The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘star trek’

Thanksgiving

Posted by BigWords on November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving. Yeah, that’s another brilliant idea I’m going to steal for Blighty. We don’t often look on the positive side of things over this side of the pond, rather tending – with equal parts dismay and dry humor – to paint a picture of a less than brilliant existence. We like moaning about the weather, telling horror stories about medical care, complaining about queues, and… Stuff. Needless to say, there comes a time when we should look, for once, to things which aren’t going to drive us to despair. It’s an opportunity to say “Hey, Britain isn’t as shit as we thought it was.” And we have a lot to be thankful for – medical advances, computer achievements on a par with anything coming out of Japan, a stellar literary community… Doctor Who as well, I guess. Or at least Amy Pond.

Okay, so this calls for a list. I may as well go all out here.

I am thankful for:

…the fact that Brannon Braga isn’t writing the new Star Trek film.
…the existence of Blair Atholl malt.
…the existence of the internet, and high speed connections which makes downloading all the important things so fast and easy.
…the cancellation of Enterprise. And Bionic Woman. And… Have they nixed Knight Rider yet?
99 Red Balloons. The perfect song to listen to as North Korea stirs up shit. Again.
…all of The Three Stooges shorts available online.
…British libraries. And book shops. Also the amazing staff who never throw me out.

Damn. I suck at this. I’m not sure this is going to take off in the UK.

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A New Star Trek Continuity (By Wold Newton Means)

Posted by BigWords on September 5, 2010

Star Trek. One of the most successful science fiction properties of all time, and one of the universes which gets a disproportional representation within the SF community, has always had problems. I’m not referring to the twisted around ideas which led to stardates (there is a certain logic to the notion that relative time can be kept, then squared against a central database), nor the mess made of warp drive numbering (that is covered by Science Marches On in-universe), but more esoteric aspects of the timeline which cannot be easily reconciled without heavy editing of the facts as they are presented to us. Having never been the most obsessive nor reasonable fan of televised SF, I’ve often looked outside of canon for explanations to the things which bug me, but this time I think I may have crossed a line in my attempt to rationalize some of the things which don’t make sense, or which need greater expansion.

This has taken me a while to work out (and there are still bits and pieces that I’m adding, changing, tweaking and blatantly ignoring), but I think I know most of the reasons that Star Trek doesn’t work for me. This is, of course, pushing my interpretation of Star Trek farther from the one which most viewers will be familiar with, but if it makes sense to me, then I can live with any irritation I raise in others. First and foremost amongst my problems with the universe is the timeline, which has been so completely screwed over by multiple re-tellings, contradictions, reset button-pushing and blatant lies, that it no longer resembles a stable progression of events as much as it does a hodge-podge of ideas thrown together by various disparate groups within the controlling group of writers, making a mockery of how people appreciate the events which led to the creation of an interstellar society able to function independently of Earth.

Lets see if I can shed some light on how I perceive the world of Picard, Sisko, and Captain ‘Crazy Janeway’ as filtered through a Wold Newton-inspired interpretation of things which might make up for the problems in the accepted history. It’s going to annoy the hell out of purists, but it is the only way that I can watch the show and not feel the need to to scream profanities at the screen. I’ve ignored some elements considered canon by both the show and the fans, and introduced things which are possibly heretical but which are very, very cool. This may turn the bright, happy future envisioned by Gene Rodenberry into a Crapsack Universe, but it is one in which I would much rather spend time. The dates are rough, though I’m sure someone with a tad more patience could make it all hang together if they consider the events I have decided to include – some of which actually make sense of the logic which Enterprise and the recent film reboot have thrown out of the window, fetched back inside, crapped all over, then thrown out of the window again.

Before anyone decides that the following is entirely too dumb, spend five minutes flicking through the reviews of DS9 and Enterprise episodes on The Cynic’s Corner, and try to reconcile the multiple given histories of the Federation. Try it. You’ll go insane in the attempt. Better to start afresh, and use all the basic story points as a way to fold in some of the better ideas from outside of Star Trek canon, because the franchise is in desperate need of a shot of adrenaline. It’s more apparent when you watch episodes back to back, but even a casual viewer there are problems. Consider this along the same lines as Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, where things are similar to the original stories, but told afresh and with a more coherent ethic – well, at least as Ultimate was in the beginning. The Ultimate Universe managed to contradict itself mightily as it went on.

The Pre-History Of Space Travel

1969 – 2025

In the two-part Voyager episode Future’s End it is shown that Henry Starling has had access to 29th century technology from as far back as the 1960s, which he has been using to push Earth’s software and hardware knowledge far in advance of where such knowledge should be. This, more than any other aspect of Star Trek‘s timeline, is the crucial point at which we ought to separate from our own history – the “real” history of Earth. Voyager‘s only notable contribution to either entertainment or logic was this one story, as Starling’s existence suddenly makes a lot of other things fall into place neatly. It is with his mangled understanding of 29th century technology which allows both the creation of the experimental S.A.I.N.T. robots [1] (which eventually leads to the T-1 [2]), and – eventually – the technology necessary for the integration of mechanical elements into Officer Murphy [3]. The robots were nuclear powered at this point, as the advanced power cells had not been completely understood.

While many of the elements of the future technology were able to be reverse engineered by in-house scientists, some of the advancements were so esoteric as to preclude direct understanding of the way they operated. A significant amount of the research into matter transportation was given to Seth Brundle through a dummy corporation named Bartok Industries [4]. His interpretation of the software would result in his untimely death, and his research would not be continued until Dr. Emory Erickson (in the Enterprise episode Daedalus) perfected the means by which to transport living tissue.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t subsequent accidents, though. One of the most notable situations erupted on a Mars “mining” station, when a transporter opened a portal to another dimension, which led to the deaths of a number of researchers continuing their exploration of future technology [5]. At some point in the early 1980’s, an Antarctic research team is attacked by an unknown alien which has been extricated from its’ ship [6]. It was whilst searching for the remains of this vessel that a group of researchers would later encounter the frozen remains of Borg.

During the 90’s, a salvage operation mounted on a Russian naval vessel resulted in the crew of the tug being attacked by a disembodied alien presence which used human parts and machinery to create a physical presence for itself on Earth [7]. Later investigation would associate this entity closely with the Borg hive-mind, though notable differences would be recorded for further study.

After 2000, with advances far outstripping ‘real’ history, the US government, seeing the valuable technological advancements being made by Starling’s Chronowerx Industries, requests assistance in coming up with solutions to some of the problems it is facing. Researchers who have studied the advanced database use their knowledge to create a stable wormhole which allows for a limited  glimpse into the future [8], and an AI to interpret massive data input now being collected by the military branches of the US intelligence community [9]. It is the spectacular failure of the AI which leads to further advances in AI being halted until more is understood about the technology, though one last-ditch attempt to integrate AI leads to the creation of a satellite defense program dubbed Skynet, which is one of the primary reasons for future problems [10].

The medical database from the future also provides for the creation of a breathable liquid, which plays an important part in one of humanity’s early extra-terrestrial encounters [11]. Spurred on by the existence of beings living on other planets, more of the future technology is plundered to create the ground-work which will lead to the genetically-engineered Khan and his followers. This is also around the time that things start to go seriously wrong with society. The slip into anarchy begins with a few minor problems, but left unchecked the mysterious Quitters, Inc [12] and Consumer Recreation Services [13] soon lead to rampant anarchy in the streets as people release tension created by the existence of genetically superior individuals being created. It is from these dark days that the Eugenics War erupts into full-blown war.

The Deep Space Nine episode Past Tense shows what has happened to the US by 2024, with large sections of cities cordoned off to provide housing for ‘undesirables’ – a technique replicated in France, among other countries [14]. Some cities, such as Detroit, prefer to deal with their social unrest by handing over their policing to corporations, which results in the creation of the RoboCop program [3]. Other locations fall into complete unrest as “entertainment” such as The Running Man [15], Death Race [16], and other shows allow the population to be kept entertained and (largely) kept under control. The foundation for these openly-violent shows being broadcast is the underground snuff shows which were broadcast (and circulated) by Lionel Starkweather [17]. It was during this time that Scotland was walled off from the rest of the country so that the inhabitants could die off due to a plague that was threatening the UK [18].

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

2025 – 2200

(note: I’m pushing the Eugenics Wars to the 2020s to preserve some sort of cohesion in the timeline)

Taking refuge in the stars was not the sole preserve of the genetically engineered super-soldiers, as others decided to abandon Earth. As Picard pointed out in the TNG episode The Neutral Zone, cryogenic stasis had long since been abandoned as a means of interstellar travel, but in the early days of space travel it had been employed routinely. One of the mining vessels which was operating in deep space encountered an alien life form which killed the entire crew save for its’ Warrant Officer [19]. Another cryogenic vessel was considered lost, with its’ occupants awakening after hundreds of years, submerged under the ocean of an alien planet [20]. Yet another ship was considered lost, though later turned up having traveled into a region of space that had sent its’ occupants mad [21]. Occupants of other ships were not so lucky [22]. These disasters resulted in tighter controls being made on the design of astronavigation systems.

Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight brings the attention of the Vulcans, but also alerts a race of predatory aliens that the mildly interesting hunting grounds on Earth had become immensely more interesting. Taking to the still-devastated city of Los Angeles, the alien manages to evade both police and a secret agency under the directive of Section 31 [23]. It is also around this time that the full horror of what Skynet has become is made clear, and with the assistance of Vulcan technology the rise of the robots is prevented [10]. From this point on, all research into advanced robots is banned in an international treaty. (And you wondered why there were so few instances of cool robots in Star Trek, didn’t you?)

At some point before 2100 the world is pushed into a fully-blown war due to the unbalanced resources available on Earth, ending only when nuclear weapons are deployed. In the utter devastation which follows, mankind is slow to rebuild, though a few individuals take it upon themselves to give hope to the communities which have gradually coalesced. One such person dons the uniform of a postman [24], whilst another, shattered by his experience at the hands of a biker gang, decides to take revenge on the evils plaguing society [25]. Yet another wandering force for good makes use of his extraordinary martial arts abilities to destroy a gang which has overrun a formerly-peaceful region [26]. The Vulcans once again step in to take care of mankind, before we untimely destroy ourselves.

The NX-01 is launched, though the dedication ceremony is marred by some truly awful music…

———————————————————————————————-

Additional notes:

With the technology required to pass themselves off as aliens, I would also fold in the IMF to the WN Star Trek timeline, as their lifelike masks seem to possess all the requirements needed for covert operations on alien planets. Backtracking to a point where they could conceivably be placed in a position to take part, I would suggest them being the groundwork for Section 31, renamed as of a point somewhere before the year 2025. (Mission: Impossible)

The increased time travel related episodes of Star Trek, where the Starfleet Time Police, or Temporal Investigations (or whoever Gary Seven and Daniels were working for), seems to suggest that they began as a much simpler organization. It makes a sort of sense that the events of Timecop could be the shaky beginnings from which the Federation would spin out its’ time protection force. Not sure where that would place events of the film, though sometime after the stable wormhole was created [8] seems about right.

It seems likely that there is room to fit Barb Wire in somewhere around the 2020s, though I didn’t think about it until I had already written most of this up. It’s such a minor film that I can’t be bothered re-numbering everything, so just pretend I added it.

———————————————————————————————-

The Pre-History Of Space Travel

[1] Short Circuit (1986) dir: John Badham
[2] Terminator: Salvation (2009) dir: McG
[3] RoboCop (1987) dir: Paul Verhoeven
[4] The Fly (1986) dir: David Cronenberg
[5] Doom 3 (2004) id Software / Activision

[6] The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
[7] Virus (2002) dir: John Bruno

[8] Déjà Vu (2006) dir: Tony Scott
[9] Eagle Eye (2008) dir: D.J. Caruso
[10] Terminator (1984) dir: James Cameron

[11] The Abyss (1989) dir: James Cameron
[12] Quitters, Inc. by Stephen King (1978, Doubleday)
[13] The Game (1997) dir: David Fincher

[14] District 13 (2004) dir: Pierre Morel
[15] The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) (1982, Signet)
[16] Death Race (2008) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[17] Manhunt (2003) Rockstar North, Rockstar Games
[18] Doomsday (2008) dir: Neil Marshall

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

[19] Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
[20] Pandorum (2009) dir: Christian Alvart
[21] Event Horizon (1997) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[22] Dark City (1998) dir: Alex Proyas
[23] Predator 2 (1990) dir: Stephen Hopkins

[24] The Postman (1997) dir:Kevin Costner
[25] Mad Max (1979) dir: George Miller
[26] Fist Of The North Star (1995) dir:Tony Randel

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Another Chance To See Doctor Who… On A Kids Show?

Posted by BigWords on October 28, 2009

Okay, so th’ Doc may have always been a kids show, and in many ways it still is, but after enjoying the slightly more mature (no, not mature… adult is a better word) Torchwood, the news that one of the final appearances David Tennant will make as The Doctor is gonna be in a for-sure kids show is… disappointing. No way will I miss it, it’s just a bit of a let-down after some really fun episodes. The biggest disappointment during R2D2’s reign as the mastermind behind the show (and it’s spin-offs) has been the lack of grit.

I’m going to put this in context, for those of you who believe there have been ‘dark’ moments in the shows so far. Nothing in the world of The Doctor is gritty. Not even Torchwood‘s faux ‘mature viewers’ angle. Gritty is more than sex and violence, and extends beyond cinematography. Go watch Se7en or take a look through a few dozen episodes of The Wire for the kind of ‘mature’ I was looking for. Characters return from the dead, the world is saved, a new Doctor takes over from the last. Ho-hum.

I want the Time Wars examined at some point. There’s a whole bunch of potential there which has been solidly ignored. Why the hell hasn’t any of the massive interior of the TARDIS been examined either? There’s a swimming pool in there somewhere (which had a thing living in it at one point), as well as a whole array of other interesting locations. That’s a budget issue, ain’t it? C’mon Mr. Davies, I know you’re penny-pinching for Auntie, but take us out of Tennant’s tenure with a fucking bang. Make it must-see television. Pleeease.

I’m getting rather worried that my lasting impression of his portrayal is one cameo in a kid’s show, and that would be a horrible dénouement to the series proper. The possibility that the new kid (whatsisname) might suck is still unresolved despite a lot of support in magazines and newspapers, and he’s starting to feel like Peter Davidson being foisted on kids who liked Tom Baker. Fuck it, Tom Baker IS The Doctor for some people. I had a hard enough time getting to like Chris Ecclestone in the role.

The Sarah Jane Adventures appeared while I wasn’t looking, and I missed a whole bunch of episodes, but from what I’ve seen it isn’t the kind of show I would normally go nuts over. And it has kids in it. For SF this is always a bad sign. I hated the Crusher kid in ST:TNG, thought that the rugrat in War Of The Worlds was gonna pierce my eardrums with her screeching, and absolutely detested Invasion (or whatever the hell the aliens-under-the-sea show was called). There are so few grown up shows around that I’m actually missing The X-Files.

I’m reminded of a spiel I used to deliver to Star Trek: Voyager fans when it was running:

How bad a captain is Janeway? Hmm? First she gets her crew lost thousands of light years from their home – in what must be the definitive example of women drivers, right? Then she takes a guy on board who she’s met for, what, five minutes?

“Want to stay?”
“Sure.”
“Do you have any talents?”

Psst. Cap, you might not want to hit on the lice-ridden stranger you just picked up in a strange part of space, and – for all you know – might think that stealing all your shiny new technology would make good black-market ware. Think with your head, not your crotch.

“I can cook.”
“Welcome aboard.”

Goddamn. The guy is not only allowed to remain on the ship, he’s preparing their food. Great job, Janeway. It’ll serve you right if he poisons you. But wait, this isn’t the best part. Oh no. Janeway is waaay more stupid than she looks, and that is just the appetizer for her moment of utter brain-free decision-making. Cue the drumroll…

She lets his underage lover aboard, and makes no attempt to question the situation. Kes is five years old for fuck sake. FIVE YEARS OLD. I know that randy old bastard Kirk would have re-written the Starfleet regulations regarding sexual conduct aboard a spaceship, but Janeway doesn’t even blink an eyelash.

She doesn’t even consider the moral implications of the alien with a mohawn shacking down with a five year old.

Sorry. It’s been a while since I delivered that particular speech, and it’ll probably be a while before I get to perform it again for the benefit of a Star Trek crowd. Always a fun experience. Not always a safe experience, but always a fun one.

Here’s hoping that Davies has a solid plan for the end of the current Doctor’s reign, or I might have to take the piss out of Doctor Who the next time I get to a convention. Consider this a warning, R2D2.

(There’s about half an hour’s worth of the Voyager jokes, that’s the best bit)

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Things That Should Exist But Don’t

Posted by BigWords on September 23, 2009

There are some things which I keep expecting to find on the internet, but can’t quite seem to locate, so I thought it would be an idea to make a list of everything that people should have thought of before me. I refuse to believe that I am the only person that has thought about this shit, and everyone should be ashamed of themselves that they didn’t come up with these ideas first:

  • Real maps designed after the style of GTA 3‘s excellent (and colorful) in-game map. This would be the coolest thing since… Actually, it would be the coolest thing EVER. Not only would map-lovers be intrigued by the design aesthetic, but gamers might start buying things that are actually useful – like maps.
  • Remote controls designed to look like Star Trek phasers. C’mon, you know these would be cool. And they would serve a purpose.
  • Computer games with real-life repercussions… No, wait- Sorry, that one has already been covered. I don’t know whether to be surprised or horrified.
  • Sports with mortality rates. I’m partial to a Rollerball derby being set up, but a Death Race would suffice.
  • A bag / backpack which knows how much weight is being carried in it, and can warn of back strain. Somebody make one of these for me, PLEASE. Seriously, make one.

I could come up with more, but I’m afraid of being labelled a complete, irredeemable geek.

####

This isn’t worth a full blog post of it’s own, and sticking it here seems as good a place as any:

WARNING:

The following link must NOT be clicked on, under any circumstances. You have no idea what the fuck it is, you don’t know what lurks beyond the click of a mouse… You really don’t want to know either. For all you know it could be a picture of a fat, naked man, a sign-up page for the military, a horrible virus or merely a LOLcat page. You just don’t know, so why take the chance.

It isn’t worth it. Do not click on the link. I’m warning you, so you can’t come back here and blame me.

NOT. MY. FAULT.

Got that?

LINK

For the benefit of anyone who clicked on the link, I offer my full apologies.

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Bridging The Gap Between Sub-Genres (SF)

Posted by BigWords on August 13, 2009

(note: I don’t normally do BIG SF, so this idea is likely to change.)

There’s a lot to think about when you consider introducing the actual nuts and bolts of space travel into a science fiction novel. I would have said ‘story’ there, but ‘novel’ makes more sense, ’cause there just isn’t room in a short story to get into the how’s, why’s and where’s that would give those big ‘ol spaceships a bit of depth. I’ve been thinking of applying a fresh take on the ancient trope of interstellar combat, but the technology has been bugging me since I started thinking about space travel seriously three or four years ago.

My concepts so far run to extrapolations of current technology and a few sensible adjustments of naval terminology. Everything needs to connect in a way which makes sense of the complications which would arise, though there is damn few things which work across both hard SF and space opera, the two sub-genres I would like to tie together in a way which doesn’t negate either approach. Yeah, it’s asking a lot from the reader to believe 100% in the world and get away with epic storytelling at the same time, but it shouldn’t be this hard.

I’m getting ahead of myself, because we need a chunk of space to drop spaceships into before the mechanics of the universe can be dissected.

The Basics

I’ve started a bit of the basic outlining, such as working out how large the known universe will be, which side the hero will be on, and where everyone is in terms of alliances and emnities. The worlds which I have decided will be used are full of humans, getting rid of several added layers of complexity and staying true to the hard SF side of the mix which has evolved through the story. I’m going to let you in on how I come up with the names of the planets, because it’s only fair that some techniques get aired for future reference.

The colonies are given six-letter names, alongside a numerical reference used for diplomatic and astrological reasons. The numbers are (loosely) based on a three-dimensional grid combined with elements lifted from a Victorian map of London. It’s an eccentric approach, but it seems to adds a layer of realism to the numbering. The names on the other hand, which is what the planets will mostly be called, is pure imagination combined with a level of geekery that I am ashamed to say runs to my core.

So, you’re wondering about the names? Try these out for size:

Reofje, Cilide, Masoun, Yebroa and Maoste.

They are some of the ones which remain in the text (there are more, with even obscurer origins), and serve well to demonstrate the naming of large numbers of objects / places / ideas when I have better things to do than concern myself with minutia. I’ll tell you how I did it now…

I’ve been using a form of shorthand for the better part of a decade now, mostly because I can write incredibly fast when I get excited about an idea. My handwriting goes to shit when I’m typing fast, and is impossible to read past three or four pages. Nuts and bolts: The shorthand eliminates ‘the’ from sentences, using t/ in its place, and unique words or phrases are compressed into a few letters.

So, in this vein, Return Of The Jedi becomes ReOft/Je. When I take out the t/ I am left with ReOfJe, which gets standardized into a normal word, and “Hey presto!” I have the name of a planet, without having to discover everything about the people living there to get the ‘perfect’ name. As if I could actually come up with something better, right? Actually, this isn’t so far from the lame way in which aliens were named in Alien Nation, resulting in characters named after dead actors and cartoon characters. The guys who would name planets would get bored after a while and start calling them whatever cruddy names they felt like.

Which means I now have planets, though the planets need governed. I’ve used a loose appropriation of US politics, mingled freely with 18th and 19th Century British Empire thinking, to create a governmental system which can be seen as both horribly oppressive and wonderfully free without contradicting myself. All colonies are regarded as equal, but those with more natural resources are better than the ones which just come in over the basic requirements for the sustenance of life. It saves building factions and competing powers.

The Space-Docks

When I decided on giant space cruisers as a primary mode of transport I found myself thinking about size. Guys do this a lot, because no matter how often we are told otherwise we will obsess about size. It matters. The bigger the better, right? Well, in deference to the laws of physics I decided that the manufacturing of these behemoths would be done in space, where the issue of weight isn’t a concern. It’s still problematic, because without friction anything which begins to move will keep moving until it hits something.

Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.
Pablo Picasso

I’m taking technologies which exist, so – postulating the advances in technology combined with human ingenuity – I decided that the sensors used in cars to avoid crashes would make the process easier. There is a commercial running at the moment where a car automatically brakes when it comes up behing another car, so that is a nice example of the technology in action.

But the light from the sun is going to make things difficult… Which is where simple manufacturing robots come into their own. I pointed out the ROS being used now, so robots will have hopefully become cheap enough to mass-produce when we finally get into space. I’m not sure they will ever attain sentience, so Data from Star Trek, the annoying gay butler and the Tourettes-suffering dwarf from Star Wars (and even Arnholt from the Terminator films) can be ignored. No droids in my story thankyouverymuch.

Which brings me to A.I., and one of the worst assumptions in film I have seen. Every robot looks the same (sorry for spoiling the film if you haven’t sen it), yet in the real world there is always competition. Numerous companies trying to outdo each other is one of the cornerstones of innovation, and the idea that one single company has cornered the market so completely that no alternatives exist strikes me as ‘off’ somehow. Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex handles the idea much better.

But I said there would be no robots chatting with my main characters, so the point is moot.

To be continued…

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The Joy Of Series

Posted by BigWords on July 9, 2009

Have you taken a look at the number of novel series which have been published? Jeez, it’s too many… Way too many. I’ve been searching for information to add to a little something something which I’m working on, and it appears that every time I get close to nailing the “collection complete” phase, another title pops up. Is it too much to ask for a little pause between the publication of the books? I’m gonna go broke at this rate. The worst offenders are the TV tie-in books, especially those for younger readers, which seem to come off a conveyor belt somewhere.

I’ve managed to track down information on individual books, though the lists I come across are either outdated or plainly incorrect. It’s a pain when you just need a ISBN number or date of publication checked, especially when the book in question isn’t a rarity. I am, of course, skirting the issue of why I am hunting down information on books. Yeah, it’s a secret. You’ll get a kick out of the idea when I tell you, but for now I’m keeping the geeky list-listed listy kind of list under wraps. It is a difficult sell, simply reeling off a bunch of stats and information, so I’m trying to keep it from being too dry.

Whenever I decide to do one of my lists, which is more regularly than anyone should think about, I get around to the time / cost matters. How much is it gonna cost to buy all the books, and how long can I read the series before fatigue sets in. I didn’t do very well with Doctor Who, and I’ve only read a dozen or so Star Trek books. Star Wars? Maybe eight or nine books. I had the determination and the necessary funds to track down all of the X-Files tie-ins, both official and unofficial, but even those weren’t all read immediately. I’m currently sifting through a pile of completely unrelated novel series, and I think this is the way to go. Mix ‘n’ match.

I’m going to bypass the late seventies ultra-macho crap completely, and I hate the annoyingly twee Mary Kate & Ashley with a vengeance, so you can breathe easy if you thought that I was gonna be covering those. Uh-uh, not a chance. This is looking to be a much more interesting endeavour, and one which should turn out slightly better than my attempt at creating a dictionary of places, characters and terms used in the Judge Dredd strips.

Fingers crossed, this should be done by the end of the week…

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Don’t Fuck With Trekkies

Posted by BigWords on June 28, 2009

The bile and hatred for blockbusters didn’t lay into Star Trek as heavily as I might have done. The idiotic pieces of rubber stapled to actors forheads, the annoying technobabble and the fat captain may be enough to draw my attention, but I really don’t care enough to expend energy on ignoring it. There are other problems with poking trekkies with sharp sticks… Mainly the fact that folks who are willing to change their apartments to look like the interior of a spaceship aren’t the most stable of individuals in the first place. I would hesitate to insult them much further than that, because they might set their phasers to “drone endlessly about Kirk”.

What drives seemingly ordinary people to try and emulate a shaky SF / fantasy series made fifty years ago? It isn’t exactly Shakespeare, and even if it was the best written television series (which it wasn’t) I still don’t understand the obsession. Maybe the hardcore fans have tainted the well for normal folks who like the show, but the smell of “geek” hangs around the franchise like a week-old halibut hidden behind a radiator.

In a pathetic attempt to ease the backlash which I fully expect to receive, I’ll point you in the direction of a few Trekkish places:

A Star Trek history site. Lots of informative fun to be had there.

There are short stories here, here and here, all free to read…

For those of you who like Star Trek art, you might want to pay this site a visit.

See… I can do nice things for Trekkies as well as insult them

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I Hate Everything

Posted by BigWords on June 28, 2009

Apparently…
Having managed to piss off a fair proportion of folks with a sledgehammer approach to critical analysis of the Blockbuster film experience, I figured I would expand on what constitutes a shit film. In the process I will serve up some sacred cows as juicy steaks, so be warned that there will be a fair amount of pain and anguish. Just because you might think something is out of bounds doesn’t mean I’m gonna play nice. My slice ‘n’ dice of the first decade of  the “Blockbuster” (as summer ‘event’ films seem to be regarded) follows thus:

1977

Star Wars has a shitty script. Yeah, the first film. Sure, I’m talking about the one which inspired a religion. Yes, I know it is a cultural milestone. Doesn’t change the fact that there are plot holes so large that I could fly the Millennium Falcon through them. Blindfolded. With one hand tied behind my back. It doesn’t mean the film itself is worthless – it is brilliant in several regards, foremost of which is the appropriation of Lensman’s light-based weaponry. George Lucas ain’t no writer, as he has proven with the 1990s trilogy. It was also the 1990s films which showed up the fact that he ain’t much of a director either, but that is neither here nor there.

1978

Superman. Do you need me to explain why a musical interlude in the middle of a superhero film is a bad idea? The rest of the film is fine, but Margot Kidder singing? I would rather listen to Danny Boyle explain (for the millionth time) how Slumdog Millionaire is meant to be a ‘feelgood’ film.

Jaws 2. Two words: shit floats.

1979

The year that gave us Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Alien also puked up Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which nothing much happened. The film is so slow that I felt my fingernails grow as I was watching. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the hideous costumes, abysmal acting (“The Shat” really earned his nickname with this film) and pornographic indulgence of the special effects were too much to bear.

1980

If anyone has the balls to defend Xanadu I’ll be amazed. Popeye was a mistake writ large, while The Empire Strikes Back didn’t so much end, as abruptly stop with the main characters looking out of a window. I thought there would have been a final scene filmed for Empire, but nobody else seems to notice the lack of emotional closure for the characters. Too busy imagining what a better director would have done with the material maybe…

1981

Superman II introduces arbritary powers for the main villains, ups the comedy and lowers the tone of the franchise – sowing the seeds for Quest For Peace, while The Cannonball Run manages to squander the talents of a host of brilliant actors.

1982

Rocky III signals the beginning of loud, obnoxious films which have no significant point to them, other than giving the viewer a headache and nausia. Star Trek II continues to plunder the Star Trek corpse, as Poltergeist shows that horror films don’t need to be scary… Wait. Uh… Yeah, that’s the whole point of horror movies. Add Poltergeist to the shit list as well.

1983

Not exactly a stellar year for good movies – Blue Thunder, Psycho 2, Superman III and Trading Places… The third Star Wars film seemed to be a good bet for entertaining space opera, but the best Return Of The Jedi could muster were fucking annoying Ewoks running around a jungle, Princess Leia reduced to a sexualised stereotypical damsel in distress (after a stronger presence in the second film) and poor comedy moments. It would have been better ending the franchise after the Holiday Specials. At the least, it would have been more merciful.

1984

Star Trek III. Proving that even overweight men get to captain starships isn’t adding realism to SF. Seriously. Fat Kirk? Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom manages to waste time on a romantic subplot which feels tacked-on, because – obviously – Harrison Ford doesn’t need questions raised about Indy’s friendship with a little boy. 1984 also gave us the wonder that is Police Academy, the longest running comedy movie series in which you will find no comedic elements whatsoever. The gags which did work (and were honestly funny) were better when they were filmed years earlier – in films which earned the label ‘comedy’.

1985

The producers of Rambo: First Blood Part II probably thought they were going to get some brains with their brawn, but Stallone (and the funniest accent since Kenneth Williams) is as monotone as he has ever played a character. The Rocky saga reached it’s fourth entry (incredibly, it was worse than Rambo), and had little in the way of deep insight. Raging Bull (released five years earlier) played on the same tropes as Rocky, yet managed to provide the audience with a complex main character rather than a cartoon figure masquerading as a human being. 1985 was also the year in which Cocoon served up stereotypes and character traits instead of real characters.

1986

Just a list: Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, Raw Deal, The Delta Force, Highlander, Howard The Duck, Maximum Overdrive, Three Amigos… If you can still savour films after sitting through that lot, then you have a better constitution than I. “Wait,” you cry, “What is Highlander doing on the list?” Apart from the accents, the needless pyrotechnics, the cheesy lines, the jarring tonal shifts, the clumsy plot, the poor FX and the historical innacuracies, it is actually quite a good film.

1987

The Untouchables rewrites history, badly, and gives special appearances by the camera operators in-frame… Spaceballs. I don’t need to qualify that with any explanation. Even the Nightmare On Elm Street series had given up anything remotely resembling plot, character or setting in order to make the villain (a fucking child molestor!) into a comedy routine. If Lethal Weapon can be considered a film, then it also goes on the list, but I prefer to think of it as cruel and unusual punishment. Show that shit at Gitmo, and every motherfucker in the joint will be claiming they are Osama bin Laden, just to end the pain…

There you have it. Ten years of film distilled in one easy blog. If I can bear the memories of another ten years of awful films I may continue…

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