantasy fan with tits on the planet, read Ginia Bellafonte’s risible review of HBO’s adaptation of A Game of Thrones.

I’ve spent most of the week now trying to determine which planet she’s from.  I’m still not sure.  It hasn’t got the same color sky as mine, and the fact that she seems to think rape, incest and other varieties of less-than-romantic sex are thrown in to Martin’s harrowingly gritty books just to give the ladies something to love frankly concerns me.  I have to question the psychological health of a woman who thinks that’s the sort of erotica women go for en masse.  But never mind that.  What’s even more ridiculous than her bass-ackwards ideas of why GOT will have sex scenes is her insistence that Martin’s epic is somehow about global warming.

Yes.  Really.  Here, for those who don’t want to give her the satisfaction of another page view, is her take on the whole thing:

Here the term green carries double meaning as both visual descriptive and allegory. Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story. Rival dynasties vie for control over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros — a territory where summers are measured in years, not months, and where winters can extend for decades. 
How did this come to pass? We are in the universe of dwarfs, armor, wenches, braids, loincloth. The strange temperatures clearly are not the fault of a reliance on inefficient HVAC systems. Given the bizarre climate of the landmass at the center of the bloody disputes — and the series rejects no opportunity to showcase a beheading or to offer a slashed throat close-up — you have to wonder what all the fuss is about. We are not talking about Palm Beach. 

I have to wonder why Blogger doesn’t offer Comic Sans as an option, because any passages quoted from Ms. Bellafonte’s review deserve to be in said font.  Who here has read Martin’s series and thought it was about global fucking warming?   She obviously hasn’t.  Read the series, I mean.  And after that bizarre last sentence, which upon fourth reading still makes no sense, she drops the global warming question all together and instead asks why the show’s even on HBO.

Because, Ms. Bellafonte.  It is an epic series conducive to adaptation, popular with huge swathes of male, female and otherwise-gendered people.  It’s such a gripping story that even those of us who hated it – literally hated reading it – had to keep reading, and are ready to beat George R.R. Martin bloody (sparing his hands and skull) if he once again delays the release of the next book.  Some people at HBO, David Benioff chief among them, believed in its potential and saw the project through.  And HBO stands to rake in the cold hard cash, because, and this is important, not everyone is a sneering, fantasy-hating, too-avante-gard-to-live genius-in-her-own-mind lackwit with culturally piss-poor female friends such as yourself, Ms. Bellafonte.

I mean, seriously.  Not one of your female friends could clue you in?  You have never met one single, solitary woman who would prefer The Hobbit over the latest navel-gazing based-on-the-author’s-pathetic-excuse-for-a-life schlock offered up by book clubs that only seem to exist in order to make people who like good books cry?  Not even one?  Do you even leave your house?  Do you even talk to other women?  I have to wonder.

You apparently belong to that pathetic subset of the human population who think it makes them unbearably hip to bash fantasy at every possible opportunity.  You see armor and dwarves, and you’re in instant sneer mode, too busy looking down your nose to look beneath, at questions of what it means to be human and what morality is and how twisted society can be that would make your hair curl.  Fantasy can be brutal.  Fantasy can be uncompromising.  And it can make us think in ways we never would have been able to think if the issues had been presented through any other medium.  Unfortunately, it can’t get through to the likes of you, Ms. Bellafonte, because you seem to be operating under the assumption that this isn’t something good girls should like.  Your fucking loss.  And believe me, it is a loss.

Upon rumination, I can only come to the conclusion that your review is the result of a pathological hatred of fantasy combined with a serious lack of insight into the vast majority of your fellow females.  It seems to me to be a cry for help.  You should meet some new people.  People like me and my lady friends, who think nothing of spending an evening geeking out over shows like Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and (oh, yes) Game of Thrones.  Speak to women who would move to Middle Earth in one second flat if given half the chance.  Listen to women whose bookshelves groan under the weight of more fantasy tomes than can be listed in one small blog post.  Your sample size has been skewed by the fact your head has been firmly lodged up your posterior.  There are legions of female fans of fantasy and science fiction.  And two things you should have realized before penning something so incredibly stupid from start-to-finish:

1. We don’t appreciate being told we don’t exist.  And

2.  Trying to review a genre you’re clueless about leads only to humiliation.

Keep this in mind the next time you plan to heap scorn upon a show you’re reviewing.  Especially if HBO decides to do a Thursday Next series.  Because, while Martin’s fans can be brutal, Fford ffans are just downright terrifying.

P.S. I get the impression from your article that you must have obtained a college education of some description.  Were I you, I’d be asking for my money back. 

For further entertaining dissections of one of the dumbest reviews in the history of television reviews, see:

George R.R. Martin’s brilliant response (and delightful shout-out to his fangirls).

Annalee Newitz explains why the show’s actually targeted at women only.

Geek With Curves demonstrates why you should not piss off someone whose next tattoo is inspired by Joss Whedon.

Margaret Hartmann demonstrates the art of the short, sharp smackdown.

And our own Stephanie Szvan digs in, plus bonus story!

I’m sure I’ve missed about five gajillion.  Pop your faves into the comments, and/or any ranting you feel moved to.  Epic length comments welcome.  We are talking about fantasy here.

The Difference Between Guys and Gals

I sometimes worry, when writing from male points of view, that I’m getting it all wrong.  Okay, so, granted, I took some BBC quiz thing once that was supposed to measure the relative gender of your brain and came out strongly on the male side.  Spent most of my childhood running wild through the neighborhood with the boys and seemed to hold me own.  But still.  I’m a girl.  Got the parts to prove it.  Got the damned monthly agony to prove it, too, though I wish I didn’t.  And I sometimes wonder if my boys are turning out too much like girls.

Livia Blackburne’s post On Writing Realistic Male Characters is a bit of a help there.  So is seeing stark yet subtle examples of the differences in the way men and women view the world.

For instance, I’ve just finished Doctor Who Series Four (for the second time), and something about the end of it was bugging me.  What I’m about to discuss has spoilers, so for those of you who haven’t yet seen the show, but plan to, and want their viewing experience to be spoiler-free, I’m putting the rest below the fold.

Right.  All present and accounted for, aside from the non-spoiler sorts?  Good.  Great.  Let me set the scene: in Series Two, The Doctor’s companion, Rose Tyler, ended up trapped in a parallel universe.  Considering how close the two of them were, it was terrible for both.  She loved him, he loved her, and twas sad stuff all round.

I mean, just look at the two of them and tell me they weren’t something special:


At the end of Series 4, Rose finds her way back.  And it’s one of those hugely touching moments where they see each other, and break into this flat-out run, and just as The Doctor’s about to reach her BAM! Dalek shoots him.  Which isn’t much of a problem, really, what with the whole regeneration thing.  But Russell T. Davies had her wanking about how he can’t change, not after all she’s gone through to find him, as he lays there unconscious and dying on the Tardis floor.

Drove.  Me.  Nuts.

One, she’s already been through one of The Doctor’s regenerations, and that had turned out great, so why would she worry about it?  Two, he was dying, she loves him, and she should’ve really been screaming at him to get on with the whole regeneration thing before it’s too late, not sitting there wanking about him changing.  Three – oh, fuck it, I’m tired of pummeling Russell T. Davies.

So that weighed on me.  Worried at my mind for a few days.  It was like having a tiny little rock in my sock, driving me absolutely mad.  And then I had it, the reason he hadn’t got it: he’s being a stereotypical boy.  Physical appearance means a lot to a guy.  Whereas a woman, meh.  Yeah, ladies like the good looks.  But we aren’t quite as fixated on them.  If the person we’ve fallen for is still going to be pretty much the same in mind and emotion, we can get over the physical package.  But apparently, that never occurred to Russell T. Davies.  So he had Rose being a wanker.  Argh.

Contrast that with a story arc from Series 3, “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks.”  These were written by Helen Raynor.  And they didn’t lack for kick-arse action – the lady, ladies and gentlemen, is fucking brutal.  But she’s also a she.  And so we have a bit of a mirror element in here, with two of the supporting characters, Laszlo and Tallulah.  In the beginning, we see that they’re sweethearts.  Then the Daleks snatch him away and turn him into a pig-slave (long story).  His mind remained intact, but he wouldn’t win any beauty contests now.  He hid himself away from Tallulah, convinced she could never love a monster.  But when she found out, though she was a bit squigged at his appearance, she loved him still, and they go on to what we can expect was a long and happy life together.

That, my darlings, is the essential difference between these two episodes.  Helen Raynor got both the guy and gal right – the guy afraid that physical deformity would ruin the relationship, the gal too much in love to care.  Russell T. Davies, on the other hand, got the gal absolutely wrong.  And he made Rose Tyler a little bit less of a character because of it.

The moral: men and women are similar, but not the same, and a writer would do well to always remember that.  Make sure that when you’re running your work by your Wise Readers, you’re asking them to point up the bits where you got the other gender willing-suspension-of-disbelief shatteringly wrong.  But also keep in mind that generalizations about gender differences are just that – generalizations.  You can have shallow women and deep men when it comes to the whole body vs. mind thing.  Real people aren’t 100% stereotypical, and neither should your characters be.  The most important thing is to stay true to the character you’ve built.

All that said, I’ll forgive Russell T. Davies anything after what he did with “Midnight.”

An Idiot Abroad: Not Just Americans Are Ugly

Ricky Gervais is a terrible, terrible friend.  He played a rather expensive practical joke on his friend Karl, and the result is An Idiot Abroad, a series in which a stay-at-home-Brit experiences the wonders of travel.

So far, I’m learning things.  I’m learning it’s not just Americans who can be remarkably close-minded.  I’m learning there’s virtually nothing you can’t put on a stick and eat.  And I’m learning more about how fortune tellers suck in the gullible.  It seems to have quite a bit to do with scaring the bejezus out of them from the get-go.

It’s hysterical.  I think I’ll be watching the rest.

What Fascinates You?

So it’s another day wherein I have abandoned my normal routine for an afternoon out and a marathon session of Castle.  Look, we’ve got just over two seasons to catch up on, all right?  And I only get to see it Mondays. 

The weather outside was frightful, so we accomplished our long-postponed tour of Evergreen Hospital, which I shall be writing up tomorrow.  If your local hospital gives tours, take advantage, my darlings: it’s impressive.  At least if your facility is as cool as Evergreen is. 

Then we came home, made obscene amounts of food, and plunked ourselves down for hours and hours of Castle, which plan my cat heartily approved.  I love this show.  I still love it, even though I was slightly afraid they’d hit a second-season slump.  There’s no other show quite so good at taking lines that coulda shoulda woulda been cliched and making them not just relevant, but hilarious.  Warps expectations, turns tired tropes 45 degrees and has fun with them, nice sexual tension going – what’s not to love, right?

But I’m still trying to figure out why I love it so much.  And the conclusion I’ve come to is that every regular character is eminently likable.  They’re just fun to hang out with.  They’re interesting, they’re sympathetic, they surprise just enough to stay interesting and not enough to dismay.  It’s a delicate balance that’s very hard to strike.  And, bonus, even when the show could go there, it doesn’t reach for the supernatural.  Seems like every fucking show has thrown in gratuitous supernatural shit since Lost.  Now, I do enjoy the supernatural shit – I’m a die-hard Buffy fan, for fuck’s sake – but when it’s thrown in willy-nilly, it just irritates me.

So that’s now got me curious.  What does it for you, my darlings?  What hooks you on a show?  What keeps you hooked?  And what should I become obsessed with next (aside from House, which is already in my collection)?

Loving Bad Universe from Literally the Second It Starts

I’ve pseudo-liveblogged my reaction to the premiere episode of Bad Universe.   I didn’t watch it live, alas.  Meant to, but I fell asleep this evening (and dreamed I was running away from glaciers – don’t ask me why), then woke up too late for the main event.  Besides, the new downstairs neighbors sounded like they were torturing and killing an elephant downstairs.  It turns out they were just preparing for a night on the town, which apparently requires pachyderm sacrifice.  Go figure.  I let them get done with that so’s they wouldn’t impact (ha!) my viewing pleasure.

And here, raw and unvarnished, my thoughts on the program:

When a science show starts out, “The experiments in this program are conducted by trained professionals.  Do not attempt any of these tests at home,” you know there’s gonna be mayhem.
“Smells like mass extinction.”  HA HA HA HA HA!
License plates, I get, but did they seriously have to pixelate the manufacturer’s logo on the truck?  What, did Chevy not pay them for the privilege?  Mark this as the first time I’ve been curious enough to pause a program so I could google an SUV.
I love they’re mixing explosions with the Inverse Square Law – and the Bikini Gage.
The look on Phil’s face when that first explosion went off was priceless.  And any show that includes the words, “Let’s go do field geology!” immediately makes it to the top of my viewing list.
(Long interval of eating pizza whilst immersed in show.  Do not take lack of commentary for apathy.)
Want a scale-model dry ice comet!
Does Phil really have a warning sign that says “Big Scary Laser”?  Want that, too!
Do not want the show to end.
Um.  The graphic of of Apophis?  Fucking terrifying.
Poor big granite ball.  Ouchies!  But its sacrifice was not in vain – that was motherfucking awesome.
Less than 19 years to save the world.  Good thing Bad Universe is on now!  This has been much more terrifying (by virtue of being accurate) than most ZOMG the world’s gonna end! teevee shows.  It might spur some actual action.
More than happy with this show.  If Discovery doesn’t make it a regular feature, I’m calling for a mob.  Sharpen your pitchforks and oil your torches just in case.

Kudos, Phil!