Archive for May 1st, 2005

Okay, Help Me Out Here…


The hell??? Posted by Hello

14 comments May 1st, 2005 at 10:42pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh,Weirdness

Sunday Softball Blogging

Not enough people for a real game, so we did kind of a simulated thing. I went 3-for-7 with a double off the fence, a run, and an RBI. Still pretty shaky on defense, especially in the infield, but did make some really nice catches.

Current stats: 3 games, .500 BA, 1 2B, 4 runs, 5 RBI.

Someday, I shall learn to use these properly… Posted by Hello

4 comments May 1st, 2005 at 08:25pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Softball

Nothing Is Over Until You Say It’s Over!!!

Or until the last sequel is over.

NYT Week In Review has an article about how Star Wars is “so over,” and about how it’s not really science fiction anyway. It’s not as good as driftglass’s explanation of why Star Trek isn’t really science fiction, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. (By an odd coincidence, the NYT article featured numerous quotes from none other than Richard K. Morgan, the author of Altered Carbon, which I am nearing the end of and enjoying very much.)

Like science itself, science fiction has evolved since the days of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the end of World War II, the genre has shifted its focus from space and time travel to more complex speculations on how the future, whatever its shape, will affect the individual.

That shift has only accelerated in recent years, as biotech and genetic engineering have moved to center stage in science and captured writers’ imaginations, and as the lines between science fiction and other genres begin to blur. “We’re starting to look inward, rather than outward,” Mr. Morgan said. “There are exciting and scary things going to be happening in our bodies.”

One problem with “Star Wars,” science fiction writers say, is that it is not, ultimately, concerned with science, but rather with a timeless vision of good and evil. Mr. Lucas has said that his story, especially the journeys of his central characters from innocence through trials by fire to wisdom and acceptance, were rooted in Joseph Campbell’s comparative studies of world mythologies, and especially in his popular book, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

On the other hand, the first trilogy still works quite well as a sweeping epic – good action, good effects, good story arc, even though Return Of The Jedi would have been a lot better without the Ewoks. (Best quote from the NYT article: “I fell asleep during the third one, when they brought out the Care Bears.”)

Mysteriously (or politely?) unmentioned in the article is the fact that the second trilogy is a complete disaster, and it has nothing to do with its sci-fi street cred. I have no idea what there was about the first trilogy or subsequent research that led Lucas to the conclusion that Star Wars audiences were hungry for more merchant guild intrigue, parliamentary procedure, wooden acting, and painful dialogue (or is it wooden dialogue and painful acting?), but he certainly has embraced that approach with self-immolating gusto. Perhaps a little more Hero’s Journey would have helped, but the second trilogy is essentially The Villain’s Journey, which could potentially be far more interesting if it weren’t, y’know, virtually nonexistent through the first two movies…

Here’s what I don’t get, though:

Science fiction writers, however, are awaiting the release for a different reason. To them, “Star Wars” is nothing more than a space opera, and if the big guy in the black cloak is finally singing, that means the show is over. The saga continues no longer.

“That’s the past of science fiction you’re talking about,” said Richard K. Morgan, the British cyberpunk-noir writer whose most recent novel is “Market Forces.”

No-one seriously thinks that the end of Star Wars is going to usher in a new era of science fiction fims, do they? Effects-heavy blockbusters will continue to be box office gold, while challenging, thought-provoking science fiction films will continue to be alienating and off-putting box-office poison, and/or unsuccessfully marketed as something they’re not (i.e., Solaris). Speaking as someone who reads a lot of science fiction books and watches a lot of science fiction films, I can attest that they are two completely different animals, and will probably remain that way. A large part of this is that the best science fiction books are all but unfilmable, except maybe as animation. Stephen Donaldson’s Gap Series? David Brin’s Kiln People or Uplift Trilogies? Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy? William Gibson’s Neuromancer? Any of Iain Banks’ Culture novels? Anything by A.A. Attanasio or Greg Bear (okay, maybe not the Darwin’s Radio books)? All great stuff, but I just can’t see any of it translating to the big screen.

In the end, I suppose the question is, Is this such a bad thing? By their very nature, movies are visual and surface-oriented, and thus not the best instrument for probing depths and subtleties. It can be done to a certain extent, but anything that requires significant narrative explanation or exposition of inner thoughts is going to be tricky and not entirely successful (see: Dune). This is not unique to science fiction, either. Books and movies are just two completely different experiences, to be enjoyed on their own merits. And that’s without even getting into the superior portability of books, or how easy they are to “pause” or “rewind,” or how you can understand every word you’re meant to understand, or how it doesn’t matter how big or HD your screen is. And without getting into the shared social experience of watching a movie with other people, complete with pop and popcorn, maybe in the comfort of your own living room, maybe in a darkened room full of strangers and THX surround sound; or the poetry of great actors, directors, or cinematographers in action. Plus I would much rather watch kung-fu than read about it…

6 comments May 1st, 2005 at 06:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Favorites,Movies

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