- It should have a city enclosed in a transparent dome, whether glass, plastic, a force field, or some exotic form of matter of energy.
- That’s about it.
- Really, yeah, give me a domed city and you can have just about whatever else you want in the story.
- Thank you.
I know it’s been a rough … year … so let’s take a moment to relax. Here’s “Beauty And The Beast”, by Henry Kuttner, cover story for the April 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories and it’s about a Venusian giant kangaroo-dinosaur monster that accidentally crashes his way through Washington, DC along the way to destroying the world although it’s not his fault. Um. Well, all right, how about this totally different story from the July 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories about a gigantic reptilian monster that melts the ice caps and crashes through the New York harborfront and everybody acts like he’s the jerk?
Science fiction: the literature of pleasant escapism.
The month may have got started later than usual, but that’s no reason not to empty out the scraps bin. Here’s stuff I couldn’t use in September and if you’re able to, please, go wild. All I ask is a simple acknowledgement that you couldn’t have done your work without me. I need it to pad my CV.
Connoisseur. Cut from several pieces when I realize that even with spell check and entering it into DuckDuckGo I can’t come close to spelling it right. I don’t know. It shouldn’t be this hard and it’s not like I wasn’t able to get the hang of ‘kigurumi’ eventually. So this goes into the special bin for “words that have appeared in Peanuts that I somehow can’t get straight”.
Really I never understood what problem the Federation was solving in dividing the galaxy into just four quadrants, especially when two of them were off on the far side where they’d only interact following freak events like the Bajor wormhole or whatever crazy pipeline sends everything from Earth, including dinosaurs and Amelia Earhart, into the Delta Quadrant. Cut from a post on TrekBBS about why the aliens on Star Trek: Voyager say they’re in the Delta Quadrant when that’s a human designation and surely can’t match any local description of space. Because you know, the part of TrekBBS I like best is how many people are sincerely worried that Benjamin Sisko might never come to reconcile with Jean-Luc Picard, even though they could go through the rest of their lives never seeing or thinking about the other. The part I like least is people starting threads straightplaining why Star Trek is at its best on issues of gender and sexual orientation when it mostly shows men worrying over their womenfolk. In any case the other people there aren’t living long enough for me to argue about how Delta Quadrant species make large-scale divisions of the Milky Way.
Cybernarc. Title of a novel by William H Keith, Jr, and cut from a piece where I was going to try to list the Most 90s Science Fiction Novel Titles ever. And it’s a good idea but it’s just so hard to try finding a bunch of 90s Science Fiction Novels, since they don’t sell novels from after 1991 back to used book stores anymore. And while that’s great if you’re looking for a 70s novel about the extremely sex-partner-ready inhabitants of a great domed city that get pushed outside it doesn’t help you scan the shelves and see what titles really jump out of the 90s and make you giggle. Oh, I guess there’s also Robert Thurston’s Bloodname: Legend of the Jade Phoenix II but you could probably make that a Most Science Fiction Novel Title Of Today too.
I like to think of this as a place where I occasionally buy queen-size bedsheets. Cut from the start of a new tumblr that I cancelled when I realized I couldn’t think what a third post on it would be. Also that I don’t understand tumblr because you respond to stuff by posting it from somewhere else and people looking at the original don’t see it and I don’t know. There are people who can explain this to me but they give up in disgust when they see my cell phone.
In his 40 years as Jacksonian Professor at Cambridge University James Dewar, pioneer of the study of heat flow, never fulfilled the requirement of the post that he find a cure for gout. Cut because while it is a wonder it doesn’t seem to be on-point to anything I’d be writing. I mean, I guess I admire James Dewar. Anyone who could get his name attached to Thermos bottles has to be doing something right. But why would it come up in September when I’m not even in school anymore and don’t need something to hit my siblings with? We’re adults now, we can just punch and gossip on social media.
You’re Steve Allen, aren’t you? Cut from an episode of Stan Freberg’s 1957 radio series where, even if it doesn’t look like much, it’s a pretty solid laugh. It’s in Daws Butler’s delivery unless it was someone else delivering it. I put the line back where I got it and I bet you’d like it there after all. It’s the show with the Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenaged Werewolves sketch and the advertising campaign for Food, so, you know, good stuff there.
With thanks to my love for noticing this.
- Aliens replace Captain Picard with a double who’d be perfect if not for his rousing drunken singalongs in the bar.
- A historian from the future turns out to be a con artist from the past. Picard decides whether to risk saving a planet suffering from too much static electricity.
- Data practices how to sneeze. Also he has an evil twin.
- In an alternate timeline the Federation is doomed, but Guinan and Tasha Yar are great friends.
- The transporter makes Picard twelve years old while space pirates take over the Enterprise.
- A planet of extremely white scantily-clad sex partners wants to execute Wesley for tripping over a flower.
- Worf has a crush on some fish-aliens, one of whom is Mick Fleetwood for some reason. Troi’s Mom hits on a holodeck bartender.
- Riker’s the lead actor in Dr Crusher’s play! Also maybe crazy.
- Worf gets dizzy whenever he falls into a parallel universe.
- Dr Crusher gets a Ferengi scientist killed when she incorrectly diagnoses another alien as being dead.
- Troi shows Mark Twain around the Enterprise. Picard pretends to lead a San Francisco theatrical company. (Emmy Award-winning episode, for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series.)
- Worf finds a planet where Klingons and Romulans live together peacefully and puts a stop to that. Data has crazypants dreams.
- Poker night holds the only key to escaping a spacetime anomaly.
- Data makes friends with a little alien girl over his Space Ham Radio, so they save her planet.
- It just so happens nobody had ever asked if Data was a person or a thing before making him third-in-command of the Federation flagship.
So, Professor Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne, who also played the assistant to the Secretary of Defense in 1963’s Son of Flubber and a refinery executive in 1971’s The Million Dollar Duck) has a meeting with the Council of Jerkface Movie Scientists and it isn’t going well:
“This is my cross. The penalty of being born into an era of little men, who are small even in their spites. You’re creatures of paper, bred of an artificial culture, whose dearest possessions is your prejudices, and important only in the hollowness of your smirking vanities. Hypocrisy is your Bible; stupidity is the cornerstone of your existence; and dishonesty your human essence.”
Groves’s meeting went downhill from there, yes, and he would go on to use an experimental formula that turned his housekeeper and himself into half-ape monstrosities and he gets killed and turns their pet into a saber-toothed tiger and his fiancee breaks up with him (not in that order), but I still think I’m going to work that up into a gif so I can deploy it in some Twitter arguments I only stopped answering because it was too much bother to go back and win them. Also I’m really uncomfortable with the subject/verb number agreement there, although Professor Graves sounds so compelling I don’t want to argue it, especially since he might maul me.
Also I really love how everyone talks with more syllables than they need to for every sentence, including when they’re apologizing for entering their room uninvited.
Why does turning into an ape-man monstrosity in the movies always mean you have to climb out windows instead of using the door, anyway? It wasn’t even locked.
My love mentioned the trivia that the film Jurassic Park had only about four minutes of full-on CGI special effects, and that dinosaurs were on screen only about fourteen minutes of the whole movie. I wondered what there even was in the movie after that? My love knew. It was people arguing, people hiding, and the worst computer-hacking scene in history to that date. I pointed out that they did the best they could, since at that time, nobody had yet made the movie Johnny Mnemonic.
Also, I’ve never seen the movie Johnny Mnemonic. I picked up the DVD for it when the local independent video shop went out of business last year, since I liked the pinball machine so much. Another local independent video shop went out of business a few months after that, but all I got from that was some He-Man cartoons and stuff. Anyway, while I’ve never seen Johnny Mnemonic I do assume it has a computer-hacking scene. I also assume that it is the most wonderfully funny thing humanity has produced that isn’t a Simpsons character giving a false name. Probably involving someone standing and wearing wires hooked up to his hands and wiggling his fingers at midair while, if I read the pinball backglass correctly, a prog rock album occurs. Someday I’ll have to see it.
|Movie||Length (in words)|
|Star Trek: First Contact||193|
|Star Trek Beyond||454|
|Star Trek Generations||1327|
|Star Trek V: The Final Frontier||1776|
|Star Trek Into Darkness||1927|
|Star Trek: The Motion Picture||1940|
|Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan||2087|
|Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country||2344|
|Star Trek (2013)||3137|
|Star Trek III: The Search For Spock||3904|
|Star Trek: Insurrection||5019|
|Star Trek: Nemesis||6256|
|Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home||8287|
Based on their talk pages as of the 2nd of July, 2016, in case that matters. No, I have no idea what the deal is with First Contact having nothing considering how much there is to dispute about the movie.
My love and I were wondering last weekend when MediaWest*Con might be. This is a small but ancient science fiction/TV/movies/et cetera convention that’s been held in Lansing for the past Like 37 years . We had no idea. We only found out about it last year because a friend was going to it and asked if we wanted to meet up for dinner during a slow stretch. It turned out the convention was being held just that weekend, right as we were wondering when it might be.
We couldn’t go. They only sell 700 attending memberships and were sold out. But we found this magnificent question and answer on their web site:
3. Why do you have Apocryphal memberships and allow pets?
We found some people were buying full memberships for their stuffed critters, so we started offering Apocryphal memberships for stuffed or live critters and for alternate identities so as not to take up already limited regular memberships.
As for pets, we had started bringing our dogs to the con so we didn’t have to board them, which cleared the way for others to bring their pets, as long as they get along with the other animals and members (which goes for the humans as well!). Some people miss their pets too much, and some pets don’t do well without their people.
This is my favorite sort of explanation. It’s clear, concise, and doesn’t explain a thing. That thing: wait, there were so many people buying memberships for their stuffed dolls that it was creating resentment in the standby list? How many people was that? Surely not one, because who’d notice that? Ten? Again, nobody would notice ten people not there because toys were instead. 680? That’s more plausible. It suggests there a time in Like 1994, when the convention was twenty people and hundreds upon hundreds of plush dolls dressed in Star Trek, Blake’s 7, and Bruce Campbell costumes. All staring at the people who couldn’t get in. And someone declared, “there must be something we can do! And I know what it is!” And that lone person was a stuffed Vulcan-eared teddy bear dressed up like George Francisco from Alien Nation, and was the voice of reason.
Also I like how pets are allowed because hey, pets.
 35 or 38 years depending on how you count some stuff.
 For example 1993, 1995, or possibly 1994.
First, I did another comic strips thing on my mathematics blog. Yes, there’s Jumble in it, don’t worry.
Now, something I realized recently about the mirror-universe episode of the original Star Trek. You know, it’s the one everybody does evil-twin universe episodes about. It’s a subtle thing. The episode starts with Kirk meeting the leaders of the Planet of the Week, right before it Ion Rains. Later, Kirk in the Mirror-Universe hails the Weekian leader. And it’s a small thing but the Weekian leader’s disheveled, and he’s got black eyes. He’s been roughed up. Presumably, by Mirror-Universe Kirk.
It’s one of those little things you can watch the episode a dozen times before noticing. It’s a great little touch showing how brutal the Mirror Universe is.
And then what I finally realized: wait, so the Empire is diddling around sending starships all over the Mirror Galaxy to non-compliant planets so Mirror Kirk can beam down and punch people until they behave? That seems like a poor use of resources. But then I also realized: that’s pretty much what the Federation and the good-universe Star Trek is about too. It’s mostly Kirk punching the Weekian leaders until they stop screwing up their planets. The Good Universe Kirk is mostly fighting for the dignity of individuals, but that does come down to a lot of fist fights.
They did other kinds of episodes, so it’s not like I’m saying the show should be renamed Space Punching. But I have got to re-watch the show with this insight in mind.
I was looking up the plot to the gratuitously stupid movie The Butterfly Effect, because I was thinking of the gratuitously stupid movie A Sound Of Thunder instead. This happens. It led me to discover there was a Butterfly Effect 2 and even a Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (“Death Repeats Itself”) for some reason. And then in its Wikipedia page plot description we get this sentence:
Sam complains he is now `too stupid’ to fix things; Jenna pinky-swears him to not time-travel anymore.
That’s not really a sentence. It’s a pile-up of a couple sentences. Also it’s about pinky-swearing to not time travel. And despite the power of pinky-swearing and the Wikipedia page about that, Sam breaks his promise before the paragraph is even out. What is the point of pinky-swearing if you’re just going to warp the fabric of history anyway? I guess he might set it so he didn’t ever pinky-swear but that still sounds like cheating to me.
From this I learn that there isn’t a Wikipedia category for “films including broken pinky-swear promises”. Also that when the page was created, in August 2008, the movie’s title was given as Butterfly Effect: Revlelation.
There is a third-season episode where Kirk’s pants get torn. It’s the one where rock monster aliens pretend to be Abraham Lincoln so they can learn a little something about humanity. The pants-tearing probably wasn’t on purpose.
So Comics Kingdom has been running the Flash Gordon comics from 1961. In these stories, set in the far-distant future world of 1971, life is very different. There’s human colonies on all the good planets of the solar system. And on the moon, a guy’s homemade robot duplicate has swiped a flying saucer and he’s cleaning up on the quiz programs. And that’s not even the stuff I’m making up.
So here’s a panel from the strip from Saturday, the 22nd of April, 1961. This ran ten days after Yuri Gagarin’s flight. And now … just … “No Parking After Midnight (Earth Time)”. Does the qualifier “(EARTH TIME)” simplify matters any? And if so, how?
If that’s not enough to think over, well, why not look over some mathematically-themed comic strips on my other blog? Also why not read the Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z glossary that I’ve been building? I’ve gotten to write about stuff I sometimes even understand.
- You forgot to put the recycling out!
- If you’re on the landing exactly at midnight New Year’s Eve you can get into the secret extra floor there.
- There’s somebody, anybody, back east who knows you’re in the Eastern Time Zone.
- That shield bug in the bathroom that’s been motionless and on its back for two weeks? It’s not dead yet somehow.
- There’s still a Radio Shack in town.
- You will never be perfectly confident that the faucets are turning off correctly.
- Tucked inside the wall you can never get a picture nail to stick in? That’s the canvases of 19th century moving-panorama showman John Banvard’s famous half-mile long painting of the Mississippi River, once the toast of American and European theatrical performances, and thought to be completely lost.
- Oh, the basement, let’s not even.
- The button you never use on the dishwasher is for its twelve-minute Licking Cycle.
- That’s no home, that’s some 60s black-and-white French science fiction movie in which people grunt about how the essence of mankind is love and faith, courage and tenderness, and then getting shot until they fall into swimming pools at the direction of the all-powerful computer god, which is played by a heat lamp behind a box fan.
Welcome back everyone. Hope you had a good week writing and are ready to resume walking through this novel-writing experience. Before I start, though, ClashOSymbols had his good post for the month, “Facts: Never Your Friends”. Read it wisely.
Now we left off last time here, our heroes wondering about the many-world interpretation of quantum mechanics. But they don’t know it enough to say anything meaningful, so they can’t be wrong. See ClashOSymbols above. You can’t break a suspension of disbelief if there’s nothing to disbelieve. That’s the first reason they have to talk about stuff they don’t really understand.
Something else you get from this. Now, this part doesn’t matter if all you want is a book, but a career walkthrough’ll tell you this. Characters talk about quantum mechanics, you have a science fiction book. You want to start out writing genre, because if genre readers to start reading you they’ll never stop. Doesn’t matter what genre. Science fiction, mystery, western, romance, military, anything at all. But then you have to pivot to literary fiction. Your genre readers will keep reading, and they’ve talked about you enough to their normal friends that you get those readers too. All your books get reissued with boring but uniform covers and your back catalogue sells all over again. Your genre readers will complain about you selling out, but they’ll keep buying and new people will follow them. Always in your career: start genre, then pivot to lit.
But here’s the thing. The harder you start in genre, the tougher the pivot to lit. Start your career with books about Earth pacified by giant memory-wiping kangaroo robot detectives, your pivot is going to have to be like five novels where a sulky old guy reviews badly-named bands for a minor-league city’s failing alt weekly while nothing happens. So doable but soooooooo boring. If you start instead with something so softly genre it could get filed by accident with the grown-up books, you can pivot without doing anything more than picking duller titles.
So. They talk quantum mechanics many-worlds stuff, they don’t know enough to say anything right or wrong or anything. Science fiction fans’ll eat it up, real people will think you’re doing that Bridging The Two Cultures stuff. The novel’s got a good start and I’m already setting up for the pivot.
Now — oh, phoo, what did they go down there for? OK, they just got off the subway and went down the wrong street. I could just go back and restart from the subway and go the right way but you’re going to have to deal with accidents like this and you should see how to recover. Why is a wrong street dangerous? Because if you’re set in a real place, you might say something about the place that a reader can check and find is wrong. That can wipe out all the score you get from the whole chapter. Even if you’re doing the little-chapter strategy, which I say is gaming the rules and won’t do because I have integrity, this dings you. Remember, facts are just stuff you can get wrong. So, have the characters observe something non-committal and non-falsifiable and then they can say they’re on the wrong street. Hey, they’re rattled from that knifeketeer/magician thing, anyone would understand.
Or you can martingale it. Double down, pick something about the setting and just go wild describing it. Extra hard, yes. It’s almost irresistible to put bunches of facts about the place in. And facts aren’t your friends. But pull it off and you can get so many bonus points. We’ll talk about that a little next time.
For now, though, let me point out the Comment of the Week. That’s from FanatsyOfFlight back on Monday with her great Fan Theory: All Fan Theories Are The Same Fan Theory. If you missed it, you’re probably thinking fan theories are a weak target for satire. Maybe they are, but they’re so well-eviscerated.
About The Author: For two years as a reporter on the student newspaper Joseph Nebus attended all the student government meetings for four of the Rutgers University undergraduate colleges. The most challenging was the University College Governing Association, because as adult commuting students they could afford to cater their meetings with way too much pizza to eat and had the pull to reserve the warm conference room with the plush chairs.
Hi, okay, welcome to this walkthrough of writing a novel. I know we’ve got a lot of new viewers this month because they want to do their NaNoWriMo stuff right. Don’t worry, you should be able to hop right on into this. You all see my novel like it is right now, so let me explain where I’m going.
First, though. Viewpoint. I’m doing third-person omniscient. I mention for the new viewers. I explained why third-person omni like, was it three? episodes ago. Go to that if you want the whole spiel but, in brief: I like it. It’s cozy. I’ve got all my writing macros set up for it. It lets me drop in cynical observations without any characters having to be snarky, which is off-putting when you do it as much as I do. You want to limit readers’ reasons to dislike your characters to the ones that you want, so much as possible. Third person limited is okay. It’s a harder level for getting dramatic irony but sometimes you want the challenge. First person is the easy mode for suspense, the extra-hard mode for dramatic irony. Figure how hard you want to write your stuff. Also you think you get away with any continuity errors by playing the ‘unreliable narrator’ card. Everybody knows that trick so they don’t fall for it. Neutral there.
ClashOSymbols, I see you already rushing to the comments section and you’re wrong. Second person is not happening, and you’re not gonna make it happen. Everything you do in second-person reads like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. By the third time anyone reads a Choose Your Own Adventure, all they’re doing is reverse-engineering the Happy Ending. Do it in a straight novel and you hit the Choose-Your-Own problem, where ‘you’ get told you’re doing or thinking something you would never do. Yes, shut up, a reader who pretends enough will go along with you. But every line you get wrong is fighting the suspension-of-disbelief and a whole novel of that doesn’t work. You’ve got better fights to pick with your readers than what they think they’d do in your scenario.
Also no it’s not second-person if the setup is the person who did the thing telling it to ‘you’. You are so wrong. New viewers, meet ClashOSymbols. That first impression you’ve got of him? You have him pegged. Short-short version, I’m right, he’s wrong, we’re just delaying his inevitable admission. And yeah, interests of fairness, read his walkthrough yourself for the wrong side of things.
Back to the writing. Up here, that’s the Meet Cute. This isn’t a romance, but my leads didn’t know each other before the book starts. They have to have some reason to stick together. They aren’t in a spot they can be ordered to stick together, and it’s so hard having an emotion about a new person. They gotta be shoved together and that’s why it’s a Meet Cute.
So. New York subway scene. Protagonist rescues the guy from the manic guy stabbing the air with a knife, other guy says it was a magician and shows his cell phone photo to prove it. That works. Readers can imagine knifeketeers on the New York subway. They maybe heard from someone how there was a magician performing on a car or in a station on a big city subway. Readers’ll buy it. And the characters have some reason to keep talking because one has the photo of the knifeketeer, the other the magician. All that doesn’t make sense.
So here you see they try guessing about some quantum mechanics multi-world thing. Neither of them knows enough quantum mechanics to figure how that makes sense. That’s fine, it doesn’t make sense. But they can make wild guesses that maybe explain it, and I don’t have to commit to anything. This is important. Everything you write as a fact in your book is something you can get wrong. Every statement is a chance to break the reader’s suspension-of-disbelief. If you want to do science fiction don’t ever explain how something works in enough detail that any reader can check the numbers. They’ll never ever work. Stay vague and you can insist you’re really writing “hard” science-respecting science fiction. Plus you can boast you spared the readers the boring calculations that would prove it.
This does something else important too. But I’m about out of time for this installment. Hope you learned something useful for your novel-writing. Catch you next week with some more walking through. And, yeah, ClashOSymbols, as always, commenter of the week for that killer pumpkin snark. Congratulations. Folks should check what he has to say out. He can write so brilliant an argument you almost forget he’s wrong. Catch you later.
About the Author: Joseph Nebus has an unpublished Star Trek: The Next Generation novel from back when he was a teenager that dear Lord you will never ever EVER SEE YOU CANNOT IMAGINE HOW WELCOME YOU ARE. He is currently working on an ambitious project of grousing about others’ success.
Sorry to stand in the way of Apartment 3-G but I do have a mathematics blog to support. I’ve had things to say about the integers — the counting numbers — some of which may surprise you. And though I don’t figure to have another installment until tomorrow, I do regularly review the comic strips that mention mathematical topics. It’s my chance to talk about several of my favorite subjects together.
So, I have heard nothing in the past week to suggest that Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G is not doomed. (Their official blog has nothing to say, of course.) I would not be surprised if James Allen of Mark Trail was pushing to get King Features Syndicate to change its mind. It seems a long shot, but the syndicate does obviously make some of its decisions sentimentally. They run Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead, after all.
I like Zippy, and I understand why it would make sense to have tried it out a generation ago. But have you ever seen it on an actual newspaper’s comics page, and if so, does it make sense existing even in the same medium as Over The Hedge or JumpStart? Yet it’s still running. That fact is logical only when you consider that reality has merged with Zippy the Pinhead. As the character said long ago, life is just a blur of Republicans and meat.
As a more obvious triumph of sentiment over economics, the syndicate still has Hy Eisman draw new installments of The Katzenjammer Kids. That can only make sense as a point of pride. I accept that the economics of Apartment 3-G are marginal. I would nevertheless like to try “good art, strong stories” a try. If nothing else, it would be happy if the strip were to close out on an improving year.
As for what the heck happened this week. I suspect the Just End The Story Already Fairies have gotten a deadline for when everything has to be wrapped up. And lacking other tools, they’ve used the climax of Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and are tearing apart the very idea of perception. The backgrounds have gotten to be so generic that it’s really not possible to say they’re insides or outsides or wrong or anything, and by Friday they weren’t even there.
The Thursday and Friday installments suggest we are actually literally going to have an “it was all a dream” resolution. After the exhausting nothingness of this year’s non-story I’m willing to accept this. I haven’t been so willing to accept an “it was all a dream” resolution since I was three-quarters of the way through Stephen Baxter’s god-awful novel Titan. (Spoiler: the book was bad enough that it wasn’t even all a dream.)
Dead fiancée Eric has most recently appeared on Monday, ordered by Tommie to go get some sleep. Tuesday saw the arrival of Greg, a bundle of strange backstory for Margo. While Margo was working as a publicist, Greg was her boyfriend and an actor who landed the part of James Bond. We’re to take it to be that James Bond. Margo and Greg broke up for the reason of there was some reason, probably. On Thursday Margo suddenly opened her eyes and demanded to know where “he” had gone. Friday Margo demanded to know where “the man who loved me” had gone. I would have thought Shulock would know better by this point than to use any pronouns. On the other hand, names don’t help much either because there is literally no guessing who Bolle is going to draw into any scene. Is she talking with Tommie? Eric? Greg? Why not Dost Mohammad Khan, founder of the modern Afghan state, at this point?
The action this week reminds me of some single-season sitcom that blew my young mind. The last episode had the male lead going off to Other Land Somewhere, with a teary farewell scene at the airport, and he exits. Then the guy came back on camera and said he wasn’t going, because “it was cancelled”. “The flight?” “No, the series,” and the actors turn to the camera and wave bye. At that age I didn’t know you could do that, at least not outside shows that were built around talking to the audience, like Rocky and Bullwinkle. Maybe we are building up to the whole roster of jilted, abandoned, separated, and deceased boyfriends popping back in and saying their goodbyes in front of a blank wall. I hope it will be better than that.
Failing that, well, let’s just have the whole cast on stage to sing the Kinks’ “Where Did My Spring Go?” and call that an end.
I spent a considerable part of that dream trying to work out exactly which crazypants episode of Star Trek: Voyager it was. It was yet another episode where Tuvok comes down with temporary insanity. This time I’m pretty certain it was meant to teach an endearingly sincere but klunky message about toleration. It just did it in the form of Tuvok being caught in a quasi-hallucinatory state where he shifts between the starship and being maybe in the past, maybe shifting back to Actual Planet Vulcan where he’s gradually realizing he’s too enthusiastic about hunting down the packs of cyborg Vulcan kangaroos rampaging through the endless desert. I think the cyborg Vulcan kangaroos might have had antennas, which suggests they might be an invasive species, possibly from the Andorian worlds. No, they didn’t display any ice powers.
Anyway, the cinematography on this was just fantastic. I mean, this was clearly the episode of the year where they were trying, with a deliberate color design and on-location shooting with deep focus so you can do stunts like have the attention on some tiny thing in the distance and have someone walk in the near foreground, crisp and sharp. I think they might’ve been using 70mm film for some of it. So I’m a little disappointed I didn’t see how it all turned out, but I’m going to go ahead and suppose that Tuvok came to decide he didn’t want to be prejudiced, but rather wanted to come to hate people individually and for his own reasons, not those he picked up from society.
I think it was an episode from before Seven of Nine joined the show. I’m pretty sure they rescued Neelix from the cyborg Vulcan(?) kangaroo mob, unless it turns out that he only died in a hallucination or something like that. That’s to be expected I guess.
A lot of life is hanging out without anything particular going on. That’s generally omitted in dramas, of course. Just hanging out might establish the tone of normality before the Crisis comes in and disrupts things. Even comedies don’t much depict “nothing particular going on”; even genial hangout comedy usually gets some possibly slender activity going on. If nothing really is going on, you’re either watching Waiting For Godot or in the parts of a paranoia-suspense thriller where “nothing to talk about” becomes sinister.
One of the running Bob and Ray characters was Lawrence Fechtenberg, Interstellar Officer Candidate. Here you know the genre of show they’re spoofing. What might startle is how precisely they parody the tone and the production of the radio version of space-cadet and space-captain programs. (I’m still stunned by one show that briefly stranded the cast on Saturn, the solar system’s junkyard world.) Science fiction, or space opera, or similar shows are even less prone to showing the “nothing particular going on” than regular shows are. Futurama has a few episodes like that, but mostly even they had stories to get to.
Lawrence Fechtenberg, though, he had a lot of time fumbling around without getting to anything particular. If the tension created by mixing the signals of high drama and the fact of incredible slightness amuses you, then his holding forth on the topic of “what the food was like on Venus” will just keep getting more maddeningly funny.
I’m attempting again to embed it, but if that doesn’t work, just download the MP3 file. This is tagged as “600330LawrenceFechtenbergInterstellar” on archive.org.
That’s the center piece, yes, though not the whole of this 15-minute show. Most of the last five minutes is spend attempting to get a report from Washington. Like many Bob and Ray pieces, the central observation here is that it’s really hard to do anything quite exactly right. We all fumble about at our jobs, whether radio journalists or space navy officer candidates or meteorologists. These are universal moments that few people pay attention to.
Not depicted: that day in 1997 when the Internet noticed the episode where Dr Crusher has sex with her grandmother’s candle-ghost; and that day in 2000 when I noticed the Federation kicked the Cardassians out of alliance with them and into the Dominion’s arms. So, good job, warhawks, in making things worse, as ever.
It’s a good time to write a biography, in case you’re thinking of doing such a thing. There are more people who’ve been alive now than there ever have been before. And that’s a trend that just isn’t going to change anytime soon. There’s already more than eight people ready to be biographied for every person able to write one. Or you can just write about Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, or Abraham Lincoln again because you thought of some more stuff about him.
You do have to pick some subject, though. You can get a ways into the book without having one in mind, if you focus your efforts on the preface. There you can point out how you’re interested in getting at the truth, and that you’ve been hard at work examining original documents. And that you’re grateful for the assistance of a long list of people with three names each. Maybe thank a university press while you’re at it. They need the support and almost nobody visits them just to hug. But a good preface can only go as long as 58 pages before even the people who’re looking to see if their names get thanked get rebellious and try to take over the book.
Once you’ve picked a subject you can fill out the first chapter, in which you describe the subject’s death. This is an important scene for any biographer because it assures the reader that at some point the subject dies and the book will end. Oh, electronic books have made it theoretically possible to keep on writing more book before anybody can finish reading it. But there are practical objections. People can skim faster than you can write, for example. If you want to keep ahead of them you’re going to have to start describing how the subject read other biographies. Then include those. It helps you out doing this trick if you remember there’s more biographies now than there ever were before. And that’s another trend that’s going to keep going. But at some point even electronic books are going to run out of storage space and you might have to end mid-word. This could embarrass someone who might even be you.
If your subject hasn’t died, you have to be more careful writing the funeral scene. Since it’ll be in the future, your description of the details of what the day will be like and what people will be doing will be kind of science fiction. This should date your book hilariously by the time the predicted date comes to pass or else you’re doing it wrong. That could be an opportunity, admittedly. If you can be really extremely dated at least people will go looking up the funniest bits about what you wrote. But they’ll only quote the funniest parts and not think to laugh at the rest of your biography.
A danger in writing biographies is you can come out thinking worse of your subject. That’s all right if you go in writing a biography of someone you don’t like. Critics might ask why you’re doing a biography of someone you don’t like. “Why hate-biography,” they’d ask, “when there’ve been more likable people now than ever before?” You can answer, “Shouldn’t we know everything possible about the person who single-handedly fed the moon to Truman Capote?” If you can’t get away while they’re working that question out you aren’t trying hard enough. Maybe you need advice from a professional biographers’ association. Maybe you need better sneakers.
But there’s still hazards even if you still mostly like the subject by the end. For example you figure on how Thomas Edison was a bright, perceptive man with a keen sense for what was possible and desirable. Then you remember he spent seven years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to make dolls stuffed full of record players. Maybe you can get back your esteem for him from that. If you forget that he went from the record-player-doll project to stomping around New Jersey rock quarries shouting “MORE MAGNETS!” at any ore that would listen. And you just know some of that rock was magnesiochromite.
Well. Sometimes you have to take the risk, and biography someone who turns out to be a drip. It’s an important lesson and a turning point in the biography someone’s writing about you. Good luck.