Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
For our first selection, here is the show's third mic, comedian Jim Norton with one of his most popular characters, Ted.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The way I see it, if the holodeck were introduced today, it would be a lot like the Internet. A small segment of our population would disappear into it and never return. Escaping from reality will always be attractive, whether it’s through TV and movies or drugs and alcohol. And new, attractive ways to make that escape are always going to swallow up a few mouth-breathers, and we have to accept that. We can’t ban everything that’s fun just because a few people don’t have the self-control to handle it. But just like with the Internet, society will adjust to the new technology and we’ll find equilibrium again. Well, most of us will.
Star Trek has shown us many uses for the holodeck. Training simulations, exotic environments, sports, games, entertainment, and of course Quark’s main stock and trade, sex. But of course, like all technology, it isn’t perfect. At least a couple of times per season the holodeck would try to kill everyone inside of it, and sometimes outside of it, because of some kind of malfunction. It’s a wonder they let the things run at all. But I guess when you’re in deep space, and there isn’t a whole lot to do, risking your life for a cheap thrill sounds like a fair trade.
Here are a few of the more memorable programs that I wouldn’t mind giving a try. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it PG for the kids.
5. Captain Proton
For the most part, the holodeck programs that we saw on Voyager were pretty lame. In order to conserve power, they used a lot of communal programs that many people could enjoy at once. Sandrine’s pool hall, Neelix’s resort program, Paris even created a program of a movie theater once. Watching a movie in the holodeck is kind of like playing checkers on your X-Box 360, it’s tremendously stupid. But by far, Fair Haven was the stupid straw that broke the stupid camel’s stupid back. For those of you who don’t know, Fair Haven was a simulation of a 19th Century Irish village. That’s it. The most modern of 24th Century technologies, with the ability to simulate anything, anything at all, and the most entertaining thing that they could come up with was drunken Irish pig farmers playing darts in a pub? Seriously? I can pull random words out of my ass and come up with a better idea than that. How about ‘Monster Truck Dinosaur Party Island’? There, I just made that up and that would have been a thousand times more entertaining than Fair Haven. But I digress. My purpose here is to talk about good programs, not bad.
By season five of Voyager, Tom Paris’ obsession with all things 20th Century led him to a holonovel called “The Adventures of Captain Proton.” The program appeared to be based on the science fiction movie serials from the 40’s and 50’s, like Captain Video or Commando Cody. He had a rocket ship, a jet pack, and a ray gun. His sidekick’s name was Buster, his girl’s name was Constance Goodheart, and the villain’s name was Dr. Chaotica. That should pretty much tell you everything you need to know. It was over-the-top, cheesy, campy fun.
The Inevitable Moment of Disaster: “Bride of Chaotica!” (VOY). A pair of photonic lifeforms, trying to make contact with Voyager, transported aboard the holodeck while the Captian Proton program was running, and thought it was real. They were attacked by Dr. Chaotica, and in order to save them, Janeway had to pretend to be the queen of the spider people and the Doctor had to pretend to be the president of Earth. I wish to God that I was making this up.
4. Vic Fontaine
Over the course of the three Trek series that featured holodecks, we’ve met a few self-aware holograms. But none were as cool as Vic Fontaine. Played by James Darren, Vic was a nightclub owner and lounge singer in 1960’s Las Vegas. He was introduced to the crew of DS9 when his program was given to Dr. Bashir as a gift by his friend Felix. Because of the advanced nature of his program and his ability to read people, Vic became a friend and confidant to many of the crew. He was a cross between a counselor, a bartender and a guardian angel. He gave Odo love advice and helped him win over Kira. He befriended Nog after he lost his leg in the Dominion war, and encouraged him to move on with his life. After that incident, Nog arranged for Vic’s program to run 26 hours a day (the station ran on a 26 hour Bajoran day) and Vic was given the chance to live an almost normal life.
The Inevitable Moment of Disaster: “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” (DS9). A jack-in-the-box subroutine of Vic’s program becomes activated, causing a new character to be created for a program. Frankie Eyes, an old rival of Vic’s comes in and buys the hotel and casino out from under him, leaving Vic without a job. The jack-in-the-box can’t be removed without damaging Vic’s program and wiping his memory, so the crew decides that an old-fashioned heist is in order to bankrupt the casino and leave Frankie Eyes at the mercy of his mafia connections. Basically just picture Ocean’s Eleven, if it took place on a space station. In the end the good guys win, and Vic and Captain Sisko perform a duet of “The Best is Yet to Come”.
3. Dixon Hill
Our very first introduction to the holodeck is during season one of TNG, when Picard discovers a holonovel of his favorite private detective, Dixon Hill. He gets so excited that he calls a senior staff meeting. Let’s think about this for a moment. This is kind of like the captain of an aircraft carrier calling a meeting because he found a waterslide on the lower decks of his ship, and it’s, like, really fun!
Our introduction to the holodeck also became our introduction to the holonovel. Just imagine if every book you ever read became a movie, and you were the star. That’s what a holonovel is like. In short, it’s the coolest idea ever. My only question is this; what happens if you don’t follow the events of the story? What would happen if Dixon Hill just whipped out his tommy gun and started shooting motherfuckers just for shiggles?
Sure, it would be fun. But it would make for a short novel.
The Inevitable Moment of Disaster: “The Big Goodbye” (TNG). The very first holodeck episode was also the very first the-holodeck-is-trying-to-kill-us episode. When Picard decides to go back into the Dixon Hill program, he invites Dr. Crusher, Data, and some guy we’ve never seen before to come along. I think we can all see where this is going. The holodeck malfunctions, trapping them all inside and disabling the safeties, and the guy we’ve never seen before gets shot. In the end they manage to get out and get their man to sickbay, and presumably he survives. Picard gets to the bridge and saves the day, and for safety reasons they shut down the holodeck and never use it again. Oh, wait, no they don’t. They actually continue to use it quite a lot and it continues to try to kill them quite a lot. I guess they’re just gluttons for punishment.
2. Sherlock Holmes
Probably the greatest thing about the holodeck is that when you step inside, you can be anybody. You can become a great hero or go on grand adventures, every fantasy can come true. In the case of our favorite socially awkward android, you can become the world’s greatest detective. No, not Batman, the other one, Sherlock Holmes. Data’s interest in Holmes is no doubt related to his interest in becoming more human. Holmes posses a tremendous analytical mind, much like Data, but Holmes is also undeniably human, with human frailties and desires. So it makes sense that Data would want to emulate him. Or maybe he just liked that hat, I don’t know.
The Inevitable Moment of Disaster: “Elementary, Dear Data” (TNG). Data and LaForge go to play Holmes and Watson on the holodeck and Geordi gets upset when Data solves the mystery after only a few minutes. So in an effort to create a scenario that will pose a challenge to Data, Geordi asks the holodeck to create an adversary capable of defeating Data. The computer then makes Moriarty self-aware and gives him access to the ship’s systems. Let me go over that again. The holodeck ACCIDENTLY CREATED A SENTIENT LIFEFORM! This would be like if you tried to send an email on your computer, and instead Windows created a small troll, which then crawled out through the disk drive and tried to eat you. Something tells me that there would be a very angry letter to Bill Gates in your future, not to mention the fact that when you finished beating the crap out of your computer with a sledge hammer, you’d set it on fire. Not only isn’t there a major investigation into how the Enterprise’s computer accidentally CREATED LIFE, but they continue to use the holodecks. Now they’re just fucking asking for it.
1. Julian Bashir: Secret Agent
Honestly, this had to be the first holodeck program created ever. Something tells me that five seconds after the first holodeck was invented, the first engineer turned to the second and said ‘So, what do you want to do with this?’ and his answer was ‘Be James Bond!’ The action, the glamour, the gadgets, the women, James Bond is designed to be the ultimate male fantasy. So when Julian gets a new secret agent holosuite program, is it any wonder that he seems to spend almost all of his off hours running it, much to his friend Garak’s curiosity. And of course, being the killjoy that he is, Garak has to immediately point out that real spies don’t operate that way, but who cares! God Garak, who the fuck invited you anyway?
The Inevitable Moment of Disaster: “Our Man Bashir” (DS9). A transporter accident (I think I’m going to have to do an entry on those as well) causes DS9’s computer to have to store the patterns of Sisko, Dax, Kira and O’Brien. So the computer decides to store them in the holosuite, inserting them as characters in the secret agent program that Bashir and Garak are running. All the usual parameters for a holodeck disaster are in place, they can’t shut the program off, they can’t leave, the safeties don’t work, and they can’t harm the holodeck characters without harming their friends. They have to play out the program and let it end on its own. Julian eventually figures out that the easiest way to do that is to lose.
Honorable Mention: “A Fistful of Datas” (TNG)
This one wasn’t a reoccurring program on the show, but I think it bears mentioning just for the ‘holy shit’ malfunction. Worf, Alexander and Troi are playing Old West on the holodeck while Data and LaForge are monkeying with the ship’s computer, hooking it up to Data’s brain for some reason. The result is (surprise!) a malfunction, in which Data’s brain starts infecting other ship’s systems, including the holodeck. The various holodeck characters start getting replaced with simulations of Data, the safeties get disabled, they can’t end the program, same old song, different tune. Worf manages to defeat the android gunslinger and end the program just after an oddly homoerotic moment featuring Data as the female saloon keeper who’s sweet on Worf, but that’s not even the best part. At the end, Alexander feels upset because he knows that Worf probably won’t want to play the program again (You think?!), but Worf surprises him (and us) by saying that he would. This would be like a father taking his son on a roller coaster, which then catches on fire and flies off the track, nearly killing everybody, and the son says ‘Oh, I guess we can’t go again’ and the father says ‘Ah hell, why not!’ WHAT?! We’ve reached the point now where holodeck malfunctions are so commonplace that the characters don’t even blink, and think nothing of scheduling some more time right after the thing ALMOST KILLS THEIR KID!
Say what you want about Windows, when my computer bluescreens, at least nobody dies.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I Only Have Eyes For You
By Michael Ben-Zvi (http://mbenzvi.com/fanfiction.htm)
Fandom: Star Trek Voyager
Genre: Romance, Angst
Summary: Seven decides that she needs to explore an area of her humanity that she finds sorely lacking, her sexuality. She approaches Harry, who is at first offended, but then decides that her request must be her way of telling him that she has feelings for him. Harry shows her the time of her life and shows her that sex is about more than just biology. But can Seven understand her own feelings well enough to reciprocate?
If there’s one thing that will make a fanfic author put pen to paper, it’s when they feel like their favorite character isn’t being given a fair shake on the show, that they aren’t being respected or treated right by the writers. This was a common theme for stories that featured Harry. On the show they played the inexperienced ensign card far too often, especially in the later seasons, and they gave him disastrous luck with women. And that was when they remembered that he was even there. So when Seven came along and Harry showed an interest in her, the fans jumped on it.
This story does an excellent job in showing Harry’s vulnerability. He’s the archetypical good guy getting stepped on. His feelings for Seven are mocked and ridiculed by his friends who either believe that Seven is little more than an automaton, incapable of feeling, or that she’s just way out of his league. He sees Seven’s humanity, buried deeply under the cold façade that she shows the world, and he wants to nurture it. So when Seven approaches him for an interstellar booty call, he’s hurt. He feels like all of his efforts to befriend her were for nothing, all she wants from him is to use him to suit her own needs. But when he decides that her reasons must go deeper, that she must have real feelings for him, his friends think that he’s just setting himself up for a big fall. But if there’s one quality that personified Harry, it’s that he never loses hope. Harry plans the perfect evening for Seven, drawing out her humanity more and more each step of the way. But the morning after comes, and Seven becomes afraid of these new feelings. She runs away, leaving Harry feeling hurt and foolish. I won’t give away the end of the story, but suffice it to say that Harry’s friends learn a lesson about trusting him to make his own decisions, and treating him with respect. And Seven learns that human interpersonal relationships are not as irrelevant as she had once thought.
I think anyone with a familiarity with these characters can enjoy this story. Voyager was always more character driven than any of the other Trek series, in my opinion. They didn’t have any long, sweeping story arcs (for better or worse), they didn’t tackle any big issues like politics or war, they were removed from all that, a ship alone. They were simply a group of characters trying to make their way home, and forced to get along with each other along the way.
“I Only Have Eyes For You” is the first story in a series called The K/7 Saga, the rest of which can be found at the author’s site (link above). If you decide to read the story and you like it, be sure to drop Michael a line and let him know.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
These tracks used to be called Director’s Commentary, because that was typically the only person who did them. But soon more and more people started getting in on the fun, and now we have cast commentary, producers, writers, special effects guys, stage hands, and the guy that runs the craft services table. A good indication that a commentary isn’t worth listening to is if you’ve seen the movie and you still don’t recognize any of the names of the people doing the track. Do you really need to hear from the guy who made Mark Wahlberg’s plastic dong for Boogie Nights about the injection molding process? Is that really going to enhance your enjoyment of the movie at all? Stick to the director and the cast and you should be fine.
What Are They Talking About?
Why does the average person listen to these things anyway? Because we don’t make movies (most of us don’t anyway), and we’re interested in knowing how it’s done. Especially if it’s something that we like, we want to know what went into it. Where did the idea come from? How was it crafted? If it’s a cast commentary, what went into making the performance? Are there little moments in the film that the average viewer may have missed, something that relates to the story, or some kind of symbolism? Inside jokes, Easter eggs, things like that. Some commentaries are little more than recorded wrap parties, with the cast reminiscing about how much fun they had. And while that can be upbeat and fun, no real information is being given. Hearing about the hijinks that Larry the Cable Guy got up to on the set of Delta Farce, the viewer (or listener) doesn’t feel like they’re being given special access, they just feel like an outsider. And in the case of Larry the Cable Guy, hearing about him cavorting and showing off for the crew may even make us throw up in our mouths a little.
Happy and upbeat is good, like I said, as long as the people on the track are talking about things that the viewer cares about. A lovefest, where the cast and crew fawn all over each other, telling each other how great they are, is of very little interest to anyone. But at the same time, being overly technical and obsessed with minutia can be dull and boring. Tracks with one or two people speaking in monotones and long moments of silence where they can’t think of anything to say. If it’s obvious that the person recording the track doesn’t want to be there, the viewer is certainly not going to want to be there either. So striking the right balance is important. Another thing to avoid in this regard is the defensive director. Two hours of listening to a guy make excuses for bad effects shots and bitch about the studio is not fun for anyone, especially his fellow commentators.
It’s hard to sit in a room and talk for two hours about yourself and not sound pretentious. The trick, in my opinion, is to not overcorrect and become self-effacing because it inevitably comes off as fake. And nothing comes off as more pretentious than fake modesty. So if the commentators can succeed in being honest and real, it can buy them a lot of credibility with the viewers and save them from sounding pretentious. Or at least make us forgive you for sounding pretentious.
So here are a few commentary tracks that I think did it right.
Who: Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Billy West, John DiMaggio, and whoever wrote and/or directed the episode in question
What: Any show that has a commentary track for every single episode is ok in my book. Futurama was the little show that could, and then couldn’t, and then could again. The topics in the commentaries range from the story process, the animation process, the voice acting, and behind the scenes anecdotes.
Tone: Fun, but informative. Not too serious, but not a straight out love fest either.
Who: The entire case (varies from season to season)
What: Another show that has commentary tracks on every episode. It’s a cast commentary (though some of the DVDs have other tracks with the creators of the show and some episodes have fan commentaries) so it isn’t overly technical. There is a lot of reminiscing, but I wouldn’t call it a lovefest. The actors are pretty truthful about the infighting that went on during the filming of the show, but they stay pretty lighthearted about it.
Tone: Fun, snarky
Who: David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Ed Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
What: They talk about all the typical movie making stuff of course. They talk about the book, they talk about the hype that surrounded the movie when it came out, and they talk a lot about the character of Tyler Durden. There are subliminal Tyler’s in the movie, along with some other Easter eggs and inside jokes that they point out. If you love this movie as much as I do, it’s a good inside look into what went into it, so it’s definitely worth a listen.
Tone: Playful, friendly. When the ‘subliminal’ penis appears near the end of the movie, Brad Pitt says “Fincher likes to make an appearance in all of his movies”.
Who: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, assorted cast members
What: The commentary tracks for Mr. Show do something that I’ve never seen before, they put on a little show themselves. Along with all the typical commentary of talking about sketches, they have fictional characters commenting on the show as well. Bob and David’s acting coach, their agent, a radio DJ, a super fan, etc. It makes the tracks not only informative but entertaining on their own. More often than not when I pull out the DVD now, I watch with the commentary on rather than off.
Pretension: Medium well. As much as I love Mr. Show, something about Bob and David has always bothered me. They have an attitude that their kind of humor is the only kind of humor that’s worth anything, that anyone who likes anything that’s mainstream is a moron and a sheep, and anyone who doesn’t think that they’re funny ‘just doesn’t get it, man’. This comes across on the commentary tracks frequently, but they’re funny so it’s tolerable.
What do you think, Sirs? What DVD commentary tracks do you enjoy?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
As I understand it (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), because of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate into a new body, which allows him to be played by different actors, every incarnation of the Doctor from the old show, to the new show, to comic books, to TV movies, is in fact canon. Meaning that it is all part of the same universe, with the same continuity. That’s a pretty tall order for a newbie to jump onboard with, considering that the original show started in the early 60’s. In 2005 when the new show came out, I gave it a go. I watched it off and on, though never really consistently. Between the Sci-Fi Channel and BBC America, I was watching episodes out of order. I saw a few with Christopher Eccleston, a few with David Tennant, and I even watched some of Torchwood. I really like everything that I saw, though because I watched so inconsistently I always felt like I was playing catch up. Eventually that became frustrating enough that I stopped making the effort.
Dr. Who is huge, like Star Trek huge. Not being a fan severely hurts my geek cred. However thanks to my casual viewership and association with a few fans, I know enough to fake my way through a casual conversation. The upside is that Dr. Who fans, like most geeks, won’t shun you if you admit that you’re not a member of their secret cult, for the simple reason that they’ll be more than happy to indoctrinate you. Be prepared for long conversations involving colored scarves, robot dogs, and sonic screwdrivers.
This one I really kick myself for. I watched the show off and on during the first season, and I really enjoyed it. But then I missed a few episodes, and the ‘monster of the week’ plots started to get old, and the show just stopped being a priority for me. And now is my face ever red. If I knew then what I know now, that the show was going to last so long, that they were going to introduce tons of characters from DC comics (including Green Arrow, one of my favorites), that the stories were going to get more complicated and interesting, I would have stuck around. Once in a while I catch a new episode and I wish I knew what was going on. I mean, this is probably the closest thing we’re ever going to get to a live action Justice League show.
I know, catching up is as easy as Netflixing the DVDs and setting aside a few days of my life to watch the shit out of them. I just don’t think I can make the time, I’m not the same geek that I used to be. And once it becomes a chore, and no matter how great the show is watching eight seasons in a weekend is still a chore, it kind of sucks the enjoyment out of it. Maybe I’ll get to it someday. Or maybe Green Arrow will get a spin-off and I can just watch that.
Even though I’m too young to have been a fan of the original, when the remake started up on Sci-Fi Channel, I was excited. If anything it seemed like an advantage, considering the changes to the show that the harsh reaction to some of them by the original fans. Starbuck, a woman! Blasphemy! So I started watching the show with interest, but two or three episodes in I bailed. At the time I’m not even sure I knew why, I just couldn’t seem to get into it. There was action, the effects were great, it was dark and raw and realistic, the way the original never was (or so I’ve been told). So why wasn’t I onboard? I didn’t care about any of the characters. Now I know what you’re going to say. It’s dark and raw and realistic, the characters aren’t supposed to be likable. I’m not saying that the heroes have to be stalwart and true and wear white hats, but is it too much to ask that they not all be complete assholes? I respect the show and I respect the fans, but I just can’t get interested in a show when I have no emotional stake in the characters. And maybe I’m wrong about this because I haven’t watched much of the show, but the characterizations seemed inconsistent to me as well. Characters that you thought were smart would do really dumb things, or characters that were nice would do something really mean for no reason. I remember an episode where Starbuck was torturing a Cylon, got in trouble with the president for it, and then the president shoved him out of an airlock at the end, and Starbuck was upset by it. Maybe I’m missing something, but that just doesn’t make any sense.
Do I have some residual anger left at the Sci-Fi channel for canceling Farscape, or MST3K, or The Invisible Man? Perhaps. But I like to think that I’m mature enough not to hold a grudge. Besides, I loved Stargate, so take that imaginary person who asked that question!
This one is a combination of ‘too much back story to catch up’ and ‘I tried, I really really tried’. I remember when I was a kid and I saw a commercial for the movie Dune coming up on some cable station. It was science fiction, Patrick Stewart was in it, it looked right up my alley. I think I made it twenty minutes in before I bailed. I’ve since made several attempts to get through that movie, but I’ve never made it all the way through. All I have now are vague memories that make very little sense. Glowing blue eyes, a floating fat man, giant sand worms, Sting in his underwear. I’m sure it all makes sense to someone, but I left my decoder ring in my other pants.
The movie that I saw had an introduction where they used paintings of all of the key characters and planets and tried to get a lot of the exposition out of the way. I’ve since learned that that isn’t the original cut of the movie, and that it was added to make it less confusing. I can’t even fathom what that first cut must have been like. And I know what you’re going to say, I need to read the books. The source material is always going to be more coherent than the adaptation. And while I’m sure that’s true, and many movies that I’ve seen have made me interested enough to seek out the original work, with Dune I just don’t have the interest.
My secret shame. Before you start putting up the cross to nail me to, let me explain a little. I love comic book movies, I grew up watching the cartoons of comic book characters and continue to watch some even into adulthood. So I’ve always had an interest in comics, I just never bothered to pick up an actual comic book and read it. It was so much easier as a kid to have it all spoon fed to me through TV. And when I finally did wander into a comic book store with the intent to develop my interest, I didn’t know where to begin. I was met with wall after wall of colorful comic book covers, filled with familiar characters and unfamiliar storylines. I ended up picking a couple just based on the cover art, having no idea what they were about, and to absolutely nobody’s surprise, I had no idea what was going on. I needed someone to guide me on my journey, and at the time I didn’t have any friends that were into comics and I was too shy to talk to the people at the store.
I found my guide several years ago in the form of my friend Art (also known as ScarecrowsBrain). He started bringing me books from his own collection, both old and new. I started reading Marvel’s Ultimate line, along with some other X-Men titles. I read classics like Watchmen and The Long Holloween, and I read more obscure stuff like Astro City and Concrete. Then the comics started coming directly to my computer via bit torrent. Astonishing X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I read comics blogs and watched Justice League Unlimited. It was my own personal golden age. But like all good things, it came to an end. I moved on to a new job, and no longer being coworkers, Art and I no longer saw each other every day. My gravy train ended, and I was left once again to navigate the world of comics on my own.
The intervening time has been spent on other geek pursuits, however I’ve recently decided to delve back into the comics world. A recent conversation with my good friend Glitterrock over at The Gunutook about the new Green Lantern series “Blackest Night” has convinced me to pick up the book, as well as some older Green Lantern stuff to try and get caught up. So you can see that I’m making an effort, you’ve got to give me credit for that. Right?
This list is by no means comprehensive, it’s just a few major examples that stick out to me at the moment. I was going to write an entry for Babylon 5, but decided against it. A Star Trek fan talking less than favorably about Babylon 5 on the Internet is kind of like pitching a Molotov cocktail through a church window. It’s going to start some shit that I don’t need, so I’ll pass.
So what do you think, Sirs? Am I still turtley enough for the turtle club?
Friday, September 18, 2009
But first, some background. Writing fanfiction has been a hobby of mine for over ten years now. I started off writing Star Trek erotica, where I made all the rookie mistakes. Author insertion, Mary Sues, sloppy crossovers, and generally poor writing. I like to think that I’ve gotten better over the years and developed my own style and voice. I started writing Star Trek Voyager fic mostly, since it was the only Trek series on the air at the time, and I became a Kim/Torres shipper. Eventually the novelty of erotica wore off on me and I became more interested in storytelling. I started writing mostly Buffy stories, and I developed an affinity for the character of Xander, as well as an affinity for crossovers. I know that crossovers have a bad reputation in some circles, simply because it’s so easy to do them badly. Any fanboy who ever wondered what would happen if Darth Vader met Optimus Prime can put fingers to keyboard and bang out a cliché-ridden pile of drivel. The most grievous offense seems to be lack of story, the author relying too heavily on the novelty of the crossover to keep the reader interested. I guess it was the challenge that attracted me, to make the crossover seem natural and have a good reason for it, the ability to tell an original story with realistic character interaction. My stuff has always been heavily character driven.
So that’s where I’m coming from. You can use that information to decide exactly how many grains of salt to take with any of my recommendations. And so without further ado…
Our Day Has Come
By Pete Meilinger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Summary: Buffy realizes that she has feelings for her Xander-shaped friend and with a little help from their friends, the two spend a romantic evening together.
Romance fics generally fall into two categories, smut and angst. This is one of those rare stories that are neither. Sweet to the point of sappy in some places, funny and well written, “Our Day Has Come” really makes you care about the characters and root for them to fall in love. Written from Buffy’s point of view, Pete brings out the sweetness and vulnerability of her character that was so evident in the early seasons of the show, and so absent in the later seasons. I’ve always considered myself more of a Willow/Xander shipper, though I also enjoy other Xander ships as well. One of the things I love about this story, and Pete’s stories in general, is that even when he isn’t writing W/X, Willow and Xander’s friendship is still highlighted and an important part of the story. You really get a sense of the deep bond that they share. This story has the distinction for me of being the fanfic that I’ve probably reread the most, and each time I read it again I get just as much joy out of it.
This is a good story for novice fanfic readers to get their feet wet. It’s not too complicated and it doesn’t require extensive knowledge of the show in order to follow the story. For hardcore Buffy fans, it’s a great story too because it’s primarily about the characters that we know and love from the show. It successfully captures the essence of these characters, while taking them in a new and different direction. And after all, isn’t that the point of fanfic.
If you do decide to read the story, be sure to drop Pete a line and let him know what you thought.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This is the new sandwich at KFC, it’s called the double down. If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen or heard of this, it’s because it’s only at select locations now, namely Providence, Rhode Island and Omaha, Nebraska. I can only assume this is so they can monitor the hospitals in those areas for any spikes in the number of heart attacks reported before they decide if this gastronomic monstrosity is safe.
Let me walk you through it. It’s a sandwich with chicken breasts for bread, and in the middle there are two kinds of cheese, bacon, and something called the Colonel’s sauce. This is the latest example in what I like to refer to as the post-“Super-Size Me” fast food steering-into-the-skid strategy. “Yeah, fast food is bad for you. We know it, you know it, so fuck it. Let’s see how bad we can make it before the FDA steps in. Come on, eat it, we dare you!”
The sad thing is, I want one so bad that my mouth is watering right now as I type this. I’ve been conditioned like a lab rat through years of fast food advertising. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming them. I’m a weak-willed fat tub of goo, and it’s my own damn fault. I just wish I could get this worked up about something that was good for me. I always thought that biology made us like things that we needed. Sex feels good, so we’ll procreate. The features that we find attractive in the opposite sex are usually indicative of health and suitability to produce healthy children. Poison tastes bad, so we won’t eat it. If we do something bad to our bodies, we feel pain, so we’ll stop. So why then does all the food that’s killing us taste so good?
I’d love to go on, but it’s almost lunch time and I’m making myself hungry. Fuck it, how far is Rhode Island?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
“Space Rangers”, 1993, 13 Episodes
This show featured a rugged, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants space cowboy captain, a fat cyborg with a taste for Motown, a woman from a female dominated society who shares her name with a circus freak, an alien ninja who has to wear a “pacifier” around his neck to keep from killing everyone, and Clint Howard. I’ll let you decide which of those things is the strangest (I’m going with Clint Howard). They flew around and had various adventures on the frontiers of explored space, keeping the peace, teaching alien women to love, the usual stuff.
My favorite character was Doc, the fat cyborg (I think he was the engineer). I’ve always had a fascination with cyborgs, they can be heroic (The Bionic Six) or tragic (Robocop) or horrifying (The Borg). But rarely are they fat, sarcastic, cigar-chomping grizzled old ground pounders who’ve been around so long that the galaxy is littered with their discarded limbs. Doc always looked like he was held together with bailing wire and duct tape. At one point he had to pull his artificial heart out and bang on it to get it started again. Overweight, out of shape, barely functioning, but still he flies around in space and kicks series amounts of ass. This guy’s balls must have been huge, on whatever alien planet he happened to leave them behind on.
“Island City”, 1994, Pilot
Island City was a two hour pilot movie that never got picked up. The premise is this: A drug is invented that stops people from aging, everyone takes it, it turns ninety percent of the Earth’s population into cavemen, and the other ten percent have to band together in fortress cities just to survive. It starred Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, as the city’s commander, and Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack as Greg 23, a genetically engineered soldier who, while brilliant, wasn’t coordinated enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. You think you don’t get along with your siblings, imagine having 22 genetically defective identical brothers who all hate you. Thanksgiving must be rough.
The most notable thing about the show however is the different colored crystals that all the characters wear on their chest. You see, even though all the survivors of this Armageddon didn’t turn into recessives (the afore-mentioned cavemen) they still all took the anti-aging drug, so they are still all carriers. Therefore breeding is strictly regulated to make sure that they don’t make any more baby cavemen, so you’re only allowed to bump uglies with people with the same colored crystal as you. This makes the bar scene on Island City a surprisingly easy place to pickup a date. “Hey baby, I’m green and you’re green, so our children won’t be hideously deformed monsters. Can I buy you a Zima?”
And did I mention that one of the characters is a half human, half caveman product of rape? That’s fun, right? I can’t imagine why this show didn’t get picked up.
“Star Command”, 1996, Pilot
I once read somewhere that the creators of Red Dwarf had the idea to fill the pilot of the show with big named stars, tricking the audience into thinking that this would be the cast of the show, only to kill them off two thirds of the way through and revealing the true stars of the show, the slob and the prick. Of course, it’s hard to get big name stars to agree to be on a show where they are almost immediately killed off, but the 1996 pilot/movie Star Command did exactly that. Chad Everett and Morgan Fairchild play two officers in the space navy who take a group of six ensigns on a training mission, and then are almost immediately killed. This leaves the six ensigns alone to defend themselves from their enemies and embark on a mission to prevent a war. This ragtag group of young space cadets have to learn to work together and be a crew without their superiors there to guide them, all alone against the harsh universe, these plucky underdogs come through in the end and prove their metal. Oh, except for one of them who turns out to be a real prick and the others decide to kill him, but then he commits suicide. But other than that, heartwarming and inspirational. Truly.
Also, just to note my pervious point, the memory of this show was so hazy that it took me nearly an hour to find it on IMDB because I kept misremembering the cast and the title. I thought it was called Space Command and the only cast member I remembered correctly was Morgan Fairchild. I thought the Chad Everett part was played by Charlton Heston, and I thought two of the ensigns were Wil Wheaton and Clea Duvall. Apparently when my brain doesn’t have the proper information, it just makes stuff up that’s close. Stupid brain.
“Kindred: The Embraced”, 1996, 8 Episodes
Based on the RPG “Vampire: The Masquerade”, Kindred was a show about warring vampire clans in modern day San Francisco, and the Prince of the city, Julian Luna, who tried to keep order among them. The show focused on five clans, leaving out many others from the RPG and causing gamers everywhere to wet themselves. “You mean our exceedingly complicated clan system isn’t being strictly observed for this television show? How dare they?!” Calm down fanboy, just be glad they made the show in the first place. These days when the average person hears RPG, the think ‘Rocket Propelled Grenade’, not ‘Role Playing Game’.
Of the five clans that Julian oversees, the heads of which, called Primogens, include his lover, his sire, his best friend, and his bodyguard. The Primogen of the fifth clan, the Brujah, naturally feels left out. So he tried to have Julian killed with help from his lover, Stacy Haiduk of Superboy and SeaQuest fame, who’s pissed at Julian because he’s been making time with this human reporter. So Julian has the Brujah Primogen killed, and the Brujah retaliate by turning Julian’s “niece”, his last human descendant. Julian’s niece and his bodyguard then have this whole Romeo and Juliet thing going, because they’re in love but their clans are sworn enemies. Confused yet? No wonder they don’t make shows out of role playing games anymore. The show also starred C. Thomas Howell in one of his few non-blackface roles.
This one I’ve actually rewatched recently, which is why I remember the story so well. It was pretty good I thought, it managed to do something different with the vampire genre. It was part crime drama, part supernatural thriller, part political drama, and part soap opera. Unfortunately the show’s star, Mark Frankel, died in a motorcycle accident and the show was canceled, otherwise I think it could have been a hit.
In the intervening years the whole vampire genre has gone from dark, brooding and violent to teen angsty vampires who go to high school and sparkle in the sunlight. It’s a fucking tragedy.
“Perversions of Science”, 1997, 10 Episodes
Imagine “The Twilight Zone” meets “Tales From the Crypt” meets softcore porn. This was a show that aired late at night on HBO after all, so a certain amount of boobs were expected. Wil Wheaton did make an appearance in this one, I’m sure of it. He played a crewmember on a space station that ended up killing his crew in an emergency that turned out to be a drill. There was also an episode where a man got a sex change to become a woman, and then went back in time and had sex with himself. You get the idea of the formula:
Sci-Fi Premise + Twilight Zone Twist Ending + Gratuitous Sex and Nudity = Fun!
They tried this premise again recently on network TV, minus the nudity of course, with a show called “Masters of Science Fiction”. They took short stories by well known authors, got a couple real stars to make appearances, and fun was had by all. They made six episodes, only four of them aired. I don’t get it. It seems like every few years there’s this hardon to recapture the Twilight Zone magic from the 50’s, but they can never get it done. In the case of these two shows, they were well done, the premises were original, there just didn’t seem to be an audience for it. Although in the case of “Masters”, it was never really given a fair chance.
It seems like no matter how big science fiction gets, the networks still treat it like it’s some small niche market. Then they put a show in a shitty time slot, don’t promote it, and when the ratings fail they say “See, nobody watches this science fiction stuff.” Even the Sci-Fi Channel is getting away from the science fiction image by renaming themselves SyFy and showing wrestling. What is the point of that? Does everything on TV have to have the broadest appeal possible? The answer of course is yes, that’s how they make money, but they’re shooting themselves in the foot. You can never please everybody with a single show, and by trying all you end up doing is pleasing nobody.
What do you think, Sirs? What’s the most obscure, short-lived TV show that you can remember?
Monday, September 14, 2009
My name is Cyberbeast. Welcome to my crazy. Please, play along.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live in your favorite science fiction series? If you're anything like me you have. And if you aren't anything like me, then why would you be reading this? For the sake of argument, let's say that you answered 'yes' to the first question. So let's say that you rubbed a magic lamp and wished yourself into the nearest futuristic utopia (or dystopia if that's what you're into), and that when you arrived you found yourself on the interstellar version of everyone's favorite MTV show, “Pimp My Ride”. So the alien version of Xzibit (I was going to try to alien up his name, but he already has an 'X' and a 'Z' so I don't have a lot of options). So as I was saying, X'z'b't comes up to you and says “What are you looking for in a pimped out starship?” So what are you going to tell him? Here are a few ideas of my own, feel free to steal them if the above scenario ever happens to you.
Third Warp Nacelle / Kickass Phaser Cannon (“All Good Things” (TNG))
As you may remember, the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation took us to the future future, where Captain Picard was old and senile, Geordi had eyes, Data had a skunk spot, and Riker was a crotchety old Starfleet admiral who was too busy yelling at kids to get off of his space lawn to lend a hand and save the world. But then again, he's Riker, and when he isn't imitating John Wayne, he likes to imitate Han Solo, by flying in at the end and saving the day. Watch this clip.
There are so many cool things about this moment that I scarcely know where to begin. Riker's 'tude, the fact that the Enterprise appears on the Y axis under the Klingon ships, and the fact that Riker's idea of 'getting the Klingons attention' is BLOWING A HOLE THROUGH THEIR SHIP WITH THE FIRST SHOT! Apparently that phaser cannon is the starship equivalent of Danny Vermin's 88 Magnum. It shoots through Klingons.
“You shouldn't fire on my friends' starship, Johnny. The Klingons fired on my friends' starship once. ONCE!”
It then blows the ship up and flies through the debris, like it was stepping on a bug and couldn't be bothered to even slow down. And the third nacelle, it's just cool. I can't really explain why. It's like the A-Team built a starship in a junk yard and threw in everything they could find. It ain't pretty but it gets the fucking job done.
Phase-Cloak (“Pegasus” (TNG))
Imagine being able to combine the powers of Darien Fawkes from The Invisible Man (the ability to be invisible without having to be naked) and Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat from the X-Men (The ability to phase and pass through solid objects). The ability to go anywhere, undetectable and indestructible. Unless of course the thing breaks while you're in the middle of an asteroid, that could get messy. Oh, and there's that pesky treaty with the Romulans that says the Federation isn't allowed to have cloaking devices.
But if you're John Locke from Lost, you can do whatever you want, right? Okay, that's when my memory of this episode gets a little hazy. Here's another clip of the phase-cloak in action.
I guess they needed it to fight the smoke monster or something. Still, despite the possible drawbacks, I want one. See, the thing that “Pimp My Ride” never shows you is what happens after the cameras leave, and the newly tricked out car is left parked at the curb, alone and defenseless. Those flat screen monitors in the bumper seemed like a good idea at time, until you realize that they can be pried out quite easily with a screwdriver. That's why you need a phase-cloak, to keep the haters off of your shit. That, and a BIG FUCKING PHASER CANNON! There's another thing you never see on PMR. But X'z'b't is cool like that, he'll hook a brother up.
Ablative Armor / Transphasic Torpedoes (“Endgame” (VOY))
Speaking of defensive measures, remember Tim Burton's “Batman” from 1989? Well, so did the writers on Voyager.
Look familiar? It occurs to me that what good is a phase-cloak for defense when no one can see how badass you are. This should get the point across I think. Yeah, I'm here, what are you going to do about it motherfucker! My starship ain't nothin' to fuk wit! Sorry, I got a little carried away there. Moving right along.
Transphasic torpedoes were made for the express purpose of fucking up Borg cubes. Here's a clip.
Yeah boy! Captain Janeway ain't nothin' to fuck wit! Okay, I may be alone on that one, I can accept that. Moving on. After Voyager made it home, Starfleet took away all the future tech that Admiral Janeway gave Voyager, something about polluting the timeline. Spoilsports. But, they did keep the transphasic torpedoes as a weapon of last resort against the Borg. Do yourself a favor and read the Star Trek Destiny series to see how that one worked out. Still, I may have to defend myself from the Borg. Lord knows they'll want to get their hands on my new kickass starship, so they can add it's technological distinctiveness to their own. Or maybe just strip it and sell it for parts, who knows. It's a rough galaxy out there, hard times all around.
Multi-Vector Assault Mode (“Message in a Bottle” (VOY))
Lets ignore for a moment that Andy Dick was in this episode and focus on the USS Prometheus, shall we. Starfleet's latest and greatest ship (at the time) had a little trick that it did that it called multi-vector assault mode. Basically this meant that during a firefight, the ship could separate into three ships, and fuck up your shit from three different directions at the same time. Still, as badass as that sounds, the Prometheus still managed to get jacked by Romulans and had to be saved by a couple of holographic doctors. That's a bit embarrassing so let's not dwell on that. Here's a clip.
Yeah, multi-vector assault mode ain't nothin' to fuck wit! Sorry, I'll stop doing that, I promise. Still, you have to ask yourself, what's better than a badass starship at your command. And then you have to answer yourself, THREE badass starships, that's what! I know, you're asking what about the three nacelle design that I picked? How is that going to work? Simple, each section gets its own nacelle. If one nacelle is good enough for Kirk's father, then it's good enough for me. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, why haven't you seen the new Star Trek movie yet?!)
Temporal Drive (“Future's End” (VOY) and “Relativity” (VOY)
So, you've got a kickass ship with a big gun and some cool torpedoes and a retro third nacelle that can armor itself and phase-cloak and impress all the ladies while you're cruising the space lanes (warp one, so everybody can get a good look). So what are you going to do with it? Travel trough time, duh. Turn on the phase-cloak and fly through the battle of Gettysburg. Shake hands with Genghis Khan. Go back to when Hitler was twelve and dump his books. Hover over the Superbowl, peak in on Marilyn Monroe in the shower, whatever floats your boat. Or maybe you can visit 1947 Roswell, New Mexico and freak some people out.
When Voyager encountered a 29th Century starship captain named Braxton, well, as Lt. Commander Data would say, the fecal matter interfaced with the air circulation device. They all went back in time to 1996, Braxton's ship fell into the hands of Ed Begley Jr., and the tech boom of the early 90's happened. What's that you say? What about the Eugenics Wars, which according to Star Trek canon happened during the 90's? Rick Berman took a big shit on Star Trek continuity, that's what happened. And then they put a model of Khan's ship, the Botany Bay, in Ed Begley's office as a little wink and a nod to the geeks who notice things like that. Not that I would, notice things like that I mean. Ahem (pushes up glasses). Anyway, my point is, there is a lesson to learn from these events. Never piss off a guy who owns a time machine.
Especially that guy. Look what happens two years later.
That's right, not only did he still hold a grudge against Voyager, but he turned into a different actor! I'm not quite sure how that fits into his diabolical plan, but still, never piss off a guy who owns a time machine. Sound advice.
Replicators, holodecks, a fully staffed holographic crew, pleasure GELFs, etc. You know, the usual. I could go on but honestly, the whole inside of the ship could be one giant holodeck and that would suit me fine. After that you can pretty much just ask for anything that comes to mind and there it is. A few years of that and I'll turn into one of those fat people from WALL-E who's forgotten how to walk. Computer, tell me again about this thing called 'dancing.'
What do you think, Sirs? What starship features would you pick? Feel free to pick from any fandom that you like. Come now, don't be shy. Share with the class.