ridley scott’s prometheus: our epic review latest NEWS: Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome inside atom smashers, inc.
Galaxis Number 3
The Worlds of SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION
DEC. 2012 $11.95
EXPANDED REVIEWS SECTION SF Authors Charles Yu & Lev Grossman the Complete guide to classic galactica
星 球 大 Star 戰 Wars the mythic ROOTS of
Galaxis December 2012 Vol. 1 • No. 3
GEORGE LUCAS MEETS WITH J.J. ABRAMS; PHOTO BY JOI ITO
TIME TRAVELING: Thirty-five years after the initial Star Wars film amazed fans and the business world alike, George Lucas’ creations continue to make cultural and business waves. We have a Lucas three-fer this issue. Everyone has heard Lucas give props to Japan’s Kurosawa for inspiring the galaxy far, far away, but we explore Star Wars influences from further south and west. We also take a look at the saga as people watch the latest versions of the Wars films: Blu-ray and 3-D releases. And ever since Ewoks first stepped foot onto the big screen back in 1983, George Lucas has been a figure of controversy, at least among fans with too much time on their hands. (Jar Jar didn’t help.) So we also look into the George Lucas-is-evil overreaction subgenre of fans. Well, are you really a fan any more if you hate the creator? Actually, it’s a four-fer— see page 5 for the latest big news. In the last issue of Galaxis, we included a full episode guide to the Ron Moore-reimagined Battlestar Galactica. That was so well received that while putting together this issue, we decided to travel back in time and pull together an episode guide to the original ABC-TV version of Galactica, along with a roundup of vintage Galactica toys. There’s also a report on the Blood & Chrome spinoff that might have spun off into the void. Star Wars and Galactica are not known for being the most scientifically accurate tales, so we take you to some equally exciting real science frontiers this issue. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has been revealing the secrets of the universe, making front-page headlines on a frequent basis. So we reveal what CERN actually looks like in a full-color tour of the Swiss physics factory. And while CERN looks inward to find the secrets of the universe, astronomers are looking ever-deeper into the depths of space to see if there are aliens living on Earthlike planets. What was once an impossible task is becoming tantalizingly productive, thanks to newer and better technology. There’s a lot of life in this issue. We’ve expanded our ReviewScreen section, added a puzzles section, and packed in all of the good short fiction, author talks, and science fiction news that makes it so much fun to be alive.
Galaxis December 2012
The Worlds of Science & science fiction
12 Will we ever see blood & chrome?
The fans loved it, SyFy shelved it
Complete episode guide
Elon Musk makes private space travel work
Lev Grossman’s books get to TV – almost
Fans have heard the story’s roots lie in classic Japanese cinema. Look a little further west...
14 Classic Battlestar Galactica 24 Spacex in space
28 THE MAGICIANS MEETS THE TV GODS 29 the wuxia road to Star Wars 34 Star Wars in new media
A guide to new generations of viewers catching the saga on Blu-ray & in 3-D
38 can you hate the creator?
Are the George Lucas-haters for real?
40 ANOTHER EARTH
There are those who believe that life out there began out there
45 FICTION: A martian odyssey
Stanley Grauman Weinbaum’s pathbreaking short story about extraterrestrials
54 The View from cern
The center of the physics world—the center of the universe, in a way—is in Switzerland
60 the world according to charles yu The author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
DEPARTMENTS 4 VIEWSCREEN
Would Harry Potter lead you wrong?
Lucasfilm and Disney tie the knot, SF politicians, memories of Ray Bradbury, & more news
5 LAUNCH Tube 9 Imagery
Patrick Stewart, and more Culture
Tablets, watches, and oodles of Google
51 Worldly tHINGS 64 webbed 65 compendium
What to see, hear, and do
68 Game Set
The Galaxis Crossword Puzzle and SF Quiz
Prometheus, The Long Earth, The Incal, Chez Max, Measuring the World, Moebius & more
70 reviewscreen 82 next issue
The future in Galaxis weimar.ws Galaxis
Viewscreen I Have a Bad Feeling About This
f you could have emotion without intelligence, would you be happy? If you could have intelligence without emotion, would you be ... well, not happy, but satisfied? Of course, you don’t really have the choice to be a puppy or a Vulcan. But you do have the opportunity to find the right balance and determine the importance of each element in your life. As a reader and viewer of science fiction—and, presumably, someone with a bigger-thannormal interest in science—you can expect to find support for your efforts in the movies and television programs and books you enjoy. If you are expecting to find support for the intelligence side of the equation, however, good luck. Sadly, at a time when our world needs to grow more intelligent and use its vast resources of rationality to solve its many problems, even our greatest fictional universes are telling us to recess into feelings and superstition. When I am gobsmacked by hearing a politician explain his irrational views on television, I wonder why he prefers to believe in unsubstantiated rumors rather than reality. Just in the previous few months before this issue of Galaxis went to press, we’ve heard politicians completely misrepresent scientific reality on everything from the environment to biology. That is a good reminder that this anti-science message is something we are all being fed, even by the best of our entertainment.
Galaxis December 2012 • Volume 1, Number 3 www.weimar.ws Editor & Publisher John Zipperer email@example.com Art Director & Design John Zipperer Printing: Issuu.com and MagCloud. Thanks this issue to: CERN, The Common-
Galaxis December 2012
Just think: The young Harry Potter is told repeatedly that his strength lies not in learning but in his emotions and the love he has for his parents and friends. In the Star Wars universe, Jedi are taught that knowledge is dangerous; there are things the Dark Side knows that good Jedi are not to learn. When Obi-Wan Kenobi is training young Luke Skywalker to use a lightsaber aboard the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, the old Jedi Knight tells Skywalker to use his feelings.
Even Star Trek, which featured a wildly popular logic-driven character named Spock, solved many of its problems by having Kirk access the emotional side of the heroic triumvirate, Bones McCoy, with Spock reduced to being a helpful as-
sistant who makes the computer work better or coughs up timely statistics. The Vulcan is good to have around in a pinch, but your fists and an emotional speech will save the day in the end. The same goes for Star Trek: The Next Generation’s super-intelligent android Data, who wants—more accurately, which wants —nothing more than to be human, to have emotions. The message from all of these stories (and many, many others) is not that emotion and intelligence need to work together, but that emotion is more important than knowledge. Often, the bad guys are shown to be smart but evil. Think about Voldemort, or Darth Vader, or for that matter all of the mad scientists who become villains in superhero movies; these are very bad characters, but they are not stupid. For creators of SF fiction, it can be difficult to write a character with no emotions. Take another example, the rebirth of the Star Trek franchise in 1979’s Star Trek —The Motion Picture. There we get a Spock who has declined to follow through with kolinahr, the final [continued on page 64]
wealth Club of California, Lev Grossman, Carol Lahey, Lyle Lahey, George Lucas, NASA, Kin Tso, and the White House.
Galaxis accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions, but if they are submitted, they will be considered and, if necessary, returned.
Kenobi: I suggest you try it again, Luke. Only this time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct. Skywalker [wearing helmet]: But with the blast shield down, I can’t even see! How am I supposed to fight? Kenobi: Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings!
ON THE COVER: In our cover story this issue, find out what Star Wars and Chinese wuxia adventures have in common. Fett fan photo by Sam Howzit. Galaxis is published quarterly by John Zipperer. This is issue Number One, Volume Three. Except for photos by third-party photographers, all content is copyright © 2012 John Zipperer, except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction of any part is strictly forbidden without written permission.
All articles in this issue are written by John Zipperer, unless otherwise specified. All characters, logos, and related material represented in images—including but not limited to Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Prometheus— are the property of their respective copyright owners. Address all of your communications to Galaxis magazine, including letters to the editor, to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
LaunchTube News & views for today & tomorrow
Lucasfilm and Star Wars Join the Magic Kingdom
PHOTO BY JOEY GANNON
he film world received a surprise jolt in late October when The Walt Disney Company announced that its purchase of Lucasfilm from its founder, George Lucas, for $4.05 billion in cash and stock. For the 68-year-old Lucas, it seemed like a natural fit. “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of [new president] Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come.” Indeed, Disney immediately announced that it would release Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015, and it would “grow the franchise well into the future.” Lucas will serve as creative consultant for the film. Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt is scripting; the new trilogy will reportedly bring to a close the saga of the extended Skywalker family and will include appearances by Mark Hamill. Entertainment Weekly reported that Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher were all interested in returning in future Wars films. Calling Star Wars “one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time,” Disney CEO Robert A. Iger promised to marry the franchise with his company’s “unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets.” Helping Disney achieve that success will be Kennedy in the crucial role of Lucasfilm president and “brand manager” for Star Wars. Kennedy had been co-chairman of Lucasfilm. She and her producer husband Frank Marshall have collaborated with Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and other top filmmakers for decades, and a partial list of her producing credits includes E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial, Jurassic Park, and War of the Worlds. The deal reunites two of George Lucas’ progeny. Disney bought Pixar from Steve Jobs in 2006; Jobs had purchased Pixar in 1986 from Lucasfilm, where it had been born in 1979 as a graphics company.
KEVJUMBa SCI FI FILM There is a lot of dross online, but search a bit and network with your friends a little, and you sooner or later find those really talented folks who make you pleased to have a computer. “Kevjumba,” the screen name of a young California college student who began making humorous videos in high school, is one of those folks who gets millions of views for his videos and who clearly has a bright future ahead of him. So we were pleased to see Kevjumba post a 4 minute film short called Waking
Métal Hurlant Magazine Makes Its TV Debut
Galaxis December 2012
SALLY RIDE, 1951–2012 Sally Ride, America’s first female astronaut
was released by Heavy Metal magazine, which had been purchased by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman in 1992. Though Heavy Metal continues its printed and filmed life under Eastman’s direction, Métal Hurlant has had a more haphazard history. The original French magazine lasted until 1987; a smaller, revived version published only 14 issues in the first years of the new century before it, too, ceased publication. Heavy Metal, for its part, isn’t out of the production business by any means. Though an attempt a few years ago to create a new animated Heavy Metal feature film fell through, despite the reported possible involvement of such names as Gore Verbinski, James Cameron, and Guillermo del Toro, Eastman writes that his company is now working with director Robert Rodriguez on a new animated film. In addition, an animated 3-D film called War of the Worlds: Goliath, based on a special series published by Heavy Metal, was completed and scheduled to start its release in late 2012. Dubbed “an animated steampunk epic,” the U.S.-Asian production was produced by Tripod Entertainment and features the voices of Elizabeth Gracen and Adrian Paul.
ith the release in France of the new television series Métal Hurlant Chronicles in fall 2012, an odd experiment of alternative comics continued its conquest of new forms of media. The anthology series is launching with two seasons. Each season will feature 12 episodes of 26 minutes in length. At press time, there was no word on when the show would premiere in the United States, but actor Rutger Hauer’s official website noted that the show is “fitted for the international market.” Hauer appears in the episode “Pledge of Anya,” which takes place in a “medieval yet futuristic world” where a dying king and his robots are entertained by a tournament. Two of the human competitors try to win the prize, which is to succeed the dying king, but they’ve got competition from the ‘bots. Other actors making appearances in the series include Kelly Brook (who has also appeared in Piranha 3D and is shown prominently in the TV series poster, see right), James Marsters (XMen), Michael Jai White (Mortal Kombat: Legacy), Michelle Ryan (TV’s Bionic Woman revival), Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2), Joe Flanigan (Stargate Atlantis), and David Belle (District 13). The series is directed by Guillaume Lubrano and produced by WE Productions, Sparkling, Araneo, and Humanoids, along with Pierre Spengler and Fabrice Giger. The stories are adapted from the works of Moebius and other comics legends, including Philip Druillet, Jodorowsky (see page 81), and Richard Corben. Métal Hurlant magazine was created in France in the mid-1970s by Moebius and Druillet. In 1977, the publishers of National
Summer in March 2012. It features our sleepy hero suiting up under the tutelage of a talking computer before he ventures forth to the wasteland outside. The short, directed by Sung Kang, supposedly heralds an upcoming project. Or it’s just a very wellproduced joke by KevJumba. You decide. Search for “kevjumba” on YouTube and Facebook. You’ll be pleased you did, and so will Kev’s father.
Lampoon licensed Métal Hurlant, which literally means “screaming metal,” translated it to the more palatable to American ears Heavy Metal, and began publishing it as a successful monthly magazine in the United States. Lampoon’s publishers, having had breakout success with their National Lampoon’s Animal House film, produced the Heavy Metal movie in 1981, which was a critical hit; nearly two decades later, Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 (aka Heavy Metal 2000)
to enter space, died of pancreatic cancer July 23, 2012, at the age of only 61. Though much of the news coverage after her passing focused on her groundbreaking flight aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983 or on her previously unknown female partner of 27 years—both important and interesting angles—she was also remembered for championing math and science education for girls.
Romney photo: Gage SkiDmore; Obama/Nichols Photo: TWITTER.COM/NICHELLE NICHOLS (@REALNICHOLS); BIDEN PHOTO: Andrew Cutraro; Ryan/Obama photo: courtesy the white house
THIRD ROCK RADIO LAUNCHES Dubbed “America’s Space Station,” Third Rock Radio (thirdrockradio.net) is a 24/7 online ra-
Take Us to Our Leader
couple decades ago, science fiction fans and futurists could be heard wishing that people in power shared their interests in the future. If that were the case, their thinking went, the world would be a better place, because lawmakers would be concerned about how their laws affected society, human freedom, and the environment of tomorrow, and not just next month’s election. In the 2012 election, we had our two major-party presidential candidates as outed science fiction fans. We’ll let you decide if that has resulted in more far-sighted policy. Republican challenger Mitt Romney calls his love for science fiction a “guilty pleasure” and admits to liking works ranging from Battlefield Earth to The Hunger Games to Star Wars, according to Politico.com, a website for all things political-wonkish. In 2007, he also told Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk show host, that his favorite novel was The Lord of the
dio station reporting the latest in space news. Produced by Houston’s RFCMedia, Third Rock also has a blog and can be found on Facebook, where you’ll be kept up to speed on the latest NASA news and photos. PUMZI – Kenya’s first SF Film The future isn’t bright in Pumzi, a short science fiction film from Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahlu. Released in 2010, the film showed a downbeat future in a world rocked by wars over water, and it centers on a woman who is fighting to return some plant life
to Earth’s surface. Kahlu told Wired.com that she struggled with Kenya’s still-germinating film development system, but she managed to pull together the funding and shoot the film nonetheless. Find out more at pumzithefilm.com. Amazing stories mag lives One of the first and often-canceled science fiction magazines, Amazing Stories, has been resurrected online. Find it all at amazingstoriesmag.com.
Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and that other favorite authors were Anne McCaffrey and Orson Scott Card. But the current occupant of the White House is not to be outdone. A known comics collector, President Barack Obama is not only a Star Trek fan, as is Romney, but he managed to bring Uhura actor Nichelle Nichols to the Oval Office for a photo op (see right). His love for the show is so strong, reported The New York Times, that “Mr. Romney, after all, calls himself a big Star Trek fan but stops short of identifying as a Trekkie. Not so Mr. Obama, the First Trekkie indeed, who once admitted to a youthful crush on Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura. “ So whoever won the election, we were going to have a Trekkie SF fan in the White House. The situation at the vice president’s office was less clear. Romney running mate Paul Ryan was famously a fan of Ayn Rand’s SF story Atlas Shrugged, but the Roman Catholic congressman has since downplayed his infatuation with the objectivist atheist author. Meanwhile, incumbent Joe Biden was blown away by James Cameron’s Avatar film, though he forgot the title while he was praising it in an MSNBC TV interview. That’s okay. If he ever assumes the presidency, we’ll send him the complete Battlestar Galactica bluray set.
Launch Tube UPCOMING SF FILM RELEASES Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (January 11, 2013): What happened after the gingerbread house Escape from Planet Earth (February 15, 2013): Computer-generated SF I, Frankenstein (February 22, 2013): Scary Elysium (March 1, 2013): Space station drama Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1, 2013): Star-
ring Ewan MacGregor Oz, The Great and Powerful (March 8, 2013): The wizard’s backstory Evil Dead (April 12, 2013): Sam Raimi remake Oblivion (April 12, 2013): Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, distant planetary drama Iron Man 3 (May 3, 2013): Take three Star Trek into the Darkness (May 17, 2013): J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated followup Man of Steel (June 14, 2013): Superman Pacific Rim (July 12, 2013): Guillermo del Toro’s tale of monstrous uprising R.I.P.D. (July 19, 2013): Undead police force,
starring Ryan Reynolds, Mary-Louise Parker The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December 13, 2013): Come for Smaug, stay for Gollum Mad Max: Fury Road (undated 2013): More Max, less Mel Short Circuit (undated 2013): A “reimagining” of the 1980s film X-Men: Days of Future Past (July 18, 2014): Sequel to First Class Transcendence (undated 2014): Computer evil, from producer Christopher Nolan Justice League (summer 2015): Super combo
Ray Bradbury Gone and Away
terview in 1996. On the morning of June 6, editor Hugh Hefner tweeted to his 1.1 million Twitter followers, “I woke today to the sad news of Ray Bradbury’s death. He was the first really important writer to contribute to Playboy. He will be missed.“ Actor, director, and businessman William Shatner’s tribute to the writer was n June 6, 2012, if felt as if another read out during a memorial in Los Angeles: earthquake had struck San Francisco. “Kaleidoscope means observer of beautiOn the subway ride to work, I was read- ful forms, and Ray did so all his life. From ing an interview in Filmfax magazine with writer/editor Dr. Samuel J. Sackett. Decades ago, he had sent his first story to author Ray Bradbury to get his opinion on it. Bradbury “rewrote the first two pages into one page to condense it and, of course, it was all in his style which was not my style, so I had to rewrite that page as I would have written it,” Sackett told the magazine. “But there was one sentence I simply couldn’t rewrite because I couldn’t think of another way to put it, so there’s one sentence by Bradbury in that story. But I don’t remember which sentence.” Upon arriving at work, I learned that Ray Bradbury has passed away at the age of 91. Despite his status as one of the genius leaders of the country’s science fiction writers brigade, Bradbury has said that his only real SF story was Fahrenheit 451, the tale of a future in which firefighters burn books. Fahrenheit 451 first appeared in the third, fourth, and fifth issues of Playboy magazine, and he was published in the magazine’s pages numerous times over the intervening decades, Ray Bradbury, at the age of 89 in 2009, wears his including serving as the sub- medal from France of a Commander of the Ordre des ject of the famed Playboy In- Arts et des Lettres.
Galaxis’editor remembers the bard
Photo by Caleb Sconosciuto
Galaxis December 2012
the awesome formations in the sky to the vast variety of characters on earth, he was indeed a kaleidoscope.” As they say, the death of an old man is no tragedy – meaning, as I take it, it’s neither a surprise nor too soon. But that doesn’t mean it is not an occasion for sadness and happiness; to lose someone who crafted tales of great poetry is a loss and at the same time a reminder that this weird human species is capable of producing someone who can make a Martian pulp story into poetry. I believe Fahrenheit 451 was the first of his books that I read, probably back in junior high school. (I frequently make reference to the wall-sized TV screens described in that book, and had done so just about a week before his death.) Sometime later, I read his epic book The Martian Chronicles, a book that is inescapable as a lodestar for later writers tackling the topic of former civilizations on Mars, just as one can’t write about robots without either referencing or being seen to avoid referencing Isaac Asimov’s robotic laws. Bradbury was an unusual genre writer in many ways. Unlike the hard-SF writers or the new wave SF writers, Bradbury’s stories were a gentler, more humane sort. It says something good about the science fiction world that his stories were not only read but celebrated within it. They will be celebrated for many years to come and their influence will be sustained, even if later generations “don’t remember which sentence” of the continuing narrative about Mars came from Bradbury. He’s woven G himself too much into the stories.
atrick Stewart has earned so many honors, it’s only fitting that he gets tapped to hand them out to others. Stewart has won an Emmy award for directing an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (in which he also starred). That TV series itself won a Peabody Award. Stewart also has headlined a Peabody Award-winning production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. And in 2010 Queen Elizabeth II saw fit to bestow upon him the honor of Officer of the British Empire (making him Sir Patrick Stewart). So when the Peabody Awards producers decided for the very first time to have an actor host their awards presentation, they turned to stage, TV, and film star Stewart, who did the duties at the 71st Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon, held in May 2012 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Photo by Anders Krusberg / Peabody Awards
n the fictional universe of Iain M. Banks’ series of Culture novels, giant space habitats known as orbitals are just one of the author’s brilliant creations. This digital model of an orbital emphasizes the structure’s vast size. With a circumference of about 10 million kilometers, an orbital carries populations of billions of humans. Besides orbitals and planets, Culture humans also can be found on massive spaceships ... that are sentient. Scottish author Iain M. Banks, shown below at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, has just released his newest Culture book, The Hydrogen Sonata. ORBITAL Image by Hill (wikipedia:it:Utente: Hill). Banks photo by Szymon Sokół.
Galaxis December 2012
The Big Promise & Tenuous Life of B A T T L E S T A R
GALACTICA Blood and Chrome
The highly anticipated sequel promised to renew the love affair with the Galactica universe. Then Syfy said, No thanks.
By John Zipperer nly in mid-November did fans start to get a real look at the latest Galactica spinoff. You quickly find that life is short but not cheap in the Battlestar Galactica universe. After Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica went off the air in 2009, it was succeeded by the short-lived Caprica. Lasting just one 18-episode season, Caprica divided fans deeply. Some loved learning more about the era of the Cylons’ creation, which the show took as its setting. Other fans bemoaned the lack of the space opera aspects that have been a key part of the previous Galactica iterations. Set 58 years before producer Ronald Moore’s Galactica, Caprica was more political and corporate soap opera than space opera, focusing on a civilization at the height of its technological advancement and hubris,
Galaxis December 2012
quite a difference from its predecessor series, which ended with its titular spaceship literally decaying to death. Critics were somewhat unsure of what to make of Caprica. Why not show life on the Galactica during the Cylon war? Or just life on Galactica before the Cylon war? Whatever the reasons, the program didn’t last much longer than Galactica 1980, the sequel series to the original Battlestar Galactica. But like Caprica, a new Syfy series called Blood & Chrome also centers on the Adama family, which seems to demonstrate a self-limiting vision on the part of the creators. Caprica featured Joseph Adama, father to Edward James Olmos’ Commander/Admiral William Adama; Chrome centers on a young William Adama, played by 22-year old Luke Pasqualino, early in the First Cylon War. Syfy noted: “As the battle between humans and their creation, a sentient robotic race [Cylons], rages across the 12 colonial worlds, a brash rookie viper pilot enters the fray.” Additional stars of the show include Ben Cotton (Stargate Atlantis) as Coker Fasjovik, Lili Bordán (Two Days in the Smoke) as Beka Kelly, John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica, Brothers & Sisters) as Xander Toth, and Zak Santiago (Alice) as Armin Diaz. Unlike Caprica and the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, Ronald D. Moore was not on board as Chrome’s creator. That role was filled by Michael Taylor and David Eick, both of whom were Galactica producers. “While maintaining the
themes of politics, social propaganda, and the timeless question: what does it mean to be human?—Blood & Chrome will also return us to the authentic, relentless depiction of combat and the agony and ecstasy of human-Cylon war, which was the hallmark of Battlestar Galactica’s early seasons,” said Eick. Pilot Controversy Blood & Chrome promised to reintroduce us to the space drama of the original series and to the first decade of the conflict with the Cylons. A two-hour pilot was produced in 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, directed by Jonas Pate and written by Taylor, Eick, Bradley Thompson, and David Weddle. It centers on young pilot Adama, fresh out of the academy, newly assigned to the battlestar Galactica and given a mission of escorting a woman who has important information about the Cylons. In the words of the official Syfy press release: “The talented but hot-headed risk-taker [Adama] soon finds himself leading a dangerous top secret mission that, if successful, will turn the tide of the decade long war in favor of the desperate fleet.” An unofficial preview video created with scenes from the pilot lit up fan circles in early 2012. It showed lots of quickcut scenes of space battles, explosions, confrontations, and zooming spaceships, clearly indicating that the show was much more action-oriented than either of its predecessors. Reactions to the leaked
EICK PHOTO BY KRISTIN DOS SANTOS; PANELISTS PHOTO BY KEVIN DOUGHERTY
Complete Episode Guide to Ronald D. Moore’s & David Eick’s Modern SF Classic
“sizzle reel” were wildly enthusiastic. The words “frakking awesome” featured prominently in many online comments. But in March 2012, Syfy announced that it was not going to air Blood & Chrome as a regular series but the show could end up as a web series. Mark Stern, Syfy’s president of original content and the co-leader of Universal Cable Productions, issued a statement declaring: “Though the vision for Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome has evolved over the course of the past year, our enthusiasm for this ambitious project has not waned. We are actively pursuing it as was originally intended: a groundbreaking digital series that will launch to audiences beyond the scope of a television screen.” Stern also assured viewers, “The 90-minute pilot movie will air on Syfy in its entirety at a future date.” The pilot began to air online in short segments in November, but at press time had yet to air on Syfy. Asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette if the show was dead, Stern reportedly told the paper it wasn’t, but, “We’re trying to figure out the economics right now.” Syfy has been mum on the project since then, leaving unanswered questions. If it is a web series, does that mean it will be just like a TV series, but distributed online? Or does it mean it will be a series of
12-minute webisodes, giving little or no chance for in-depth storylines and character buildup? And what is the timeline? Some fans were asking other questions, such as, If not Blood & Chrome, what can Syfy air that is, well, sci-fi-ish? As Meredith Woerner asked on i09, “And now the underlying question. Where is the serious space opera on Syfy? There are vampires, ghosts, werewolves, gadgets, detectives, and even monster movies. But what happened to our big juicy spaceship drama steak?”
The Waiting Game Blood & Chrome would have been a bit more futuristic than its predecessors in terms of production. TV special effects have long ago left behind spaceship models and miniaturized planetary mockups in favor of digital creations. Blood & Chrome would have out-Lucased them all by relying on digital sets, including reconstructions of the bridge (or CIC) of the battlestar. Rock performer Kyle Toucher, who has moved into the world of creating visual special effects, told Noisecreep.com in June 2012 that he disagreed with claims that Blood & Chrome simply cost too much. “The show was monstrously affordable, considering what you were getting,” he told the music website. “It was like $7.5 million, which is the craft service budget
Previous page: David Eick. Above: Galactica classic joined with the newest representative of the franchise at Comic Con with Michael Nankin (director of reimagined Galactica episodes), Richard Hatch, and Lili Bordán (actress, Blood & Chrome).
on a Transformers movie.” Calling it “a sci-fi-space-opera-hardware-action show,” Toucher added, “This is the show we’ve always wanted to do.... Everything you see there is CG; the sets, the Galactica bridge, the ice planet. We had tons of ideas. If the series had gone on, we would have seen sea battles, a giant air battle over Caprica City, Cylon basestar taking out planets. Crazy shit.” “The Galactica universe as re-imagined by Ron Moore and David Eick is rich with possibilities and backstory,” said Mark Stern in late 2010. “We jumped at the chance to revisit the William Adama character and explore this exciting chapter in the BSG narrative which falls between the events of the original series and the prequel, Caprica.” The show promises to give audiences all of the action and backstory they have sought about the 12 colonies for decades. At July 2012’s Comic Con, a Syfy rep said the pilot would see the light of day “soon.” So say we all. G weimar.ws Galaxis
The Origin B AT T L E S T
As a companion to last issue’s g Syfy-era Battlestar Galactica, we take most anticipated—and most expensive— series ever known up to that
There are those who believe … that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians or the Toltecs or the Mayans; that they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria, or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive, somewhere beyond the heavens. 14
Galaxis December 2012
By John Zipperer len A. Larson was influenced by one of the biggest pop cultural phenomena of the 1970s when he created ABC TV’s Battlestar Galactica, which premiered in 1978. Though a long-running lawsuit brought by 20th Century Fox would argue that he stole ideas from Star Wars, he arguably owes more to a Swiss writer named Erich von Däniken. Von Däniken’s 1969 book Chariots of the Gods? and his following books touched off an enduring obsession among many people who bought his line of thinking about the possibility
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was a rehash of too many scenes we’d already seen in Star Wars. In the end, only 24 hours of Battlestar Galactica were created before ABC killed it. Initial reports had the network making the move because ratings were poor, but in fact the program had been a steady top-20 performer. And its budget looked a lot less outrageous when it was stretched across multiple episodes; Larson reportedly had plans to reduce the cast and the budget for a never-produced second season. Whatever the reason, the show’s premature demise ended the experiment. While it lasted, Larson’s Galactica had served as a commentary on then-current events, arguably from a political perspective that would be flipped on its head a quarter-century later for its revival series (see Galaxis #2). In the late 1970s, the world was still in the grip of the Cold War, and President Carter was trying to push through SALT II nuclear reductions during the last throes of U.S.–Soviet detente. Against that backdrop, Galactica depicted the uniformity and slave-like life of the Cylons (read: Soviet Russians) vs. the flawed but freedom-loving humans. If the new, SyFy-era Battlestar Galactica used the Cylons and the humans to comment critically on Western society, the ABC-era
HATCH PHOTO: JEFF HITCHCOCK; SEYMOUR PHOTO: CRISTIANO DEL RICCIO
that ancient astronauts had visited Earth and influenced human destiny. Larson, already a successful television producer when he managed to get a deal with ABC to make his expensive series, was heavily influenced by von Däniken and other mythological tales about human origins. In the media frenzy that followed the breakthrough success of that other influence, Star Wars, Larson revised a series plan he had been working on for years and got the network’s commitment to what was originally to be a series of spectacular television movies; it instead became an ongoing series at the insistence of the network. It would not be the last time that the network’s demands played a dubious role in Galactica’s life and death. The show premiered to great fanfare and media attention. Its cast included celebrated veterans such as Lorne Greene working alongside younger talents. Special effects genius John Dykstra created the SFX. The budget was an estimated $1 million per hour, then a record amount for a television series (though the number is somewhat misleading; it is more accurately an average of the budget and includes a lot of costs amortized across the life of the series). The critical reaction was, well, critical. Isaac Asimov, for example, wrote that it
Above: Before Galactica, Richard Hatch’s career included a stint on The Streets of San Francisco, recurring roles in Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, All My Children, and TV movies. He has been a regular at fan conventions, including 2005’s Gatecon, seen here. Right: Actress Jane Seymour, attending the 2010 Academy Awards, got more episodes than she bargained for when she signed on to play Apollo’s love interest, Serina, in the threehour premiere movie, Saga of a Star World.
Galactica used the Cylons to comment on the Soviets and went much lighter in its criticism of the West. The original show did, however, show the failings of the humans; the greed (of Sire Uri and others) and the inability to unite against an existential threat (such as when the tired human refugees are lured into trying to make peace with the Cylons at Carillon). A writer for Soviet newspaper Izvestia objected to the series as a dramatic attack on the SALT talks, representing a “perverted interpretation of the enemies of the treaty from the family of Washington hawks.” Whatever one thinks about the Soviet critique, there have been many fair criticisms of Battlestar Galactica, but there have also been many unfair ones. For example, the show was criticized as not having character development. Yet consider Apollo growing over the series from hotshot fighter pilot to surrogate dad to Sheba’s boyfriend. Starbuck moves from being a womanizer to pretty much exclusively Cassiopeia’s man. Cassiopeia—for the network censor’s sake, but nonetheless—switches professions from a “socialator” (a mix of prostitute and geisha) to a med tech. Athena takes on responsibilities with the fleet’s children. Baltar admittedly does not change. But even his character does more than just sit in his basestar command chair issuing orders; he goes from basestar to Galactica prisoner to renegade all over again. Another unfair criticism is that the show was nothing but Cylons attacking every week. The Cylons were in a lot of episodes, but they dropped off toward the end of the series, and the Galactica met other aliens, pleasant and not-so-pleasant. Perhaps the most unfair criticism also is answered by the beguiling possibilities of what Battlestar Galactica could have become in a second and even third year on the air. Far from being a never-ending search for a mythical planet, in just 24 TV hours, Galactica showed us the birthplace of humanity, a race of advanced beings who help the fleet toward Earth, television transmissions from Earth, and other big steps forward. Some shows that are doomed to cancellation go into a tailspin toward their end. Galactica arguably did not; instead, the series started off strong, suffered through some poor scripts in the middle, but then completed its sole TV season on a high note. As creator Larson told writer Karen E. Willson in a July 1980 Starlog interview, “The original Galactica, I think, started off just right. It’s like an airplane that takes off from an aircraft carrier—it sort of dips
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before it really gets going. Galactica, by its sheer weight and expectations, took a natural dip as it left the carrier deck. Then I think it started to climb. We did better stories and concentrated more on the characters.” Take a look through our guide to every episode of the original Battlestar Galactica and see if you agree. Creator and Executive Producer: Glen A. Larson Broadcaster: ABC Studio: Universal Supervising Producers: Leslie Stevens, Michael Sloan Producers: John Dykstra, Don Bellisario, Paul Playton, David O’Connell Special Effects Coordinator: John Dykstra Effects Unit Supervisors: David M. Garber, Wayne Smith Music: Stu Phillips Galactica theme music by: Stu Phillips, Glen A. Larson Art Director: John E. Chilberg II Captain Apollo: Richard Hatch Lieutenant Starbuck: Dirk Benedict Commander Adama: Lorne Greene Lieutenant Boomer: Herb Jefferson, Jr. Athena: Maren Jensen Cassiopeia: Laurette Spang Count Baltar: John Colicos Boxey: Noah Hathaway Serina: Jane Seymour Flight Sergeant Jolly: Tony Swartz Colonel Tigh: Terry Carter Greenbean: Ed Begley, Jr. Sheba: Anne Lockhart Flight Officer Omega: David Greenan Flight Corporal Rigel: Sarah Rush Imperious Leader (voice): Patrick Macnee Imperious Leader (body): Dick Durock Lucifer (voice): Jonathan Harris Muffit the Daggit: Evie the chimp Saga of a Star World
Airdate: September 17, 1978. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Richard Colla, Alan Levi One thousand years ago, the ever-expanding Cylon Alliance tried to fight and enslave one planet too many. The humans of the Twelve Colonies came to the aid of that planet’s population and freed them from Cylon tyranny, but it cost them dearly. For the next millennium, the humans and the Cylons were at war. The effect on the humans was to militarize their society, even as the Colonies grew in strength and wealth. For security, they relied upon their fleet of warships, which were led by massive battlestars. The effect on the Cylons was to convince them that they could never enjoy the stable and ordered universe they desired unless they defeated the humans. Eventually, a Cylon Imperious Leader decides to cement his legacy by doing away with the humans altogether. With the help of the traitorous human Count Baltar, the Cylons convince the humans
that they finally want peace. As the battlestar fleet gathers at the rendezvous point to sign the peace treaty, the human leaders—as represented by President Adar and the Council of Twelve—all seem to believe the time for peace has arrived, except for Galactica commander Adama, who does not trust the Cylons or Baltar. When a patrol from his ship encounters a Cylon fleet in hiding, Adama is still unable to convince Adar to see the light until it is too late. “Too late” begins with the viper flown by his son, Zac, being shot apart just short of the fleet. The Galactica manages to launch its viper squadrons in time to put up some resistance to the swarms of Cylon fighters, but one by one, the other battlestars are destroyed. Adama realizes the rendezvous point was merely a ruse to get the Colonial fleet away from the home worlds, so he pulls his ship out of the fight and heads to his home world of Caprica, only to find it reduced to rubble. The Cylon surprise attack has hit all of the Colonies, with only a relative handful of humans surviving out of the billions that once flourished there. Adama orders the Galactica to gather up survivors who are able to get aboard anything that is spaceworthy. A total of 220 ships form the battlestar’s “ragtag fleet,” though in the novelization by Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston, the fleet was a much larger 22,000 ships. Adama struggles to lead the fractious political leaders on the newly reconstituted Council of Twelve, where his chief antagonist is Sire Uri, a corrupt and wily politician. But Adama is able to convince them to go to the planet Carillon in an effort to escape the Cylons and find food and fuel. Carillon is rich in Tylium, the fuel that powers the fleet, but first warriors Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer must clear a path through a mined barrier to lead the fleet in safely. Once on Carillon, the Galactica officers find the large insect-like Ovions willing to supply their needs, even while they entertain the humans at a lavish casino. Uri and his supporters decide that Carillon’s so wonderful that the humans can stop running and should come to an accommodation with the Cylons, but once again, Adama trusts neither the Cylons nor the human appeasers. When the Cylons are revealed as the power behind the Ovions, and the Ovion taste for human morsels comes to light, the Colonials are forced to fight their way off the planet. NOTES: There are some tantalizing differences between this TV movie and the novelization, both of which were written by creator Glen A. Larson. In the books, the Cylons were
Philips photo: Clp2118; Benedict PHOTO: DKNIGHT2000; Jefferson photo: Gage SKIDMORE; HATCH PHOTO: Quin-Martin Productions.
a living race of beings, not the robots they became in the TV series. Also, as noted above, the number of ships in the human survivor fleet for the TV series is 1/100th of the size it is in the novel. In the books, we also see a much more conflicted Commander Adama, one who resigns the presidency of the Council of Twelve, who feels somewhat ashamed to have fled the battle at the armistice site to head to Caprica, who feels isolated from his allies and even from his family throughout much of the novel. With the scaling down that needs to be done for television, as well as the dumbing down that needed to be done for the show’s early evening broadcast slot, some of the more adult angles of the book are nowhere to be seen in the film or the series. One that did make it, the character Cassiopeia’s career as a “socialator”—which we’re invited to interpret as being a high-class prostitute—was quickly changed in the series to make her a proper nurse. This three-hour TV movie cost anywhere between $7 million and $20 million, depending on how you account for the expenses of a drawn-out production and how you amortize sets that were then used for the series. Universal recouped some of the money by releasing this TV movie theatrically.
Lost Planet of the Gods (Parts I & II)
Airdates: September 24, 1978 & October 1, 1978. Writers: Glen A. Larson, Don Bellisario. Director: Chris Nyby Jr. Captain Apollo and Serina get married, but “happily ever after” is not quite their destiny. It’s not such a great blessing for the viper pilots at Apollo’s bachelor party, when a disease strikes the pilots (except for Apollo and Starbuck, who are out on patrol). The sick warriors are put into cryo-pods while the doctor tries to find a cure for their sickness.
Clockwise from top left: Composer Stu Phillips. Dirk Benedict; Richard Hatch in a 1977 publicity still; and “Boomer” Herb Jefferson Jr.
Meanwhile, someone we thought was killed in the previous Galactica outing, Count Baltar, is spared at the last minute and given his own Cylon basestar and adjutant, the sparkly headed Lucifer, and a pat on the rear end as he goes off to try to finish off the human race. Commander Adama is looking into ancient legends about Kobol, the birthplace of humanity. He takes a break to instruct Apollo to train colonials as temporary replacements for the stricken warriors, and the replacements are women, including Apollo’s new bride, Serina. Starbuck is captured by Cylons during a patrol, and the Galactica’s fleet finds a planet at the end of a long void in space; the planet is the legendary Kobol. A landing party, including Adama, enters a pyramid, where they discover Baltar, who tries to strike a deal with Adama, who does not trust him. Starbuck is returned to the humans. Starbuck: Hey, it’s against regulations to hug a junior officer. Unless you mean it. Apollo: We thought you were dead. Starbuck: Yeah, well, what’s a little basestar to an old war jock like me? Apollo: [Laughs, then becomes serious.] Basestar? Second warrior: There’s a basestar coming? Starbuck: No, not coming. Waiting. For orders. Didn’t Baltar show? He’s the one who got me free. ... He’s come to offer peace. Do you believe it? Apollo: I believe we’d better get off this planet before Baltar’s forces get here.
But Baltar’s plan is undercut by Lucifer, who launches an attack on the humans. The airstrikes on the pyramid disturb Adama’s attempt to read ancient writings about the location of the 13th tribe of humans. But the Cylons are fought off by the female warriors, as well as the recuperating male warriors. But even then, when the humans finally have to flee the pyramid, Serina is shot by a Cylon. NOTES: If Glen Larson wanted to show Colonial warriors walking amidst the pyramids in a production he was making today, he might very well use CGI. Even back in 1978, he might have settled for model pyramids and forced perspective to “place” the actors amid the monuments. Instead, he flew a crew to the actual Egyptian pyramids and filmed actual people actually walking amidst the actual monuments. That is what a humongous budget can buy you. Actress Jane Seymour reprised her role as Serina in this two-part special to finish off her character’s story arc. As she later told interviewers, she did not expect to be in any further Galactica storylines after the “Saga of a Star World” pilot for the simple reason that her character died in that movie. She was therefore startled when the producers asked her to be in “Lost Planet of the Gods.” She told Alan Brender in Starlog’s November 1980 issue that Serina was dying of a cancer-like disease in the script she shot; but when it was edited for the final cut, that entire sickness storyline was removed. When she was asked to be in the series, she only consented to reprise the role for this episode if she got more money and a good storyline. The discovery of humanity’s birthplace on Kobol was reprised in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica a quarter century later, in a story arc beginning with “Kobol’s Last Gleaming.”
Post-Apocalyptic Fun & Games In 1978, Battlestar Galactica didn’t just invade the airwaves; its merchandise also took over the store shelves tar Trek fans had to wait years before the full impact of their favorite show was realized in many licensed spinoffs that they could buy. But when Battlestar Galactica premiered in 1978, the designers, manufacturers, and retailers were already geared up to sell a wide assortment of toys, books, and other items, and that list would only grow over the ensuing couple of years. It continues today, of course, and licensed spinoffs from the 1978-79 TV series got a new lease on life from the popularity of SyFy’s reimagined series. Some fans dug out their old Galactica para-
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phernalia to relive old memories; others realized that they had thrown away or given away those items two or three decades ago, and they began scouring eBay to find replacements. If you are one of those regretful former owners, or if you think about the original series spinoffs and feel drawn into pleasant memories of your childhood, you have lots of things from which to choose. Marvel Comics produced a comic book that was as short-lived as the TV show; it lasted only 23 issues, but it also produced an over-sized Marvel Super Special and a two-volume reprint of the first two story-
lines in paperback form. In 1979, Berkley published Battlestar Galactica: The Photostory, a lavishly photo-illustrated paperback that is a collectors’ item. The Photostory of the threehour premiere movie features hundreds of full-color photos that are bright and clear, a much better presentation than you’ll find in most of the photo-books that were popular at the time, many of which included blurry or grainy photos. But you’ll see similar dedication to using highestquality photos on the cover of the Parker Brothers Battlestar Galactica board game (see above), and the 1979 and 1980 wall
The Lost Warrior
calendars from Stancraft Products, Berkley also published 14 novels based on the show, with the first ten adapted from television episodes and the remaining four based on original stories. (Appearing out of continuity is the fifth book, Galactica Discovers Earth, which is based on the first episode of the Galactica 1980 spinoff series; with book number six, the series returned to focusing on the original show.) The books, which were also published in other languages, carried creator Glen A. Larson’s byline, which was shared with either Ron Goulart, Michael Resnick, Robert Thurston, or Nicholas Yermakov. Particularly in the Saga of a Star World premiere novel, the novels take a slightly different take on the Galactica universe; for example, the Cylons are living beings, not robots. Galactica books also appeared in nonnovel formats. The Battlestar Galactica Space Flight Activity Book from Grosset & Dunlap appeared in 1978, but it is not to be confused with the Battlestar Galactica Activity Book from Wonder Books, published the same year and filled with puzzles and other games; and to make things more confusing, Grosset published the Battlestar Galactica Adventure Activity Book, filled with pictures to color. The next year, Windmill Books and E.P. Dutton & Co. came out with the Encyclopedia Galactica, a resource with information on the TV series. The model kits—of vipers,
battlestars, Cylon raiders, and basestars— were a particular favorite for hands-on fans. Created by Monogram (which later merged with Revell), the detailed ships were of good quality and were fine replications of the ships in the TV show (though we have to note that our viper’s left wing kept dropping off, a problem we’re not entirely convinced was caused by the modelling skills we possessed at the age of 12). The licensed Galactica spinoffs kept coming: Larami Corp.’s Battlestar Galactica Cylon Bubble Machine featured a sorta-Cylon-shaped statue atop a bottle of bubble-making liquid. And still more: T-shirts, action figures, posters, jigsaw puzzles, photo trading cards, radio-controlled spaceships, rocket toys, Colorforms kits, vinyl records, wrist watches, folders, wallets, bagatelle games, lunchboxes, The Battlestar Galactica Scrapbook; The Battlestar Galactica Storybook (a children’s version of the novelization), disco versions of the music, talking daggit doll, water glasses, jackets, rain coats, underwear, yarn kits, belts, pajamas, paper cups, napkins, paper plates, table clothes, birthday cake decorations, bed sheets, sleeping bags, curtains, blueprints, Cylon-head AM radio, and much more. They are all for sale online somewhere, so you can burn a hole in that Visa card or empty your PayPal account if you want to recapture the autumn of 1978.
Airdate: October 8, 1978. Writers: Don Bellisario, Herman Groves. Director: Rod Holcomb. After being attacked on viper patrol, Captain Apollo crashlands on the planet Equellus. On that frontier outpost, he is befriended by a boy named Puppis and his widowed mother, and he learns that the locals are under the control of a strongman and his henchman, Red Eye. Puppis’ mother: You’d better get back in your ship and leave. Quickly. Apollo: I’d like nothing better, but I’m out of fuel. Puppis’ mother: Well then we’re going to have to hide it. It and you. Apollo: Cylons? Puppis: What are Cylons? Apollo: Well, if you don’t know, then there aren’t any around. Not so fast, Apollo. The henchman turns out to be a Cylon centurion that had also crashlanded on the planet, suffering damage in the process that makes him think the strongman, LeCerta, is the Cylon Imperious Leader. Apollo decides to take on the Cylon in a duel, using the Colonial weapon of Puppis’ dead father, a Colonial Warrior who had been killed by Red Eye. After defeating the Cylon (and thus driving LeCerta out of town), Apollo uses fuel from the crashed ship of Puppis’ father (apparently everyone crashes on this planet; they should build a spaceport) to get his viper back in space and return to the fleet. NOTES: The X-Files and Battlestar Galactica both had the large-budget, highly produced “mythology” episodes, and then they also had their stand-alone episodes. Some of X-Files’ stand-alones were gems in and of themselves. Galactica fared more poorly in this respect, with stories such as this one that could have been written for pretty much any science fiction program by people who thought SF was merely a western in space.
The Long Patrol
Airdate: October 15, 1978. Writer: Don Bellisario. Director: Chris Nyby Jr. Starbuck tests a new super-viper, but he wears a non-Colonial uniform so as not to tip off any Cylons or Cylon allies he might run into. While on a test run ahead of the fleet, he finds a space shuttle being harried by a fighter ship. He defends the shuttle, and then follows it to a planet. The shuttle turns out to be a smuggler’s ship, and Starbuck is accused of smuggling Ambrosia. Thrown in prison, Starbuck finds that the other prisoners are descendents of criminals. The colony, Proteus, was established to provide fuel and Ambrosia to the Colonies, but it fell out of contact with the human worlds
over the years. Starbuck helps the prisoners escape their jail and entertains ideas of getting rich on all of the liquor that has been bottled but gone unused over the years. Meanwhile, the Galactica finds that the prototype viper—now flown by the real smuggler—is broadcasting an old Colonial signal. Worried that the Cylons might pick up the signal and find the Galactica and its fleet, they track the viper themselves. Unfortunately, their fears are confirmed when the Cylons show up and attack the Proteus colony. Starbuck’s getrich-quick idea is lost when the Ambrosia is destroyed in the attack, but he is rescued by the Galactica. NOTES: If Apollo is stuck on a planet last episode, this time it must be Starbuck’s turn. At the end of this episode, when Starbuck is back aboard the battlestar, Boxey draws a picture of how he had been told Earth’s star system looks. Starbuck recognizes it from a drawing he had seen on Proteus’ prison, where someone had drawn it. This is another hint that the fleet is on the right path in its search for the Thirteenth Tribe. The ship’s talking computer, named Cora, is Siri-like in its ability to annoy. Note also that Larson would go on to create the Knight Rider series, which featured a talking computer in an automobile. Tasha Martel (also known as Arlene Martel), who portrays the prisoner known as Adultress 58, is a familiar face to genre viewers, having appeared in the “Amok Time” episode of the original Star Trek, the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode of The Outer Limits, and the “What You Need” episode of The Twilight Zone, as well as appearances in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, I Dream of Jeannie, and the Star Trek fan-created “Of Gods and Men” web episode. This episode actually begins with a dramatic concept: The Galactica’s fleet moves from one galaxy to another. Considering the low level of scientific literacy exhibited by the series’ writers (more on which at “Fire in Space”), and the way terms such as galaxy and star system are used seemingly interchangeably, it’s unknown whether we’re supposed to believe the fleet has actually left the galaxy where the Twelve Colonies existed and entered another galaxy, or if the humans have simply fled one area of space for another.
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Gun on Ice Planet Zero (Parts I & II)
Airdates: October 22, 1978 & October 29, 1978. Writers: Leslie Stevens, Michael Sloan and Don Bellisario. Director: Alan Levi. The Galactica’s fleet finds itself being herded toward the planet Arcta, which sports a Cylon garrison. To make matters worse, the garrison has a massive pulsar cannon that could destroy any ship in the fleet, including the Galactica. So Adama dispatches a commando team to destroy the cannon. To fill the team with the appropriate demolition experts, he must include a band of convicted criminals. Their landing on Arcta is complicated when the Cylons shoot down their shuttle, but they survive the landing and are rescued by a band of clones who work for Dr. Ravishol. The good (maybe) doc doesn’t want to see the cannon he created destroyed, but he is brought around to see things the Galacticans’ way. NOTES: Croft, the leader of the criminals, is portrayed by veteran actor Roy Thinnes, famed for his starring role in the 1960s TV series The Invaders. Actor Dan O’Herlihy, who guest stars as Dr. Ravishol, also starred in RoboCop and its first sequel, RoboCop 2. Intentional or not, there are echoes of this episode’s theme of using criminals to carry out a mission in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica storyline in which convicted terrorist Zarek (played by original Galactica star Richard Hatch) is introduced. The echoes are particularly loud in that series’ two-part “Home” episode. Like that episode, the criminals are plotting to take over, the stakes are very high for the Galactica and its fleet, and viewers are unsure whether any or all of the criminals will turn against the Galacticans.
The Magnificent Warriors
Airdate: November 12, 1978. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Chris Nyby, Jr. The Cylons destroy the Galactica fleet’s food stores, so Adama concocts a plan to trade for the food they need with humans on some planets they are approaching. However, to get the power energizer needed to trade for the food, Adama must woo Siress Belloby, an old flame of his. When they land on the planet to bargain for food, they find that the locals are living in fear of the pig-like Borays. Starbuck finds himself tricked into serving as the local town’s sheriff. It’s a luckless role—and one that doesn’t usually last long. It’s also a role he must put into play for real when the Borays kidnap Siress Belloby, who had accompanied Adama to the planet. Sheriff Starbuck manages to win Bel-
loby back from the kidnappers, in return for passing along the sheriff ’s badge to one of their leaders. NOTES: Barry Nelson portrays Bogan in this episode. Nelson will be forever known as the very first person to appear as James Bond onscreen. He was Bond in a 1954 TV production of Casino Royale.
The Young Lords
Airdate: November 19, 1978. Writers: Don Bellisario, Frank Lupo, and Paul Playdon. Director: Don Bellisario. Yet another marooning of a Colonial warrior on a planet, “The Young Lords” sees Starbuck crashland on the planet Trillion, where he is able to avoid a Cylon patrol with the help of a band of kids. The children plan to trade Starbuck to the Cylons in return for their father, who is being held captive. However, Starbuck convinces them instead to raid the garrison and free their father. NOTES: Bruce Glover, who portrays Megan, is the father of actor Crispin Glover. The Cylon garrison leader, Specter (a Lucifer-like Cylon), is played by Felix Silla, who was also in Twiki’s suit in Glen Larson’s other SF series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
The Living Legend (Parts I and II)
Airdates: November 26, 1978 & December 3, 1978. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Vince Edwards. Apollo and Starbuck, on patrol in their vipers, discover the battlestar Pegasus, thought to have been destroyed with the other battlestars in the Cylon ambush. They are met by Pegasus vipers, one of which is piloted by the Colonial warrior Sheba, daughter of the Pegasus’ commander. Sheba: You will maintain silence until we land aboard the battlestar Pegasus. Apollo: Pegasus? That’s just not possible. Starbuck: Apollo—do you know whose ship that was? Apollo: Cain, the greatest military commander who ever lived. He was my idol. Sheba: Your idol will order you blasted out of the sky if you don’t shut off your transmitters. In case you clowns don’t know it, we are right in the middle of a quadrant controlled by Cylons. Apollo: [Spotting the Pegasus up ahead.] Oh my lord, it isn’t a dream, and we’re not dead. It is the Pegasus. Sheba: [Bewildered.] They won’t shut up.
When the Pegasus joins up with the Galactica’s fleet, its leader, Commander Cain, urges Adama to join him in striking at the Cylons. Cain has something else he wants to pursue: his past relationship with a Cassiopeia. Adama is more cautious about going after the Cylons, as the leader of the fleet of civilian ships must be. The fleet is short on fuel, so instead of attacking the Cylons on the planet Gamoray, as Cain desires, they agree to Adama’s plant to raid nearby Cylon fuel tankers. But Cain sabotages the attack as a way of asserting his will, and Adama removes Cain from command of the Pegasus, commandeering its fuel for the fleet. The two battlestars’ crews are at loggerheads until Baltar shows up with a Cylon attack. Cain, restored to his command, helps route the surprised Cylons, who were not expecting to see two battlestars. With the Cylons seen off for the moment, Adama and Cain mend their relationship enough to attack Gamoray and get the needed fuel supplies. A commando team of Apollo, Bojay (another Pegasus warrior), Starbuck, and Sheba land on Gamoray, along with medtech Cassiopeia, and destroy the Cylon command center. The vipers then attack Gamoray and the fleet loads up the fuel it needs. Cain keeps pushing his luck, throwing his battlestar into the thick of the action. His ship suffers damage in one such attack, and the injured, including his daughter, Sheba, are taken to the Galactica. Cain then attacks two of Baltar’s three basestars after Apollo and Starbuck knock out the Cylon’s cannons, and in the ensuing battle, which results in the destruction of the two basestars, the Galactica’s fleet is unable to tell if the Pegasus, too, was destroyed. Sheba, Bojay, and some other Pegasus survivors now find themselves part of the Galactica’s crew. NOTES: The story of “The Living Legend,” in which the Galactica discovers that it is not the only surviving battlestar after all and teams up with the Pegasus and her tough-as-nails leader Cain, not only makes up one of the best storylines in the classic Battlestar Galactica, but it was one of the best storylines in the reimagined Galactica a quarter century later. In the Syfy version, the story plays out over many episodes, beginning with “Pegasus.” In both versions, Cain is more hardcore military than Adama and pushes the Galactica to be more aggressive in attacking the Cylons. Though the original Cain, portrayed by legend Lloyd Bridges, was arrogant, he was not the fanatic that was the new Cain, portrayed by Michelle Forbes, who had dispatched her human
civilian fleet of survivors in order to be better able to wage warfare. In the Department of Vague Rumors and Wishful Thinking, numerous fan sites have reported that Glen Larson planned to bring back Lloyd Bridges’ Cain and the Pegasus in the never-filmed second season of Battlestar Galactica.
Fire in Space
Airdate: December 17, 1978. Writers: Jim Carlson, Terrence McDonnell. Director: Chris Nyby Jr. A kamikaze attack by Cylon raiders leaves the Galactica in flames, some crew members trapped, and Commander Adama in critical condition. Muffit finally earns his keep by bringing oxygen masks to the trapped crew, which includes Boxey, Boomer, and Athena. Starbuck and Apollo blow a hole in the hull of the battlestar to extinguish the fire, and Adama gets fixed up by the doc. NOTES: There are science fiction lies that might grate on people but that we accept in much of our SF entertainment. Sounds in space, for example. We know we wouldn’t really be able to hear a viper or the Enterprise fly past us in space, because there is no sound in space. We let it go, accepting it as no more a violation of the rules of the universe than background music in a scene. But there are some things that just go over the line. To quote the great Friends philosopher Joey Tribbiani: “You’re so far past the line that you can’t even see the line! The line is a dot to you!” And thus it is with this episode. Fire.
In space. Unless you believe there was a force field around the fires seen raging on the Galactica’s landing bay, which had been set alight by one of those kamikaze Cylons, then you have to smack your forehead at the scenes with the fire somehow burning in the airless realm of space. Then there’s the plot idea to blow open the hull to let out the air, thus extinguishing the flames. The writers act as if having oxygen masks is key to the survival of the humans stuck in the section that’s about to have all of its air super-sucked into the frozen, airless void of space. But they would have had to have had an extremely short-lived opening to space to have prevented the humans from freezing or exploding or whatever happens to you from the lack of pressure. Neither is conducive to long life. They could have gotten away with this story device if a door on the side of the ship had been flipped open and slammed shut, but it’s hard to believe an explosive blast in the hull was able to be sealed in time to prevent mass death. And, as other writers have pointed out, the vipers that shoot a water-like substance through their laser cannons are in the realm of pure fantasy. The water would freeze long before it got to the Galactica. That might be the weakest example of writing in the whole script, because shooting ice at the raging fire would not be a totally useless thing to do and could have been written into the script. But they decided to go with water. In space. The destruction on the Galactica is a mix of tired standard disaster footage mixed with some great special effects. (Watching the bridge fall apart after a raider rams it is impressive, in particular seeing the bridge’s giant viewscreen shatter.) If the bad writing doesn’t bother you, then enjoy the episode. If it does bother you, then relax; it’s no so bad, because “Fire in Space” is sandwiched between “The Living Legend” and “War of the Gods,” two of the best stories of the entire series.
War of the Gods (Parts I and II)
Airdates: January 14, 1979 & January 21, 1979. Writers: Glen A. Larson. Director: Dan Haller. A viper patrol including Bojay is confronted by zooming balls of light; eventually, a massive lightship appears and takes in the warriors. Upon learning that the patrol has gone missing, Adama dispatches Apollo, Sheba, and Starbuck to search for them. The trio find a planet and investigate a large impact crater on
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back for more in Year Two. Kirk Alyn plays the role of a Gemonese man; Alyn, of course, is forever famous for starring as Superman in early serials. The evil Count Iblis is portrayed by Patrick Macnee, who not only had starred in The Avengers but provides the voice for the Imperious Leader and narrates the opening of the series (“There are those who believe ...”). In “War of the Gods,” when Baltar meets Count Iblis, he says he recognizes the voices as that of the Imperious Leader. Was that an in-joke? Was it an indication that the Cylon empire was led by the Galactican equivalent of the devil? Probably only a second season of Battlestar Galactica would have made that clear.
blackmail connected to Baltar (himself now a prisoner of the Galactica (see “War of the Gods”). Apollo and Boomer trick the real killer, Karibdis, into coming out of hiding and making sure Starbuck’s tribunal hears the evidence. NOTES: Genre fans are likely to recognize Brock Peters, who portrays Solon in this episode. Peters’ screen credits include two Star Trek movies (The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country, portraying Fleet Admiral Cartwright), Deep Space Nine (as the father of Benjamin Sisko), the classic dystopian film Soylent Green (as Hatcher), and he lent his voice to the public radio adaptation of Star Wars (as Darth Vader).
The Man with Nine Lives
Airdate: February 25, 1989. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Ahmer Lateaf. Apollo and Starbuck discover a small ship in space with its occupants in deep sleep. Brought aboard the Galactica, the ship is found to carry four children and two adults, a man and woman. Fleeing their home planet because of the evil Eastern Alliance, they were heading toward the planet Paradeen. The humans of the fleet are excited about references to “Terra,” another name for Earth, and the Quorum of Twelve badgers Adama into letting them control the situation. The small ship and its occupants are returned to space on their original course, and Apollo, Starbuck, and Cassiopeia go along to learn what they can. On the planet Paradeen, they find the home that has been prepared for the ship’s inhabitants; unfortunately, they also find two bumbling, comedic robots named Hector and Vector. Starbuck goes off to investigate a deserted nearby city and becomes trapped there. Meanwhile, an Eastern Alliance ship arrives, having tracked the vipers that accompanied the sleeper ship, and they take some of the family hostage. With the help—what’s in a word?—of the robots and the kids, Starbuck is found and rescued, and he and Apollo manage to free the family from the Eastern Alliance troops, who are then returned to the Galactica. NOTES: The bait-and-switch of having a planet get up the Galacticans’ hopes because it is named Terra—which they know to be another name for the legendary planet Earth—is echoed in the SyFy Battlestar Galactica, too. Toward the end of the series, in “Revelations” and “Sometimes a Great Notion,” they discover Earth, only to find it a burned-out hulk that had been populated by a previous iteration of humanoid Cylons. They go on to find another planet in the
Airdate: January 28, 1979. Writer: Don Bellisario. Director: Rod Holcomb. A group of Borellian Nomen are pursuing a con man named Chameleon. The con man manages to get to the pleasure ship Rising Star, where he intrigues Starbuck with the possibility that he is the pilot’s father. Intervention by Boomer and Apollo prevent the Nomen from capturing Chameleon, who goes to the Galactica under Starbuck’s protection; there, he will be genetically tested to see if he’s related to Starbuck. But the Nomen aren’t put off their blood trail that easily. They join a pilot training program so they can get onto the battlestar. Once there, they trick a crewmember so they can get access to the rest of the ship to hunt for Chameleon. The Borellians find their prey, but they are outwitted—and killed—by the old con man. When Chameleon learns from the blood tests that he is, indeed, Starbuck’s father, he urges Cassiopeia to keep it secret from Starbuck; he doesn’t want to lose the friendship he built up with the young pilot. NOTES: Chameleon is portrayed by dancing and acting legend Fred Astaire. Though his role here is primarily acting with little dancing, it is the final time he dances on screen.
Murder on the Rising Star
Airdate: February 18, 1979. Writer: Don Bellisario, James Carlson, Terrence McDonnell, Michael Sloan. Director: Rod Holcomb Apollo and Boomer step in to act as legal defenders for their pal Starbuck after he is accused of murdering a rival. Starbuck’s weapon is matched to the killing, but he refuses a plea deal and seeks a trial. His defense team uncovers a network of
Greetings from Earth
Photo by: Andwhatsnext, aka Nancy J Price: http://andwhatsnext.com
its surface. There they find the wreckage of a ship and one lone, unharmed survivor. The survivor, the mysterious Count Iblis, tells them the ship was destroyed by some unnamed beings. He has a powerful influence upon Sheba and others in the fleet as he lets them know that he knows about their flight from their own enemies. Iblis takes credit for the sudden growth of food on the Agro ships. Faced by a curious Quorum of Twelve, he suggests they give him three tests. The Quorum’s tests: First, bring them Baltar; second, plot a course to Earth; and the third, well, they haven’t thought of a third. Part I of “War of the Gods” ends with the arrival in the fleet of Baltar, who has also witnessed the lightships and wants to see if the Galacticans can help him against them. The Quorum promptly throws Baltar in prison. Meanwhile, Iblis expands his influence throughout the fleet. Adama believes Iblis is using mind tricks to impress the humans; he believes Iblis and the lightship beings are merely advanced beings, not gods or angels. When the mysterious balls of light once again swarm around the Galactica, the vipers try to chase them, but Boomer is taken by the giant lightship. Apollo, Starbuck, and Sheba travel back to the planet for a look at the wreckage of the ship. When Iblis appears, he kills Apollo and survives a laser attack by Starbuck. Turning into a Satan-like appearance, he promises to return. On their way back to the Galactica, Starbuck and Sheba’s shuttle—carrying Apollo’s lifeless body—is intercepted by the lightship. Taken aboard, the beings resurrect Apollo, saying it was not his time to die. The three Galacticans return to the fleet, complete with a “gift” from the lightship beings: Knowledge of Earth’s location. NOTES: It should be no surprise that the writer of this two-part episode was Glen Larson, who was very much influenced by ancient-astronaut and other extraterrestrial mythology. The lightship and the mysterious beings aboard it will reappear before the end of this season. In the episode “Experiment in Terra,” also written by Larson, the beings play a role in helping guide the events of an Earth-like planet. That makes it tempting to consider what Larson might have done with the lightship storyline if the show had been picked up for a second season. The placement of these two episodes toward the end of the first season do lead one to guess that they would have been
final episode, which turns out to be the planet Earth we all know and love and defile. But a print ad for “Greetings from Earth” is headlined “The Galactica encounters people from planet Earth!” even though, of course, the people were pointedly not from planet Earth. “Greetings from Earth” originally aired as a two-hour special episode. Three of Glen Larson’s children and Lorne Greene’s daughters guest star in it. Robots Hector and Vector, as annoying as they are to watch, were portrayed by two aging Vaudeville performers, Bobby Van and Ray Bolger. Knowing that might make watching their painful slapstick routines a bit more bearable.
Airdate: March 11, 1979. Writer: Don Bellisario. Director: Rick Kolbe. The Quorum of Twelve reasserts its authority over the fleet, leaving Adama feeling pressured to step down. The civilian government is particularly interested in negotiating with the newly discovered Eastern Alliance. Meanwhile, Baltar takes the opportunity to escape from the prison barge with the help of the Borellian Nomen. Along with the Eastern Alliance officers, they head to the Galactica in an attempt to take it over. When they arrive, the Colonial warriors have been told to stay in their barracks by the Quorum, whose memBattlestar Galactica, NCIS, Quantum Leap and JAG producer Donald Bellisario at Leap Con 1993.
bers await the shuttle’s arrival. With Baltar trying to get Adama to return his Cylon raider to him, the Galacticans buy some time so Dr. Wilker can tinker with the robotic Cylon centurions (originally captured along with Baltar) to help them thwart Baltar’s escape. NOTES: This is a reprise of the military-civilian clash and commentary from the premiere “Saga of a Star World” episode. In both cases, the civilian leadership in the form of the Quorum tries to sideline the military leadership in the form of Commander Adama. Also in both cases, the Quorum is shown to be dangerously ignorant and eager to have peace at all costs, leading to disaster or near disaster. In the SyFy Battlestar Galactica series, the military (Commander and later Admiral Will Adama) and civilian leadership (President Laura Roslin) have a rivalry that is much more open and raw, and it runs through much of the series, particularly in the first couple years, with mutinies and marshal law. Adama and Roslin eventually achieve a working peace. In the SyFy version, Adama and Roslin literally end up in bed together. In the original 1979 episode of “Baltar’s Escape,” Adama ends up arm-in-arm with Siress Tinia of the Quorum.
Experiment in Terra
Airdate: March 18, 1979. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Rod Holcomb. Apollo and Starbuck follow the Eastern Alliance spaceship that has escaped from the Galactica’s fleet back to Terra. Their mission is interrupted by the lightship, whose crew want their help stopping an apocalyptic war centered on Terra. Apollo, dressed in monochrome white, is made to appear like Charlie Watts, an astronaut from Terra, and is sent down to that planet to find a way to stop the war. On Terra, he meets Brenda, a girlfriend of Charlie’s, who reports him to the Western Nationalists (the enemy of the Eastern Alliance), who arrest Apollo. Starbuck lands on the planet and is drawn into the lightship’s plans for Apollo. The Western Nationalist president is trying to strike a deal with the Eastern Alliance to stop the war, but amid great discord within the government, the war flares up and only the Galactica can stop the destruction of both sides. As a parting gift, the lightship crew inform Apollo that the Galactica is on the right course for finding Earth. NOTES: The role of Brenda is played by Melody Anderson, who would also hit the bigtime on the big screen as Dale Arden in Dino De Laurentiis’ 1980 camp film version of Flash Gordon.
Take the Celestra
Airdate: April 1, 1979. Writer: Jim Carlson, Terrence McDonnell. Director: Dan Haller. A power struggle on the fleet vessel Celestra draws in Starbuck and Apollo when they come aboard in an attempt to resurrect Starbuck’s relationship with a former girlfriend, Aurora. Charka, a junior officer on the ship, leads a revolt against Commander Kronus, who must put his life on the line to save the ship before Charka and his compatriots can be brought to justice. NOTES: Starbuck, despite being seriously attached to Cassiopeia (and coming into conflict with the legendary Commander Cain over her), and apparently having left Athena behind, is still on the prowl for another woman. Nice guy. Paul Fix, who portrays Kronus, also served aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise for the second Star Trek pilot as Dr. Piper, and was replaced by DeForest Kelley’s Dr. Leonard McCoy, who became the immortal Bones.
The Hand of God
Airdate: April 29, 1979. Writer: Glen A. Larson. Director: Rod Holcomb. Apollo shows his friends Sheba, Starbuck, and Cassiopeia his escape, an observatory on the Galactica where he escapes to contemplate and observe the universe. Meanwhile, the Galactica spots a Cylon basestar and Adama uncharacteristically decides to risk a surprise attack on the ship. He sends Apollo and Starbuck on a mission in Baltar’s captured Cylon raider to infiltrate the basestar, incapacitate its scanners, and prepare the way for the battlestar’s assault. But in a firefight with Cylons on the basestar, Apollo loses the transmitter that would alert the fleet that their raider was friendly. Only some last minute fancy flying save their lives after the successful attack on the basestar. The price Adama must pay for the information that enabled the attack is to free Baltar, stranding him on a habitable planet. NOTES: Larson is back as the writer for this final episode of the series, and he revisits the theme of Earth, though only in the framing scenes. The reception of a video of the NASA moon landing tells us that in the series’ reality, Earth does exist as we know it, and that if (in the second or third season?) the fleet arrives there, it would be in our present or in our future. Unfortunately, bad decisions by ABC and an abysmal budget would see that most of that sentence comes true in Galactica 1980. But you’ll have to wait for another issue of Galaxis for that G episode guide. weimar.ws Galaxis
SpaceX in Space 24
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ALL PHOTOS THIS SPREAD: SPACEX
merica’s past and future space programs were on display in October 2012. While national news carried live coverage of the decommissioned space shuttle Endeavor making its three-miles-an-hour trip through Los Angeles to its final resting place, commentators were also
noting the successful mission of a reusable rocket from private space firm SpaceX to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The king is dead. Long live the king. Even as people mourned the apparent end of the United States’ governmentrun manned space program, they had
to note that this by no means put the country out of the space race. Private firms such as SpaceX or Virgin Galactic (see Galaxis #1) are zooming ahead with space commercialization, and they are expanding it beyond the closed circles of government-approved astronauts and technicians.
Above: Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer of SpaceX, poses with his company’s Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket is positioned at its launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Left: This is the face of a future-oriented business executive. Gwynne Shotwell is SpaceX’s president. Previous page: The Dragon spacecraft, attached to a Falcon 9 rocket, sits in SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral hangar, just days before its launch. weimar.ws Galaxis
LAUNCHPAD PHOTO: SPACEX; CHEESE PHOTO: CHRIS THOMPSON/SPACEX; TRAINING PHOTO: ROGER GILBERTSON/SPACEX; ROBOTIC ARM PHOTO: NASA TV
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Clockwise from top left: The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft rests atop a Falcon 9 rocket on the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral, minutes before its May 22, 2012, liftoff. During the Dragon spacecraft’s first flight of two orbits around the Earth, the ship carried this homage to the Monty Python cheese shop sketch: a large wheel of cheese. In September 2010, astronauts visited SpaceX for Dragon training. (Left to right) Lee Archambault, Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Joe Acaba, Mike Fossum, and Dan Burbank are trained by SpaceX’s Marco Villa on the Dragon communications unit, which will be used aboard the station during Dragon’s visits. The International Space Station’s robotic arm holds onto the Dragon spacecraft. G
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians Meets the TV Gods Fox teases then drops idea for bringing the best-selling dark fantasy novel to television By John Zipperer
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PHOTO BY AND COPYRIGHT MATHIEU BOURGOIS
lans to bring Lev Grossman’s bestselling novel The Magicians to network TV have hit a snag, but the book’s author hasn’t given up on its being filmed one day. Grossman, a senior writer and book critic for Time, had previously penned such science-fiction-friendly novels as Warp and Codex, but it was the novels The Magicians (2009) and The Magician King (2011, reviewed in Galaxis #2) that super-sized his popularity. The Magicians books are dark fantasies sometimes described as “Harry Potter for adults” or “Hogwarts with sex and drugs.” They are absorbing and entertaining novels centering on young Quentin Coldwater, who gets admitted to Brakebills—a mysterious college of magic—and his adventures learning about the joys and many, many dangers of the magical world. A third novel is expected, completing the trilogy. In October 2011, Fox announced that it had bought The Magicians and was looking to turn it into a weekly one-hour drama series. And they brought the talent. Michael London, who produced Sideways, Win Win, and other critically acclaimed films, was tabbed as the producer for the series. In January 2012, Grossman reported on his blog (levgrossman.com) that he had reviewed the pilot script, written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, who share credits on X-Men: First Class, Thor, and numerous episodes of Fringe, Andromeda, and the Terminator series. Calling the script “fantastic” and even “amazeballs,” Grossman noted that it
is naturally different from the books, thanks to the television medium. “It’s TV. The big challenge was always going to be to reshape the bones of the story, to take it apart and put it back together so it fit into episodes instead of chapters, and seasons instead of books. The Magicians [book] is a slow burn, but in TV you can’t afford that. This first episode—it’s a monster. It’s this dense, intense mystery that
sucks you right in.” Asked by Forbes’ Erik Cain in late 2011 about the books’ suitability for a feature film instead of TV, Grossman said The Magicians could fill a void on the small screen for its type of fantasy fare, but he didn’t think it was right for the movie world. “The big budget would be nice, and there are things you can do in movies that you can’t do on network TV,” Grossman told Cain. “But I think the structure of The Magicians is all wrong for a twohour film. It’s based in large part on the structure of Brideshead Revisited. Look at Brideshead the mini-series, and now look at Brideshead the movie. Which is better? The mini-series, by a mile, and not just because they had Jeremy Irons. They had room to let the book breathe. That’s what The Magicians show will have.” Or would have had. In February 2012, Grossman told his fans that The Magicians was not given the go-ahead by Fox to film a pilot. Though he admitted he wasn’t entirely sure why Fox passed on the script, “the networks are pretty black-box about stuff like this: they don’t give out a lot of detail about their decision-making process. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that it has something to do with Terra Nova not doing as well as Fox hoped, so they weren’t anxious to go for another high-profile, high-concept, expensive genre show. But that’s just speculation. I can’t imagine The Magicians would have been as expensive as Terra Nova. For one thing there aren’t half as many acceraptors in it.” Grossman says his book is being shopped to cable networks and even film studios, but for the moment, he’s “really, really disappointed. “It would have been incredible,” Grossman wrote on his blog. “It still will be, if we can get it to go somewhere else.” G
The Wuxia Road to Star Wars A long time ago, in a country far, far away, martial-arts heroes took on the forces of evil. All they lacked were lightsabers.
By John Zipperer
ut on the sparsely populated frontier of a large and ancient empire, a young man has his quiet life disturbed and learns that he has powers that set him apart from the people around him. This naive but brave man will train and learn to use his skills to defend the innocent and attempt to right the wrongs that are occurring throughout his native land. Through the course of the epic story, and with the help of a warrior class of monks and ruffians, the man learns that he has a long-lost sibling, who was raised in circumstances vastly different from his own humble upbringing. All of that will come into play when the man discovers who his true father is, in a realization that will change his life. By the end of the story, our hero uses his powers to take on a seemingly lost cause against a ruthless power that is spreading itself over his beloved land. Is this young man Luke Skywalker? No,
it’s Guo Jing, the protagonist of The Legend of the Condor Heroes, the first of a trilogy of wuxia books written in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Jin Yong. Set against the collapse of the Song Dynasty as it is invaded and eventually taken over by Mongol invaders, Condor Heroes and its two sequels, Return of the Condor Heroes and The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber, became wildly popular and have been filmed numerous times in Hong Kong and in mainland China. They even share something else with George Lucas’ Star Wars creation: They have been revised more than once by Jin Yong. One can easily make too much of the parallels between the Star Wars saga and the Condor Heroes trilogy. For example, Photos, left to right: The DVD cover from TVBBI’s release of The Return of the Condor Heroes; the cover of the Star Wars Trilogy novel collection; The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber is the third part of the Condor Heroes trilogy.
Guo Jing’s long-lost sibling is not a princess; instead, the sibling is a man raised as a prince—a prince who hates Guo Jing and would be happy to see him dead. And instead of being raised by his uncle as his surrogate father, Guo Jing’s paternal standin is none other than Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan, who (and this must surely rank as science fiction) is largely a good guy in the story. Star Wars is by no means a copy of any wuxia story, but it does owe a debt to the wuxia model in terms of some themes, philosophies, and lessons. In both, an honorable cast of heroes wields special—even magical—powers in a mission to right great wrongs. Both draw heavily from Buddhist teachings; a web search for Lucas will find countless religious sites that refer to Lucas calling himself a Buddhist Methodist. And the Jedi have more in common with Shaolin’s famous kung-fu monks than with anyone else. The Chinese wuxia connection is only noteworthy because George Lucas has weimar.ws Galaxis
pointed to the great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and his 1958 film The Hidden Fortress as the significant Eastern influence on his Star Wars saga. Kurosawa, whose films have garnered arthouse status in the United States, is known for such classics as The Seven Samurai, Rashomen, and Ran. Lucas’ cited source material might have said “Made in Japan,” but viewers and readers will find even more exciting sources a little further west, in the vast lands and history of China. Of course, no one made the Kurosawa influence more obvious than Roger Corman’s 1980 Star Wars knockoff Battle Beyond the Stars. The cult film, which is even set on the planet Akir (named in honor of Akira Kurosawa), was born of an idea for a story based on the high concept of “The Magnificent Seven in space.” “The sub-text, beneath the surface, is the story of a clash of many cultures and the interactions between these cultures,” Corman told journalist Ed Naha in 1980. “So The Magnificent Seven or, if you go back even further, The Seven Samurai, provided the framework for the action.” The Academy Award-winning Kurosawa would sound like a more impressive influence than Chinese martial arts films, especially back in the 1970s, when they were mainly known in their chop-socky kung-fu versions that were then littering the screens 30
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of American drive-ins. But with the spread of Chinese entertainment around the world in the post-Mao era, people have begun to learn that wuxia is a fantastic (and fantastical) genre for telling exciting stories about Chinese history, personal honor, suffering and redemption, and even fighting from “a more civilized age.” Like science fiction, wuxia is a genre of fiction that spans media and has millions of fans. It refers to stories concerning the heroic exploits of martial artists, often set against key historical periods in Chinese history. Wuxia stories have been written for more than two millennia, but they burst upon the Western scene in a big way in 2000 with the release of the smash hit film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It has been followed on the big screen and the DVD racks by House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and others. Go see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then watch 13 Assassins. Arguably the Chinese epics are more American (or have been reimagined in a more modern and thus more recognizable-to-Americans way) than Japanese samurai epics. A well-defined hierarchical structure is still present in the Chinese wuxia, but much of the story often concerns characters revolting against and remolding the structure to suit their own needs, with the eventual acquiescence of the elders. That is a sto-
ry arc that would be familiar to any Star Wars fan. Monk vs. Monk The old saying notes that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Therefore, Star Wars’ unprecedented success served to attract many people who want to identify themselves with it. (Few people, you’ll note, claim the Ewoks as their progeny.) People also tend to see in a favorite film, book, or TV series their own story and message. In the documentary Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed, former Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich gives it his own spin: “Star Wars is a very useful introduction to core values in American civilization, because there’s a tradition going back at least to the founding fathers and the American revolution that virtue plus one person is a majority.” Gingrich goes on: “And the idea of the underdog who’s on the right side defeating the overdog who’s on the wrong side is a deeply American mythology, something we believe in passionately as a country.” The theme of the good-underdog-vsbad-overdog is of course familiar to people in nearly every culture and country, not just the United States, but Gingrich is not one for correct details; he lives on the emotional arc of his utterances. The most alluring part of the Star Wars
STORMTROOPERS PHOTO: Shin; SHAOLIN TEMPLE PHOTO BY CREATIVE COMMONS USER Yaoleilei; HAMILL PHOTO: ALAN LIGHT
The Chinese wuxia connection is noteworthy because George Lucas has pointed instead to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa as the significant Eastern influence on his saga.
The most disturbing part of Gingrich’s illusion might be the weaponized Jesuits roaming the earth, but he is not alone in seeing parallels between Jedi and earthly religious warriors.
mythology is those Jedi Knights, the partreligious order and part military corps that kept peace in the galaxy for a thousand years. Gingrich also sees the Jedi in self-fulfilling terms: “One could argue they are the Jesuits of this world. These are the people who are the truth-bearers, who are the priesthood of freedom, and who give their lives in order to stop evil.” Though the most disturbing part of Gingrich’s illusion might be the thought of weaponized Jesuits roaming the earth, he is not alone in seeing real-world parallels between Jedi and earthly religious warriors. In that same documentary, The Empire Triumphant author Dr. Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., draws the parallels between the Jedi and Japanese Samurai. He goes further in his book, where he ties the philosophy found within Lucas’ films with Eastern Taoist philosophy. “The Jedi are part of a larger religious community that undergoes martial training as well. Though such warrior priests or warrior monks existed in the West, the cinematic history of warrior priests is much more Eastern in origins. In that sense, the Jedi are Shaolin monks, who train in kung fu and a variety of weapons in addition to their religious training. They also take vows of obedience and vows of celibacy. The training sequences we see of both Luke and the Jedi of the second trilogy would not be out of place in martial
arts films concerning the training of Shaolin monks, such as Gordon Liu in Shaolin Master Killer.” The Shaolin are Buddhist monks hailing from the Shaolin Temple in China’s Henen province, in the eastern portion of the country. Besides teaching martial arts for centuries, Shaolin’s monks have even fought in real battles. After the madness of the Cultural Revolution in the mid-20th century, when the temple’s literature was destroyed and its remaining monks jailed, Shaolin has reestablished itself as a training site for its brands of martial arts, attracting students from around the world. If a writer wants to have exciting characters from a religious order playing a central part in his story, he is wise to have chosen Eastern warrior monks over the ubiquitous American televangelist. Influenced and Influencing There is nothing unusual about having significant influences in a movie. But the Star Wars films have in turn done something that is more unusual: they have influenced many other productions (and even the enPhotos, left to right: Costumed celebrants march through Japan’s streets in stormtrooper uniforms; you can find monks who use martial arts through the gates of the Shaolin Temple in China; Mark Hamill.
tire movie-making industry, but that is another topic). The success of Star Wars spawned many films and TV shows that were greenlighted by the Hollywood studios, which suddenly wanted some of that science-fiction lucre. The obvious choices for the Star Warsbegotten would include the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Battle Beyond the Stars, Moonraker, and others—or really any film or TV show that features fighter ships firing laser bolts in their struggles between good and evil. The alleged similarities between Star Wars and Galactica resulted in an epic lawsuit between their respective studios that dragged on in the courts for years. In an April 1979 interview with Starlog magazine, Star Wars star Mark Hamill noted the original similarities between his film and Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica (originally called Star Worlds and featuring Star Wars-like names). “Even so,” he continued, “I hope it proves a big hit, because, after all, when American Graffiti came out, so did TV’s Happy Days. When the James Bond movies came out, so did The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s a process that’s inevitable.” Meanwhile, people looking to accuse George Lucas of copying themes from other filmmakers have gone to some strange lengths in their accusations. Noted author Ursula K. Le Guin, for example, accused weimar.ws Galaxis
People looking to accuse George Lucas of copying themes from other filmmakers have gone to some strange lengths in their accusations.
Lucas of drawing on that ultimate dark side, Nazism, when she wrote an article for Parabola Magazine (reprinted in Future): “The end of Star Wars kept bothering me after I saw it the first time. ... Finally a friend who knows films explained to me that the scene is a nostalgic evocation or imitation of Leni Reifenstahl’s famous film of the 1938 Olympics, the German winners receiving a grateful ovation from the Thousand Year Reich. Having dragged Dorothy and Toto and that lot around the cosmos a bit, Mr. Lucas cast about for another surefire golden oldie, and came up with Adolph Hitler.” Yes, she played the Hitler card, even if she, like Gingrich, had to stretch reality to make it fit her argument. For the record, the Berlin Olympics were in 1936; Reifenstahl’s film Olympia was released in 1938. Le Guin was not alone, however. Also speaking to Future magazine, science fiction author Joanna Russ compared the final scene of Star Wars to Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Seriously, folks, even in free societies they still hold awards ceremonies. Endless Discussion None of this is intended to suggest that Lucas stole story ideas or that he owes the films’ success to the work of others. Lucas has been very open about the works that influenced him, particularly the 32
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mythological studies of Joseph Campbell— the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces and other works, who explored the common heroic epic themes in different cultures—and director Akira Kurosawa. He has further explained that the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films were an attempt to resurrect the exciting serials of his youth, when the adventures of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and other heroes unspooled on theater screens in weekly episodes. Other commentators and critics have cited influences ranging from Wagner’s opera Parsifal to The Guns of Navarone. Lucas’ success doesn’t rest on the fact of shared themes or character types; it is what he did with them. People aren’t fascinated that there’s a black-clad villain in Star Wars doing the emperor’s bidding. They’re fascinated by his uniform, his mask, his menacing voice, his use of his powers to threaten and punish his enemies, and by the terrifying menace and mystery of the empire he serves. But with all of the endless discussion about the meaning, influencers, and influenced of Star Wars, the Chinese wuxia genre deserves to get more attention than it has. It certainly deserves more attention than Adolf Hitler or Newt Gingrich. Star Wars’ debt to the Chinese wuxia epics is more about themes and basic concepts, far from the wholesale mimicry that
early Galactica scripts were said to include. In 2010, the blogger Martin Maillardet, writing for ElfShotTheFood.com, raised the question of whether comparing the Star Wars prequels to wuxia is merely a poor “excuse for the lack of verisimilitude between new and old Star Wars stuff, or is it a legitimate argument for prequel’s artistic merit?” Maillardet goes on to note that Jedi knights fight differently in the prequels than in the original trilogy. “Does the seeming lack of continuity and verisimilitude between episodes 4-6 and episodes 1-3 actually represent a genre shift?” asks Maillardet. Perhaps, perhaps not. Even within continuous real-life organizations and movements there are shifts in style, tactics, and tools over the decades. And if you take into account the massive upheavals that must have taken place in the life and lifestyles in the galactic republic/empire between The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi, changes in the Jedi practice are not unlikely. Obi Wan Kenobi has only his final few days to impart as much Jedi wisdom and training to Luke as he could, aided later only by the Jedi master Yoda in his final days on Dagobah. Therefore, Luke Skywalker would have had a much different education than did the Jedi who were
LUCAS PHOTO BY nicolas genin from Paris, France
Lucas appears to be ensuring that Han Solo is seen as the pure-good hero. Cynical and smart-mouthed, but not with demonstrable darkness.
trained in the Jedi Temple from when they were “younglings.” It’s like the telephone game; people in a circle whisper to each other in turn the same phrase, but it often ends up changed by the time it has gone through multiple mouths and ears. In fact, for a real-world example, consider once again those Shaolin monks. Following the great cultural and political upheavals in China throughout the 20th century, and especially the intentional destruction of its records and disruption of its practices during the Cultural Revolution, modern-day Shaolin monks have had to reconstruct and resurrect their teachings and then pass them on to their students. The wuxia influence is there, after all, in Star Wars, whether or not it gets its due among fans and critics. And ultimately, recognizing wuxia’s role is an end in itself, because Lucas made of it his own story, his own creation. For all of the similarities in themes between Star Wars and some of the classic wuxia stories, Lucas’ epic is definitely American. You can identify it by its romantic optimism; though our heroes are tried by extreme circumstances and must face Darth Vader and even the evil Emperor Palpatine himself, they do win in the end. The empire is destroyed and a new era of republican freedom is established. But the tale of the Condor Heroes doesn’t
end with evil being banished and the proper rulers being restored to the country. That’s because for all of the fantastical elements of this and other wuxia, they are set in very real historical eras and played out against real historical events. Guo Jing can’t restore native Chinese rulers to the throne, because in real life the descendants of Ghengis Khan and his fellow conquerors continued to rule China for some time. Compared to Western religions (and protestant Christianity, in particular), Eastern philosophies have less of a goodvs-evil dualism, probably inculcated by that experience of centuries-long disappointment. Characters are likely to display an array of behavior from good to bad; even many of the worst villains are occasionally moved to commit acts of mercy and friendship; even the heroes are tempted into doing wrong. Photos, left to right: Instead of horseback or on foot, the warriors and monks of the Star Wars saga travel in ships, such as these models of a TIE fighter and an X-Wing; Star Wars the Complete Saga allows viewers to watch both trilogies and compare differences in style and possible influences; George Lucas, one of the most successful filmmakers in history; Jin Yong’s The Deer and the Cauldron appeared in 1969.
For the Western side of that, we see the ongoing controversy of whether or not Han Solo shot Greedo before Greedo fired his weapon. Lucas has gone to pains to make it clear that his heroic bad-boy shot second; many fans disagree. But Lucas appears to be ensuring that Solo is seen as the pure-good hero. Cynical and smart-mouthed, yes; but not with demonstrable darkness. But for the final echo of wuxia influence, the entire series ends with Anakin Skywalker renouncing his evil ways and symbolically rejoining the Jedi in the afterlife. He was good, he became bad, he returned to goodness. Presumably, his evil days are behind him. See for Yourself Fans who love the adventure and fantasy—not to mention the morality and mythology—of Star Wars might well find much to enjoy in wuxia stories. If you can reach Chinese, you’re really in luck. Any large city is likely to have a Chinese shopping district selling wuxia in large quantities. Many more of these tales are making their way to American shores in the form of movies and Chinese television serials than they are as books, but English-language versions of wuxia novels can be found on Amazon.com, bn.com, G eBay, and yesasia.com. weimar.ws Galaxis
Star Wars in New Media In the past year, Lucasfilm has released all of the Wars films on Blu-ray and has begun unleashing them in 3-D. By John Zipperer
hen Star Wars: A New Hope premiered in 1977, it played seemingly forever in the cinemas. Other than some film clips that fans could purchase by mail order in the back pages of Fantastic Films, there was no other way to view the film until it premiered on network television in the 1980s. Eventually, video cassettes and DVDs followed. In the seriesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; fourth decade of existence, we are now in the middle of another wave of Star Wars releases, with all six of the films in the series getting high-quality releases in Blu-ray disk, and Lucasfilm has already converted The Phantom Menace to 3-D and released it in theaters. With second and third and fourth generations discovering these films, we can guarantee that this wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be the final wave of Star Wars presentations. So while you melt your credit card buying your tickets and disks of these re-releases, here are our liner notes, if you will, for your enjoyment (or re-enjoyment) of these films in each of their new forms. 34
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DROID FAN PHOTO BY droid photo by Wikimedia Commons user: Piotrus; Christensen PHOTO BY Marco Kraus at the German language Wikipedia; McGregor photo by Georges Biard; Portman photo by Josh Jensen
Episode I: The Phantom Menace In the first film in the chronology, though of course the fourth film in order of production and release, writer and director George Lucas introduces much more of an Asian flavor to the character designs. Though the capital city of Naboo might be renaissance Italianesque, Queen Amidala’s costumes and hair sometimes look like they were borrowed from the queen in the film The Sword with No Name: beautiful, outrageous, and colorful. There are many reasons to watch this movie carefully, even if you are part of that segment of fandom that was disappointed in the film. First, look for echoes and foreshadowing of the final three films (A New Hope through Return of the Jedi). Second, try to watch this film not as you likely are—an adult who grew up with the Wars films—but as the child for whom Lucas actually made them. In the final three films, the spaceships and technology are old, battered, used. But The Phantom Menace shows us what the republic’s ships and gadgets were like when they were newer. With this and with some of the political machinations in Menace, Lucas is filling in some of the background that was only alluded to in the films he released starting in 1977. This is his chance to show not just how evil the empire is, but what the promise was of the republic that was destroyed by the ambitions of the Sith. You can hate Jar Jar Binks all you want; but there’s a lot more to this seemingly simple film than that one character. First and foremost, of course, this is the film that introduces us to young Anakin Skywalker, an innocent slave on Tatooine. He is as far away from the evil Darth Vader as it is possible to be, something that we should remember when watching Return of the Jedi. “I have a bad feeling about this.” –Obi Wan Kenobi to Qui-Gon Jinn, discussing their mission to the Trade Federation ship above Naboo
Above: Hayden Christensen attended the Berlin premiere of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in May 2005. Below: Ewan McGregor, portrayer of the young Obi Wan Kenobi, attends the Cannes film festival. Bottom: Natalie Portman, seen here at the premiere of Black Swan in 2010, made her Padmé Amidala a believable mother to the feisty Princess Leia.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones This second film in the series seemed to draw the ire of fans who already had been irritated by Jar-Jar and little Anakin from the first film, but such critics should calm down. Jar-Jar is barely in Attack of the Clones, Anakin is grown up and angry, and this film ends with the best 30 minutes of nonstop science-fiction action in memory. Attack also gives us an important glimpse into the character of Padme, who—despite her official duties as an officeholder—finds herself sharing some of Anakin’s anti-democratic vitriol. We know that in the next film she refuses to follow Anakin when he takes those ideas to their dark conclusions, but Lucas is also giving us a fictionalized look at the messy soup that is society and democracy, in which people make complicated decisions—as in their “aggressive diplomacy”—and other things spiral out of control. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” –Anakin Skywalker, as the beasts close in for the attack on Geonosis Episode III: Revenge of the Sith In this darkest of the six movies, we don’t just get hints of Anakin’s susceptibility to the dark side; we watch him literally join the Sith and become Darth Vader in name and garb. Like A New Hope, Revenge begins with a battle in space above a planet. Unlike A New Hope, Revenge is a complicated storyline, tying up the threads of the first two movies and trying to get them to match up with the final three. In what is arguably the best of the episodes I-III, Revenge takes us through Anakin’s final alienation from the Jedi Council, the unveiling of Palpatine’s Sith lordship, and Anakin’s final evolution into Darth Vader and a Sith menace. Moreso than any of the other films, Revenge also helps illustrate the galaxy-wide span of the republic and the new empire. Scenes long and short take place on many weimar.ws Galaxis
their blinders and admit that A New Hope has its share of laugh-inducing line readings—“But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!” This film introduces us to a cast of characters who come together (and in some cases are literally thrown together) to take on a seemingly impossible task: Confront the powerful galactic empire. Perhaps writer/director Lucas’ greatest accomplishment was making a $10 million movie that suggested so much complex history and cultural depth while really showing not all that much. He doesn’t need to explain what the Kessel run is to have it add a whole other dimension to Han Solo’s spaceflight career (and to his role as a boaster). You know this film by heart: Space battle, dust planet, arm sliced off in cantina,
shares with The Godfather Part II the status of being that rare sequel that matches or surpasses its predecessor in quality. Numerous commentators have noted that the film is fairly standard plotting for the middle part of an epic. True. Our heroes find themselves separated, their victory from the first film forgotten as their enemies reassert themselves, forced to undergo more challenges while meeting some new faces, only to end with a cliffhanger. Frank Oz and all of the people on his crew who brought to life the character of Yoda created a whole new wonder. Had this key role not worked, the film would have been laughed out of theaters. But this pre-digital puppet comes across as a real character, a sympathetic and wise one, too, and the Oz team made it work.
was quite dark in some scenes. For example, when Yoda says good-bye to Chewbacca and whatsitsname and flees the Wookie homeworld. It is a dark film thematically, but it shouldn’t be televisionally. “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them. You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.” –Obi Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker during their fight on Mustafar “I have a bad feeling about this.” –Obi Wan Kenobi as he lands his fightercraft on the chancellor’s hijacked ship
escape in ship, Death Star, princess rescued, rescuers saved by princess, Obi Wan sorta killed, space battle, Death Star go boom. You know the story by heart, and yet it’s worth watching again to catch little missed details, to appreciate how it now fits into the six-film arc, to revel in the magic of it all, and to feel like a 10-yearold again. “I have a very bad feeling about this.” –Luke Skywalker, flying toward the Death Star “I have a bad feeling about this.” –Han Solo, in the trash compactor
Mark Hamill also deserves a lot of credit for making those Dagobah scenes effective. If he had acted like he didn’t believe the puppet was a real being, it would have been an embarrassment. It was a triumph for Lucas, director Irwin Kershner, all of the actors. Even the non-moving actors—Hoth, Dagobah, the asteroid, and Bespin—entered science fiction lore as classic locations. “I have a bad feeling about this.” –Princess Leia, exploring the asteroid monster
Episode IV: A New Hope The movie that started it all really began the story in the middle. The film remains addictive more than 35 years after its release. Fans who love this movie but who complain about wooden acting or the occasional lame line reading in The Phantom Menace would do well to take off 36
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Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back From the very first frame to the last scene, Empire establishes itself as the gold standard of Star Wars films. Its deserved success rests not only on the undeniable fact that it was popular with fans of the previous film, though it was and is, but on the quality of the writing, acting, special effects, and direction. Because of all that, it
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Everything gets wrapped up in this final film of the series. Our heroes are reunited in the showdown with Jabba the Hutt, and they quickly move to launch the empireending (and series-ending) battle at Endor. If not as satisfying as its two immediate predecessors, Return does fittingly end the story of Anakin, Luke, Leia, Han Solo,
Hamill photo by Rob chandler; Fisher photo by matt klein; ford photo by Georges Biard; store photos: John zipperer
different worlds, sometimes just long enough to see the clone warriors carry out Order 66 by executing their Jedi leaders, sometimes for longer set pieces of politics or battle, such as Obi Wan Kenobi’s trip to Utapau to personally defeat General Grievous. As a result, we get exposed to more of what is supposedly a galaxy-wide civilization, and the movie’s designers must have had a field day creating the giant flower planet or the Wookie treehouses. On the other hand, with the exception of Coruscant, on which much of the movie takes place, none of the other planets are as fully realized as such settings as Bespin, Dagobah, Tatooine, or Endor, each of which hosted more extended sequences in the original trilogy. One note: The Blu-ray disk we viewed
R2D2, C3PO, and the rest. The Ewoks are the proof of what we wrote about Yoda in Empire, only they exemplify the opposite result. There’s nothing wrong in concept for the little furry forest creatures who befriend the rebels. But it is nearly impossible to suspend disbelief while watching them; they are clearly small actors in furry coats. Return’s story is probably the simplest of all of the Wars films. The reunited heroes launch their final assault on the emperor and the empire. The scenes on Dagobah and the exciting forest bike battle are fine diversions, but ultimately we want to see Luke Skywalker take on his nemeses, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. George Lucas surprised a lot of people when the prequels started coming out and he noted that the entire series has alPrevious page far left: Mark Hamill, seen in 2009, shot to stardom and fan-favorite status with his 1977 portrayal of the young Luke Skywalker in the first released Star Wars film. Center: Carrie Fisher played the kidnapped-princess character as a tough “I’ll do it myself” heroine. Right: Harrison Ford became a hero of two George Lucas film series. This page: Retail outlets went all-out to hype the blue-ray release of the Wars film series.
ways been about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Those of us who grew up with the original three films had always considered them to be Luke Skywalker’s story; that is perhaps why the prequels drew such a sustained booing from now-aging fans. But Lucas used those prequels to establish the groundwork for the final confrontations and final scenes of Return. We see that it has indeed all been about Anakin; his struggle with the Jedi Council and his friendship and rivalry with his teacher Obi Wan Kenobi bring a lot more meaning to that final scene with the spectral appearances of Yoda, Obi Wan, and Anakin at the Ewok celebration. It turns that scene from a happy-happy scene into a bittersweet reminder of Anakin’s past with Yoda and Obi Wan. Meanwhile, it is the younger generation that must achieve a better world—or galaxy—on the remains of the mess left to them by Anakin, Obi Wan, Yoda, Padme, and Palpatine. “I have a bad feeling about this.” –C3P0, entering Jabba’s palace “I have a really bad feeling about this.” –Han Solo, about to become Ewok G dinner weimar.ws Galaxis
Inside the anti-George Lucas crusade
Can You Hate By John Zipperer but also because they did not like his longawaited prequels. n the 2012 election year, controversial What are we to make of this phenomwriter Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged got enon of fans who hate the creator of the more attention than normal, thanks creation of which they claim to be fans? to the book’s many fans among the Tea A Facebook page called the “I Hate Party wing of the Republican Party. In George Lucas Club” didn’t gain traction, the mammoth novel, the world’s talented having only 33 “likes” as of this writing. movers and shakers go on strike, a result But the 2010 documentary film The Peoof interference from the government. ple vs. George Lucas was widely reviewed Filmmaker George Lucas, who describes himself as a longtime West Coast liberal and therefore has politics very far from Rand’s rabidly anti-government views, is nonetheless producing echoes of that book with his statement in early 2012 that he was retiring from the world of blockbuster films. His reason? Speaking of the Star Wars films, Lucas told The New York Times’ Bryan Curtis in January 2012, “Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” And yell at him they have. For more than a decade, Lucas has seen a portion of his fanbase go nuclear, mostly because they disagreed with his decisions to make changes to the original trilogy (such as showing Greedo shooting Han Solo first in the famous Star Wars cantina scene),
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and talked about (and its Facebook page has 4,524 “likes”). That film basically put Lucas on trial for his alleged crimes against the Star Wars franchise. The filmmakers have a sense of humor about their subject matter, but it is clear from some of the comments you’ll find distributed throughout the internet that not everyone finds a lighter side to the controversy. Some fans, in fact, get quite worked up
about whether or not Lucas should have made any changes to the films (especially A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back) that have entertained them so much. One “fan” wrote in response to George Lucas’ retirement announcement, “Waaaaaaah! Go cry over it ya millionaire. I blame you for crushing my faith in humanity.” In the words of another, “Thank God! George Lucas is an arrogant, no talent hack.” Yet another wrote, in an online comment probably getting to the heart of most of the Lucas-
hating, “It’s time to release the original Star Wars edits. Then we stop hating you.” Joseph Devon wrote on his self-titled website “I think I hate George Lucas because the prequels manage to make THE ENTIRE FIRST THREE MOVIES MAKE NO SENSE [sic]. Obie-Wan ages forty years in the time it takes Luke to grow into a teenager. Chewbacca, who fought at Yoda’s side during the Clone Wars (apparently), never once pipes up with the slightest bit of information.” In 2005, a blogger named “Aaron B” at bycommonconsent.com welcomed the upcoming release of Episode III with a plea for his read-
ers: “I think it’s time we all release our collective, pent-up angst at George Lucas for how he’s ruined the Star Wars experience.” He then goes on to catalog a number of relatively minor quibbles about the films that really, really bothered him. Aaron B. also makes the bizarre comment that Lucas is Mormon, when Lucas is in fact well known to have been raised Methodist and to consider himself today some sort of Methodist-Buddhist hybrid. On Yahoo’s Answers, someone by the name of “Comrade Good Looking” lists Lucas’ sins: “1. He’s generally reported to be an absolute jerk to fans at autograph signings and such. 2. He made the prequels and they’re terrible in comparison to the original classics. 3. Frequent updates to the Star Wars franchise are pointless. ... New effects have been added and contribute nothing to [continued on page 44]
background photo by: R. Kennicutt (Steward Obs.) et al., SSC, JPL, Caltech, NASA; Falcon model photo by john zipperer; Lucas photo by nicolas genin from Paris, France
e the Creator?
Anothe Where and when will we find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? It might already have happened.
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Lots of Candidates Earth 2. Another Earth. Avatar. There are many science fiction stories that involve the discovery and usually the colonization of an Earth-like planet. In films, for simplicity’s sake, the planets usually have perfectly breathable air so the pretty actors don’t have to clomp around in bulky environment suits throughout the movie. And if the planets all tend to look like they were filmed in the same green forests of Western California, that’s not a surprise, either. Once again, however, reality is catching up with science fiction, and the reality is more dramatic—and the special effects more spect a c u l ar— t han the Hollywood version. Carnegie Institution for At first and for Science’s Alan Boss millennia, there was widespread doubt that other planets even existed near other stars, much less that we would find them. With better understanding of the universe and the perfection of telescopes of many kinds, people learned that there were countless billions of stars and logically concluded that at least some of them had to have planets. Then in the 21st century, the discovery of extra-solar planets began to be announced, initially just one here or there
photo: STEVEN FROMTLING
n October 2011, when scientists announced the discovery of a planet with two suns, nearly every news organization reported it as a Star Wars moment come to life, as if Luke Skywalker’s homeworld of Tatooine is the only fictional tale set on a world with two suns. Clearly, the reporters were all lazily copying from the same press line they were fed. But scientific reality was moving faster than the writers’ ability to find allusions in Wikipedia. Just two months later, astronomers using the Kepler space telescope confirmed a planet (called Kepler 22-b) that is considered “Earth-like” and a possible candidate for holding life. That’s because it lies in the so-called “habitable zone” around a star; not too far away from its star to be warmed by it, and not so close that it is baked to a crisp. As the BBC noted, the planet “lies 15 percent closer to its sun than the Earth is to our Sun, and its year takes about 290 days. However, the planet’s host star puts out about 25 percent less light, keeping the planet at its balmy temperature that would support the existence of liquid water.” On the other hand, as the BBC noted, it is not yet known if Kepler 22-b is made of rock, gas, or liquid. If Kepler 22-b turns out not to pass all of the tests that would make it a likely candidate, there are dozens of other planets that have been discovered in habitable zones around their stars, and at least ten of them, like Kepler 22-b, are Earth-sized. Carnegie Institution for Science astronomer Alan Boss, part of the team that announced the discovery of Kepler 22-b, said, “This discovery supports the growing belief that we live in a universe crowded
with life.... Kepler is on the verge of determining the actual abundance of habitable, Earth-like planets in our galaxy.”
Earth photos: ESA. image by P. Carril
By John Zipperer
er r Earth
PHOTO: EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY; IMAGE: ESA & NASA
but soon by the dozens and hundreds. These were large gas giants, big enough to be “seen” (actually, for their existence and mass to be interpolated from observing their gravitational effects on their stars as they orbited them) but clearly not capable of supporting any sort of life as we know it. And now, just in the past couple years, our search for planets that might in some important ways resemble our own has succeeded with multiple discoveries. The Planetary Neighborhood In February 2012, the Christian Science Monitor’s Pete Spotts explored the question of what scientists look for when seeking planets that might hold life. He presented five key factors, drawing on the work of Washington State University’s Dirk Schulze-Makuch: First: Is the planet similar to Earth? This takes into account the planet’s mass, radius, temperature, and other measurements to determine if the body can retain an atmosphere. Second: If it’s not like Earth according to those measurements, are there other considerations that make it possible to resemble Earth? Third: What energy sources are available to the planet? Fourth: What kind of chemistry takes place, and is it carbon- or silicon-based? Fifth: What liquids are available? Astronomer Jill Tarter, who retired in 2012 from her long-time post as director for the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, told an audience in 2010 that scientists are dramatically expanding the number of stars they examine for possible signs of intelligent life. At SETI, “in the last 10 years, we’ve looked at 1,000 stars, out to 150 light years,” she told San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. “The Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years, so [we’ve studied] 1 percent of the galaxy.” With the institute’s Allen Telescope Array and other new tools, “over the next couple of decades, we can look at somewhere between 10 and 100 million individual stars that are targeted, and we will also make surveys of special directions, such as toward the gaweimar.ws Galaxis
lactic center, where there are a whole lot of improved to the point where we could stars in our beam.” find planets that were small enough to be Her comment about searching to- Earth-like, but they were located outside ward the galactic center might seem odd the habitable zone. Finally—and the cause to people who know it as of the excitement today—we a crowded and dangerous began to find planets that place, one dominated by a were Earth-like in makeup massive black hole at its core. and location. But new research from the One of the first promisHarvard-Smithsonian Cening discoveries was the Septer for Astrophysics suggests tember 2011 announcement that planets can form even in that astronomers using the that dangerous neighborEuropean Southern Obserhood; they base their claim vatory’s HARPS technolon the discovery of the reogy had discovered 50 new mains of planet-forming maplanets outside our star systerial around a star there. tem; 16 of them were “superSo even though we are now Astronomer Jill Tarter, Earths”—and one of those was of the SETI Institute experiencing a vast increase in in the habitable zone. HARPS the number of possibilities, we measures the radial velocity of are likely to see those possibilities increase a star and is precise enough to detect an exponentially more in future years and orbiting planet’s tug on the star itself as it decades. As new and improved telescopes orbits. “This is the lowest-mass confirmed came online, the planet hunters are catch- planet discovered by the radial velocity ing the scent of more and more planets that method that potentially lies in the habitare the same general type as Earth. able zone of its star, and the second lowThe first planets that could be spotted mass planet discovered by HARPS inside (or whose existence could be extrapolated the habitable zone,” adds Lisa Kaltenegger, from the evidence of their stars’ behavior) an expert on habitable planets who works were necessarily large ones. Those first at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy gas giants were not obvious candidates in Heidelberg, Germany, and at the Harfor life. Then our observation techniques vard Smithsonian Center for Astrophys42
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ics, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Several months later, in December 2011, NASA announced that its Kepler mission had found five planets around their star, which, like our own, is a G-type class star. Out of the five, two—Kepler-20e and Kepler 20f—are Earth-sized and are roughly the same distance from their star that Mercury is from our sun. “In the cosmic game of hide and seek, finding planets with just the right size and just the right temperature seems only a matter of time,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team leader and a professor of astronomy and physics at San Jose State University. “We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler’s most anticipated discoveries are still to come.” In February 2012, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of a large watery planet about 2.7 times the diameter of Earth. Dubbed GJ1214b, the planet drew attention because it was not primarily made up of rock, gas, or the other expected materials. Instead, “a huge fraction of its mass is made up of water,” said Zachory Berta, a Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer. We can now expect to find amazing planets on a regular basis, so a water planet shouldn’t shock anybody. We should only be surprised that the journalists didn’t all refer to
TARTER PHOTO COURTESY JILL TARTER; planet IMAGE: NASA/AMES/JPL-CALTECH
LIVING IN THE HABITABLE ZONE This artist’s conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It is the first planet that NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed to orbit in a star’s habitable zone -- the region around a star where liquid water, a requirement for life on Earth, could persist. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth, making it the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star like our sun. Scientists do not yet know if the planet has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition. It’s possible that the world would have clouds in its atmosphere, as depicted here in the artist’s interpretation.
Earth-class Planets Line Up This chart compares the first Earth-size planets found around a sun-like star to planets in our own solar system, Earth and Venus. NASA’s Kepler mission discovered Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f. Kepler-20e (above far left) is slightly smaller than Venus with a radius .87 times that of Earth. Kepler-20f (above far right) is a bit larger than Earth at 1.03 times the radius of Earth. Venus is very similar in size to Earth, with a radius of .95
the planet Kamino from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. In April 2012, planet Gliese 667Cc was announced. It lies within the habitable zone around its red dwarf star. Located 22 light years from Earth, Gliese is about 4.5 times the mass of our planet and receives about the same amount of light energy from its star as good ol’ Earth does from Sol, which means water could be liquid, and where there’s liquid water, there’s often cheap waterparks created by whatever local species have developed intelligence and commercial real estate. The march of research continues to bring us closer and closer to the point at which there will be so many planets with the right components found within habitable zones that it would take the greatest stretch of the imagination to believe that absolutely none of them could have created life, as happened here on Earth. The Planets We Want What kind of planet would we like to find? There could be lots of different answers to this, depending on one’s own preferences. But here are the two key things that would make Earthlings’ hearts beat faster: a planet that is capable of sustaining human life, such as a new colony from Earth; and a planet that already has life – with extra
times that of our planet. According to NASA, before this discovery, the smallest known planet orbiting a sun-like star was Kepler-10b with a radius of 1.42 that of Earth and 2.9 times the volume. Both Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f orbit close to their star, called Kepler-20, with orbital periods of 6.1 and 19.6 days, respectively. Astronomers say the two little planets are rocky like Earth but with scorching temperatures.
points if it is intelligent life. A planet that is capable of sustaining human life probably already has life on it, otherwise it likely wouldn’t have an atmosphere with refreshing oxygen or land covered in edible plants or farmable land. That is a moral quandary and a near necessity at the same time. First, will our presence introduce diseases that could kill off existing life, and will our presence forestall or prevent the development of indigenous intelligent life? Second, if we intend to colonize another planet with any hope of it being self-sustaining for the long term, then it will need to grow crops and support an expanding and robust population of humans. The tactic that humanity takes when selecting and settling an Earth-like planet (or making contact with intelligent life that already exists there) will depend on the state of humanity at the time that it makes the discovery. Scientists and many science fiction writers have optimistically assumed that humanity will have shed its worst behavior by the time it makes the advancement to interstellar travel. But is that a logical expectation? When nations first made the incredibly risky and expensive attempts to sail the oceans and reach other shores, they had not overcome such basic human instincts as violence, greed, racism, and xenophobia.
Those nations made many horrific mistakes and committed many crimes, too. They committed genocide and stole land from other peoples; they murdered people who stood in their way, and they pillaged other countries and continents of their precious metals. They were hardly enlightened travelers. Is it too pessimistic to point out such things? We would rather be realistic and come up with ways to reduce such instincts. In fact, coming up with the public policies and personal philosophies to deal with such things requires that people see the problems for what they really are, instead of just relying on fantastic assumptions that things will take care of themselves. It’s the difference between believing in magic or believing in the Enlightenment. SETI’s Tarter says that her organization already has a plan for what to do if it discovers signs of intelligent life. It involves confirming it with other scientists who can independently observe the same thing. Then there will be the expected press conferences and public education. And then, how do we make contact? Tarter laughed at the question. She is the real-life model of the lead character in Carl Sagan’s book Contact, portrayed by Jodie Foster in the 1997 movie. Maybe the answer lies on the big screen after all. G weimar.ws Galaxis
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Hate the Creator?
[continued from page 39] the story. 4. He’s selling out on the Star Wars brand name too much. Instead, he should be focusing on making new, original films. It appears as though he’s more interested in money than he is making art.” And on and on. You will find plenty of Lucas defenders as well as some betterspoken critics on those same websites, but the agenda is clearly being driven by the hardcore Lucas-haters. Part of the problem is a misunderstanding, and part of it is poor manners that have just become more obvious in the online world. First, as Lucas noted in the Times article, his first two films were manhandled by the studios after he was done with them, and he committed himself to ensuring he could have the final touch on future films. After all, fans make their own mashups of his works, but what goes out there with his name on it is going to reflect his work. You might not like it, but they are his films. Second, much of the commentary in online reaction posts and blogs is no more thought out and considered (not to mention considerate) than what people used to mutter to their pals as they watched movies at the theater or in their living rooms, or what they said between beers at their local pub. People have mostly acclimated themselves to the new online world in their ability to find the news and entertainment they desire, but they haven’t adjusted the intrinsically higher level of trust they give to a comment read online just as they would give to something spoken by a newscaster or a magazine reporter whose words have been thoroughly edited. Perhaps the worst stuff you will find online is in comment posts where the writer can remain anonymous; the lack of identifiability serves for some people as a license to treat others in insulting and abusive ways. But even in blogs and other platforms where the writer is identified, there is still a great deal of hyperbole, and Lucas is targeted with as much venom as if he’d personally piloted one of the planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11. The Lucas haters might grow out of their hatred just as they grew into it. Aaron B. concludes his bycommonconsent.com article, “I really loved the Star Wars films as a kid. Really I did. 95% of my daydreaming (which is to say, 90% of my total awake time) revolved around them, along with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.” George Lucas is competing against the childhood dreams fondly remembered by disillusioned adults. It’s a losing battle. G
A Martian Odyssey This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net; PHOTO: NASA
FICTI O N By Stanley Grauman Weinbaum Writer Stanley Weinbaum (1902-1935) had only a short career in science fiction before he died way too young. But “A Martian Odyssey” has achieved classic status for its then-revolutionary portrayal of a non-bug-eyed-monster as the alien. This story, long in the public domain, is presented here courtesy of Project Gutenberg to rekindle interest in this forgotten writer.
arvis stretched himself as luxuriously as he could in the cramped general quarters of the Ares. “Air you can breathe!” he exulted. “It feels as thick as soup after the thin stuff out there!” He nodded at the Martian landscape stretching flat and desolate in the light of the nearer moon, beyond the glass of the port. The other three stared at him sympathetically—Putz, the engineer, Leroy, the biologist, and Harrison, the astronomer and captain of the expedition. Dick Jarvis was chemist of the famous crew, the Ares expedition, first human beings to set foot on the mysterious neighbor of the earth, the planet Mars. This, of course, was in the old days, less than twenty years after the mad American Doheny perfected the atomic blast at
the cost of his life, and only a decade after the equally mad Cardoza rode on it to the moon. They were true pioneers, these four of the Ares. Except for a half-dozen moon expeditions and the ill-fated de Lancey flight aimed at the seductive orb of Venus, they were the first men to feel other gravity than earth’s, and certainly the first successful crew to leave the earth-moon system. And they deserved that success when one considers the difficulties and discomforts— the months spent in acclimatization chambers back on earth, learning to breathe the air as tenuous as that of Mars, the challenging of the void in the tiny rocket driven by the cranky reaction motors of the twentyfirst century, and mostly the facing of an absolutely unknown world. Jarvis stretched and fingered the raw and peeling tip of his frost-bitten nose. He sighed again contentedly. “Well,” exploded Harrison abruptly, “are
“Ten miles with the blast coming right out of the bottom of the ship and I’d have melted the floor from under me!”
we going to hear what happened? You set out all shipshape in an auxiliary rocket, we don’t get a peep for ten days, and finally Putz here picks you out of a lunatic ant-heap with a freak ostrich as your pal! Spill it, man!” “Speel?” queried Leroy perplexedly. “Speel what?” “He means ‘spiel’,” explained Putz soberly. “It iss to tell.” Jarvis met Harrison’s amused glance without the shadow of a smile. “That’s right, Karl,” he said in grave agreement with Putz. “Ich spiel es!” He grunted comfortably and began. “According to orders,” he said, “I watched Karl here take off toward the North, and then I got into my flying sweat-box and headed South. You’ll remember, Cap—we had orders not to land, but just scout about for points of interest. I set the two cameras clicking and buzzed along, riding pretty high—about two thousand feet—for a couple of reasons. “First, it gave the cameras a greater field, and second, the under-jets travel so far in this half-vacuum they call air here that they stir up dust if you move low.” “We know all that from Putz,” grunted Harrison. “I wish you’d saved the films, though. They’d have paid the cost of this junket; remember how the public mobbed the first moon pictures?” “The films are safe,” retorted Jarvis. “Well,” he resumed, “as I said, I buzzed along at a pretty good clip; just as we figured, the wings haven’t much lift in this air at less than a hundred miles per hour, and even then I had to use the under-jets. “So, with the speed and the altitude and the blurring caused by the under-jets, the seeing wasn’t any too good. I could see enough, though, to distinguish that what I sailed over was just more of this grey plain that we’d been examining the whole week since our landing—same blobby growths and the same eternal carpet of crawling little plant-animals, or biopods, as Leroy calls them. So I sailed along, calling back my position every hour as instructed, and not knowing whether you heard me.” 46
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“I did!” snapped Harrison. “A hundred and fifty miles south,” continued Jarvis imperturbably, “the surface changed to a sort of low plateau, nothing but desert and orange-tinted sand. I figured that we were right in our guess, then, and this grey plain we dropped on was really the Mare Cimmerium, which would make my orange desert the region called Xanthus. If I were right, I ought to hit another grey plain, the Mare Chronium in another couple of hundred miles, and then another orange desert, Thyle I or II. And so I did.” “Putz verified our position a week and a half ago!” grumbled the captain. “Let’s get to the point.” “Coming!” remarked Jarvis. “Twenty miles into Thyle—believe it or not—I crossed a canal!” “Putz photographed a hundred! Let’s hear something new!” “And did he also see a city?” “Twenty of ‘em, if you call those heaps of mud cities!” “Well,” observed Jarvis, “from here on I’ll be telling a few things Putz didn’t see!” He rubbed his tingling nose, and continued. “I knew that I had sixteen hours of daylight at this season, so eight hours— eight hundred miles—from here, I decided to turn back. I was still over Thyle, whether I or II I’m not sure, not more than twenty-five miles into it. And right there, Putz’s pet motor quit!” “Quit? How?” Putz was solicitous. “The atomic blast got weak. I started losing altitude right away, and suddenly there I was with a thump right in the middle of Thyle! Smashed my nose on the window, too!” He rubbed the injured member ruefully. “Did you maybe try vashing der combustion chamber mit acid sulphuric?” inquired Putz. “Sometimes der lead giffs a secondary radiation—” “Naw!” said Jarvis disgustedly. “I wouldn’t try that, of course—not more than ten times! Besides, the bump flattened the landing gear and busted off the under-jets. Suppose I got the thing work-
ing—what then? “Ten miles with the blast coming right out of the bottom and I’d have melted the floor from under me!” He rubbed his nose again. “Lucky for me a pound only weighs seven ounces here, or I’d have been mashed flat!” “I could have fixed!” ejaculated the engineer. “I bet it vas not serious.” “Probably not,” agreed Jarvis sarcastically. “Only it wouldn’t fly. Nothing serious, but I had my choice of waiting to be picked up or trying to walk back—eight hundred miles, and perhaps twenty days before we had to leave! Forty miles a day! Well,” he concluded, “I chose to walk. Just as much chance of being picked up, and it kept me busy.” “We’d have found you,” said Harrison. “No doubt. Anyway, I rigged up a harness from some seat straps, and put the water tank on my back, took a cartridge belt and revolver, and some iron rations, and started out.” “Water tank!” exclaimed the little biologist, Leroy. “She weigh one-quarter ton!” “Wasn’t full. Weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds earth-weight, which is eighty-five here. Then, besides, my own personal two hundred and ten pounds is only seventy on Mars, so, tank and all, I grossed 155, or 55 pounds less than my everyday earth-weight. I figured on that when I undertook the forty-mile daily stroll. Oh—of course I took a thermo-skin sleeping bag for these wintry Martian nights. “Off I went, bouncing along pretty quickly. Eight hours of daylight meant twenty miles or more. It got tiresome, of course—plugging along over a soft sand desert with nothing to see, not even Leroy’s crawling biopods. But an hour or so brought me to the canal—just a dry ditch about 400 feet wide, and straight as a railroad on its own company map. “There’d been water in it sometime, though. The ditch was covered with what looked like a nice green lawn. Only, as I approached, the lawn moved out of my way!”
“The bird-like thing was putting up a good battle, dealing vicious blows with an eighteen-inch beak, between screeches.”
“Eh?” said Leroy. “Yeah, it was a relative of your biopods. I caught one—a little grass-like blade about as long as my finger, with two thin, stemmy legs.” “He is where?” Leroy was eager. “He is let go! I had to move, so I plowed along with the walking grass opening in front and closing behind. And then I was out on the orange desert of Thyle again. “I plugged steadily along, cussing the sand that made going so tiresome, and, incidentally, cussing that cranky motor of yours, Karl. It was just before twilight that I reached the edge of Thyle, and looked down over the gray Mare Chronium. And I knew there was seventy-five miles of that to be walked over, and then a couple of hundred miles of that Xanthus desert, and about as much more Mare Cimmerium. Was I pleased? I started cussing you fellows for not picking me up!” “We were trying, you sap!” said Harrison. “That didn’t help. Well, I figured I might as well use what was left of daylight in getting down the cliff that bounded Thyle. I found an easy place, and down I went. Mare Chronium was just the same sort of place as this—crazy leafless plants and a bunch of crawlers; I gave it a glance and hauled out my sleeping bag. Up to that time, you know, I hadn’t seen anything worth worrying about on this half-dead world—nothing dangerous, that is.” “Did you?” queried Harrison. “Did I! You’ll hear about it when I come to it. Well, I was just about to turn in when suddenly I heard the wildest sort of shenanigans!” “Vot iss shenanigans?” inquired Putz. “He says, ‘Je ne sais quoi,’” explained Leroy. “It is to say, ‘I don’t know what.’” “That’s right,” agreed Jarvis. “I didn’t know what, so I sneaked over to find out. There was a racket like a flock of crows eating a bunch of canaries—whistles, cackles, caws, trills, and what have you. I rounded a clump of stumps, and there was Tweel!” “Tweel?” said Harrison, and “Tveel?”
said Leroy and Putz. “That freak ostrich,” explained the narrator. “At least, Tweel is as near as I can pronounce it without sputtering. He called it something like ‘Trrrweerrlll.’” “What was he doing?” asked the Captain. “He was being eaten! And squealing, of course, as any one would.”
aten! By what?” “I found out later. All I could see then was a bunch of black ropy arms tangled around what looked like, as Putz described it to you, an ostrich. I wasn’t going to interfere, naturally; if both creatures were dangerous, I’d have one less to worry about. “But the bird-like thing was putting up a good battle, dealing vicious blows with an eighteen-inch beak, between screeches. And besides, I caught a glimpse or two of what was on the end of those arms!” Jarvis shuddered. “But the clincher was when I noticed a little black bag or case hung about the neck of the bird-thing! It was intelligent! That or tame, I assumed. Anyway, it clinched my decision. I pulled out my automatic and fired into what I could see of its antagonist. “There was a flurry of tentacles and a spurt of black corruption, and then the thing, with a disgusting sucking noise, pulled itself and its arms into a hole in the ground. The other let out a series of clacks, staggered around on legs about as thick as golf sticks, and turned suddenly to face me. I held my weapon ready, and the two of us stared at each other. “The Martian wasn’t a bird, really. It wasn’t even bird-like, except just at first glance. It had a beak all right, and a few feathery appendages, but the beak wasn’t really a beak. It was somewhat flexible; I could see the tip bend slowly from side to side; it was almost like a cross between a beak and a trunk. It had four-toed feet, and four fingered things—hands, you’d have to call them, and a little roundish body, and a long neck ending in a tiny head—and that beak. It stood an inch or
so taller than I, and—well, Putz saw it!” The engineer nodded. “Ja! I saw!” Jarvis continued. “So—we stared at each other. Finally the creature went into a series of clackings and twitterings and held out its hands toward me, empty. I took that as a gesture of friendship.” “Perhaps,” suggested Harrison, “it looked at that nose of yours and thought you were its brother!” “Huh! You can be funny without talking! Anyway, I put up my gun and said ‘Aw, don’t mention it,’ or something of the sort, and the thing came over and we were pals. “By that time, the sun was pretty low and I knew that I’d better build a fire or get into my thermo-skin. I decided on the fire. I picked a spot at the base of the Thyle cliff, where the rock could reflect a little heat on my back. I started breaking off chunks of this desiccated Martian vegetation, and my companion caught the idea and brought in an armful. I reached for a match, but the Martian fished into his pouch and brought out something that looked like a glowing coal; one touch of it, and the fire was blazing—and you all know what a job we have starting a fire in this atmosphere! “And that bag of his!” continued the narrator. “That was a manufactured article, my friends; press an end and she popped open—press the middle and she sealed so perfectly you couldn’t see the line. Better than zippers. “Well, we stared at the fire a while and I decided to attempt some sort of communication with the Martian. I pointed at myself and said ‘Dick’; he caught the drift immediately, stretched a bony claw at me and repeated ‘Tick.’ Then I pointed at him, and he gave that whistle I called Tweel; I can’t imitate his accent. Things were going smoothly; to emphasize the names, I repeated ‘Dick,’ and then, pointing at him, ‘Tweel.’ “There we stuck! He gave some clacks that sounded negative, and said something like ‘P-p-p-proot.’ And that was just the beginning; I was always ‘Tick,’ but as weimar.ws Galaxis
for him—part of the time he was ‘Tweel,’ and part of the time he was ‘P-p-p-proot,’ and part of the time he was sixteen other noises! “We just couldn’t connect. I tried ‘rock,’ and I tried ‘star,’ and ‘tree,’ and ‘fire,’ and Lord knows what else, and try as I would, I couldn’t get a single word! Nothing was the same for two successive minutes, and if that’s a language, I’m an alchemist! Finally I gave it up and called him Tweel, and that seemed to do. “But Tweel hung on to some of my words. He remembered a couple of them, which I suppose is a great achievement if you’re used to a language you have to make up as you go along. But I couldn’t get the hang of his talk; either I missed some subtle point or we just didn’t think alike—and I rather believe the latter view. “I’ve other reasons for believing that. After a while I gave up the language business, and tried mathematics. I scratched two plus two equals four on the ground, and demonstrated it with pebbles. Again Tweel caught the idea, and informed me that three plus three equals six. Once more we seemed to be getting somewhere. “So, knowing that Tweel had at least a grammar school education, I drew a circle for the sun, pointing first at it, and then at the last glow of the sun. Then I sketched in Mercury, and Venus, and Mother Earth, and Mars, and finally, pointing to Mars, I swept my hand around in a sort of inclusive gesture to indicate that Mars was our current environment. I was working up to putting over the idea that my home was on the earth. “Tweel understood my diagram all right. He poked his beak at it, and with a great deal of trilling and clucking, he added Deimos and Phobos to Mars, and then sketched in the earth’s moon! “Do you see what that proves? It proves that Tweel’s race uses telescopes—that they’re civilized!” “Does not!” snapped Harrison. “The moon is visible from here as a fifth magnitude star. They could see its revolution
with the naked eye.” “The moon, yes!” said Jarvis. “You’ve missed my point. Mercury isn’t visible! And Tweel knew of Mercury because he placed the Moon at the third planet, not the second. If he didn’t know Mercury, he’d put the earth second, and Mars third, instead of fourth! See?” “Humph!” said Harrison. “Anyway,” proceeded Jarvis, “I went on with my lesson. Things were going smoothly, and it looked as if I could put the idea over. I pointed at the earth on my diagram, and then at myself, and then, to clinch it, I pointed to myself and then to the earth itself shining bright green almost at the zenith. “Tweel set up such an excited clacking that I was certain he understood. He jumped up and down, and suddenly he pointed at himself and then at the sky, and then at himself and at the sky again. He pointed at his middle and then at Arcturus, at his head and then at Spica, at his feet and then at half a dozen stars, while I just gaped at him. Then, all of a sudden, he gave a tremendous leap. Man, what a hop! He shot straight up into the starlight, seventy-five feet if an inch! I saw him silhouetted against the sky, saw him turn and come down at me head first, and land smack on his beak like a javelin! There he stuck square in the center of my sun-circle in the sand—a bull’s eye!” “Nuts!” observed the captain. “Plain nuts!” “That’s what I thought, too! I just stared at him open-mouthed while he pulled his head out of the sand and stood up. Then I figured he’d missed my point, and I went through the whole blamed rigamarole again, and it ended the same way, with Tweel on his nose in the middle of my picture!” “Maybe it’s a religious rite,” suggested Harrison. “Maybe,” said Jarvis dubiously. “Well, there we were. We could exchange ideas up to a certain point, and then—blooey! Something in us was different, unrelated;
I don’t doubt that Tweel thought me just as screwy as I thought him. Our minds simply looked at the world from different viewpoints, and perhaps his viewpoint is as true as ours. But—we couldn’t get together, that’s all. Yet, in spite of all difficulties, I liked Tweel, and I have a queer certainty that he liked me.” “Nuts!” repeated the captain. “Just daffy!” “Yeah? Wait and see. A couple of times I’ve thought that perhaps we—” He paused, and then resumed his narrative. “Anyway, I finally gave it up, and got into my thermo-skin to sleep. The fire hadn’t kept me any too warm, but that damned sleeping bag did. Got stuffy five minutes after I closed myself in. I opened it a little and bingo! Some 80-below-zero air hit my nose, and that’s when I got this pleasant little frostbite to add to the bump I acquired during the crash of my rocket. “I don’t know what Tweel made of my sleeping. He sat around, but when I woke up, he was gone. I’d just crawled out of my bag, though, when I heard some twittering, and there he came, sailing down from that three-story Thyle cliff to alight on his beak beside me. I pointed to myself and toward the north, and he pointed at himself and toward the south, but when I loaded up and started away, he came along.
an, how he traveled! A hundred and fifty feet at a jump, sailing through the air stretched out like a spear, and landing on his beak. He seemed surprised at my plodding, but after a few moments he fell in beside me, only every few minutes he’d go into one of his leaps, and stick his nose into the sand a block ahead of me. Then he’d come shooting back at me; it made me nervous at first to see that beak of his coming at me like a spear, but he always ended in the sand at my side. “So the two of us plugged along across the Mare Chronium. Same sort of place
“We could exchange ideas up to a certain point, and then—blooey! Something in us was different; I don’t doubt that Tweel thought me just as screwy as I thought him.”
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as this—same crazy plants and same little green biopods growing in the sand, or crawling out of your way. We talked—not that we understood each other, you know, but just for company. I sang songs, and I suspect Tweel did too; at least, some of his trillings and twitterings had a subtle sort of rhythm. “Then, for variety, Tweel would display his smattering of English words. He’d point to an outcropping and say ‘rock,’ and point to a pebble and say it again; or he’d touch my arm and say ‘Tick,’ and then repeat it. He seemed terrifically amused that the same word meant the same thing twice in succession, or that the same word could apply to two different objects. It set me wondering if perhaps his language wasn’t like the primitive speech of some earth people—you know, Captain, like the Negritoes, for instance, who haven’t any generic words. No word for food or water or man—words for good food and bad food, or rain water and sea water, or strong man and weak man—but no names for general classes. They’re too primitive to understand that rain water and sea water are just different aspects of the same thing. But that wasn’t the case with Tweel; it was just that we were somehow mysteriously different—our minds were alien to each other. And yet—we liked each other!” “Looney, that’s all,” remarked Harrison. “That’s why you two were so fond of each other.” “Well, I like you!” countered Jarvis wickedly. “Anyway,” he resumed, “don’t get the idea that there was anything screwy about Tweel. In fact, I’m not so sure but that he couldn’t teach our highly praised human intelligence a trick or two. Oh, he wasn’t an intellectual superman, I guess; but don’t overlook the point that he managed to understand a little of my mental workings, and I never even got a glimmering of his.” “Because he didn’t have any!” suggested the captain, while Putz and Leroy blinked attentively. “You can judge of that when I’m
through,” said Jarvis. “Well, we plugged along across the Mare Chronium all that day, and all the next. Mare Chronium— Sea of Time! Say, I was willing to agree with Schiaparelli’s name by the end of that march! Just that grey, endless plain of weird plants, and never a sign of any other life. It was so monotonous that I was even glad to see the desert of Xanthus toward the evening of the second day. “I was fair worn out, but Tweel seemed as fresh as ever, for all I never saw him drink or eat. I think he could have crossed the Mare Chronium in a couple of hours with those block-long nose dives of his, but he stuck along with me. I offered him some water once or twice; he took the cup from me and sucked the liquid into his beak, and then carefully squirted it all back into the cup and gravely returned it. “Just as we sighted Xanthus, or the cliffs that bounded it, one of those nasty sand clouds blew along, not as bad as the one we had here, but mean to travel against. I pulled the transparent flap of my thermo-skin bag across my face and managed pretty well, and I noticed that Tweel used some feathery appendages growing like a mustache at the base of his beak to cover his nostrils, and some similar fuzz to shield his eyes.” “He is a desert creature!” ejaculated the little biologist, Leroy. “Huh? Why?” “He drink no water—he is adapt’ for sand storm—” “Proves nothing! There’s not enough water to waste anywhere on this desiccated pill called Mars. We’d call all of it desert on earth, you know.” He paused. “Anyway, after the sand storm blew over, a little wind kept blowing in our faces, not strong enough to stir the sand. But suddenly things came drifting along from the Xanthus cliffs—small, transparent spheres, for all the world like glass tennis balls! But light—they were almost light enough to float even in this thin air—empty, too; at least, I cracked open a couple and nothing came out but a bad smell. I asked Tweel
about them, but all he said was ‘No, no, no,’ which I took to mean that he knew nothing about them. So they went bouncing by like tumbleweeds, or like soap bubbles, and we plugged on toward Xanthus. Tweel pointed at one of the crystal balls once and said ‘rock,’ but I was too tired to argue with him. Later I discovered what he meant. “We came to the bottom of the Xanthus cliffs finally, when there wasn’t much daylight left. I decided to sleep on the plateau if possible; anything dangerous, I reasoned, would be more likely to prowl through the vegetation of the Mare Chronium than the sand of Xanthus. Not that I’d seen a single sign of menace, except the rope-armed black thing that had trapped Tweel, and apparently that didn’t prowl at all, but lured its victims within reach. It couldn’t lure me while I slept, especially as Tweel didn’t seem to sleep at all, but simply sat patiently around all night. I wondered how the creature had managed to trap Tweel, but there wasn’t any way of asking him. I found that out too, later; it’s devilish! “However, we were ambling around the base of the Xanthus barrier looking for an easy spot to climb. At least, I was. Tweel could have leaped it easily, for the cliffs were lower than Thyle—perhaps sixty feet. I found a place and started up, swearing at the water tank strapped to my back—it didn’t bother me except when climbing—and suddenly I heard a sound that I thought I recognized! “You know how deceptive sounds are in this thin air. A shot sounds like the pop of a cork. But this sound was the drone of a rocket, and sure enough, there went our second auxiliary about ten miles to westward, between me and the sunset!” “Vas me!” said Putz. “I hunt for you.” “Yeah; I knew that, but what good did it do me? I hung on to the cliff and yelled and waved with one hand. Tweel saw it too, and set up a trilling and twittering, leaping to the top of the barrier and then high into the air. And while I watched, the
“He wasn’t an intellectual superman, I guess; but don’t overlook the point that he managed to understand a little of my mental workings, and I never even got a glimmering of his.”
machine droned on into the shadows to the south. “I scrambled to the top of the cliff. Tweel was still pointing and trilling excitedly, shooting up toward the sky and coming down head-on to stick upside down on his beak in the sand. I pointed toward the south and at myself, and he said, ‘Yes— Yes—Yes’; but somehow I gathered that he thought the flying thing was a relative of mine, probably a parent. Perhaps I did his intellect an injustice; I think now that I did.
was bitterly disappointed by the failure to attract attention. I pulled out my thermo-skin bag and crawled into it, as the night chill was already apparent. Tweel stuck his beak into the sand and drew up his legs and arms and looked for all the world like one of those leafless shrubs out there. I think he stayed that way all night.” “Protective mimicry!” ejaculated Leroy. “See? He is desert creature!” “In the morning,” resumed Jarvis, “we started off again. We hadn’t gone a hundred yards into Xanthus when I saw something queer! This is one thing Putz didn’t photograph, I’ll wager! “There was a line of little pyramids— tiny ones, not more than six inches high, stretching across Xanthus as far as I could see! Little buildings made of pygmy bricks, they were, hollow inside and truncated, or at least broken at the top and empty. I pointed at them and said ‘What?’ to Tweel, but he gave some negative twitters to indicate, I suppose, that he didn’t know. So off we went, following the row of pyramids because they ran north, and I was going north. “Man, we trailed that line for hours! Af-
ter a while, I noticed another queer thing: they were getting larger. Same number of bricks in each one, but the bricks were larger. “By noon they were shoulder high. I looked into a couple—all just the same, broken at the top and empty. I examined a brick or two as well; they were silica, and old as creation itself!” “How you know?” asked Leroy. “They were weathered—edges rounded. Silica doesn’t weather easily even on earth, and in this climate—!” “How old you think?” “Fifty thousand—a hundred thousand years. How can I tell? The little ones we saw in the morning were older—perhaps ten times as old. “Crumbling. How old would that make them? Half a million years? Who knows?” Jarvis paused a moment. “Well,” he resumed, “we followed the line. Tweel pointed at them and said ‘rock’ once or twice, but he’d done that many times before. Besides, he was more or less right about these. “I tried questioning him. I pointed at a pyramid and asked ‘People?’ and indicated the two of us. He set up a negative sort of clucking and said, ‘No, no, no. No oneone-two. No two-two-four,’ meanwhile rubbing his stomach. I just stared at him and he went through the business again. ‘No one-one-two. No two-two-four.’ I just gaped at him.” “That proves it!” exclaimed Harrison. “Nuts!” “You think so?” queried Jarvis sardonically. “Well, I figured it out different! ‘No one-one-two!’ You don’t get it, of course, do you?” “Nope—nor do you!” “I think I do! Tweel was using the few
English words he knew to put over a very complex idea. What, let me ask, does mathematics make you think of?” “Why—of astronomy. Or—or logic!” “That’s it! ‘No one-one-two!’ Tweel was telling me that the builders of the pyramids weren’t people—or that they weren’t intelligent, that they weren’t reasoning creatures! Get it?” “Huh! I’ll be damned!” “You probably will.” “Why,” put in Leroy, “he rub his belly?” “Why? Because, my dear biologist, that’s where his brains are! Not in his tiny head—in his middle!” “C’est impossible!” “Not on Mars, it isn’t! This flora and fauna aren’t earthly; your biopods prove that!” Jarvis grinned and took up his narrative. “Anyway, we plugged along across Xanthus and in about the middle of the afternoon, something else queer happened. The pyramids ended.” “Ended!” “Yeah; the queer part was that the last one—and now they were ten-footers— was capped! See? Whatever built it was still inside; we’d trailed ‘em from their half-million-year-old origin to the present. “Tweel and I noticed it about the same time. I yanked out my automatic (I had a clip of Boland explosive bullets in it) and Tweel, quick as a sleight-of-hand trick, snapped a queer little glass revolver out of his bag. It was much like our weapons, except that the grip was larger to accommodate his four-taloned hand. And we held our weapons ready while we sneaked up along the lines of empty pyramids. G TO BE CONTINUED
“Tweel was telling me that the builders of the pyramids weren’t people—or that they weren’t intelligent, that they weren’t reasoning creatures! Get it?”
Galaxis December 2012
What’s new from the tech and toy worlds
Oodles of Google
photo: John Zipperer
hile discussing his recent book Physics of the Future, physicist Michio Kaku reported what he found in his visits to the world’s leading labs and his meetings with fellow top scientists to lift the lid on what we can expect in the future. In one section, he explained the near future of ubiquitous computing, when the chips leave our recognizable computers and get distributed in ultra-miniaturized form in ... everything. He told The Commonwealth Club of California in 2011 that “the Internet in the future—in the next 10 years—will be in your
glasses. Your glasses will have the ability to recognize people’s faces. So when you bump into somebody, you will no longer have to say, ‘Who is this person? It’s Jim, John, Jake – I know this person! Who is this person?’ Your glasses will say, ‘It’s Jim, stupid!’ And if your friend speaks Chinese, no problem; your glasses will translate Chinese into English as they speak. This is almost available today.” Not long after he made that speech and released his book, Google co-founder Sergey Brin showed off the Google Glass project (see photo, next page), which he heads up. Reaction to the glasses was a mixture of derision and astonishment. The wags claimed that no one would ever want to wear them; one suggested that people would have to choose between wearing the glasses and getting a date. The observers who were impressed— and we must admit, we’re included in this group— believed this was a bit of science fiction come to life; even if they were unfamiliar with Dr. Kaku’s pre dic t ion, they knew this was a dramatic advance in miniaturization and commercialization of the computer and the internet. Priced at about $1,500,
Google Glass will be out of the grasp of most people when it goes on sale in 2013. But it’s not $115,000, so it’s within some people’s grasp, and we suspect it’s groundbreaking enough that some people will want to have the internet on their glasses. Google Glass is a big gamble for the company, but if anyone can make a wearable computer that can translate languages, identify faces, tell you where you last met a certain person, and direct you to the nearest coffee shop, it’s Google. The future is being built there. Wrote Josh Constine on TechCrunch: “Google is the best positioned company to make, or at least provide the software, for eyeglass computers. It has Android, Google+, Maps, Gmail, Gcal, Latitude, and more. Glass might go belly up, but if not it could breathe life into some of these sluggish services. That’s why it’s ridiculous when people call Project Glass a diversion or waste of resources. Seems to me like Google’s vision is 20/20.” When Google issued its own self-branded tablet computer this past summer, it opted for a smaller size than the superpopular iPad, but it kept the price at a relatively low $199–$249. Considering how this new tablet, the Nexus 7, functions, the only reason we are sad about lacking a 10-inch version is that it would give us several more inches of great features and functionality. Nexus 7 is made to be a portable Google suite, the perfect hand-held machine for watching YouTube videos, reading and writing Gmail messages, catching up on news, listening to Google Play’s music, reading books, and even reading magazines such as Galaxis, as you can see in the image to the left. We have found our Nexus 7 to be a wonder of a well-designed computer. Google released the inevitable 10-inch version shortly before this issue went to press, so we did not have time to review it, but we’re confident that sooner or later we’ll burn another hole in our credit card to buy it. Most important, it suggests weimar.ws Galaxis
Worldly Things that Google’s operating system is mature enough to make us look forward to a desktop, big-screen version, so the next issue of Galaxis can be assembled on one. California Governor Jerry Brown was known during his first tour of duty in the governor’s mansion in the 1970s and 1980s as Governor Moonbeam, in honor of his ardent pro-space, future orientation. But in his current tenure, he is known more for his roll-up-the-sleeves, just-the-facts approach to solving the Golden State’s myriad problems. So when Gov. Brown visited Google’s headquarters to sign a new state law in September 2012, it must have caught his fancy enough to drag him away from the brutal budget fights that occupy most of his time. The bill made self-driving cars legal on the streets of California, as long as a human passenger is along for the ride. Google’s futuristic vehicles (see photo at right, bottom) have already been driven safely for more t han 300,000 miles. They have been touted as safer than driverled cars and a huge benefit to blind people or multitaskers. Or for that matter, anyone who can’t or won’t learn to drive. Now, we want Google to bring to market its science fictional glasses. Gov. Brown? Give them a nudge? Though this Worldly Things department generally focuses on technology devices and gadgets (and occasionally toys), we should mention another “go big” project of Google’s: Google Fiber. Launched initially in Kansas City, this service is expected to expand across the country, offering connection speeds up to 100 times faster than broadband. The Kansas City pilot has three price levels: $120 a month for gigabit internet plus television service (including more 52
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than 140 channels); $70 a month for gigabit internet service; or free internet. All three levels have a $300 “construction fee,” but that fee is waived for the two higherpriced levels. For a company that started out as a simple but revolutionarily effective search engine, Google has become a disruptive business in the best sense of the term. Cable companies won’t like Google Fiber, but Google is revolutionizing their business to the benefit of consumers and business customers. Apple had a falling out with Google when the latter company launched its smartphone business, but consumers are better off with the choices and improved competition that resulted. And those areas where there is no competition—internet glasses and driverless cars—are being made into reality and pushed into the present by Google’s relentless rollout of major services. This is not only the culmination of what Michio Kaku predicted; it’s the realization of what we were promised about t h e i nt e r n e t more than a decade ago, that it would be a disruptive technology that greatly expanded our options and the quality of our lives. Much of the internet has not lived up to that hype, but Google has and is, and we have every reason to expect that driverless cars, internet glasses, and super-fast fiber communications are not the last disruption we’ll get from the Googleplex. It was cheap. And when we say cheap, we mean inexpensive and probably not long-lasting. We know it was the former, because our Battlestar Galactica wristwatch cost only $15.99, including shipping from Hong Kong for this eBay-purchased item. We will find out if it is the latter—long-lasting—after we’ve had it for a while, and it’s fully possible it won’t
Driverless car photo: Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson); Google Glass photo: Antonio Zugaldia
last beyond the first heavy fog we walk through some morning or the first time we drop it on the floor. Consumers should be angered by something that might not last a year. But we have received so many compliments from people who see us wearing this watch that we find ourselves oddly in love with the time keeper. Even if it stops working at the first heavy sunspot activity. Or in mild winds. Or sunlight. Sure enough, the watch’s band clasp soon broke. Oh, well; love is indulgent. And, finally, word comes to us that journalist Clark Kent quit his job at the Daily Planet, leaving the print world for a more satisfying life writing a blog. This career change takes place in Superman #13, out in fall 2012. As Drew Carey said on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: “In a parallel world where men can fly and turn back time, they still can’t figure out how to save newspapers.” Fine, but a blog? How very 2004. Is DC Comics trying to establish that Superman’s alter ego is relentlessly behind the times? Maybe they’d be better off having him become a Twitter sensation or the host of a wry but uplifting Tumblr account. It’s just not the most cutting-edge move they could have made. If it were, Google would have made it. G weimar.ws Galaxis
PHOTO BY PATRICE LOIEZ; COURTESY AND COPYRIGHT CERN
ERNâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Globe exhibition centre is shown on a classic Swiss winter day. This ball-like wooden building was given to CERN in 2004 as
Galaxis December 2012
a gift from the Swiss Confederation to mark 50 years since the foundation of the international scientific organization.
THE VIEW FROM CERN
PHOTO BY MAXIMILIEN BRICE; COURTESY AND COPYRIGHT CERN
Galaxis December 2012
n 2010, a CERN worker checks on the new Quench Protection Systems (QPS) connector. The QPS is an early warning system for problems within the superconducting coils. The system includes thousands of these detectors. weimar.ws Galaxis
MERKEL PHOTO: Maximilien Brice, Claudia Marcelloni, & Mona Schweizer; copyright 2008 CERN; CARLISLE PHOTO: Anna Pantelia, copyright CERN; ATLAS photo by & Copyright: Maximilien Brice, CERN; GATES PHOTO Maximilien Brice Date: 08 Jun 2009; photo copyright 2009 CERN
uring a visit to CERN in April 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed CERN staff (this page, top). Not only is she the leader of one of the nations supporting CERN, but Merkel holds a doctorate in physical chemistry. Merkel isn’t the only big name to visit the atom-smashing factory. After the Go-Go’s lead singer Belinda Carlisle admitted she was a huge science fan and reader of quantum physics texts, she accepted an invitation to visit CERN in July 2012 (this page, bottom). Following her tour of the facility, the singer said, “I’ve had a great time; I mean, my mind is blown. I’m completely exhausted from my visit, I’ve been stretching my brain so much!” CERN made big news with its search for the “god particle.” At 58
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the top of the next page, a worker stands before the large ATLAS detector, one of six detectors on the Large Hadron Collider, where the search for the Higgs Boson takes place. According to CERN, data from the LHC collisions are also being scanned for micro black holes, magnetic monopoles, and exploring the possibility that every known type of fundamental particle has a nearly invisible supersymmetric counterpart. You can play a part: The LHC@Home project lets anyone with a home computer help LHC scientists search archived LHC data for these strange beasts. Visitors to the site included Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates (next page, bottom)), who got an inside look at the facilities. G
f you don’t know who writer Charles Yu is, you will soon. Yu, a lawyer who writes in his spare time, has been lauded from i09.com to the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 25” to the Daily Beast, where he was included in its “Writers to Watch” series in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in the Harvard Review, Oxford American, and other non-pulpy outlets. The 36-year-old Southern Californian’s books include the 2010 novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and two collections of short stories, Third Class Superhero (2006) and Sorry Please Thank You: Stories (2012). And more is on the way. Yu is the rare genre writer who appears to be accepted in science fiction as well as mainstream literary circles. But don’t think that means he’s rejecting the SF connection. He told CNN’s Christian DuChateau that he was flattered to be compared with such writing luminaries as Kurt Vonnegut and Jonathan Lethem. “As for the label science-fiction writer—I’ll take it, and wear that label with pride,” he said. “But there’s plenty of room on my shirt for other labels, too.” In late July, Yu came to San Francisco’s famed public forum The Commonwealth Club of California, where he discussed his work with Eli Horowitz, the former managing editor and publisher of McSweeneys and the co-author of Everything You Know Is Pong. HOROWITZ: “Standard Loneliness Package,” the first story in this book [Sorry Please Thank You: Stories], seems very much a science fiction story and also very much a personal story, which kind of sums up the collection as a whole. I’m curious about those two concerns and how you balance them when you’re approaching a story. YU: That’s exactly the way it happens for me. For better or worse, often it’s an idea first, and then the idea is interesting and I’m trying to explore offshoots of the idea and fill it out. At some point, it becomes a little too empty of an idea, and I’m like, “I’ve got to fill this with people.” So I put the people in there. The hard part is figuring out how to fill it with people in a way that feels organic with the idea. HOROWITZ: That story is about an engineering firm in India. Do you want to describe a little about it? YU: The premise is that, this is Earth, it’s near-future, and for a fee you can outsource the bad parts of your life. It’s almost like you call your broker and say, “I’ve got an hour’s dental appointment coming up; I don’t want to do it. Someone else will experience this pain for me.” But in the story, it’s not just dental appointments. It’s funerals, even experiences that you’d think were sort of central to life—people just outsource it, because why go through it if you don’t have to? This explores it from the perspective of somebody who is sitting in a call center in India. They open their screen. The technology in the story is the Consciousness Protocol. Basically, at the time of the switch, the technology shifts the paying customer into some kind of false memory. It’s sort of like a mental waiting room; they just sit there for an hour and read a magazine or have a drink. Then the bad experience, the qualia—I don’t know what that word means [laughter], I just read it in many philosophy texts that I read in bookstores—gets shifted to the worker who has to then experience it. HOROWITZ: The high-concept premise is what comes first in the creation of the story, and then the personal angle is what follows that? YU: Yeah. The high-concept premise is the body of the vehicle, but it won’t go until I figure out a way to make myself care about it, too. Somebody’s got to read this; I can’t just write 18 pages of ideas. I
The young writer and lawyer investigates the science fiction universe from the meta-level 60
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The World According to
YU PHOTOS: JOHN ZIPPERER
mean, I could, but … HOROWITZ: Are you sometimes confronted by a premise that is a great premise in itself but no story will cohere around it, no flesh on the skeleton? YU: Yes, definitely happens. So I’ll spend a lot of time trying to graft something to that skeleton and it just falls off. That’s where the organic part comes in, because sometimes it feels like something is found, versus built. Maybe that’s an artificial distinction, because it’s all built, right? But sometimes for whatever reason, it feels like there is one more right way to flesh out that idea. HOROWITZ: Your novel [How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe] had Charles Yu as the protagonist. What draws you to those concerns? YU: I’m interested in looking at the conventions of genre—in that novel, at the conventions of science fiction—as a way of thinking about assumptions that we make about ourselves and how we go through life, if that makes any sense at all. The embedded assumptions of science fiction are interesting to me in a way of looking at, How do we tell stories about ourselves, and why do we make these rules about stories, versus other rules? HOROWITZ: Is there anything about science fiction specifically that you feel is useful for raising these questions? YU: Yes, I do. It could be that it’s the only genre that I have any working knowledge
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of. But it’s also maybe to my mind the richest set of those rules. There’s just so much science fiction; we’re just saturated in science fiction. It’s a very identifiable set of conventions—that reduces it too much. But if you say time travel, that just conjures lots of stories. Back to the Future. It just has all sorts of references come to mind immediately. To be able to draw on that many references with the kind of quick shorthand is useful and kind of fun. Also, because science fiction is a literature of speculation, and also of technology and looking to the future, those all kind of coincide with what I’m interested in looking at anyway. HOROWITZ: It does seem like you’re a lot more interested in selves and identity than in actual technology or scientific advances. YU: Yeah. HOROWITZ: Do you have any feelings about the Higgs Boson? YU: I do. HOROWITZ: What are your feelings? YU: Well, speaking as a world-class physicist [laughter], I’m a little disappointed I didn’t find it. First of all, it was extremely exciting to see physics on the front page of The New York Times. That was cool. How often does that happen these days? I love the science written by scientists for the lay audience type of book; I can’t get enough of it. Part of it is that I feel that 100 years ago, there were all these incredible discoveries. I know there are discoveries now, but maybe it’s just that there is so much other news, it just doesn’t feel that science is a huge part of the news, and I wish it were. So when that happened, it was super exciting. From what I understand, some people have said it was a little bit disappointing in that it actually matches what they thought it was supposed to be, and it sort of confirms the standard model. Because the way I understand it—and here I’m way out of my depth—is that there’s a standard model, an incredibly successful scientific theory. I’ve heard quantum mechanics, or the standard model, described as kind of the most successful scientific theory there is in terms of trying to predict things that
we have. Yet, in a very basic sense, it’s so incomplete and they know it, because they can’t reconcile gravity with quantum mechanics—that’s a big, huge rift. The other thing is there’s dark matter and dark energy—it just sounds like science fiction— and dark matter and dark energy apparently compose 96 percent of the stuff in the universe, and there’s no theory on it. There’s not even a guess as to what that is, I don’t think. So the standard model, which is the very best that we have so far, explains 4 percent of the universe. In that sense, it was kind of a sad thing that the Higgs was what we thought. It would have been better if it had blown a hole in the whole thing, and everyone had been trying to figure out a whole new one. HOROWITZ: In your book, a couple pieces reflect your mind’s own conversation with yourself. These are sort of the more metafictional pieces in the book. Are these the debates you’re engaging in as you’re creating the piece? YU: Yes. Absolutely. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes the process is part of the end product, for better or worse. HOROWITZ: It’s interesting in the title of your novel—the Science Fictional Universe—that’s obviously set in some future time. But are we now in a more science fictional universe than when the classic science fiction was written? I was thinking of this when you said we’re less conscious of
scientific advances than 100 years ago. I’m wondering if that’s just because it’s more ubiquitous. YU: Definitely, there’s something to that. But I have given some thought to if you could draw a world history curve, if there were such a thing, a technology curve, is there some inflection point past which it’s always going to feel like we’re living in a crazy sci-fi universe, more and more? My one sort of partial stumble on an answer to that is that I think there is. I think we’re at a point now where the pace at which technology advances moves so fast in a human lifetime that you are now guaranteed to be mystified by what your grandkids are looking at. I’m not sure that was true before. Like 1400 to 1500: battle axes and battle axes, right? 1900 to 2000, and then 2000 to 2100, I just think that gap [is much greater]—and then unless there’s an apocalypse , it’s going to be worse. So I can’t even imagine what my kid’s kids are going to be using. HOROWITZ: You’ve sort of talked about the relation between science fiction and science. Do you feel an obligation to science? Do you want people to care about the new particles and so forth? YU: Yeah, kind of. I feel a little like a tiny
mouse. I wish I had a bigger megaphone. I do feel if I were able to broadcast one tiny thing, it might be my excitement for that kind of mystery and wonder that I feel [about science.] I’m not a scientist, clearly. I’m also not even equipped to understand scientists the way they think about science. But that way of thinking about things— that there are huge mysteries—I don’t know that you need training to feel that, and that’s what excites me. HOROWITZ: You mentioned you’re not a
scientist. You’re a lawyer by training. In this book and your novel, there’s a lot of mundane workplace as the settings, but there’s no law. It never comes up. What kind of law do you practice? YU: I work in-house at a company that does visual effects for the movies and TV commercials. So I am sort of a generalist; I get to do all kinds of stuff. HOROWITZ: Intellectual property and things? YU: Yeah, everything else that comes in day to day. That’s just a huge part of my experience. I work 10 hours or more a day, and the people I deal with and the kinds of things I think about, and just having that routine every day, that’s why workplace turns up so often in my stories. I think that in a way, law has crept in [to my books]. I do like my job. But I have worked at law firms where you bill your time by the hour. That is sort of like my default sense of … when you bill your time by the hour, you do think about your day differently. It’s now been chopped up into economic units. So that transmutes into a story about a guy who literally is paid to feel other people’s pain. You’re sitting in an office and, “This is not my problem. Someone is [continued on page 67]
In-Depth, Fun, and Informative Review of the World of Magazines!
Special publication: If you’re anything like us, you love magazines—the good, the bad, and the downright outrageous. So read Magma, the “magazine industry review,” and learn about the inner workings of Condé Nast, what Bob Guccione left behind, an interview with Carr D’Angelo, a post-mortem on Starlog, plus opinionated reviews, complaints, and ideas.
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eradication of his emotions, but when he returns to the Enterprise, he is still a character even more emotionless than we last saw him in the original Trek series. David Gerrold devoted his August 1982 Starlog column to ST–TMP and the matter of Spock’s emotions. Gerrold notes that in the movie, Spock mind-melds with the pure-reason machine intelligence known as V’Ger, and “as a result, he is somehow forced to confront the automaticity of his own Vulcan response system —he, too, has been a ‘living machine!’” What Spock learns, Gerrold suggests, is how to be open to “the experience of himself as a complete individual.” Emotion and intellect, together in one. So it can be done in fiction. Part of the problem in genre fare is simple commercialism, of course. Emotion plays better on screen than does intellectualism. Is that because readers and viewers won’t accept being shown up by smarty pants heroes and heroines? Or is it just lazy storytelling, like a Conan story where the hero ends up solving it all with brute strength? Do people think they have a more likely chance of being Conan than Spock or Data? That’s dangerous. The tragedy of this is that science fiction as a genre should be able to show people how to strike that balance. Because it’s not as if our world suffers from too much intelligence. The Nazis were not driven by too much science and logic; they were in fact a superstitious and largely half-educated lot that succeeded in driving out of Germany a generation of great scientists, Albert Einstein just one of them. The young men today who commit mass terror in the name of their beliefs are not scholars; they are religious fanatics who refuse to accept the reality of the world around them. Now, the Trek movie always reminds me of one viewer’s complaint that V’Ger is a super-intelligent robotic being that can consume and destroy entire planets, but it can’t wipe away a little bit of dirt to recognize that its real name is Voyager. So he didn’t have sufficient brains to do that, or his film’s writers lacked the skill to write themselves out of that predicament. Nonetheless, V’Ger represented the stereotypical brains-over-heart villain. Trek’s writers at least offered—a la Gerrold—the answer in Spock of integration of emotion and intellect—a wiser move, I think, than Harry Potter’s or Luke Skywalker’s directions to turn off their brains and let emotion save them. John Zipperer/Editor & Publisher
Webbed If you would like your website to be considered for inclusion in upcoming Webbed listings, send information—including URL—to jzipperer@gmail. com. There is no cost to be listed in Webbed. Websites are listed solely at the discretion of Galaxis.
Asimov’s Science Fiction asimovs.com Isaac Asimov was the leading light for this mag in its first decade-or-so; it remains a strong voice in the SF short story field Anime News Network animenewsnetwork. com What’s the latest Gundam project? Where can I find that Q&A with that anime creator? Bradbury Media bradburymedia.co.uk All the news, video, updates, and reviews every fan of Ray Bradbury could ever want, all in one place Comic Vine Schwer Metall Covers comicvine. com/schwermetall/49-29426/?page=10 Every cover of the German edition of Heavy Metal, plus descriptions of issue contents Daily Science Fiction dailysciencefiction.com Want original SF and fantasy emailed to you every day? Here’s your site Geo geo.de Think of it as a German-language National Geographic; awesome photos, moving stories, inspiring science Guardian Science Fiction Books guardian. co.uk/books/science-fiction SF book reviews and news from UK’s The Guardian newspaper Heavy Metal heavymetal.com Archives, store, and original online comic art from the masters of “adult illustrated fantasy” The L-Space Web lspace.org A site dedicated to Terry Pratchett and his sprawling Discworld series of fantasy-satire novels Michio Kaku mkaku.org The official site of the eminent scientist and SF enthusiast (interviewed in Galaxis #1) New Scientist newscientist.com Trustworthy news from the worlds of science Orson Scott Card hatrack.com The official site of conservative novelist and Ender creator Card Planetes planet-es.net A Japanese-language site devoted to the wondrous Planetes anime and manga Science Blogs scienceblogs.com Topical and current commentary on science and related political and social issues ScienceFiction.com sciencefiction.com Genre news (books, comics, science, games, etc.) Science Fiction World sfw-cd.com Believed to be the largest-circulation SF magazine in the world; in Chinese SF Radio sf-radio.net German-language SF news and entertainment Star Wars Union starwars-union.de Excellent German-language Wars resource Yaoi911 “Artifice” webcomics.yaoi911.com/ archive/artifice-page-1 Gay SF-themed comic G
Compendium February 5, 2013 The Theoretical Maximum, What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics Lecture Leonard Susskind, director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics, is one of the founders of string theory. In this day and age when science and technology are ubiquitous and appear to rule the world, have you wished you had learned more about physics? Come listen to Susskind discuss the Theoretical Minimum, an alternative to the conventional go-to-college method. He will discuss what you need to know to start doing physics and provide a tool kit for amateur scientists to learn physics at their own pace. This is Physics 101, the DIY way. Location: The Commonwealth Club, 595 Market Street, San Francisco, California Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program, 7 p.m. book signing. Cost: Free–$20. Contact: 415-597-6705, http:// www.commonwealthclub.org/ Compendium is our catalog of things to do, see, and hear related to the worlds of science and science fiction. Please note: Events can change dates, times, prices, and locations. Therefore, we strongly recommend you contact each organization directly before making plans to participate in any activity listed here. If you would like your event to be considered for inclusion in these listings, send information—including contact information—to jzipperer@gmail. com. There is no cost to be listed in Compendium. Events are listed solely at the discretion of Galaxis.
December 15, 2012 Otafest Aurora Convention Anime convention with special guests Sam Vincent and Mryke Hendrikse. Location: University of Calgary Downtown Campus, 906 8th Avenue S.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Cost: $20–60. Contact: http:// www.otafest.com/aurora/ December 16–23, 2012 It’s not the End-of-the-World Cruise Travel A sea voyage with visits to Mayan ruins and fascinating discussions about spaceflight, astronomy, science fiction, and the Mayan calendar. Featured speakers include NASA astronaut Steve Hawley, SF writers David Brin and Robert J. Sawyer, and four top astronomy professors from Colorado University. Location: The Caribbean. Cost: $599–$999, plus taxes, gratuities, and port fees. Contact:
305-931-4896 or http://www.end-of-the-worldcruise.com/ January 28, 2013 Reverse-Engineering the Human Brain Lecture The human brain is the most sophisticated computer system known to man, capable of impressive feats under challenging natural conditions. Reverse-engineering the brain might enable us to design artificial systems with the same capabilities. Jack Gallant, a professor of psychology at the University of California Berkeley, uses in his laboratory a data-driven approach to tackle this reverseengineering problem. He will discuss how this framework could form the basis of practical new brain-reading technologies and inform development of biologically inspired computer vision systems. Location: The Commonwealth Club, 595 Market Street, San Francisco, California. Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program. Cost: Free–$20. Contact: 415-5976705, http://www.commonwealthclub.org/ February 4, 2013 Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival Film Festival EMP in partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival will present the seventh annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival at the Seattle Cinerama Theater. The festival brings together industry professionals in filmmaking and the genres of science fic-
Are You a
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ror, commercial space companies, and more. Location: 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, California. Cost: $45. Contact: 619-291-7131 or http://www.condorcon.org/
PHOTO COURTESY INTERNET WORLD
March 16–18, 2013 Wondercon Convention Due to the renovation of San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the longtime home of Wondercon, the 2013 edition of this huge convention heads south to Anaheim. This year’s special guests include Mark Evanier, Mike Mignola, J. Michael Straczynski, Wil Wheaton, Marv Wolfman, and many more. Location: Anaheim Convention Center, 777 Convention Way, Anaheim. Cost: $5 & up. Contact: http://www.comic-con.org/wc/
April 23–25, 2013 Internet World 2013 Expo Internet World is Europe’s largest event for digital business and has been running since 1992. The 2012 event took place with huge success, and the event will return in 2013 to deliver the latest trends to professionals looking to develop their digital strategy. Location: Earls Court, London, UK. Time: Tuesday–Wednesday 9:30–5:30, Thursday 9:30– 4:30. Cost: Contact for pricing. Contact: http://www.internetworld.co.uk/ tion and fantasy to encourage and support new, creative additions to science fiction and fantasy cinema arts. The festival will showcase animated and live-action science fiction and fantasy films. Location: Cinerama Theatre, 2100 4th Avenue, Seattle, Washington. Time: 4–9:30 p.m. (later events take place beyond film schedule). Cost: $10–$18. Contact: http://www.siff.net/ February 7–10, 2013 Capricon 33 Convention Con featuring guests of honor Daniel H. Wilson, Karen Ann Hollingsworth, and Helen Montgomery. Location: Westin Chicago North Shore, 601 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, Illinois. Cost: $50–$70. Contact: http://capricon.org/ capricon33/ February 12, 2013 Lust and Love in the Animal Kingdom Panel discussion Just in time for Valentine’s Day, join the New York Academy of Sciences to explore lust and love in the animal kingdom. From monogamous birds to polygamous primates, people love to point to the animal kingdom to explain human sexual patterns and behaviors. Can swans teach us about monogamy? Are ferocious creatures like Tyrannosaurus Rex ferocious “in bed” too? The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Josh Ginsberg will moderate a panel composed of dinosaur sex expert Brian Switek; Danielle Lee, who studies the sex lives and bomb-sniffing abilities of giant pouched rats; Marina Cords, who studies non-human primates; and Stephanie Cacioppo, who studies human primates. Location: The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street, 66
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New York, New York. Time: 6:30–8 p.m., followed by a reception. Cost: $15–$25. Contact: 212-298-8600 or http://www.nyas.org/ February 21, 2013 Elizabeth Moon: Imaginative Fiction and Everyday Reality Lecture Nebula Award winning writer Elizabeth Moon, author most recently of Echoes of Betrayal, will discuss how writers of fantasy and science fiction use reality to undergird their stories. Location: St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th Street, Austin, Texas. Cost: $12. Contact: 512-610-3500 or http://www.stdave.org/forum March 1–3, 2013 The Sci-fi Weekender Convention The Sci-fi Weekender is packed with activities for fans: big-name guests, interviews, Q&A sessions, movie screenings, comic workshops, video gaming, music, book readings and plenty more. It’s structured around several main events: the Imaginarium cabaret, the Maskerade party (with DJ Craig Charles), and the Blastermind pub quiz. Also, autograph opportunities: the full line-up will be revealed closer to the event. Location: Hafan y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales, LL53 6HX, United Kingdom. Cost: £49 & up. Contact: http:// www.scifiweekender.com/ March 8–10, 2013 Condor 2013: There and Back Again, Journeys in Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention Featuring Grandmaster author Connie Willis and lots of panels—religion and SF, alien hor-
April 8–11, 2013 29th National Space Symposium Conference More than 9,000 professionals and students are expected at this year’s National Space Symposium to discuss, address, and dream about the future of space. This year’s speakers include The Aerospace Corporation’s president Wanda M. Austin, Intel Corporation former CEO Craig R. Barrett, Retired General Howell Estes, III, Space Generation Advisory Council co-chair Chijioke Nwosa, and others. Location: The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cost: $495–41,895. Contact: http://www.nationalspacesymposium.org/ April 11–14, 2013 The 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Conference Convention The University of California Riverside will hold its ongoing conference exploring science fiction in various media. Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin, producer and special effects creator Ray Harryhausen, and SpiderMan co-creator Stan Lee will be recognized with the J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction. Location: Riverside Marriott Hotel, 3400 Market St., Riverside, CA. Cost: $95–$170. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or http:// eatonconference.ucr.edu/ June 7–9, 2013 Insurgence Germany Convention Gathering for fans of The Vampire Diaries, featuring guest talks, photo sessions, free autographs, and free evening entertainment. Location: Maritim Hotel, Bad Wildungen, Germany. Cost: See website for pricing. Contact: http://www.rogueevent.co.uk/wordpress/ insurgence-german/ July 7–12, 2013 19th IAA Humans in Space Symposium Conference A high-level conference examining the scientific challenges of living in space. Location: Cologne, Germany. Cost: Contact for pricing. Contact: http://www.dlr.de/me/ desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-7374 G
Charles[continued Yu from page 63]
going to pay me to make it my problem.” HOROWITZ: What’s the back story of your evolution as a writer? YU: I started writing fiction right after graduating from law school. The two things coincided exactly. I’ve been a lawyer as long as I’ve been a fiction writer. In some ways it was a reaction to an extremely different situation. I was 25, starting a brand new job, had no idea what I was doing. I was starting in a field that was terrifying, spending lots of time in what was to me an unnatural environment. That did all sorts of interesting things to me. HOROWITZ: There was a line [in Sorry, Please, Thank You]: “It’s like all technology, either not powerful enough or too powerful. It will never do exactly what you want it to do.” That tends to be the kernel of all of your concerns, maybe of all science fiction in general. Is that something you feel playing out throughout our modern world? YU: I don’t know. That story is called “Troubleshooting.” It’s not a long story, but within the course of [it] you come to understand that it’s a kind of hand-held wishfulfillment device. You punch in some characters, and you basically put a wish in there. The machine will transform your intention into results in the world. In that story, the line was about how what we want is never exactly what we want. But you’re right to hold it to the actual words; it was also about the technology. I don’t know if technology never matches up to what we want. I think some of it does. HOROWITZ: How much do you think of science fiction as a genre? YU: I think about it a lot, because it’s so pervasive. Even basically all superhero movies, which in the summer is all movies, that’s science fiction, isn’t it? It’s on my mind in the sense of how much of pop culture it is. In terms of the actual genre and people writing in science fiction, I read it. I think of myself as an outsider, because I feel like one, but I hope a respectful outsider and one who is interested in the genre and the conventions, not in a judgmental and exploitative way but like some people work this way in the genre, some people stand on the edge and kind of play around with the edge. That’s interesting to me. HOROWITZ: Talk about your next work. YU: The next book is going to have at its core a relationship of a father with his children, told from the perspective of the father. It will be about storytelling and metaphor, and how we learn metaphor and how pervasive it is in seeing the world. G
Hear science. Talk science. Think science. Whether you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area or around the world, The Commonwealth Club of California presents the best minds of science. Attend live events with leading scientists and thinkers on the most timely discoveries, controversies, and mysteries in the world of science. On our website, click on the “media” tab and find hundreds of free podcasts and videos. http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/filter/171
Game Set Galaxis Crossword Puzzle
ACROSS 3 The issue at hand 5 Kirk and Farrah orbit 7 German-Canadian series about a living ship 12 Apollo’s ’rod 14 John Crichton’s talking ship 18 Fonda’s future femme 20 Like Coruscant, but from Asimov 21 Mr. Gordon 23 Shot Adama 25 Roddenberry’s other starship series 26 Sheriff Connery’s realm 27 Boskone foe 28 Above and Beyond 29 Never give up, never surrender 30 Should really bow down 34 They were organic in Glen Larson’s 68
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original, too 36 You wouldn’t like Khan when he’s angry 38 He’s only “M” when he writes about the ______ 40 Prince would party here 41 Kurd Lasswitz classic 42 Tarkin’s toy 43 Space conveyance DOWN 1 My destination 2 What a piece of junk 4 Succeeded Sinclair in Babylon 6 Starship ______ 8 Menace mystery 9 Robinson’s The Dark _____ the Stars 10 Farscape’s frak
11 Heinlein’s Destination 13 The opposite of Luke’s Tatooine 15 Foundational genre scribe 16 Gerrold’s Liberty Ship’s quarry 17 Wells’ alien invasion masterpiece 19 Foreigner 22 Captain Sisko’s previous job 24 Cassiopeia’s home 27 Began penning George’s Wars sequel 31 Clarke and Homer link 32 This _____ Earth 33 Wilma’s pal 35 Shatner’s drug 37 Boxey by another name 38 Dr. Hans Reinhardt’s ship 39 Drew and Henry’s pal
Answers on next page
Science Fiction Quiz How good is your SFIQ— science fiction intelligence quotient? Test your skills with this quiz, which ranges from basic to expert. Answers are at the end of the quiz. 1) Who among the following did not play a role in the genesis of Battlestar Galactica? a. Glen A. Larson b. Gene Coon c. Leslie Stevens d. Hugh M. Hefner
c. Doctor Who d. The Outer Limits
upcoming 2013 production of Flash Gordon? a. Channing Tatum b. Ryan Goslin c. Gary Oldman d. George Clooney
8) In early drafts of Star Wars, what two characters were actually one, female character? a. Lando Calrissian and Han Solo b. R2D2 and Chewbacca c. Darth Vader and Emperor
14) In the original (classic) Star Trek, what is Lt. Uhura’s first name? a. G’Kar b. S’chn T’gai c. Nyota d. Natasha PHOTO QUESTION) Actor Jamie Lee Curtis has been an acclaimed star of many genre films. In which of the following films did actress Jamie Lee Curtis not have a role? a. Halloween b. Escape from New York c. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension d. Finding Nemo
2) In The Dark Knight Rises, what is John Blake’s real name? a. John Riddler Blake b. Robin John Blake c. Angel Rojas Blake d. Blake Nightwing 3) Forrest J. Ackerman and his wife Wendayne published a series of novels through most of the 1970s from what series? a. Star Trek b. Perry Rhodan c. Lost in Space d. The Foundation trilogy 4) What actor portrayed Kes in Star Trek Voyager? a. Amanda Tapping b. Xenia Seeberg c. Nicole de Boer d. Jennifer Lien
PHOTO BY JOSH HALLETT
5) Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein were known as what? a. The Galloping Grandmasters b. The Terrible Trio c. The Big Three d. The Sci-Fi Gods 6) Which futuristic rock group paid tribute in its music to controversial objectivist writer Ayn Rand? a. Rush b. Devo c. The Alan Parsons Project d. Kraftwerk 7) What premiered on November 23, 1963? a. The Twilight Zone b. Famous Monsters of Filmland
Palpatine d. Luke and Leia 9) In 2012, Martin Sheen reprised what role previously played by Cliff Robertson? a. Alex Turson b. Ben Parker c. Charlie Gordon d. Peter Weyland 10) What villain is known as both “the Dark Lord” and “He who should not be named”? a. Darth Vader b. Baltar (1978 version) c. Voldemort d. Q 11) In what town does Buffy the Vampire Slayer take place? a. Sunnydale b. Springfield c. Eerie d. Portsmouth
15) What actor portrays the current Doctor Who? a. David Tennant b. Matt Smith c. Christopher Eccleston d. Billy Hartnell 16) Where did Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Commander William Riker grow up? a. Wisconsin b. Mars c. Iowa d. Alaska 17) In what publication were Isaac Asimov’s Foundation stories originally published? a. Magazine of Fantasy & Sci-
ence Fiction b. Astounding Science Fiction c. Asimov’s Science Fiction d. Galaxy 18) Hill Valley is the setting for what series of films? a. The Back to the Future trilogy b. The Hunger Games films c. The Teen Wolf films d. The Indiana Jones films 19) What was the very first program aired by America’s Sci Fi (now SyFy) Channel when it debuted? a. Star Trek–The Motion Picture b. Star Wars IV: A New Hope c. Superman the Movie d. Farscape 20) In Tron: Legacy, who designed the Flynn house shown in flashbacks? a. Frank Lloyd Wright b. Joseph Eichler c. Syd Mead d. Andrew Probert 21) What TV series featured the Borellians? a. Space 1999 b. Battlestar Galactica c. Star Trek: The Next Generation d. Third Rock from the Sun ANSWERS: 1) d. 2) b. 3) b. 4) d. 5) c. 6) a. 7) c (if you chose Outer Limits, you’re close; that premiere was on September 16, 1963). 8) d. 9) b (aka Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben). 10) c. 11) a. 12) b. 13) d. 14) c. 15) b. 16) d. 17) b. 18) a. 19) b. 20) b. 21) b. PHOTO QUESTION: d.
12) In Firefly, who was not a member of the crew (or a passenger) of the Serenity? a. Kaylee b. Cooper Hawkes c. Simon Tam d. Jayne Cobb 13) Which one of the following has not been connected to the weimar.ws Galaxis 69
Reviewscreen The new, the classic, and some undiscovered gems
Prometheus Directed by Ridley Scott 20th Century Fox • Blu-ray October 11, 2012 124 minutes • $49.99
he vast majority of science fiction films that will appear on our movie screens (and blu-ray TV screens) are hackwork and studio “product.” That’s just the movie business; sometimes those hack jobs are quite enjoyable, and sometimes they even rise above the pabulum level. But then there are those infrequent breakthroughs that are created by people of vision. These films are very rare, and sometimes they are misfires. Prometheus is the product of a person of vision, and it is not a misfire. Originally pitched as a sequel to the groundbreaking 1979 adult SF horror film Alien, only to have that connection downgraded to the status of being set in the same universe as Alien and sharing “DNA” with it, Prometheus was one of the most anticipated
films of recent years, and unlike most heavily hyped genre films, this one pays off. Alien was a wonderfully complex film for its simple storyline. To be more specific, its story has been called “Ten Little Indians in Space,” basically a haunted house story in which the characters are killed off one by one. It includes some of the most blatant shock-film clichés of all time; it doesn’t even leave out the screeching cat being thrown on-screen during a time of high tension. A splatter film; better executed than Friday the 13th, but the same basic thing. That’s overselling the argument and vastly underselling the film achievement that Alien was. I first saw Alien not on the big screen but on HBO, and even there I knew I was being
Director Ridley Scott turned a not-really-a-prequel to the legendary Alien into a new landmark film in the science fiction universe. 68 70
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taken somewhere new and dangerous just from watching the eerie, slow, and suspenseful title sequence, with the film’s name slowly appearing over a spacescape. I knew I was in the hands of a filmmaker with vision, one who knew something. The genius credit behind that first film was shared by a number of people, including director Ridley Scott (then still little-known), writers Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett, and designer H.R. Giger. The genius behind Prometheus is all Ridley Scott. That is not to take away any of the credit that is due to writers John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof or any of the actors who make their scenes believable. That is merely to note that this film was made because of and by Ridley Scott. It fails or succeeds because of him, and if he was not a giant in the filmmaking work when Alien was released, he certainly is now; so he was able to get more of what he wanted on this film than he was likely able to get while making 1979’s Alien. Much glory—or blame—accrues therefore to him. Prometheus opens with a 2001-esque prehistoric prelude, in which a giant spaceship hovers over a waterfall while a humanoid alien ingests a strange mixture. He then falls into the water, his body dissolving and his DNA changing before our eyes. As Ridley Scott told reporters months before the film’s release, Prometheus has “Alien DNA” in it, and in this scene, we see that he was speaking with some literalness. The aliens created life here on Earth in their image, and many millennia later, humans set off in the spaceship Prometheus to try to learn about their creators. Like V’Ger, they want to meet their maker. Unlike V’Ger, they are at a distinct disadvantage in this meeting. In Greek legend, Prometheus was a Titan who created man from clay and allowed this new race to evolve and create civilization. So entering a theatre showing a film named Prometheus featuring a spaceship named Prometheus, the audience already has received blatant hints about the basis of the story.
SCOTT Photo by Gage Skidmore
In Space, No One Can Hear You Dream
In the film, the Prometheus is filled with a mostly believable crew of scientists and other travellers. A drawback of James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens sequel was that he filled his spaceship Sulaco with “grunts,” somewhat dull-witted Marines. This is a common Hollywood cheat; one doesn’t need to be a rahrah military supporter to acknowledge that the military is mostly filled with extremely well-trained people, and when it comes to important missions, they definitely don’t throw in their most emotional and least edu-
cated. Yet in Aliens, why would the Company spend untold dollars on what must be one of its most important projects, yet send a bunch of idiots to execute its plans? The reason, of course, is hackwork; the writer and director of Aliens needed those types of blue-collar, overly emotional characters to add tension, drama, and audience identification to the story of a rescue that wasn’t really a rescue. It undermines what is in many ways a great film—in some fans’ estimation, the best of the Alien sequels.
Ridley Scott doesn’t make Cameron’s mistake. Prometheus is filled with smart and efficient crew members; they aren’t necessarily all benign, but they are, with the exception of the overly excited Fifield (portrayed by Sean Harris), believable choices to be sent out on humanity’s most important quest ever. The cast is nearly uniformly good. Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress who made her mark as Lisbeth Salander in the original film productions of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, stars as weimar.ws Galaxis
archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw. She drives the storyline with her discovery of cave paintings showing evidence of extraterrestrial presence in Earth’s past; she later is aboard the Prometheus in a search to make contact with those extraterrestrials. She brings to the role a somewhat indistinguishable foreignness; though she spouts a British accent, it comes across as more of a mixture of accents—perhaps intentional, perhaps a failure of her coaching, but it helps, not hurts, her character and the film. The characters would have become caricatures had we been hit over the head with a 1950s-style global crew (the Russian, the American cowboy, the Frenchman, the German scientist, the Scotsman engineer, and so on). Rapace pulls off the tricky feat of making Shaw intelligent yet vulnerable. Does she know enough about the situation to be in charge? Is she in charge of anything, or is she a pawn of other players? Are her decisions sound? It is in her actions when things start to go badly on the moon LV-223 that we see her evolve, quickly, with a bit of panic but still using a lot of brains. The scene of her using a robotic surgeon to remove an alien growth inside of her is the squeamish high point of the film, but it demonstrates that she’s a lot tougher than we were likely to have thought; it also shows that she is determined to survive regardless of the cost. The character of Kane died in his gross-out alien chest-burster scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien; Shaw survives her 2012 equivalent. Shaw’s fellow archaeologist and love interest, Charlie Holloway, is portrayed by Logan Marshall-Green. A more action-oriented version of Shaw’s intellectual scientist, Holloway helps push the Prometheus landing party further into the artificial mountain the crew finds on the moon, eager to find out everything he can about it. Marshall-Green’s character is likeable and believable, which is not necessarily an easy thing to do when you are the one who has to propel the story past the point where most people in the audience would say, “No, go back to the ship and wait until morning,” or “Don’t go down that tunnel.” Charleze Theron and Michael Fassbender are two highlights in the film. Theron portrays Meredith Vickers, a Weyland executive who is put in total charge of the Prometheus’ mission; in the performance of her duties, 68 72
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Space is huge, intimidating, beautiful, and filled with unknown dangers. she works closely with Fassbender’s android think he or his top lieutenants would pick David. The two of them appear to have Fifield to be their geologist. Either we should much more in common than is admitted to have seen a scene early in the movie in which the crew (or the audience); however, Vick- something happens to destabilize an otherers and David also appear to have a tension wise stable man, or perhaps we could learn in their relationship that involves someone something about him that would explain that off-screen. Even when we learn the source of he was the top geologist on Earth and as long that tension, it creates more questions in our as he keeps taking his meds, he’s fine (cue minds about their relationship to each other threatening music). But we get none of that; and their relationship to that off-screen per- we are introduced to Fifield when he snaps son than it answers. at another crewmember right after they wake Roles that do not quite work are Guy up from cryosleep, and he never warms up to Pearce’s Peter Weyland and Sean Harris’ Fi- anyone. It is a rare misstep by the writers and field. Weyland is the aging billionaire who director Scott. founded Weyland Corp., which is familiar to This band of characters explores the weird Alien viewers who know about Weyland-Yu- artificial mountain on the moon, see some tani, the heartless company from that movie. scary evidence of violent deaths there, and Pearce, sadly, looks like a young man wearing are introduced to alien organisms that infect old-man makeup, which is what he is; he acts some of them with unknown intent. They in it well enough, but never enough to make flee back to the Prometheus, but when they us forget that he’s a young man under a layer awaken a surviving member of the progeniof disguise. tor species that set this all in motion thouFifield is a character who either needed sands of years ago, they find they can’t fit the more backstory explained to the audience or genie back in the bottle. It’s a matter of life he needed to be transported to the Sulaco with and death on a planetary scale, with the film the Colonial Marines in Aliens. He’s a stock answering some of our questions, ignoring character who overreacts to everything, who others, and using still others to lead us to a lets us know right off the bat that he’s none possible sequel. too smart and he’s antagonistic. This sets him WHAT DOES IT MEAN: What, then, to up to provide over-emotional reactions to make of the movie Prometheus? It is filled things on the alien moon when things start with wondrous science fiction visions, horto get scary. But we’re still left with the age- rific set pieces, and beautiful shots. Watchold idiot plot device: Peter Weyland is a very ing the Prometheus soar over the clouds of rich and very powerful man who is investing moon LV-223 is to see a shot as full of beauuntold sums (well, the movie says $1 trillion, ty and drama as any other great science ficbut who knows what that’s like with the inflation we can expect between 2012 and 2093, when Prometheus takes place?) in a mission in which he is personally very interested. Why would he have anyone on that spaceship who wasn’t the most stable, brilliant, talented, and resourceful person available? He can afford to have Logan Marshall-Green (left) portrays Holloway, boyfriend of anyone on that ship. Noomi Rapace’s Shaw; Rapace, shown at the San Sebastián Film It simply beggars Festival promoting Daisy Diamond, followed the Girl with the the imagination to Dragon Tattoo films with a strong performance in Prometheus.
FASSBENDER & THERON Photos: Gage Skidmore; Marshall-GREEN photo: Mousebot35; Rapace Photo by Flickr/ Ikeisenhower
Charlize Theron (left) portrays the powerful key role of Meredith Vickers, about whom enough questions remain to fill an entire film. Director Ridley Scott turned brown-haired Michael Fassbender, shown here at Wondercon 2012, into blond android David. tion spaceship on the big screen. It’s a beautiful and portentous shot. Scott is not just showing us that his characters are moving from point A to moon B; he is showing us that, despite the large size, power, and modern shininess of the Prometheus, it is small compared to the environment into which it is flying. That helps set the audience expectations for what is to come. If Star Trek and Star Wars operate on the conceit that nearly every planet, moon, and moonlet is populated by strange and usually wonderful beings, Prometheus has the more likely idea: space is huge, intimidating, beautiful, sparsely populated, and filled with unknown dangers and true alienness. That doesn’t obviate the possibility that there are good aliens out there, and that hope in fact is what drives many of the crew members of Prometheus to make their extraterrestrial journey to discover who inspired the cave markings on Earth. But it does condition the audience to expect to see something beyond their imaginations. The only significant problem with this element of wonder is that once we meet a member of the progenitor species and he begins to act, his species loses a lot of its mystery and they seem very human. Of course, his species is supposed to be quite humanesque; they made man in their own image. But they also lose their alienness, and the film’s sciencefiction quotient drops. The positive side of that very development is that Ridley Scott promised to show us something that filled in the blanks left in the original Alien. He has done so. He has answered questions, and therefore audience members received their money’s worth. But for all of its question answering, Pro-
metheus introduces new ones that the audience is left to ponder. We sincerely hope Scott will be creating more films in this series to answer them. Is Meredith Vickers an android? Therefore, did she survive the film’s events, despite being buried in the wreckage of the alien craft on LV-223? And, perhaps the most controversial question for fans: Just what is the relationship between the events of Prometheus and the Alien films? In trying to answer questions about the Alien storyline, Ridley Scott enters the realm of people who have tried to answer questions about humanity’s real background. Not content to accept evolution and too suspicious of revelatory explanations from religion, these people have grabbed onto stories of aliens implanting life on Earth; or aliens coming to Earth and educating early mankind into the higher-level beings. From 2001 to Erich von Däniken, these ideas have been explicated. The original Battlestar Galactica turned it somewhat on its head by saying that humans are the extraterrestrials; our ancestors, the “lost 13th tribe,” came here thousands of years ago and got busy building pyramids and founding Mayan empires. Fun fiction. However, there really are those who believe that life here began out there. There are folks who can’t differentiate reality and science from flat-out falsehood. The History Channel therefore plays a dangerous game with its voluminous “ancient aliens” pseudo-documentaries, which purport to explore crackpot theories of alien visitations and coverups (always coverups), while undercutting centuries of scientific explanations. Prometheus therefore falls in the same
category as The X-Files, an immensely entertaining and very well-done entertainment that nonetheless feeds the fantasies of the paranoid portion of our population. No film is perfect, and that is true here, too. It is probably because Prometheus got so much closer to that elusive goal that its evident problems rankle. Writing in The New York Review of Books, Geoffrey O’Brien notes Prometheus’ plot holes and obvious storytelling devices, but largely passes them by because the SF genre doesn’t have standards that require better. Certainly, my enjoyment of the film is not significantly harmed by its failings, but any failings that exist in this film are because the writers and director took shortcuts, not because of the genre itself. Reviewers, filmmakers, and audiences alike should have higher standards for SF films. LASTWORD: A note about the different versions in which you can view Prometheus. During its cinema run, Prometheus was available in standard 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX 3-D. There is no reason to bother with 3-D (in either format) when seeing this movie. It adds nothing; the amazement factor is in the rich sets, coloring, costume designs, props, and special effects. It’s a painting on-screen; you don’t need the painting to fly out and strike you in the face. Whatever version you buy, we suggest you watch the deleted and extended scenes. In particular, it makes the actions of biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall) much more understandable when he is shown in the edited film acting all cutesy with a dangerous alien, and we see much more of the relationship between Vickers and Peter Weyland. Nothing that explains Fifield, alas. weimar.ws Galaxis
Reviewscreen Step by Step The Long Earth By Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett Harper • June 19, 2012 352 pages • $25.99
hen the people of Earth discover a new ability to “step” into endless parallel versions of their planet—dubbed the long Earth—the whole world and people’s relation to it changes. But instead of focusing on the worldwide implications, authors Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett have crafted here a narrowly focused story that explores only a portion of possibilities—some of them wonderfully, some not so well. The Long Earth begins as millions of people begin to pop out of existence here and explore over there. The original Earth, known as Datum Earth, is still the home base even for many of the humans who have gone thousands of Earths away. Everyone but about 20 percent of humanity is able to step, either with the aid of a potato-based stepping device that anyone can construct, or, like our hero Joshua Valiente, without the assistance of any device. The efforts of businesses and governments to grapple with the implications of sudden depopulation (such as extending their authority over their “footprint” in parallel Earths, or dealing with economies that are in crisis from the loss of so many people) are mostly a background element in this book. Instead, the focus for most of the book is on two very different characters. Joshua is an orphan raised in a home run by nuns in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s very independent; a good soul, honest and earnest. He is able to step without the aid of the potato device, one of the first to discover such a natural ability and apparently one of the best at it. He doesn’t hate the presence of people, but he does like being alone a lot, so when he stumbles into the step-worlds, he revels in being able to be on planets without another human soul. And because he is able to step faster than people can step using the devices, he is able to travel further faster, and thus be the first person ever to set foot on many of the variations of Earth. Lobsang is a computer program that had proven in court that it was a sentient human, claiming to be a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycle repairman. Since that court victory,
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Lobsang has become the fabulously rich and powerful head of a business that allows him to do pretty much anything he desires. And what he desires is to have Joshua join him on a journey. Little time is spent in Madison, because the story really gets going once Lobsang manages to lure Joshua aboard a zeppelin that is capable of stepping between worlds at high speed. Together, they explore the Earths tens and even hundreds of thousands of steps away. They investigate planets only briefly, occasionally stopping to take quick scientific measurements or stretch their toes in the sand or grass. But they do find other
creatures, mostly slightly differentiated versions of hominids and other mammals, and slowly they piece together an unsettling movement of species that, like Datum Earth humans, are able to step. A thrill-a-minute page turner, this is not. The story of what is happening to those various creatures is not presented as a pressing worry, at least not enough of a worry to Joshua to make him force Lobsang to explain at length everything he knows. That whole plotline, rather, appears more as interesting window dressing behind the more intimate tale of Lobsang and Joshua’s thoughts as they step between endless worlds in their
BAXTER PHOTO BY y Szymon Sokół; Pratchett photo by http://www.acumenimages.com
What readers might miss is a better-developed effort at world building by the authors. airship. That journey for the reader turns national intrigue, and mind-spinning techout to be worthwhile, and the lack of thrills nological advance. each minute are not to be missed. The advantage of having an infinite numWhat readers might miss is a better-devel- ber of Earths is that all such people can be oped effort at world building by the authors. accommodated. The disadvantage of writing Baxter and Pratchett show us in de- a book about having an infinite number of tail—possibly too much—the efforts and Earths is that to be realistic—even in a scesacrifices of people leaving Datum Earth to nario in which people can step into parallel start new lives on frontier planets. We see planets—the writers should acknowledge many small bands of people fleeing modern, that there would be a greater diversity of recrowded Earth to live on primitive Earths, actions to the opportunities opened up by rediscovering the joys of scrabbling for food those infinite worlds. from the dirt, making their own meals, sawThe authors don’t describe any settlers ing their own wood. who set out to the long Earth to create civiGrowing your own food indeed can be lizations that are more advanced than what a nice thing. But little bands of 100 or 200 exists on Datum Earth, but surely there settlers are not large enough to create sus- would be a number of groups that seek to tainable communities, even in lands of create worlds where science and rationality plenty. For every child who has ever won- play a bigger role in education and policy. dered about where the third generation of People who want to limit the role of fundamankind came from in the biblical story of mentalism. People who want to take science creation (if there was Adam and Eve and and intellectual exploration further to solve two sons, um, who created the grandkids?), the math isn’t appreciably better when there are 150 people. There might be sufficient numbers of men and women to mate without getting too icky too quickly, but experts estimate that you need thousands of people to provide enough diverse genetic material to avoid inbreeding and genetic disaster. One hundred people isn’t the genesis of a new civilization; it’s the The Long Earth collaborators Stephen Baxter (left) and foundation of a cult. Sir Terry Pratchett The fact that the settlers in these alternate Earths are not paying atten- problems. People who want to escape the tion to what is an easily determined viable narrow-minded folk superstitions that still population number (the book takes place rule so much of our lives in the 21st cenin the age of Wikipedia, after all)—coupled tury. People who don’t think that humans with the fact that Pratchett and Baxter are reached the pinnacle of development in the two very smart and knowledgeable peo- 16th century. But none such are in this book. ple—suggests that they weren’t interested That is a philosophical complaint about in creating sustained civilization. They The Long Earth. There are other points of were interested in escaping the problems of criticism that deserve noting. the modern world, as are most people who The city of Madison was the birthplace of move to the mountains and start spinning the idea to write this book, the authors note, their own thread. They create lives where because they were in that beautiful city for a everything is on a scale controllable by— convention, and they decided to base their and nonthreatening to—normal people, protagonist there. As simple as that. But seemingly safe from the whims of imper- also as useless as that; there’s no real consonal forces of large-scale economics, inter- nection to the city of Madison as it exists in
reality, aside from an occasional street name dropped into the text. The story makes no use of the giant University of Wisconsin– Madison, which is chock full of astronomers and physicists and philosophers, each of whom could have played a role in this story; nor does the state government, also based there, play a role. The story could have been started in any city in the developed world, really, and one senses the authors knew that, because they don’t make much effort to conform to reality (or the possibilities) of that über-liberal, economically successful city. And when Joshua at one point refers to himself and other boys of his youth as “lads,” one worries that the British writers might not remember that Madison is even in the United States. Another hiccup in the storytelling comes in the form of odd choices by the characters (and thus by the authors). Joshua is put in potentially dangerous situations, including one in which he is being charged by elfin humanoids on the backs of large beasts, and he is fearing for his life. But he does not step away to a safer planet. Why? He could have simply stepped to an adjacent Earth or two, moving a safe distance from where the action is, and stepped back to be picked up by Lobsang and the airship. He only does so after he runs into … well, that would be spoiling things, so it’ll remain unwritten here. But the fact that he later does incorporate stepping into his emergency repertoire is not adequately dealt with by the writers. That failing also points to the immense possibilities of the universe created by Baxter and Pratchett in this book, which, as you’ll discover in its final pages, is clearly set up to be the first of an indeterminate number of books. The writing and storytelling in The Long Earth are excellent, as you would expect from these two accomplished writers. Readers looking for nonstop action might be disappointed; the plotting also is likely too light for many readers. And people who pick up this book expecting a joke-a-minute wry story in the Discworld vein are almost certainly going to be disappointed. There is humor in the book, and Pratchett’s trademarked brand of turning a phrase on its head to wring a smile out of the reader is present, but it simply is not a jokey book, and it is better off for it. weimar.ws Galaxis
Reviewscreen Future Fantasist Al Williamson Adventures By Al Williamson Insight Studios Group • 2003 96 pages • $34.95
f you wanted to find someone to illustrate a story about heroic spacemen and beautiful heroines on exotic planets with soaring buildings and bizarre alien enemies, chances are you would try to get Al Williamson or would at least have Williamson’s art in your head as you described what it was you were trying to get another artist to create. Williamson was born in 1931 and died in 2010. In the intervening 79 years, he was one of the country’s top fantasy and science fiction comics artists. For a generation or two of comics and science fiction readers, Williamson has been known for his excellent adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, two faithful graphic retellings that are still worth collecting and reading today. His many other contributions were found everywhere from Marvel superhero titles to Creepy and Eerie magazines to the daily strip Secret Agent X-9. Al Williamson Adventures is a too-short overview of some of his works, leaving the reader wanting more of the fine art, if not some of the too-basic storytelling. There’s a 1940s, 1950s Foundation and Empire high-drama look to much of Williamson’s art. The alien cities soar beautifully if improbably into the sky; the heroines wear less than a Playboy Playmate, the heroes are smart but really brawnier than they are brainy, and it’s all infused with such an optimistic spirit and energy that you quickly forgive any shortcomings. (If you like scantily clad heroines, this is the book for you; if you like scantily clad heroes, look elsewhere.) Don’t let the cover fool you. There is no Flash Gordon story inside. But if you like Flash-style high-design science fantasy, you will be rewarded inside. There’s that and much more, a rather wide variety, in fact, ranging from Harlan Ellison’s “Along the Scenic Route” to a noirish tale of government conspiracy and cloning. 76 68
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The variety of material presented in these scant 96 pages makes this something of a Williamson portfolio, one that is very accessible to the non-expert Williamson fan. For example, interspersed between the other stories are chapters of a serial-style story called Cliff Hanger: An Albruce Serial in Six Chapters. (The subtitle comes from the “screenplay” by Bruce Jones and “direction” by Al Williamson.) The serial is reminiscent of Indiana Jones stories; constant action with new perils and barely believable escapes on almost every page. Cliff Hanger is enjoyable in a cotton-candy way, but it is not the best story in the book, despite the extensive real estate it takes up. For those readers lured in by the cover’s Flash Gordon imagery, the high points might well be “One Last Job,” a short four-
page story about a hunter fighting dinosaurs, “The Few and the Far,” about an interstellar fighter tempted by a double-crossing shape-shifter (which, we must note, would also be a great band name), or “Relic,” concerning the visit to a planet by two travelers looking for planetary resource plunder. The only color story in the book is Ellison’s tale, a simple but well-told tale of road rage and legalized vengeance. Science fiction comics can tell stories that are a great deal more complex than what is collected in Al Williamson Adventures. But this is a book that celebrates an artist, not a writer, and we have no complaints about the wonderful science fiction art found throughout. It’s a good, entertaining journey through a classic comics artist’s view of future fantasy.
Measure for Measure Measuring the World By Daniel Kehlmann; translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway Pantheon • November 2006 259 pages • $23.00 The duke said nothing. The title of professor, said Gauss again, enunciating every syllable. An appointment at the University of Helmstadt. A salary twice a month. The duke paced up and down, made a noise between a rumble and a hum, looked at the gold-leaf ceiling. Gauss used the time to count off some prime numbers. In fact he was sure that there would never be a formula to determine them. But if one counted off several hundred thousand, one could establish the likelihood of their occurrence asymptomatically. For a moment he was concentrating so hard that he jumped when the duke said that one didn’t bargain with one’s ruling prince.
PHOTO BY OmiTs
f people told you that a story about two key figures of the Western Enlightenment who traveled the world scientifically measuring the planet would be one of the best books you ever read, you might
think that person to be a bit crazy. If they told you that you would laugh out loud while reading it, you might wonder if your acquaintance gets out much. But your friends would be correct, if they are talking about Daniel Kehlmann’s wonderful international bestseller Measuring the World. First published in Germany as Die Vermessung der Welt in 2005, Measuring tells the story of Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss, two brilliant (and real-life) 18th-century Central European scientists who meet and set out to literally accomplish the title of this novel. Reading this novel is only half of the fun. The other half comes when you head online and start reading nonfiction about Humboldt and Gauss and you learn that some of what you thought was a fancy of Kehlmann’s imagination did in fact happen. Von Humboldt and Gauss were reallife geniuses. Gauss, from northeastern Germany, was a mathematician whose work advanced the boundaries of numbers theory, geometry, astronomy, optics, and much more. Von Humboldt, born in Berlin in 1769, was a naturalist and geographer who made groundbreaking discoveries in his research in and cataloging of South America. (It is his journey to that continent—here reimagined with Gauss at his side—that makes up much of this novel, including some of the best parts of the book.) Caracas, Venezuela; Arcata, California; and Berlin, Germany, are homes to universities named for von Humboldt. The search for answers, the search for calibration and understanding of the planet around us, are core driving concerns of this novel, and
they are likely to be shared by readers who appreciate science fiction. Kehlmann is the latest literary wunderkind out of Central Europe. With joint German-Austrian nationality, the 37-year-old is one of the best-selling German language writers alive and has amassed a number of awards for his novels and short stories. Measuring was the first of his books to be published in the United States, and the only one to fit under Galaxis’ realm of coverage, but his other books, such as Me and Kaminski, are also proof of his talent. Kehlmann’s biggest achievement with Measuring the World is likely to have been making a book about an intellectual quest into an easily read and understood book for non-scientists. The story is told in clean, smooth prose, demonstrating that even a tale of scientific geniuses engaged in their work can be entertaining and accessible to everyone. Part of the credit for that surely must go to translator Carol Brown Janeway. Read this book, and keep Wikipedia bookmarked in your browser, because you’ll find lots of reasons to head to the online encyclopedia for additional information. weimar.ws Galaxis
Reviewscreen Chez Max By Jakob Arjouni No Exit Press • 2010 159 pages • £7.99 (import)
n the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, science fiction stories often railed against what their writers saw as a complacent and overbearing society and government. The Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal gave some real-life fuel to these fictions, but far too often they painted with overly broad strokes their criticisms of contemporary society and were overly vague about their predictions of a better world that could be built by their heroes—or antiheroes, in many cases. After the terrorist attacks in the United States on 9/11 and the heavy-handed response to them, novelists were given a readymade world to populate with their fears of governments using terrorism as a pretext to take over their citizens’ lives. Few books in this new genre have had much impact, perhaps because many of the American authors are still grappling with the nearly overwhelming support they and their fellow citizens gave to their government’s foreign and domestic terrorism-fighting activities in the first few years of the fight, before it became bogged down in two expensive foreign wars and a bottomless budget hole. Enter Jakob Arjouni and Chez Max. Arjouni’s low-key novel takes place in the nottoo-distant future, 2064 to be exact, in an age in which the war against terrorists has largely been won, but the government keeps a tight lid on political dissent with the help of constant surveillance. Unlike a lot of dystopian futures, in which the state is all-powerful or suffocating in its efforts to control things, the society Arjouni creates is one in which most people would probably feel unmolested by the secret police and citizen surveillance. In return, they get a society that is for the most part peaceful and orderly, albeit not entirely exciting. Extrapolating from the terrorist-ridden present, Arjouni has created a future in which people are watched carefully for signs of terrorist affectations (which means they in some way object to the way things are). The German-born Max, our hero (what’s in a word?), runs the titular Parisian bistro, but it is only his cover, his base from which he 68 78
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conducts surveillance of his neighborhood, looking for criminals. For Max is an Ashcroft agent, named after the former U.S. attorney general who instigated much of the post-9/11 internal spying in this country. Truth be told, Max is not a particularly useful Ashcroft agent. His results, measured in plots Jakob Arjouni uncovered and “terrorists” captured, are measly. He starts off this book by trying to rectify that by getting one of his few friends arrested. Max’s coworkers largely ignore him, focusing instead on Chen Wu, his partner in watching over the local neighborhood. Chen’s record is the opposite of Max’s; Chen has a spectacular record of sniffing out plots and terrorists, and as a result he gets away with pushing the boundaries in ways that the by-the-book Max wouldn’t dream of. He’s also a no-holds-barred jerk to Arjouni,
openly contemptuous of him. Their discussions quickly degenerate into withering insults from Chen and Max trying to deflect it with all of the patience of a high school guidance counselor three months from retirement. So when Max gets it into his head that Chen isn’t the superAshkroftian he appears to be but is instead a rebel smuggling illegal aliens into France, the calm and plodding Max decides to make his move. He can accomplish two goals with one successful operation: Improve his Ashkroft record with a highprofile arrest, and rid himself of his troublesome partner. Is Chen really guilty? Should the reader be rooting for Chen or for Max to right his career and get the arrest? Should either of them be serving the state the way they do, or is their surveillance state really much different from the one today, in which government snoops on private phone calls and emails? Another change of pace for American readers who have sampled some of the post-9/11 literature, such as John Updike’s Terrorist, is that Chez Max is written by a European. Turkish-German writer Arjouni earlier created a wonderfully refreshing four-novel mystery series centered on a Frankfurt private investigator named Kemal Kayankaya, a hard-drinking, sarcastic, incredibly funny and determined detective. Though not even remotely science fiction, the Kayankaya novels are heartily recommended, both for their high entertainment value as well as a good look at the Turkish-German friction in German society. At press time, Chez Max is not available in a U.S. edition, but a UK edition can be purchased through Amazon.co.uk, eBay, or other online retailers. Much easier to find are the U.S. editions of Arjouni’s Kayankaya novels, so those might be the easiest—and most rewarding—way to sample this fine writer.
ARJOUNI PHOTO BY Hans Weingartz
A Professional Job
Historic Redo Galactica 1980 By Marc Guggenheim and Cezar Razek Dynamite • 2011 112 pages • $16.99
here are many ways one could reimagine Galactica 1980, the shortlived (only 10 episodes) TV sequel to ABC’s 1978-79 Battlestar Galactica. Consider how creator Glen A. Larson might have told the story with the original actors and characters, discovering and exploring earth. That would have been even more intriguing if ABC hadn’t moved up the airtime one hour, dooming Galactica 1980 to kid-friendly silliness. Or you could replace some of the original characters, as Larson did, but come up with different replacements. Less bland ones, for example. Another approach would be to just take what Larson dropped on us and play it for laughs, Brady Bunch Movie-style. Writer Marc Guggenheim, artist Cezar Razek and their team at Dynamite took the route of working with the characters supplied by Larson’s 1980 but in a more adult, controversial, and thankfully more satisfying manner. The result was a limited series Galactica 1980 comic book, here collected in one volume. The story is played straight, thankfully avoiding a camp or tongue-in-cheek approach to removing the disappointment many fans felt with 1980. But one key point, a character some fans hated who plays an aggressively antagonistic role in this reimagining, shows the creators of this comic are not afraid to go in directions that ABC would never have contemplated. Just as in the series, the Galactica finally discovers Earth in Dynamite’s Galactica 1980. Though weary from years of fleeing Cylons intent on their destruction, the Galacticans are thrilled to find themselves at the goal line—until they realize that Earth is nowhere near being capable of helping them make a stand against the Cylons. Again, like the TV series, they arrive at Earth in our modern times. Tweener genius Dr. Z takes it into his own hands to change the Earth according to the Galacticans’ wishes. This involves forcefully taking over the planet—an interesting “alien invasion” idea, though one not nearly well-enough expanded upon in this vol-
ume. Commander Adama is unable to stop the madness because he is thought to have been killed in an accident early in the story. There are some nice but odd touches. For example, it turns out that the language that the Galacticans speak is similar to ancient Aramaic—the language Jesus spoke—so a modern-day linguist is able to communicate with Earth’s would-be conquerors and tries to mediate a truce. Troy, the adopted son of the late Captain Apollo who was formerly known as Boxey, is given a meatier and more muscular role here than he had on the small screen. In particular, he forces his way into the very center of America’s under-siege national leadership (in a replica of the Oval Office deep under a secret mountain). The biggest problem with the plot is probably the willingness with which the Galactican warriors set about following their orders to forcefully take over the Earth. Shorthand is one thing, and it’s often necessary to tell a complex story in a comic book format, but the drama could have been increased (and our respect for the Colonial warriors retained) if we’d seen something of a countermove or resistance to their orders. The story is left unfinished, and it’s unknown if we’ll see a completion to this reimagined 1980. Battlestar Galactica does not have a long-lived experience in comics, and it’s been tried numerous times, with numerous publishers. This volume includes Marc Guggenheim’s six-page proposal for this comic series, and it makes for interesting perusing after completing the reading of the finished product. It even makes us want to read the original proposal for Glen A. Larson’s Galactica 1980 TV series; so much can change between proposal and completed program, our minds are open to seeing what might have been. And it’s into that same void that Dynamite’s Galactica 1980 comic flies.
Issue #1, July 2011
Premiere issue! Interview with Michio Kaku; author David Gerrold on Star Hunt; Mobile Suit Gundam; Lathe of Heaven on TV; space photos; Virgin Galactic report; remembering Star Wars magazines; Q&As with Mary Doria Russell, Deepak Srivastava, & Michael Medved; news & reviews; & more!
TWO WAYS TO ORDER 1: Free digital download at issuu.com/weimarworldservice or 2: Purchase print edition at magcloud.com/user/jzipperer
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Reviewscreen Black and White and Red All Over Hellbound 2 Editor and designer: Roho Boston Comics Roundtable • August 2011 96 pages • $10.00
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Issue #2, Oct. 2011
Complete episode guide to the SyFy-era Battlestar Galactica! Also: a special report on classic German SF; building a real starship; Perry Rhodan starts over; the controversy over spilling Prometheus’ secrets; the world’s first short SF story; a photo guide to Saturn; reviews; & more!
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Galaxis 80 68
Galaxis December 2012
omics, even when they’re static on a printed paper page, are a moving target that can be difficult to keep track of. Comics retailing has been lurching from crisis to crisis to occasional technological epiphany over the past couple decades, and it has made finding and following great comics more difficult. This becomes especially true with smaller or genre comics titles; even if one local comics shop carries it, the one a mile away might never have heard of it. But keep looking, and without too much trouble you’ll find neat publications such as Hellbound, published by Boston Horror Comics. Without a single world-famous superhero scorching its pages, Hellbound reminds us of the pleasure of reading new and sometimes puzzling stories. Hellbound #2 includes 12 black and white stories. The graphic and storytelling
styles are very different; there is no homogeneous big-comics conformity here. The book begins with “Necrocomicon,” Nathan Kitler and Jerel Dye’s tale of a foulspirited cartoonist taken over by the even worse spirits in his own comic art. John Hillard’s “Eugene” will leave a smile on your face as it depicts what we can only call a love-slayer story. J. Bell and Andy Wong’s “RobMeBlind.com” is a nasty little revenge turnaround. And Catlin Plovnick’s “Eye Contact” is just, well, deliciously and—if it’s possible—innocently wicked. The third edition of Hellbound was also recently released, and if you like what’s in the second iteration, you’ll want to track down the third. The Boston Comics Roundtable, which is behind Boston Horror Comics, is not only focused on horror. They also produced Outbound a few years ago, showcasing science fiction. Like Hellbound, Outbound is a good platform for a variety of different artistic voices. You will likely find a few stories weak or overly experimental, but overall you’ll find a refreshing volume of talent. So far, two editions of Outbound have been published. Hellbound 2 is available in the regular, 96-page $10 edition, and it’s also available in an “art edition” of 100 pages for $100, which comes in boxes covered in paper handmade by the Boston Paper Collective, which is the first time you’ve heard that there was anything called the Boston Paper Collective. Hellbound 3 was also released right before this issue of Galaxis went to press and was not reviewed; but it is being sold for $25 for 64 pages in an art edition that features a wraparound cover by Uruguay born Roho, owner/publisher of River Bird Comics and creator of Hellbound. If you can’t find these publications at your local comics retailer, go to their website bostoncomicsroundtable.com. The internet is doing a pretty good job of filling in the void left by the imploding retail industry.
In Deepo Trouble The Incal By Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius SelfMadeHero • October 2011 308 pages • UK edition; price varies
Left: Moebius (Jean Giraud), at the International Festival of Comics in Łódź, Poland, October 2008. Right: Writer/filmmaker Alejan-
Giraud Photo by Jarek Obważanek, WRAK.PL; Jodorowsky PHOTO © Ana Bolívar (www.anabolivar.com)
here was rotten news to wake up to one morning in March 2012: French comics legend Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, had passed away. This past fall, we had the pleasure of meeting a neighbor who is an artist and designer (and builder and inventor ... all very cool). He showed off some of his artwork; fantastic, thin-lined illustrations of people on flying contraptions against alien-looking landscapes. We said to him, “You might think this is a crazy comparison, but this reminds us of Moebius.” He immediately smiled and agreed, noting how much he admired Moebius’ work. He is only one of millions of people inspired by Moebius, one of the creative geniuses behind the French comics magazine Metal Hurlant (which in 1977 was licensed and renamed Heavy Metal by the publishers of National Lampoon magazine, and brought to the United States, where it is still published to this day under the current ownership of Kevin Eastman). Moebius’ artwork is deceptively simple, clearly drawn yet complex enough to hold your attention as you gaze at the wondrous image of a man riding a great winged beast over a landscape of trees or through a city built into soaring mountain peaks.
For years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Heavy Metal readers were overdosing on a steady diet of stories from Moebius. But, like a superhero sequel movie, what can you do to top one genius? Pair him with another genius. So Moebius teamed up with Chilian-French filmmaker and author Alejandro Jodorowsky for The Incal. Now, three decades later, The Incal is being rereleased in full-color hardback editions by a number of publishers. We purchased ours from the UK, but you’ll be able to find this edition as well as subsequent Incal volumes in domestic versions, all quite reasonably priced. Why is it worth revisiting a 30-year-old story from Moebius and Jodorowsky? Out of that pairing of geniuses came, well, not storytelling genius, but certainly a creative and thrilling story that is as much a pleasure to read today as it was in the early 1980s. The Incal covers the galaxy-spanning adventure centering on the Light Incal and the Dark Incal, two large crystals that confer great powers. The star of the book is John DiFool, a private investigator and general slob who does not want to be involved in the
adventures of the book. Frankly, the reluctant hero bit gets hard to bear after a while; but a cast of accompanying characters keeps it from becoming a drag. DiFool is accompanied by Deepo, his trusty, um, concrete bird that, er, can talk. Talking concrete birds are good things to have nearby when you run into trouble, which is something DiFool does on a frequent basis. There is also DiFool’s son, a sort of messianic character named Solune, a professional fighter named the Metabaron (himself the subject of a subsequent storyline from Jodorowsky sans Moebius), and Tanatah and Animah, two mystical sisters who guard the Light Incal and the Dark Incal. Reviewing this volume on Boingboing. net, Cory Doctorow wrote, “Jodorowsky’s plotting strategy seems to have consisted of making up the weirdest stuff he could think of, getting bored, chucking in a bunch of new, weirder stuff, and repeating as necessary.” Lovers of weird stories will enjoy this book, but really, it’s not that off-the-wall. The artwork is fantastic, and the story does keep moving at a good enough pace. If, like us, you got tired of DiFool’s foolishness, you never had to wait too many pages for the focus to shift to another of the characters, any one of which is more interesting. If the creators had made the concrete bird Deepo the star of the book, they would have had a better lead. Moebius fans will be reminded of his greatness with this book, and people who have never known his work will learn why they should mourn his passing. weimar.ws Galaxis
Reviewscreen Men In Black III Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld Columbia Pictures • Blu-ray Nov. 30, 2012 106 minutes • $40.99
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Directed by Christopher Nolan Warner Bros. • Blu-ray Dec. 4, 2012 165 minutes • $35.99 ark Knight Rises actually brings to completion the Batman tale begun by director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale with 2005’s Batman Begins. Most comics stories are never-ending, so to bring resolu-
Why is this man smiling? Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, addressing Wondercon 2012 in Anaheim, California, just might be the ultimate Dark Knight Rises winner. tion to troubled Bruce Wayne’s life, Dark Knight Rises deserves a place of honor. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t leave open a window for future, different adventures. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an actor who can seemingly do no wrong onscreen these days, turns in a very strong performance as a police officer with a portentous name. Considering the rapidity with which the studios rebooted the SpiderMan franchise after director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire threw in the towel, we might well see another Batman launched before too long (by which we mean “before not long enough”). Tron: Legacy Directed by Joseph Kosinski Walt Disney Pictures • Blu-ray April 5, 2011 126 minutes • $29.99–$79.99 n 1982, Walt Disney released Tron, a film about a computer game creator who ends up inside his game. The movie underper-
formed at the box office, but it became a cult hit among computer people of all stripes. Tron: Legacy is a sequel, and it is well worth the two-decade wait. It doesn’t overdo the game aspects, and it doesn’t underplay the characterization needed to make us care about Kevin and Sam Flynn (Jeff Bridges and Garret Hedlund, respectively, both of whom are eminently watchable). There are many packages for buyers to choose from with this film. You can get the blu-ray, a digital copy, the original Tron, plus a 3-D version of Tron: Legacy, or seemingly any combination of those (and more). You only need one version of Tron: Legacy, of course, so we recommend you pick carefully when choosing the blu-ray package you buy. But do buy it. G
Next Issue G
alaxis is on a roll, with thousands of readers and an infinite number of topics to explore in future issues. We’ll kick off our fourth issue by featuring one of the world’s leading inventors and futurists, Ray Kurzweil.
Galaxis December 2012
We’ll take a look at a seldomseen part of the late, great novelist John Updike; we’ll look at his SF works and what he had to say about this world. Also look for the latest news on the next Star Wars film, an
episode guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation, as only we know how to present it. And we’ll explore the near-earth world of Planetes. PLUS: The unexpected SF films of the former East Germany.
New SF from China. Reviews of new works from Iain M. Banks, Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, & much more. Look for it all in the fourth exciting issue of Galaxis magazine: Coming Spring 2013
KURZWEIL PHOTO: ED SCHIPUL; enterprise model photo: DESPAYRE; UPDIKE PHOTO: GEORGE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY;
ount the Men in Black franchise up there with the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard franchises as stories that really don’t need to be continued, but corporate necessity dictates new sequels, even if they come a decade after the previous film in the series. Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time. To do so, he must deal with the younger version of his 2012 partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones); the young Agent K is played wonderfully by Josh Brolin. Together, they must save the world of the future. Writer Etan Cohen also wrote the surprisingly good Tropic Thunder, which had more life and humor than this film. Much of the movie is carried by Smith’s wisecracks; Brolin does a great Jones imitation, but that’s not a reason to see a movie. Emma Thompson, who plays Agent O—replacement for Agent Z and a longtime, er, friend of Agent K—is underused. The movie is not a laugh-a-minute, but neither is it a total misfire. It’s worth a viewing on cable. As an event motion picture in an expensive theater with expensive popcorn and expensive soda, it’s not worth your dollars.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
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Galaxis December 2012