Updates Galore!

Greetings to My Fellow Geeks!


Stargate Universe finally restarted for it's farewell season (or half-season, I'm not clear on that) a few weeks ago.  Episodes 211 "Deliverance" and 212 "Twin Destinies" have already aired, and 213 "Alliances" is set for tomorrow night.

Although I'm still enjoying the series on some levels, and the last two episodes were leagues better than most of the previous season, the writers are still suffering from "too convenient a solution"-itis.  The solution to last season's final episode presented in Deliverance had a mix of "that's kinda neat" and "if this isn't a set up for something worse, I'm going to be very disappointed."  It also presented a major shift in Rush's character, which I am hoping is just a ruse, because if it's not, then the series deserves its cancellation.

Twin Destinies was a pretty neat episode as far as time travel episodes of various series go.  Again, the solution to the problems presented was too convenient, and perhaps things are coming across that way because the writers were told to make each episode as modular as possible, but it still didn't play out well for me.

Since this "modular" approach has become so common in the series, I have to admit to a reduced sense of urgency when watching SGU.  The plots are just not as threatening as they could, or should be because I know that by the end of the hour everything is going to be all right.  I'm highly disappointed with this because the series could have been one of the best sci-fi series ever if only they'd made it more of a space-opera, with every episode leading into every other and with resolutions to obstacles being hard-fought victories.

I know that SyFy (which I pronounce with the greatest of venom in my tone) has been nerfing itself in an attempt to appeal to a greater audience and get its ratings up.  This is most clearly evidenced by its inclusion of pro-wrestling in the lineup.  I'd really like to think that this "beads on a string" approach to episodic sci-fi writing is a symptom of that, and not a general trend in sci-fi on television.  If it's not, it would mean that the writers have forgotten what made series like Babylon 5 so good, and the reason why when its original network canceled the show, fan outcry got it picked up by another network for its final season.  Linked episodes telling an overall story or stories is always more interesting to watch than self-contained episodes in the same universe.  Repetition of the pacing of a story is boring, and predictability is an excitement killer.  Hopefully, whatever the next big space opera is, it will remember what a really great sci-fi series is about.

In the World of Books

Just wanted to mention a few books coming out this year that have me all tingly and eager for their debut.

George R.R. Martin announced on his web-page that the next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series, called "A Dance With Dragons" will be released on July 12, 2011.  This is an eagerly awaited sequel to one of the best fantasy series I've ever read.  I remember picking up the first book in an airport book stand in SEATAC in 1998.  I read a good chunk of it on the plane ride home from doing my internship in the San Juan Islands.  The quality of writing, the storyline, and the suspense were all amp'd up way beyond anything I'd ever read before.  The magic system, whereas existent, is so subtle that it feels like you're reading historical fiction more than a fantasy story.  It's hard to really give it a review without some spoilers, so let's just say the series deserves all of the hype it gets.  It's written in a no sacred cows style that leaves you salivating for more at the end of every novel.  Anyone even remotely interested in fantasy should read it.

The series to date is available here, and at other fine booksellers.

Next up is another fantasy work from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Friedman, called "Legacy of Kings", due out September 6, 2011.

C.S. Friedman first got my attention with a fantasy book called "Black Sun Rising", which had a bad-ass cover, which I think is the main reason I picked it up off the shelf.  I'm glad I did, because she's an exceptionally talented writer.  The series that began with Black Sun Rising, called the Coldfire Trilogy, enraptured me in a world of high fantasy with a unique magic system, and one of the coolest bad guys since Darth Vader embodied by Gerald Tarrant.  I soon found myself seeking out her other works.  In Conquest Born remains one of my favorite space operas to date.  Her style is one that blends a dark, Gothic-style with classical fantasy and science fiction.  Her characters explore the dark corners of human existance and depravity, while at the same time making us care about their lives and eager to see what comes next.

Her latest series, The Magister Trilogy, is another venture into a world of unique magic and dark characters.  It highlights gender and class issues (two of my favorite topics) in a medieval setting, all while entertaining with a nail-biting narrative.  I highly recommend it.  Feast of Souls, the first installment is available here and virtually anywhere you can get a good book.

And now...

There's one more thing coming out this year that has me chomping at the bit for it to be December.  Mass Effect 3, the final chapter in one of the best sci-fi RPG game series of all time.  I'll end today's post with the trailer for all you fans out there.


  1. >>I'm highly disappointed with this because the series could have been one of the best sci-fi series ever if only they'd made it more of a space-opera<<

    One of the best sci-fi series, along with Star Trek (TOS and TNG), Doctor Who, Futurama, The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Stargate SG-1?

    Which are all... oh yeah, EPISODIC series, not serials. (And two of them were anthologies.)

    Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 nothwithstanding, it seems what makes a great sci-fi show isn't being a space opera where every episode leads into the other and every victory is hard-fought.

    What makes a great sci-fi show is using fantastical and scientific trappings to tell a *simple* core story that says something meaningful about the human condition. Everything else, including ongoing storylines and high-end concepts, is just icing on the cake.

  2. You totally hit the nail on the head Crazypants!

    You know I once was in a writing group where a complaint was lodged against one of my stories. The complaint was that I was telling a story that could happen "anywhere" and "anywhen", but just happened to be set in a sci-fi universe. For some reason, the critic seemed to think that this was a huge flaw for the tale. I honestly have no idea why it would be a flaw, since a really good story is one that taps into what is at the core of every story ever told since humans first started gathering around campfires -which is exactly what you said, "something meaningful about the human condition."

    I think the loss of this core concept in sci-fi is what's at the heart of why so many shows are just pretty icing with no real substance beneath. In order to have gravity and staying power, a show (or movie, or book) has to do more than flash a few fireworks at us and call it a day.


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