SCIFI

A couple of science fiction related things I've been thinking about recently.

I saw Star Wars: Episode 3 last week and my overall feeling is the same as Episode 1. There's a really good movie in there somewhere but George Lucas refuses to get somebody to help him get it out. He's too obsessed with Spectacle! and too infatuated with his own dumbass sense of humor (if you missed the Wookie doing the old Tarzan yell as he swings on a vine, the movie was that much better for you). And the less said about his dialogue, the better. You'd think that a lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan and a four-armed cyborg would be awesome but he's got to interupt it for a Spectacular Chase Scene!. Yoda and Palpatine, two of the greatest Force warriors around should also be awesome, right? Nope. It turns into Throwing Things At Yoda for pete's sake. I won't go into the plot holes because frankly, who cares why Obi-Wan doesn't remember Leia despite being present at her birth? Not me. But as a movie, there's good stuff in there. After Anakin turns really evil, the movie was actually good. I liked it after that for the most part. When Lucas had other people writing and directing with him on the other movies, we got Empire Strikes Back. Now we just get a story buried in Spectacle! and weighed down with truly painful dialogue and wooden acting the likes of which I haven't seen since, oh, the "romantic" scenes of Attack Of The Clones. If you like Star Wars and want something worth remembering, go watch the Clone Wars cartoons that Cartoon Network did. Now that's Star Wars. At least now it's over and maybe people can go think of something actually new to show us.

There's a new "movement" in SF called 'Mundane SF', which seems like a name they chose after trying to think of the worst possible thing to prefix onto science fiction. Their whole point is that SF "should" be more down-to-earth and less fantastic. They have a manifesto, of course, which says they won't be using faster-than-light travel or aliens or anything else that isn't mundane. What they forget is that these things are tools and like all tools, there's a time and a place for them. Saying you won't ever write a story using aliens is like saying you won't use a screwdriver to fix your car. It doesn't matter if your story uses aliens. What matters is that the story is good. Maybe if you're one of the sf-hating SF writers like Margaret Atwood or the SF-dismissing SF-writers like David Mitchell you want to distance yourself from things like aliens or FTL travel but if all you want to do is write good stories, you use all the tools in your toolbox, when appropriate. I've written about this geek tendency to need to classify everything into little niches before and it continues to popup and annoy me. Just write the stories.

I just finished an old Bruce Sterling book called Holy Fire and man, he was on his game back then. I like Sterling, in both his crazed futurist mode and his new design-professor mode but one thing I've noticed about him recently is that as he goes more into the design/green professor mode, he seems to be losing his imagination. As he goes more "real world" and less Shaper/Mechanist, he turns more and more against the imaginative aspects of science fiction. He's lost the religion, I'd say. And like a people who lose their religion, instead of turning away from it he's turned against it. His speeches about things like the Singularity are riddled with the kind of unimaginative and dismissive thinking that I think would turn the stomach of the guy who wrote the Schismatrix stuff. I like where he's going since he's a real thinking futurist and his recent work with biomimetics and personal fab is where I want to be as well but it's disheartening to hear what appears to be the atrophy of a world-class imagination.