Page 1

SPECIAL ISSUE: STAR TREK’S NEW CHAPTER THE BRAINY SF OF EUROPA REPORT CONTROVERSY: THE ORSON SCOTT CARD BOYCOTT RAY KURZWEIL SPEEDS TOWARD TOMORROW

Galaxis NUMBER 4

THE WORLDS OF SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION

MARCH 2014 $19.95 TM

EXCLUSIVE: ARTEMIS ETERNAL EL COSMONAUTA & MAN OF STEEL STAR TREK EPISODE GUIDE: NEXT GENERATION SEASON I

J.J. Abrams Guides STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

weimar.ws Galaxis

www.weimar.ws

1


Love science fiction & science? We speak that language. THE W OF S ORLDS SCIENCCIENCE & E FIC TIO N

OCT. 20

11 $9.95

PLUS: O UR FAVO RITE TH INGS

Comple te Episode Guide to Modern the S Classic F

Galaxis weimar .ws

The science fiction world has needed something like this. Excitement. Intelligence. Depth. The unexpected. At Galaxis: The Worlds of Science & Science Fiction, our goal is to provide you with things you don’t know already. The science fiction world has grown up. So we cover SF and science from a

2

Galaxis March 2014

5

new angle, so you don’t read what you have already read elsewhere. Meet new, interesting people. Get the international scoop. Learn something new. The voice of the future! Read the magazine in a free digital online edition or buy a print copy:

www.weimar.ws


MARCH 2014

FEATURES 14 16 18 22 32 38 48 52 58 64 70 74

Galaxis

PHOTO: INSAPPHOWETRUST

6 11 51

THE WORLDS OF SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION

vier

BUT WHAT ABOUT INDY?

Disney has big plans for Star Wars, but Dr. Jones? REMEMBERING IAIN M. BANKS JOURNEY OF THE COSMONAUT

An indie SF film tells a tale of mystery and intrigue STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

Our exclusive and extensive analysis and review HOW YESTERDAY SOLD TOMORROW

A colorful look at the SF film posters of the past STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION EPISODE GUIDE: SEASON 1

The first part of our guide to the entire series THE ORSON BOYCOTT

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, and gay marriage FICTION: DRAGON FIRE THE NEW INDIE FILMMAKING

Jessica Mae Stover is making Artemis Eternal her way EUROPA REPORT

A critically lauded SF film that doesn’t forget the brain RAY KURZWEIL AT TOP SPEED

The futurist and inventor on the medical revolution SPACE STAMPS

Space was explored on the envelope and in the capsule

DEPARTMENTS 4

NUMBER 4

VIEWSCREEN

78

COMPENDIUM

LAUNCH TUBE

80 81

WEBBED GAME SET

Television finds a way to get even dumber More Potternalia, more Cosmos, mysterious Robert J. Sawyer, & still more

82

IMAGERY

Chinese dinosaurs and a real-life Hoth WORLDLY THINGS

Chromecast and Hyperloop are revolutionary

94

What to see, hear, and do

The Galaxis SF Quiz REVIEWSCREEN

Man of Steel, Gravity, Knights of Sidonia, Dark Horse’s Star Wars Omnibus, The Long War, The Hobbit & more NEXT GALAXIS

What’s in our future weimar.ws Galaxis

3


PHOTO: PTERANTULA (TERRY GOSS)

Viewscreen

Big Fish Story

T

wo decades ago, I interviewed conservative technology visionary George Gilder, I asked him about the thenpopular predictions that we would one day have 500 channels and whether he thought those channels would be filled with quality or garbage. He replied that there would still be lots of garbage, of lowquality, of porn; but with so many channels, there would also be more opportunities for quality stuff. He was correct, and though he didn’t cite it, he was basically banking on Sturgeon’s Law, which says that 90 percent of everything is garbage. It’s the 10 percent through which we dig March 2014 Volume 1, Number 4 www.weimar.ws THANKS THIS ISSUE TO: The Commonwealth Club of California, David Gerrold, Ray Kurzweil, Andy Lalino, George Lucas, NASA, Ed Ritger, Riot Cinema Collective, Kin Tso, Robert J. Sawyer, Jessica Mae Stover, and Wayfare Entertainment. ON THE COVER: Star Trek is going places it never went before under director J.J. Abrams. Abrams photo

4

Galaxis March 2014

Above: Is this a white shark? Is it real? Is it giant? Was it brought here by aliens? You’ll never find the answers to those questions by watching the “science” channels.

looking for originality, for quality. When I scroll through our cable TV lineup, we have hundreds of channels, including many channels that are multiples of other channels (C-SPAN 2, H2, etc.). When I was in college a couple decades ago, History Channel was jokingly called the Hitler Channel, because of heavy rotation of World War II documentaries it showed. But when I scroll past H2 these days, I’m far more likely to find pseudo documentaries about ancient aliens. If they want to set their sites no higher than being a cable version of the old Weekly World News, that’s their corporate deci-

sion. It’s about money, and this is how they decided to make their bundle. But do they have to debase history and science in the process? I don’t like getting stuck in front of the television set, unless I’m either doing something more interesting on my computer at the same time, or if I’m watching something really good. But I’m not the one who always gets to operate the remote control, so once in a while I’m stuck watching some time-waster that either bores the hell out of me or that sickens me. This is the tale of some that sickened me, worried me, and that should worry you, too. One night we came across a fake documentary on Discovery Channel called Mermaids: The New Evidence. Originally produced for the Animal Planet channel, the film was a sequel to Mermaids: The

Galaxis

EDITOR & PUBLISHER John Zipperer jzipperer@gmail.com

by David Shankbone; planetary image by NASA-ESA-G-BACON.

strictly forbidden without written permission. Galaxis accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions, but if they are submitted, they will be considered and, if necessary, returned.

Galaxis is published by John Zipperer. This is issue Volume One, Number Four. Except for photos by third-party photographers, all content is copyright © 2014 John Zipperer, except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction of any part is

All articles in this issue are written by John Zipperer, unless otherwise specified. All characters, logos, and related material repre-

ART DIRECTOR & DESIGN John Zipperer PRINTING: Issuu.com & MagCloud sented in images—including but not limited to Star Wars, Star Trek, and Man of Steel—are the property of their respective copyright owners. Address all of your communications to Galaxis magazine, including letters to the editor and business queries, to jzipperer@gmail.com or john@weimar.ws.


Body Found, which gave the furry-creature channel some of the highest ratings in its history. Both films use the same documentary style and conspiracy-theory approach to evaluating evidence and dealing with critics that you find on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens series. Which, of course, brings us to the Ancient Aliens series. This show, which has since moved to the sister channel H2, is basically an Erich von Däniken dream; the Chariots of the Gods? author even appeared in the premiere episode, which should have been all we needed to write it off as 1970s-vintage fake science. But the show is still around in its fifth series as of this writing, and each time it airs it explodes any claim History Channel has to being a rational medium. For that matter, you would think the Science Channel is the most proscience-titled channel on the cable TV lineup. But then you find that it has been airing nonsense like Uncovering Aliens and The Unexplained Files. We can add to this list of offenses against intelligence and science the recent Discovery Channel special Megalodon: The Monster Shark that Lives, which makes the case that a giant prehistoric shark (the megalodon) survives into the modern day. The only problem? Megalodon has been extinct for millions of years. The channel then compounded its mistake by reacting to criticism of the show with claims that “sightings of the shark continue to this day.” It’s enough to make you wish that Discovery Channel was extinct. People who like these types of specials because they “raise questions worth considering” are being duped, because these programs don’t present all of the evidence. They are not honest, and they do not respect their audiences. Peter Klimley, a University of California at Davis shark expert, told National Geographic that the Megalodon film is “kind of irresponsible. It’s just making something up to just scare people ... At least the movie Sharknado was kind of fun. It’s so outlandish that nobody is going to take it seriously. But this is the kind of thing that people might take seriously.” The Mermaid films were, I’m fairly certain, intended as humor. My problem with them is a bit different than my problem with the other programs mentioned here, because Mermaids simply failed to make clear enough that it was a spoof. But Ancient Aliens, Megalodon, Uncovering Aliens, and their ilk pass off fake as

true, they muddy the waters, they abuse their viewers who lack the ability to make informed judgements—especially because those viewers are relying on these programs to give them information with which to inform their judgements. Those viewers even watch channels such as Discovery and Animal Planet and H2 because they are thought to be trustworthy purveyors of factual information. Those viewers have in turn been fooled and insulted by these fake documentaries. I love spoofs. I love parodies. Whether it’s the brilliant Galaxy Quest or a Harvard Lampoon parody of National Geographic, a well-done parody can be entertaining and even biting, making great points with its spot-on critique. John Stewart does that expertly in his nightly parodying of the news on The Daily Show. But Megalodon and Ancient Aliens are of a different sort; they’re not trying to entertain or make points as much as they are trying to mislead, and the joke seems greatest when the audience is not in on it. In that sense, they are very mean-spirited productions, duping the gullible (which, when it comes to matters of science, is a very large proportion of the populace) and making it even harder for them to figure out truth from fiction in the crowded media landscape. These shows are not even trying to add to our store of knowledge, nor do they seek to show how exciting scientific pursuit and discovery really can be. In fact, these fake documentaries wrap their stories in the exact same conspiracy-theory style of storytelling used by people who think President Barack Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim or that the Bush administration somehow possessed the skills, ability, and desire to fake the 9/11 terrorist attacks. By using these techniques, these programs lend credence to the crazies who work that side of the street all the time in earnest and not just in pursuit of a quick buck and a chance to snicker at the gullibility of their audience. When Steven Colbert gives a rightwing rant about the president, the audience is in on it and enjoys it because it knows that Colbert is spoofing some Fox News blowhard. When viewers are told in a fake scientific setting—aired on a real science channel—that a giant prehistoric shark could well be around today, they most likely don’t have enough information to judge if that could be true or not. The joke is therefore on the audience. John Zipperer/Editor & Publisher weimar.ws Galaxis

5


News & views for today & tomorrow

LaunchTube Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in Hollywood following his stint as California’s governor.

JK Rowling Signs up for New Movies Set in the Potterverse ollowing the smash success of seven novels and eight movies focused on Harry Potter and his battle against Voldemort, author J.K. Rowling turned from working on the boy wizard’s tale and focused on other pursuits. But in September of 2013, Rowling and Warner Bros. announced that they are working on a new film series inspired by the Potter tales. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be the first of a planned series of movies based on characters (human and otherwise) from the Potter universe. That was also the title of a 2001 book by Rowling; sales of the book benefit the Comic Relief charity. The new film reportedly won’t be a direct filmization of the book but is rather “inspired” by it. Set in New York 70 years before the events of the first Harry Potter book, Fantastic Beasts features Newt Scamander, who “wrote” the “real” Fantastic Beasts book read by Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States). Rowling will make her screenwriting debut with the movie. A release date has not been announced. After completing work on the Potter books, Rowling turned her attention to penning a book for adults, 2012’s farcical The Casual Vacancy, and 2013’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, which she wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

6

Galaxis March 2014

PHOTO: DANIEL OGREN

F


PEEK AT THE MAGICIAN’S LAND The final volume of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy is slated to hit bookstores on August 5, 2014, and the author is teasing us with a few details. Titled The Magician’s Land, the novel was expanded from 135,000 to 145,000 words after he submitted his first draft to the publisher in September 2013, Grossman told his readers in his Brakebills Alumni Newsletter at the end of 2013. “I’m very happy with it,” Grossman wrote. “It may be the best book I’ve ever written.” He says he made major changes to the

Neil deGrasse Tyson Heads into the Cosmos he popular astrophysicist who has educated (and entertained) adults and children alike with his quick humor and easy explanations of complex science will be doing that in an even higher-profile manner this March when Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts a new Cosmos science series on Fox and National Geographic Channel. Tyson, the 55-year-old director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, will be the face and voice on Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey when it premieres March 9, 2014, on Fox with repeat airings the same night on National Geographic. In 1980, public television aired a 13-part science program called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by Cornell University astrophysicist Carl Sagan. The show was wildly popular and has been seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world since its release. A large part of its success came from its use of cutting-edge video techniques to bring to life the scientific concepts, such as faster-than-light travel, that Sagan was trying to explain. The thennew digital trickery enabled Sagan to “walk” in the long-destroyed Ancient Library of Alexandria, to soar over the surface of Mars, or to walk among the stars. The first Cosmos was also a success because of Sagan’s engaging personality and his ability to connect with viewers, making complex topics not only understandable but fascinating even to the

T

storyline, even changing the entire first third of the book after he’d written it. “But I loved writing it. One thing about doing the last book of a trilogy, you don’t have to hold anything back. You’re not saving anything up. You just bring the whole cast back on stage and crank all the knobs to 12 and watch what happens.” That’s sure to whet the appetites of Magicians’ readers, which includes Galaxis. But the anticipation doesn’t stop there; Grossman adds that “there has been the usual backstage wrangling over the Magicians TV —>

non-scientifically educated. If that first series had aired in the age of Twitter, certainly we would have quickly had a new trending topic called #billionsandbillions, a play on Sagan’s descriptions of the vast scale of the universe. (Sagan himself played with the phrase in the final book he wrote before he died in 1996, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium.) Tyson is an inspired successor to Sagan. Like his predecessor, Tyson is an astrophysicist who excels at explaining science, making it interesting, and engaging people of all ages. In fact, he has a popular Twitter account—twitter.com/neiltyson— followed by more than 1.5 million people on which he opines on a variety of scientific and rational topics, including the recent motion picture Gravity (see page 85). It’s also not his first TV hosting gig; from 2006 until 2011, he was the host of PBS’ NOVA ScienceNow. His books range from Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries to The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, which includes copies of hate mail he received for his part in getting Pluto to lose its designation as a planet. FOX promised that the new Cosmos will “invent new models of scientific storytelling to reveal the grandeur of the universe and re-invent celebrated elements of the legendary original series, including the Cosmic Calendar and the Ship of the Imagination.” Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was instrumental in bringing the new series to Fox executives and getting it approved. MacFarlane will serve as executive producer along with Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, Mitchell Cannold, and Brannon Braga, who will also share directing duties with Bill Pope.

weimar.ws Galaxis

7


Launch Tube

show. [See Galaxis #3, page 28.] No news yet. Still wrangling.” SPECIAL EFFECTS ROYALTY: KING OF FINAL CUT Zach King is a young LA-based filmmaker who has a thing about weaponized cats. In particular, he and his team at Final Cut King made short YouTube videos featuring light saber-wielding cats. They are, well, adorable. But King isn’t working for the SPCA; he is an evangelist for online filmmaking, and young filmmakers who once

The Mystery of Robert J. Sawyer saac Asimov did it. Harlan Ellison did it. Now you can add award-winning novelist Robert J. Sawyer to the list of writers who have bridged the divide between the science fiction and mystery genres. Sawyer’s Red Planet Blues, published by Ace Hardcover in March 2013 and in paperback a year later, mixes the science fiction and mystery genres—for the trifecta, it also mixes in the frontier western genre. Bestselling mystery writer Linda L. Richman called it “a classic work of noir [set] against a Buck Rogers backdrop.” Or, in the words of Eric Wright, four-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Mystery Novel of the Year, “Imagine the plot of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre played out on the planet Mars. Sawyer has, and the result is wonderful in both senses — a terrific noir crime novel that is full of the wonders of Sawyer’s sci-fi world.” Sawyer says his book is “set against the backdrop of the Great Martian Fossil Rush, a tribute to the Great Klondike Gold Rush. The discovery of fossils of ancient life—something more valuable than gold or diamonds—has brought greedy stampeders to the red planet.” Sawyer, who has already won the Nebula, Hugo, and John W. Campbell Memorial Award, tapped into the mystery genre for his 22nd novel at least in part to expand his audience at a time of dwindling shelf space for books everywhere. “Science fiction and fantasy have long shared shelf space in bookstores,” says Sawyer. “But as fantasy has grown, fueled by the popularity of the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Game of Thrones books—

I

8

Galaxis March 2014

might have subscribed to Cinemagic are today subscribing to Final Cut King’s free YouTube channel Most of King’s videos are demonstrations of special effects techniques ranging from levitation to disappearing to laser bolts to, yes, light sabers. He also makes available behind-the-scenes videos that show how the effects were achieved. His fans are appreciative—and numerous. Final Cut King’s YouTube channel has more than 420,000 subscribers, and the videos have racked up spectacu-

not to mention the renewed interest in J.R.R. Tolkien—science fiction is getting squeezed out.” In traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores, an author’s book “ends up on precisely one shelf, either science fiction or mystery,” adds the Toronto-based Sawyer. “But Indigo and Amazon let you be on as many virtual bookshelves as you wish, allowing you to reach varied readers in ways never before possible.” So a book tagged as being “science fiction” and “mystery” can be found multiple ways in an online environment. Sawyer also sees SF and even the western elements as providing important support for making mysteries work. “It’s become increasingly hard to tell traditional detective stories set in the present day. Everyone knows about CSI-style forensics. It’s almost impossible for a killer not to leave fingerprints or DNA. And our public and private spaces are increasingly covered by surveillance cameras. There’s almost no room left—on Earth anyway— for the traditional whodunit,” says Sawyer. “But for Red Planet Blues, I found a way around all that. The novel is set on a lawless frontier Mars—with no security cameras—and involves a technology that lets people transfer their consciousnesses into gorgeous android bodies, which don’t have fingerprints and don’t shed DNA. But who is actually inside any given body is anyone’s guess, letting me tell a good oldfashioned mystery—on the final frontier.” To immerse himself in the noirish element, Sawyer traveled to Galaxis’ home city of San Francisco, where he toured sites associated with Sam Spade. This is a town where you can find signs on certain downtown buildings explaining their role in The Maltese Falcon, and Sawyer readily labels his book “definitely an homage to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon” as well as the work of Raymond Chandler.


PHOTO: WWW.FICG

lar viewing statistics; the “Jedi Kittens Strike Back” video, for example, has been viewed nearly 10 million times. More information, including free tutorials, is available at finalcutking.com. DAVID CRONENBERG, DIRECTOR, NOVELIST Whether it’s independent horror films such as The Brood and Crimes of the Future or mainstream fare like The Fly, director David Cronenberg has done everything he can to convince people that Canadians are not

boring. They’re weird, even. When his first novel, Consumed, appears in September 2014 from Scribner, he is expected to con-

RULER OF DARKNESS PHOTOS: FACTORY FILM STUDIO, ADVENTUS FILMS

UFO aftermath in Rulers of Darkness randma Moses began painting when she was in her 70s, so Dale Windle, who pursued his dream of making his own feature film at the age of 58, is still something of a spring chicken. His first feature, Rulers of Darkness, was completed in late 2012 and has made appearances at the Toronto Independent Film Festival and other venues. The film centers on 20-year-old Dan Thomas, played by Olivier Suprenant, who leaves home after becoming fed up with his conservative father and goes to stay with his uncle, Dr. Mike Verrücktmann. If he had any foreboding about living with his uncle, it might be because “ verrücktmann” is German for “crazy man.” The uncle had investigated a decades-old UFO encounter in Manitoba, Canada, an investigation that took the life of his sister and Dan Thomas’ mother. Dan and a woman he meets, Cheyna, then begin a new search for answers about what happened to his mother, but when they discover a strange and scary entity in the woods, they have to hope Cheyna’s father Les can help them. The science-fiction thriller, which has

tinue that message. As io9.com puts it, “It sounds every bit as weird as you’d expect — one of the main characters, Nathan, contracts a rare sexually transmitted disease called Roiphe’s Disease. (Presumably after Katie Roiphe.) There’s weird sex, 3-D printing, organ-harvesting, and a serial killer who consumes parts of his victims.” Another description is a little less exploitastic, concerning two journalists who become involved in a global conspiracy when they investigate a philosopher’s death. We’re sure it’ll be weird enough for his fans.

Clockwise from top: The lead characters might not like what they find in the woods; writer/director Dale Windle; star Olivier Surprenant, who portrays Dan Thomas.

G

been likened to a tale from The X-Files TV series, was inspired by the Falcon Lake Incident, a UFO encounter believed to have taken place near the real-life town of Falcon Lake, Manitoba, on May 20, 1967. The producers say that another source for the film was a Bible quote: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). An Aventus Films, Factory Film Studio, and Parktown Studios production, Rulers of Darkness’ actors include Rachael Cairns as Cheyna, Corry Burke as Cheyna’s father Les, and Mark Slacke as Mike Verrücktmann, which, we remind you, means “crazy man.”

Windle assembled the 93-minute film with the help of cinematographer Matthew MacDonald. They filmed in and around Ottawa, Canada, including the Diefenbunker Cold War Museum. Named after John Diefenbaker, the Canadian prime minister who authorized its construction in 1958, the site was meant to provide protection for the country’s rulers in the event of a nuclear war. Grandma Moses would probably have liked that. Rulers of Darkness is available for purchase or rental on Google Play and the iTunes store, or to learn when the film will be playing near you, visit http://rulersofdark nessmovie.com/i_want_it.html

weimar.ws Galaxis

9


Meet Freaks from Beyond Oblivion

Director Ian Gallie delves into real and not-real alienation escribed as “a story about alienation and mistrust with the beautiful island of Bermuda as its backdrop,” the independent short SF film Freaks from Beyond Oblivion is a UFO story that takes a realitybending twist. Using open-source free software to create the special effects and filled with a cast of non-professional actors, Freaks from Beyond Oblivion director Ian Gallie reports that his film is a true zero-budget film. No studio funding. No angel financiers. But he was able to tap into the world of free software, online YouTube tutorials, and more to create what he calls “a piece

D

10

Galaxis March 2014

Director Ian Gallie taught himself from free tutorials and online software to make his SF film Freaks from Beyond Oblivion.

of counter-cinema.” Gallie gives the credit (or lays the blame) for Freaks on the sense of alienation he and his coworkers felt as ex-patriots working among people who didn’t understand them: “[O]ur behaviour and beliefs were deemed radical, silly, dangerous or obscene by the locals. In turn the world we lived in was equally as freakish to us. “ The storyline involves the disappearance of a man who sees UFOs. According to the official synopsis, “The only hope in finding him lies behind the curtain of lies we call reality and is fraught with the

Transformers: Age of Extinction (6/27/14): Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammar join Earth to Echo (7/2/14): Home phoned Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7/11/14): More Apes, less Franco Jupiter Ascending (7/18/14): The Wachowskis are back with a cosmic chase Guardians of the Galaxy (7/1/14): Run Saphirblau (8/7/14): Time traveling saviors Knights of Sidonia (Summer 2014): Manga adaptation available on Netflix Atlas Shrugged: Part III (9/14): Ayn Rand SF Interstellar (11/7/14): Christopher Nolan film to anticipate all year long

PHOTOS: IAN GALLIE

Launch Tube

UPCOMING SF FILM RELEASES Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4/4/14): Team-up with Black Widow Transcendence (4/18/14): New power Crayon Shin-chan: Serious Battle! Robot Dad Strikes Back (4/19/14): What a title The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom (4/14): Chinese 3-d fantasy/wuxia Iceman (4/14): Chinese Captain America? The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (5/2/14): Electro shows up X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/23/14): Bryan Singer re-takes the helm Edge of Tomorrow (6/6/14): Groundhog Day

temptation of darkly seductive Swiss rolls and constant pursuit by alien balls of willies. “ The truth is discovered. (We would explain it here, but it’s confusing even to share the official word that it involves tentacles, cream and stawberry filling, and trans-dimensional sky beings. Truly, you had to be there.) In director Gallie’s words, “If FFBO was a love letter to Hollywood, it would be either a Dear John or demand for alimony. “ Freaks is being shown at film festivals. A teaser trailer and merchandise are available at freaksfrombeyondoblivion.com. G


Imagery I

f anyone knows the Mandarin words for Jurassic Park, please email us. But you don’t need to know Chinese to know that the Chuanjiesaurus was named after an area in China’s Yunnan Province, where this fossil was found. This skeleton is in the China Science and Technology Museum. The other two smaller fossils of dinos (see below, foreground) are known as Lufengosaurus and Dilophosaurus. In any language. PHOTO BY MLOGIC

weimar.ws Galaxis

11


Imagery I

n The Empire Strikes Back, the beleaguered rebel alliance finds short-lived refuge on the harsh ice planet of Hoth. We are pleased to see that Earth has places that are just as breathtaking as what George Lucas and his ILM magicians could create, and our locations don’t include killer Imperial probes or AT-ATs. In fact, this image of Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, looks positively peaceful. A nice place to hide from Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine’s other minions, you might think. You might think. PHOTO BY ANDREAS TILLE

12

Galaxis March 2014


weimar.ws Galaxis

13


Will we get more Indiana Jones adventures now that Disney is producing more Star Wars films? Or has Indy been forgotten? BY JOHN ZIPPERER

W

hen the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm last year (see Launch Tube, Galaxis #3), it got a wealth of film and film technology properties. But there was no mistake about its real goal in making the $4.05 billion buy: Disney wanted the Star Wars franchise, and everything else was gravy. But stuffed into boxes with other lesserknown Lucasfilm objects, the Disney people found that they were now the proud owners of the Indiana Jones franchise. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indiana Jones and the King14

Galaxis March 2014

dom of the Crystal Skull. So will there be a fifth film? Will there be other spinoffs to join the comics and novels and short-lived but critically praised Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series and other paraphernalia that have filled the shelves of fans for the past three decades? Following its purchase of Lucasfilm, Disney moved quickly to announce an aggressive slate of new Star Wars productions, with the first one to appear on December 18, 2015 (for additional details, see page 30). But the studio has been nearly silent on the Indy franchise. The reluctance to commit to continuing the Indy stories is a bit difficult to understand, considering that the Crystal Skull movie pulled in an estimated $786 million worldwide on a $185 million budget, despite mixed reviews. And Disney can’t blame the star. In October 2013, appearing as a guest on the

UK’s The Graham Norton Show, Harrison Ford was asked if he would be in another Indiana Jones film if one was made. “In a New York minute, yes,” he replied, adding that he didn’t think it was any handicap to the series to feature an aging Indiana. Then, on October 22, movie website DailySuperhero.com reported that Disney was indeed working on a fifth installment, but “one of the biggest hurdles holding back another Indiana Jones film is the fact Paramount still holds the distribution rights for the franchise. Disney wants those rights back but Paramount is holding onto them tightly, as of right now. This could change or Disney could just work with Paramount, even though they don’t like to work with other studios whom they do not own.” The rumor mill tried to fill in the blank areas in the tale, with JediNews.co.uk reporting on October 27 that Ford had reached an agreement to play Han Solo

PHOTO BY JOHN GRIFFITHS

But What About Indy?


in the Star Wars films based on a number of stipulations, including “Ford wanted a commitment to Indy 5. He did not get this as there is no plot line or script in place. What did happen was an agreement was made wherein an outline would be developed by the end of calendar year 2014, and if all parties can agree to it moving forward, efforts would be made to move on Indy 5 for release before the end of 2016.” Hints and details continued to drip in. In mid-November, Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Ruben V. Nepales interviewed composer John Williams, who said he was looking forward to composing the music for Indiana Jones 5. So something’s in the works. When Raiders of the Lost Ark unspooled in darkened movie theaters in 1981, it was a refreshing surprise for audiences. Largely free of the enormous pre-release speculation and hype of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders grabbed audiences and pulled them through a rollercoaster adventure that reminded older audiences of the 1930s serials they saw as kids and enthralled younger audiences who had never seen anything like it. The film was innocent fun and excitement, and it was the highest grossing film of the year of its release. If you’re wondering what a new film will entail, it is all speculation. The possible return of Indy and Marion’s son Mutt, played by Shia LaBeouf, or the possibility of doing a Temple of Doom and making a prequel to Indy 4 to fill in the 19-year gap—all speculation. But there are things we can assume will be there, based on the previous films. The first thing to remember is that Indiana Jones films aren’t merely adventure stories. Archaeologist Jones isn’t just out to collect an ancient Hebrew stone tablet that some people believe holds supernatural powers; he’s out to collect an ancient Hebrew stone tablet that really has supernatural powers. Similarly, the religious cult in Temple of Doom isn’t just a bunch of misguided, violent fanatics; they’re a bunch of misguided, violent fanatics with a stone that possesses real powers. In The Last Crusade, it’s the real cup of Christ they pursue and that has real powers, and in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Indy is drawn into a mystery that involves real aliens from another dimension. This isn’t adventure; it’s science fiction and fantasy adventure. Rest assured that if—frankly, when— a fifth Indiana Jones feature is unveiled, it will include lots of nonstop adventure, some historic hook, pseudo-religious hokum, and the world’s favorite archaeologist and adventurer up to his old tricks. So if that’s the story with Indiana Jones and his fantasy-filled adventures, then what’s up with Willow? G

Hear science. Talk science. Think science. Whether you’re in the Bay Area or elsewhere, The Commonwealth Club of California presents the best minds of science. Attend live events with leading scientists and thinkers on timely discoveries, controversies, and mysteries in the world of science. Or catch them on podcast, radio, or video. On our website, click on the “multimedia” tab and find hundreds of free podcasts and videos.

www.commonwealthclub.org

weimar.ws Galaxis

15


BANKS PHOTO: STUART CAIE

Iain M. Banks, 1954–2013:

Time Ran Out One of the brainiest and best writers of the science fiction universe went away long before his time.

I

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

ain Banks, who wrote science fiction under the fooling-no-one moniker of Iain M. Banks, died on June 9, 2013, of cancer of the gallbladder at the too-young age of 59. A couple months before his passing, the author informed the world about his impending death. In a post on his website titled “A Personal Statement from Iain Banks,” the author wrote that he had lost the cancer battle: “The bottom line, now, I’m afraid, is that as a late stage gall

16

Galaxis March 2014

bladder cancer patient, I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.” Learning of his fate, Banks promptly proposed to and wedded his partner, Adele, who survives him. When a major figure in the science fiction field like Banks passes away, it creates a void not only for his friends but also for everyone who only knew him through the pages of his books. Here at Galaxis, we’re not fundamen-

talists on how science fiction is defined— we’ll enjoy well-done space opera fantasy anytime—but we do respect and pay homage to the solid definition of it as being a fictional exploration of the implications of technical or other advancements. There is a lot of fiction that travels under the banner of science fiction that we enjoy, but when we find something that fits the definition and is still an engrossing, thrilling ride, it earns an immediate place in our heart. Such it was when we discovered Excession, Banks’ 1996 novel and the fourth set in his Culture universe of the far future. In the novel, the Culture—Banks’ human-based interplanetary alliance organized along the lines of a kind of benign anarchy and largely run by advanced computers known as Minds— comes across a far superior alien race that challenges even its super-powered Minds and morals. As an introduction to Banks’ Culture books, we could not have found a better one than Excession, and we soon proceeded to track down all of his previous Culture novels as well as to buy each new one as it was produced. Banks’ most recent and therefore final Culture novel is The Hydrogen Sonata. And it wasn’t just science fiction readers who recognized Banks’ books as top-quality. In the wake of Banks’ death, scientist and award-winning SF author David Brin wrote on his blog (davidbrin. blogspot.com) that he has “always respected [Banks’] literary fiction, but even more deeply admired his science fiction.... His Culture Universe was among the few to confront straight-on the myriad hopes, dangers and raw possibilities that might be faced by a humanity-that-succeeds.... Iain asked a profound question.... Won’t those


descendants—even rich with success— have interesting problems, anyway? Won’t they still have to fight for things that truly matter? Won’t some of them still seek the dangerous edge? That is exploration, the true heart-essence of science fiction. And Iain Banks did it peerlessly well.” For his toils behind the keyboard, Banks earned awards everywhere from the British Science Fiction Association to the Premio Italia Science Fiction Award to the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis (see Galaxis #2), and elsewhere. The acclaim was deserved, because he not only put together works that were a joy to read, but that were intellectually satisfying. Shortly before his death, he told The Guardian’s Stuart Kelly, “if you are going to write what a friend of a friend once called ‘Made up space shit’, then if it’s going to have any ring of truth that means sometimes some of the horrible characters get to live, and for there to be any sense of jeopardy, especially in future novels, the good people have to die. Sometimes.” Banks’ works reflected a politically involved author and thinker. Born in Scotland on February 16, 1954, he was a secularist and a humanist (what we used to label secular humanist in the United States, before that was tarred by the political right) who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, supported the independence of his native Scotland, defended assisted suicide, and opposed Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians so much he reportedly refused any new translation deals with Israeli publishers. He didn’t only explore those ideas in science fiction novels; he also wrote mainstream novels as “Iain Banks,” reserving the cleverly secretive moniker “Iain M. Banks” for his science fiction books. On his website (journal.neilgaiman. com), Neil Gaiman recalled writing to Banks after he learned of his terminal illness: “I think you’re a brilliant and an honest writer, and much more importantly, because I’ve known lots of brilliant writers who were absolute arses, I think you’re a really good bloke, and I’ve loved knowing you.” Gaiman then added to his website’s readers, “And he wrote back and said good, comforting, sensible things. Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can. I hoped that he’d get better. Or that he’d have time. He didn’t. Hearing of his death hit me hard. “If you’ve never read any of his books, read one of his books,” Gaiman continued. “Then read another. Even the bad ones were good, and the good ones were astonishing.” G

Founded in the ‘80s and now resurrected online, the magazine of vintage hard rock and heavy metal!

Interviews Reviews News Nostalgia Collecting Contests Archives and much more!

POWERLINEmag HARD ROCK | HEAVY METAL SINCE 1985

www.powerlinemag.com weimar.ws Galaxis

17


18

Galaxis March 2014


POSTER: RIOT CINEMA COLLECTIVE; PHOTO: DANIEL MAYRIT

cosmonaut’s journey

h

The new independent genre film frontier

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

ollywood doesn’t produce a sheet of paper without first penciling out how much it will cost and how much it expects to earn. And when it produces something as big and expensive as a motion picture or television show, it keeps the proprietary rights to everything associated with the production, the better to ensure that its shareholders get the best re-

turn on their investment. One can imagine the horror in the boardrooms and Jacuzzis of Los Angeles when the discussion turns to the independent Spanish science fiction film El Cosmonauta (The Cosmonaut), which raised money through the hip crowdfunding method and which placed all of its material in the hands of the public to do with as they please. The big film studios will often spend tens of millions of dollars in addition to a film’s production budget just to promote and distribute a film.

The Cosmonaut’s promotional budget? Zero. But it has already been viewed by nearly 200,000 people, and millions more can do so from the comfort of their computers or smartphones. Hollywood heads might be exploding, or simply shaking at the naivete of the Cosmomakers, but for the science fiction and futurist crowd, the reaction should be much more approving or at least interested that someone was pushing the boundaries of the industry and challenging the accepted way of doing business.

Initially begun as a traditionally made short film, in 2009 the switch was made to a feature-length film funded through crowdfunding and released to the world via a free, Creative Commons license. The film was made for about €860,000 (or almost $1.17 million) by Riot Cinema Collective, a group of young Spanish filmmakers led by Nicolás Alcalá (director, executive producer, screenwriter, and editor), Carola Rodriguez (executive producer), and Bruno Teixidor (second unit director weimar.ws Galaxis

19


and executive producer). Released in May 2013, The Cosmonaut can be viewed free online at en.cosmonautexperience.com, where you can also find locations for live screenings. One of the most unique aspects of the film’s release is not just that it was released to the public free but that it actively invites its audience to re-edit the film. Every single scene, including outtakes and other discarded material, are available at the film’s website, and numerous fans have already taken the material and reedited scenes, posting them in turn for others to enjoy. The release of the film as a free feature doesn’t mean the Riot Cinema crew lack money sense or the need to pay bills. Commerce continues, with people on its website buying a “K-Pass” for €5 (about $6.79) and receiving an avalanche of additional material, such as six hours of behind the scenes content (including 30 web episodes expanding the story), audio commentaries, soundtracks, a “secret” newsletter, and more. For a little more money (still not much, in increments up to €35), fans and supporters can receive various other items ranging from USBs to t-shirts to DVDs. Viewers can watch the film free, or they can choose to pay at a level of their own choosing. This approach, the filmmakers admitted on their blog, has been somewhat underwhelming. “The ‘pay what you want’ model works, but worse than we expected,” they write, chalking it up to 20

Galaxis March 2014

factors such as “the movie is not a mainstream movie (we knew that already) and it’s a model still too new that needs time so the viewers understand the repercussions of a new relationship between creators and viewers and what that means on an economic support level. This will take its time and we hope to see this change applied to our movie.... It can also be related to the fact that many of those viewers already helped financing the movie.” After a couple months of general online release, the producers noted that the “percentage of people that has chosen to make a donation through our website is of 0.38 percent and the average donation is of 4.41€.” That might give those Hollywood shak-

This page, top and above: Russian Cosmonaut Stas (Leon Ockenden) returns from a moon mission to find earth as devoid of human life as the moon was. Opposite page top: Yula (Katrine De Candole) is the love interest for Stas and his best friend Andrei. Center, top: Following an accident at work, Andre (Max Wrottesley) is unable to become a cosmonaut but rapidly rises in the executive side of the Russian space program. Center, middle: Riot Cinema filmmakers use a green screen to film Ockenden; Center, bottom: Stas finds life, but no humans. GREENSCREEN PHOTO: MIKI AVILA; WOODS PHOTO AND BUILDING FRAME PHOTO: DANIEL TORRELLO


WROTTESLEY, OCKENDEN AND LISTER PHOTOS: DANIEL MAYRIT

ing heads some sweet schadenfreude at the expense of Riot Cinema, but it’s still early days in terms of the public funding model and of the release of this one film. Unlike a Hollywood blockbuster, which rakes in its biggest dollars in its opening week, films like The Cosmonaut will make their money more slowly, as the film gains by word of mouth and as people grow more familiar with viewing films on their computers. None of this would matter if there weren’t a film at the heart of the project, and The Cosmonaut’s story is influenced by Henry Pierrot’s poetry book Poetics for Cosmonauts, which is itself worth reading for its simple, beautiful visions. The film stars Katrine De Candole (who has appeared in X-Man: First Class and TV series such as Casualty, Kingdom, and Inspector Lewis), Leon Ockenden (Mr. Right, Red Tails and Across the River, in which he plays a cake shop owner), and Max Wrottesley (Hugo Cabret, Days Like These). The story begins in the mid-70s, with Russian cosmonaut Stas (Ockenden) orbiting the moon. He lands, completes his mission, and then returns to space. But his solar panels are gone, so he’s in trouble, lacking the energy needed for reentry. Seven months later, mission director Andrei (Wrottesley) detects the return of the space module. Andrei goes to tell Yula, the woman they both love. The capsule lands, but the rescue crew finds no one inside. Meanwhile, we see Stas simultaneously

climb out of the capsule … and he sees no one. To Stas, he appears to be on a planet that’s normal except there are no people. Via flashbacks, the audience learns about the work and relationships between the three principal characters, including Stas and Andrei both wooing Yula. We learn that it was Andrei who made the decision to send Stas on the Soviets’ first attempt to land on the moon. But we never get concrete answers for the reason the solar panels failed (despite Stas’ blaming someone early in the movie, we’re not sure if he was being blackly humorous or making an accusation). The audience is given lots of beautiful imagery and interesting characters to ponder, but there is no resolution. An art film or mass entertainment? Certainly not an adventure ride, but beyond that, audiences might want to forget categories and just watch a story. The film is part of a very welcome and long overdue trend in SF genre cinema for intelligent, adult stories. After two decades of heavy prosthetics and tough-guy heroics, that exemplified the 1980s, today we have El Cosmonauta, Gravity, Europa Report, and even Inception—and, we hope, many more to come. El Cosmonauta (The Cosmonaut), a Transmedia Film Project by Riot Cinema Collective, is in English, except for the first few subtitled minutes. Total running time is 79 minutes (not counting the extended G credits sequence). weimar.ws Galaxis

21


An exclusive review & analysis of the latest chapter in the popular Star Trek saga

STAR

PHOTO: EVA RINALDI

INTO DA 22

Galaxis March 2014


TREK

ARKNESS BY JOHN ZIPPERER

Y

ou have to break some eggs to create an omelet, according to the popular phrase. A parallel rule is that you have to break some rules to make a good Star Trek story. Overly slavish fealty to nearly 40 years of Trek canon will yield a mush of starch and tedium. Stick to the rules too much, and you get a flat, monotonous flop. Director J.J. Abrams and his producing and writing partners are determined to create good Trek stories, and they break rules with an abandon not enjoyed by students egging their principal’s car. Ever since Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek wowed audiences and critics and made lots of money, Trek’s legion of loyal yet picky fans have been on notice that this franchise was heading in new directions. No less a sharp-tongued Trek critic than writer Harlan Ellison expressed his admiration and hinted—seriously or not, we’re unsure—of his desire to be a part of this revivified franchise. In his new Star Trek, Abrams took what was old and made it new, and what couldn’t be made new, he simply replaced. The result in 2009 was a triumph; the result in 2013, with the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, can also fit into that exalted category, in ways that show that 2009 was neither a fluke nor that the pleasures viewers drew from it were simply a result of freshness or surprise; it was a good cast, a good story, good execution, good humanity, and a good direction for the overall Trek universe. The sequel confirms all that, and it provides a rip-roaring ride, besides. Star Trek Into Darkness is also a film that pro-

weimar.ws Galaxis

23


PHOTO: SAM HUGHES FROM UK

PHOTO: TOM SORENSEN

vides much fodder for thought and discussion in ways that help us figure out if this new movie should be considered a success based on its merits as a film, on its allegiance to Trek philosophy, and on its performance as a film with an intelligent and coherent story. As much as the film’s successes are clearly visible, so are its failures. The

24

Bright Opening Star Trek Into Darkness lets us know right away that it will not be a tranquil type of movie. It will not repeat the “error” of Star Trek Insurrection by following up the action and high stakes of Star Trek First Contact with a quiet, more delicate story. We had action in the last film; we start off with action in this film. A landing party from Enterprise is undercover on an alien planet. Its mission is to observe, not to interfere. There is lots of bright red vegetation, tall aliens in heavy white face paint and mummy-like clothing, and there’s a problem: The local volcano is about to erupt, which would wipe out this civilization. The Enterprise crew decides to try to prevent the eruption, even though their mission is pretty strict about that non-involvement stuff. That would violate the Prime Directive, a longstanding if controversial Starfleet rule that forbids interference in alien civilizations, even if it is for the aliens’ own good (see sidebar, page 29). Young and impetuous Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) decides to break the Prime Directive, and Spock (ZachTop left: Chris Pine, James Kirk. Top right: Bruce Greenwood, Christopher Pike. Bottom left: Benedict Cumberbatch, Khan. Bottom right: Zoe Saldana, Uhura.

Galaxis March 2014

PHOTO: GDCGRAPHICS

ary Quinto) takes on the task of delivering into the volcano a device that will prevent the eruption. Some trouble with the shuttle (piloted by John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu with Zoe Saldana’s Nyota Uhura aboard) necessitates abandoning Spock in the volcano. While Kirk and Dr. McCoy race through the red forest to an eventual leap off a cliff into the sea, Spock is left struggling to complete his mission: Prevent the destruction of this civilization. Unable to have done the same for either his own Vulcan civilization or the planet of Romulus, Spock is determined to prevent the white-faced mummy civilization from perishing. He is able to do the job, but he is rescued only when Kirk orders the Enterprise—which had been hiding in the waters of the sea—to rise up and snatch Spock from death in the volcano. PHOTO: SGT. MICHAEL CONNORS - 302ND MOBILE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DETACHMENT

weaknesses in this film come not from broken rules but in the writers’ occasional determination to shoehorn old rules into their fresh new story, undermining the confidence they have earned with their otherwise successful film. As we’ll see, there was no need to try to match up the new Trek with the old Trek perfectly; each can stand on its own and be enjoyed for what it is. The failures, then, are almost completely failures of nerve. They should have broken more eggs.


The Star Trek Purity Test

Cruising Speed, Captain There is so much to like in this film that it can be difficult picking favorites. Pretty much any scene with Montgomery Scott, a.k.a. Scotty, played by Simon Pegg, is fun to watch. Though imbued with comedy and quips, Pegg’s scenes also are central to moving along the story, putting his Scotty in a position to help out Kirk when he needs him the most (and giving a boost to Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, who assumes control of Enterprise’s engineering department after Scotty refuses to accept those mysterious “missiles” aboard his ship). Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is much more important to the plot than we’ve seen in previous incarnations. John Cho’s Sulu is a pleasure to watch in every scene, and we are left hoping he gets even more screen time in future installments. And we meet a certain Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), a young science officer who uses subterfuge to get aboard the Enterprise so she can investigate some mysterious missiles her father, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) has placed aboard the ship. Those missiles will prove to be central to the story of John Harrison’s motivation, as well as to the resolution to the film. That just highlights one of the pleasures of Abrams’ Treks: Unlike the origi-

Should you bother trying to connect all the dots?

T

here are lots of ways to approach fictional series that last way past their initially envisioned lifespan. Perry Rhodan, the long-running German space opera series, has let its characters age and retain their back stories. The company behind that series just recently rebooted it by relaunching the storyline updated by several decades, but both storylines will continue to exist separately. Or there’s the James Bond film approach, in which each actor to assume the role made at least glancing note of the fact that there was another guy in it before him, but he nonetheless has the exact same biography as his predecessors. In other words, just go along for the ride and don’t try to connect all the dots. Comics take a variety of approaches, with more naturalistic comics letting their characters age and change and with superhero comics either just reimagining their lead characters every so often (as in Superman) or actually replacing the superhero with a younger version from time to time (how many Robins or Green Lanterns have there been?) and shuffling the veteran off to the old-superfolks home. Star Trek has generally stuck with letting its characters age, get promoted, die, or transferred to other ships. But that changed with the 2009 reboot of the film series, in which we went back to younger versions of the characters first introduced in the original 1960s series, along with some changes in their back stories and relationships. The new film series was greeted enthusiastically by critics and audiences alike, and if Paramount and Abrams are smart, they won’t try to make it match up too closely with the original storylines. People see different interpretations of Shakespeare plays all the time; they can understand that this is a new interpretation of an old favorite. But that approach doesn’t satisfy some purists, arguably mostly not satisfying fans who grew up with the original series. For example, in the TV series, Khan Noonien Singh had ruled about a quarter of Earth in the then-future of 1992–1996; deposed, he fled into space with some supporters and fellow eugenics creations in sleeper ships. That Khan, played in the TV series episode “Space Seed” and in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with such relish by Ricardo Montalbán, is a presumably generically Asian character. In the Into Darkness storyline, Khan is played by white British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the few actors whose real name is stranger than his science fictional character’s name; this Khan is woken up about a decade before the incidents portrayed in the film, given a fake identity, and used to help create a secret war project within Starfleet. His eventual turn against his Starfleet collaborators sets in motion the events of the new film. Is this intended to be the same Khan in each of these storylines? Or does the alternate timeline created in 2009’s Star Trek free up the creators to boldly go slightly differently from where Trek creators have gone before? And let’s not even spend much time getting into how the Klingons look; yes, they look different from any previous iterations, though they are clearly related to the look begun in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with ridged foreheads and presumably very bad breath. In the end, Star Trek critics should take the Shakespeare reference to heart. Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a big fan of Shakespeare, which was reflected in some episode titles and his penchant for hiring Shakespearean actors. Let this be J.J. Abrams (& Co.’s) interpretation, and don’t worry about continuity with the other series. It frees up the creators to make a better modern film, and it leaves your beloved original untouched if you don’t like the new version. Trek creator Gene Roddenberry

PHOTO: NASA

Kirk’s reward for commanding a plan to save an entire civilization is to be demoted and lose command of Enterprise when he returns to Earth. That is his punishment for breaking the Prime Directive. His predecessor, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) regains command and asks for Kirk to be his first officer. But there is something far more dangerous brewing in Starfleet than a simple Prime Directive-forced demotion. John Harrison, a mysterious former Starfleet agent, masterminds the destruction of a secret intelligence base in London and an attack on Starfleet’s command during a meeting held to discuss the London bombing. With Pike struck in the attack at Starfleet command, Kirk is forced to take command of Enterprise and find a way to stop Harrison before the conflict sparks a war with the Klingons, a war the United Federation of Planets is ill-prepared to fight. What follows is a very fast-paced adventure that stretches from Earth to the Klingon Empire and back, as Kirk and his team pull out all the stops to thwart Harrison’s plans and to uncover the reasons for the villain’s violent designs on Starfleet.

weimar.ws Galaxis

25


achieved by the inevitable third entry in the Abrams-era Trek film series. Star Trek was a great film. Star Trek Into Darkness is a very good film. The vast majority of films are neither great nor very good, so this is intended as strong praise. We are looking forward to the third and fourth installments in this series. However, enjoyment of a film should encourage discussion of its strengths and weaknesses, not prevent it. Some of these criticisms are basic. At times, the music is larded on so heavily you’d think Steven Spielberg fell asleep at the mixing controls. And yes, we all saw the significance of the tribble scene, which probably annoyed David Gerrold if he didn’t receive payment and which told us all that everything will be all right for anyone who dies. A little subtlety would have gone a long way toward impressing the audience, especially on second and third viewings. Instead, multiple viewings just makes it even more obvious how obvious was this obvious clue. Trying too Hard Do you want to live in the world of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek? Few people want to live in the world envisioned in 1997’s Gattaca, or 1992’s Freejack or John Carpenter’s surprise 1981 classic Escape from New York. That might seem like an odd thing to ask, but this is a science fiction and science magazine; we’re among friends, so we can admit it: When we watch The Empire Strikes Back or Battlestar Galactica or 2001 A Space Odyssey, we daydream ourselves into the film and imagine what it would be like to be there. We think about living aboard the hero’s spaceship, confronting the villains, exploring and surviving on the frontier planet. For decades, Star Trek has been the lodestar for people who want to imagine and build a future in which positive ideals are put to the test and are realized. It was ahead of its time in some aspects, such as by boasting a happily racially integrated crew, and it inspired people (in Vietnam War times no less than in modern international terrorism war times) with the vision of the future in which disagreements can be resolved peacefully and where leaders can Top: John Cho (Sulu); below: Trek actors (seated) sign autographs for U.S. military personnel.

26

Galaxis March 2014

PHOTO: CHARLES NGUYEN

McCoy is pretty much unassailable. Urban essays the unassailable, weaving in some Kelleyisms while gradually making the role his own. If he at times verges too close to aping Kelley, he pulls back before it becomes sad. In the third film, he should drop the Kelley references and just own the role. The actors, then are top notch. The special effects are top notch. The storyline is exciting as hell. But that is not to say that there are not aspects of the film that should cause a thoughtful viewer to think more about them and their implications. Was this the best Star Trek sequel we could have gotten? Certainly that’s too subjective of a question to be taken literally. But it is worth exploring whether or not the producers, writers, and director of Star Trek Into Darkness have given us a film that is worthy of Gene Roddenberry’s thoughtful legacy, whether they have contributed anything new to the science fiction film universe, and whether anything other than big box office will be

PHOTO: U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS JORGE SAUCEDO/RELEASED

nal series, most of the lead crew members aboard Enterprise get interesting things to do in these films. The heroics and great lines are not all saved for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and the film is the better for it. But, oh, what can we say about Kirk, Spock, and McCoy? Each is performed beautifully by (respectively) Pine, Quinto, and Karl Urban. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s rule number one, which was followed by previous Treks, was that there should be no conflict among Starfleet officers. But Pine’s Kirk and Quinto’s Spock not only are in almost constant tension, they manage to take it just far enough but not so far that you can’t imagine them becoming trusting and lifelong friends. Urban perhaps has bigger shoes to fill, counterintuitively though that might be. After all, William Shatner has long been the subject both of adoring fans and vociferous critics; Leonard Nimoy has denied and mined his Trek identity throughout his career. But DeForest Kelley’s portrayal of Leonard “Bones”


The Trouble with Travels The fun and dangers of time-travel in SF

S

cience fiction writers like to play with the plot device of time travel, but they don’t want to pursue its implications too much. They intend it to be an episode-specific element in their story, not the nettlesome troublemaker it really is. Star Trek has played this game more than any other franchise, and it is no better at being logical about it than Star Wars is about the illogic of sound in space. In 2009’s Star Trek, time travel is a central problem that drives the plot. The film pursues that, without acknowledging that time travel would also be the central solution to the problem that drives the plot. But there are other problems. How can Spock and Spock talk to each other in this and the next film? According to time-travel rules established by previous writers, if you travel back in time, you can’t meet your younger self or you risk creating a paradox because two of the same people can’t be in the same timeline. Or something. Who knows? It’s science fiction at its most reality-stretchiest. But in the 2009 Trek, Spock and Spock from two different timelines met, interacted, and apparently the world did not end. So if you buy the whole shtick of time travel, having two different versions of a person together creating a new timeline shouldn’t get you too bothered. Then again, now that Trek’s TV and film writers have established that time travel is a seemingly simple or at least repeatable procedure, it leaves the 800-pound gorilla in the room open to repeated investigation and accusation. It’s the problem Starlog editor Howard Zimmerman brought up when reviewing the disappointing premiere episode of Galactica 1980, in which the Galacticans go back in time to Earth’s World War II era to prevent the villain from altering the planet’s history. Zimmerman asked, “Why don’t they use Doctor Z’s time machine to change the course of their previous war with the Cylons? Couldn’t they go back and warn the still-intact Colonial fleet of the coming treachery and set a trap for the evil Cylons?” Similarly, the writers used the time travel trope in the first movie (and previously in Classic Trek TV and in the Voyage Home film, Next Generation TV and First Contact film, and quite extensively in Voyager and Enterprise), so this is something accepted and quite possible in the Trek universe. That also means it can ultimately be used to get out of any serious debacle. “Time travel,” complained Captain Janeway on Star Trek Voyager. “Since my first day on the job as a Starfleet captain, I swore I’d never let myself get caught in one of these godforsaken paradoxes—the future is the past, the past is the future; it all gives me a headache.” It should give everyone a headache. But time travel stories are clearly too much fun for the writers and the audience for these tales to be ignored. Still, the writers could avoid having audiences notice the 800-pound gorilla by somehow making it clear that time travel is supremely difficult, its success somewhat at the whims of chance, and it creates some concrete damage to space-time or to the health of the travelers or something that is more concrete than vague warnings about paradoxes. Writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof have not given themselves that sort of an out. So we have to at least acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla and wonder why the Enterprise doesn’t just go back in time and prevent Nero from destroying Vulcan in the first place? They could have gone back again and again in fact to make sure that Spock’s attempt to save Nero’s planet succeeded. There’s a good reason writers don’t do that, of course, and that is because it would remove all suspense from a film if you know the heroes can relive pivotal moments until they get it correct. Unless, like in Groundhog Day, that repetition is the entire point of the story, audiences will see pretty quickly that they have no reason to be emotionally wrapped up in the drama because it’ll always be what the heroes want it to be by the time of the closing credits. For the J.J. Abrams-era Star Trek films, the time travel device serves to partially free up the films to be different from the Shatner-Nimoy Treks. They could change what they wanted, claim it’s the result of the new timeline, and keep what they wanted because that was there to begin with.

act nobly. The heir to all of that is Star Trek Into Darkness, and it is a world of murderous political intrigue, raging fights between Starfleet’s best and brightest, and mass murdering villains. J.J. Abrams has already broken one of Gene Roddenberry’s main rules for his Star Trek characters: No conflict between Starfleet officers. Naturally, the problem for the writers arises: How do you tell a story without conflict? So past writers and producers brought in non-Starfleet characters to provide it (such as the Bajorans in Deep Space Nine or the former rebels in Voyager). But it’s a rule that is just as well jettisoned with the Prime Directive, because the assumption that Starfleet people are so superior to everyone else in the universe that they alone have risen above petty interpersonal conflict is ridiculous. It is also an unnecessarily fundamentalist way of making Roddenberry’s presumed point about the perfection of the human race and its evolution beyond destructive tendencies. He could have just mandated that the conflict not get out of hand, that the Starfleet officers deal with it in professional and intelligent ways. Abrams goes beyond all that, however, and gives us interpersonal conflict among Starfleet, and he has them deal with it in unprofessional and unintelligent ways. This serves to move along the plot (get Kirk off the ship in the first Star Trek, for example), but it is not inspiring. When it comes to the villains in these films, they are too often individuals transported from James Bond films and outfitted with 23rd century kits. They are characters who have built up mindlessly obedient organizations that exist for no other reason than to help the villain address some personal grievance. The villains tend to be either insane or at least obsessed to the point of unreason by their desire to right their personal grievance, and they pursue often irrational but cinematically satisfying solutions. The villain in Into Darkness is portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch (and if that name sounds unlikely to you, note that his full name is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch), who plays former Starfleet agent John Harrison, an alias for Khan. Harrison/Khan is a big step up from the star villain of 2009’s Star Trek, Eric Bana’s Romulan Nero, who was annoyingly similar to Tom Hardy’s Shinzon, the Romulan weimar.ws Galaxis

27


PHOTO: WATCHWITHKRISTIN PHOTO: GERALD GERONIMO

He is Spock: Zachary Quinto

villain of Star Trek: Nemesis, down to the same lack-of-haircut and behavior. If you switched Shinzon and Nero in a scene from either movie, would you even really notice? Khan was introduced in the original series episode “Space Seed” and made a triumphal return in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and now is reimagined in this new film. In all of them, he has been a man of extraordinary physical and mental powers, as well as a ruthless man willing to sacrifice or straightforward kill whoever stands in his way. Into Darkness does strive to make the motives for his actions ambiguous enough that audiences might feel some sympathy for him, but it’s the same old simple-minded dish we’ve been served up before: The terrorist has reasons for his terrorist actions, therefore aren’t the actions at least partially justified? This is not a political magazine, so we won’t seek to answer that question beyond inviting anyone who thinks people deserve to die because someone else is really, really mad about something is welcome to offer up themselves as the first victim. A less serious but still major failing of this film is that it actually tried too hard 28

Galaxis March 2014

to do “fan service,” cramming in references to The Wrath of Khan, taking scenes from Khan and replaying them with different characters taking key actions, recycling characters and even key dialogue from that movie. When one of our heroes, in a moment of frustration and hurt,

Alice Eve, Dr. Carol Marcus

shouts out “KHAAAAANN!” it brought out more than a few titters in the audience with which we saw it. Those giggling audience members knew they were seeing something that wasn’t natural to the character or the story they had paid to see; they were watching pandering. Or take another scene, a short one in which Quinto’s Spock asks Leonard Nimoy’s Spock for advice; the payoff for it in information is negligible, and it comes across more as an opportunity to shoehorn a Nimoy cameo into the film. In Abrams’ first Star Trek, Nimoy played an integral role—in fact, his character was really the catalyst for the entire proceedings. Here, it looks like more fan service. Whether the fan in question is sitting in a darkened theater watching the film or is sitting in a comfortable L.A. office writing or directing this film, the unnecessariness of it is the same. This film didn’t need the excessive fan service, because the actors, characters, and basic plot line that Abrams and his writers have assembled more than delight the viewer when they’re on screen. In a highaction film, one might walk out of the cinema hoping for more action; but with Star Trek Into Darkness, we left the theater having appreciated the action and the excitement but hoping for more of those crackling great scenes between the Enterprise crew. And it must be said that of all of the characters in this film, the most interesting and enjoyable to watch are the Enterprise crew; the rest are additives. The interactions between any of the Enterprise crew are sharp, funny, endearing, and a joy to watch—we find it more enjoyable than the very well-executed action scenes. For future Trek films, we would suggest the writers and director have enough confidence in their creation to slow down a few scenes. Remember William Shatner’s Kirk and DeForest Kelley’s McCoy having their discussion about birthdays and aging in Kirk’s San Francisco apartment in their film series? It was a slower scene that gave viewers time to get into the characters and invest in them as something other than action set props. Again, it was a loss of nerves by the writers and director who didn’t trust the strong elements of their cast and story, and felt they needed to add some frosting. Better to Best There is little we would recommend being imported into this new J.J. Abrams


PHOTO: PAUL EWEN

PHOTO: GAGE SKIDMORE

He was Spock: Leonard Nimoy

Trek series, but if we had to make suggestions, it would start with addressing the pacing issue and including two or three scenes that don’t feel as if the actors are rushing through the dialogue to allow maximum screen time for the next scene of running and explosions. It’s a high joy to watch Kirk and McCoy and Uhura and Scotty and Sulu and Spock and the others

in scenes together. Give us more of that, not brief flickers amidst the relentless action. And, as is probably clear from this article so far, we’re more than happy to see certain of Roddenberry’s eccentric rules and maxims ignored. But over the decades, the one constant that people have pointed to when discussing the enduring

Simon Pegg, Scotty

popularity of Star Trek is its optimism, and Abrams’ Treks are no more optimistic than Starship Troopers or Wing Commander, and only slightly more uplifting than Battlestar Galactica. Sure, the good guys win in the end, but missing is

Prime Target

It’s long past time to jettison Roddenberry’s Prime Directive

T

he stupid prime directive: The Gene Roddenberry-written rule, present from the original Trek series onward, decrees that Starfleet personnel can’t interfere with the internal development of a pre-warp alien civilization. The intent was that highly developed civilizations shouldn’t affect the development of lesser-developed ones, lest they create unnatural effects in societies unadvanced enough to have become nice and shiny awesome like the Federation is. That’s obviously a prejudicial interpretation, but the point remains. All civilizations are always developing (and sometimes regressing), so if the ideology behind the Prime Directive was literally followed, no two civilizations could ever interact. Except for a few undeveloped societies on islands or deep in the Amazon, all peoples and societies have undergone interaction/ warfare/trade/cultural “contamination” or exchange with other peoples. Interaction with others is one of the ways humans see that better ways exist, that they don’t have to keep doing things the same old way. So why does Star Trek assume that we can all be contaminated just fine, but it’s wrong if it happens to some alien group in space? In specific application, it focuses on not getting involved in an alien civilization that has not yet achieved warp power. Roddenberry and Starfleet assume that if a civilization can develop warp power, by that time it has supposedly also shed its primitive prejudices and warlike spirit. But technological advance doesn’t necessarily mean psychological and moral growth; Nazi Germany was one of the most technologically

advanced nations on earth, but it was a moral atrocity. And as much as we here at Galaxis love technology and advanced science, we’ll be the first ones (apparently) to point out that a society might have rejected warp powers but focused on moral and ethical development. It wasn’t warp drive that made the Vulcans intellectual and rational giants; it was attending to the mind and morals. If the imposition of this rule was initially spawned by a sincere desire to prevent more powerful civilizations from taking over and destroying smaller, weaker ones, it surely should not have survived the encounters with the warlike Klingons, or the warlike Romulans, or the warlike Borg, or the warlike Dominion, or any of the many others of warlike and often quite prejudicial civilizations Enterprise crews have encountered and fought with since 1966. It is especially worrying, with regards to the futuristic and moral standing (not to mention skills of writing) of the franchise’s creators and producers over the years because it is a problem that could have been pretty easily solved by tweaking the directive. In Star Trek into Darkness, if the Enterprise had not interfered in the alien civilization at the beginning of the film, the race would have died. How is that better than knowing there were other more-developed beings in the universe? The power differential between the civilizations is the point, but it’s not the real problem. If earth were about to be destroyed, we would love it if a more highly developed species appeared and interfered with our natural development into dead people. weimar.ws Galaxis

29


Star Wars Episode VII

Trek’s director J.J. Abrams boldly goes where George Lucas has gone before

T

PHOTO: DAVID SHANKBONE

he Star Wars film franchise had new life breathed into it when Disney purchased George Lucas’ Lucasfilm, including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series (see Galaxis #3, page 5). A new three-sequel trilogy was promptly announced and the guessing game about who would direct the films promptly began, with J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, or Joss Whedon being early favorites. J.J. Abrams had turned down the opportunity, but later changed his mind. Abrams, the current golden boy of the SF movie and TV world, has been kept busy over the years with Lost, Star Trek, Mission Impossible III, Alias, and more. Abrams is famously secretive about his films, holding his cards close to his chest to avoid fans peeking over his shoulders looking for plot hints. In his May 2013 interview with Playboy, Abrams said “it’s so early it would be insane to discuss details or get into plot points about what this unfilmed movie will be.” He noted that with Trek, of course, he was working after the death of creator Gene Roddenberry. But with Wars, “the advantage here is that we still have George Lucas with us to go to and ask questions and get his feedback on things, which I certainly will do.” Of course, some might argue that Abrams has already made a Star Wars sequel; he just called it a Star Trek sequel. What he is unlikely to do is spend much time worrying about doing whatever the fans expect of him. After all, Abrams is a fan of Star Wars, unlike Trek, which he learned to appreciate only after working on the starship for some time. Fans hoping to have their favorite characters reprised, or pleading for a quick death for hated characters, or demanding that the new films do nothing that hurts their memories of the early films are likely wasting their time worrying about such things. Disney is a huge studio that has grown huge by knowing how to cater to fans, and Abrams has shown he’s not afraid to make big changes (see Star Trek into Darkness main article). At press time, preproduction has been taking place, with a full-sized Millennium Falcon set reportedly being built in the UK, where the movie will be filmed. And with the appearance of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher assumed if not finalized, other names being bandied about include Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Alexis Dziena, and you could probably toss in the name of just about any living actor and it would be as believable or as “confirmed” as any of these. Kathy Griffin? Sure, why not? As of November 30, the BBC reported open auditions for two “lead roles” in the new film, and various news reports said Disney and Lucasfilm were looking for an actor to portray a military man in his forties. Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the screenplays for Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and many more, is on board to script the new sequel, too. Music is by John Williams, production design is by Rick Carter and Darren Gilford, and producers in addition to Abrams include Kathleen Kennedy, Bryan Burk, Tommy Gormley, Tommy Harper, Jason McGatlin, and Ben Rosenblatt.

30

Galaxis March 2014

any sense that the problem that caused the bad guys was itself addressed or that through concerted thought and action a better world could be built. In these films, it’s all about a battle winning the day, with heroes created by their fists and cunning, while leaving open the option for more Khans to be created to cause the very same problems in the future. Abrams’ Star Trek is ultimately a much darker product than any produced by Gene Roddenberry. Chalk that up to different sensibilities of creators, different levels of budget, and different expectations of the audience. Or you might dig deeper and chalk up at least some of it to the relatively troubled times in which movie-going audiences find themselves today. After all, Roddenberry dreamed up Trek during the 1960s, a time of unexpectedly high economic growth, scientific advances, and optimism. (Vietnam notwithstanding, though one could argue that that tragic war was also an expression of the United States’ confidence in being able to thwart its enemies at the same time it was building a Great Society here at home). Today, we are still suffering from the lingering after-effects of the Great Recession, or if you take Nobel laureate Paul Krugman’s line, we are in a genuine depression, the first most of us Americans have ever experienced. It has brought with it an increased pessimism about the future, about our individual likelihood for climbing the economic ladder, about our political leaders’ abilities to deal with our common problems. And just one of those common problems is the international scourge of terrorism, which keeps us on edge and keeps us spending an inordinate amount of time, energy, money, and worry on battling it. It has also led Americans to give up a great deal of personal privacy and liberty. Going backward in terms of personal freedom is not a basis for an optimistic science fiction story; it is more likely a spur for a wishfulfillment science fiction story in which the author tells us how to reverse our current troubles. Roddenberry passed away during the 1980s, another decade of high growth and optimism, plus a time when America regained some confidence in its ability to flex its military muscle, for better or worse. But J.J. Abrams took the reins of the franchise two decades later, and


GROUP PHOTO: BETH MADISON; YELCHIN PHOTO: PHILIPPE BERDALLE PHOTO: GAGE SKIDMORE

things have changed. “Unsettling” is too mild a term to describe the world in which today’s Trek audiences find themselves. The optimists among us continue to express a faith in the future, but that future is further off then it was in the 1960s and even the stagflationed 1970s, when the country still dreamed of near-term colonization of space, elimination of poverty, conquering racism, defeating war. Those ideas seem

utopian to us today, but the reality is that the human race has accomplished much and is accelerating the growth of its powers, thanks to the information technology revolution. But the very real advances that are being made in intellectual and technological and medical life are being overshadowed by worry over personal downward mobility and fear of terrorism—after all, the worry that you or your loved ones could have their lives snuffed out like that just during a normal subway ride or by being in a crowded public venue at the wrong time tends to create a strong undercurrent of dread. What does J.J. Abrams have to say to audiences who come to his films with those fears and dreads? We know what Gene Roddenberry would likely have said: The causes of all of these problems are understandable and defeatable, and they will be defeated and the human race will flourish in a better world. But Abrams is a man of his times, and the 2009 Star Trek skirted all of those issues in favor of a comingtogether origins story for the Enterprise’s crew. In 2013, Star Trek Into Darkness does deal with at least one of the issues, terrorism. But audiences worried about government overreaction to terrorism or

Top: George Takei, John Cho, and Garrett Wang. Inset: Anton Yelchin, Chekov. Below left: Karl Urban, Dr. “Bones” McCoy

about very real terrorist threats to innocent people are unlikely to be cheered up by the blurring of lines in which Khan’s terrorist attacks on Starfleet are shown to be somewhat justified by his past treatment, his concerns for his crew, and the warmongers among Starfleet’s leadership. To say, as Star Trek Into Darkness does, that the bad guys can be defeated by pounding the hell out of them ultimately means nothing. Abrams passed up the chance to show us how to avoid or turn back these social ills. He is not a futurist, trying to see how the future will unfold and devising ways to make sure it does so in the best possible way. He is a storyteller, and a very good one, as Star Trek Into Darkness proves. It’s exciting, yes. It’s well-done, yes. It’s enjoyable, yes. It’s worth the $8 or $10 we paid to see it. But it’s not inspiring. No, it’s a lot too eager to please to be interested in inspiring, even though inspiration would go a long way with today’s audiences. G weimar.ws Galaxis

31


how yesterday sold tomorrow

Join us for a colorful look back at the movie posters that introduced audiences to the films that in turn introduced them to the future.

ovie posters are more than the sum of their parts. We checked Wikipedia for a definition of film posters, and we read: “A film poster is a poster used to advertise a film.... They normally contain an image with text. Today’s posters often feature photographs of the main actors. Prior to the 1990s, illustrations instead of photos were far more common. The text on film posters usually contains the film title in large lettering and often the names of the main actors. It may also include a tag line, the name of the director, names of characters, the release date, etc.” Reading that definition, one would have no idea about the fun and artistry of film posters that would make them collectable items and favorites of film fans over the past

M

POSTER IMAGES: 20,000 LEAGUES: UNIVERSAL FILM MANUFACTURING COMPANY; 50 FOOT WOMAN: ALLIED ARTISTS, 1958; ATOMIC SUBMARINE: REYNOLD BROWN; THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN: UNIVERSAL PICTURES CO., INC.; ROCKETSHIP X-M: LIPPERT PICTURES;.

32

Galaxis March 2014


weimar.ws Galaxis

33


34

Galaxis March 2014


POSTER IMAGES: INVISIBLE BOY: REYNOLD BROWN; KING KONG: WIDESCREENMUSEUM.COM; SPACE CHILDREN: PARAMOUNT; FORBIDDEN PLANET: LOEW’S INTERNATIONAL; PLAN NINE: DISTRIBUTORS CORPORATION OF AMERICA; AELITA: IZRAIL BOGRAD.

century. Posters got stretched to their most imaginative limits—and to the limits of truthfulness regarding the films— by producers of low-budget films in the 50s and 60s, the heyday of such independent “exploitation” filmmakers such as AIP and Roger Corman. Sometimes, a film would be written based on the idea for the movie poster, rather than the movie poster being painted to match a written script or a shot film. In 2012, Daily Art Fixx dug into the history of this commercial art form and reported that “[i]t is generally thought that the first movie poster was created in 1890 by French painter and lithographer Jules Cheret for a short film called Projections Artistiques. Most of the early film posters prior to 1910 were simple signs with block text announcing the title, producer, and director.” Luckily for us and for the many artists who made livings painting imaginative film posters, the posters did not remain simple block weimar.ws Galaxis

35


text. Colorful and sometimes lurid depictions of the events in the film took over, particularly for genre movies. It would be hard to depict a lurid scene from The Sound of Music, of course, but The Brain that Wouldn’t Die pretty much sells itself as an image-maker. Later generations would thrill to the site of SF movie posters created by Frank Frazetta or the Brothers Hildebrandt. In the films represented on these pages, we see big, name-brand, major-release films such as Forbidden Planet (a classic in every sense) and King Kong (a film that influenced pretty much every aspect of filmmaking for decades, from marketing to special effects to monster storylines to femme fatales), as well as B and even C flicks such as Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (oftentimes and not without reason dubbed the worst film ever made). The movie poster art has a way of partially redeeming even the bad films and highlighting what we loved about the good ones. It’s no wonder, then, that film posters have become not just a marketing tool for the studios and filmmakers but a collectable item for moviegoers of all ages. Few college dorm rooms of science fiction fans are not at one point or another adorned with an Empire Strikes Back or The Lord of the Rings poster. G POSTER IMAGES: DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS: ALLIED ARTISTS; BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE: REYNOLD BROWN; CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON: UNIVERSAL PICTURES CO., INC.; NUDE ON THE MOON: J.E.R. PICTURES, INC.; LOST WORLD: IMPAWARDS.COM; RUR: МЕЖРАБПОМФИЛЬМ.

36

Galaxis March 2014


weimar.ws Galaxis

37


x Episode Guide, Part I: Season 1, 1987-1988

Fourth Time’s the Charm Gene Roddenberry struck ratings and critical gold with Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 1980s. But first he had to create the short-lived original series, the animated series, and launch the movies.

I

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

t all has something to do with William Shatner, sooner or later. Shatner wasn’t thrilled with the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films (see page 22). But director Abrams probably wasn’t too unthrilled; Shatner wasn’t excited about Star Trek: The Next Generation, either, when it premiered in September 1987, and that sequel series went on to become a monster ratings hit and a critic-pleaser. Unlike his costar Leonard Nimoy, Shatner has yet to appear in an Abrams-era Trek; he never appeared in Next Generation. We’ll leave that to you to conclude if 38

Galaxis March 2014

it is coincidence or Hollywood vengeance. Nonetheless, the show about which he had some initial qualms would become the most successful TV Trek series ever, becoming a favorite feature for genre magazine covers (see photos at right), and it was the most successful syndicated TV series of its day. Its success helped establish syndication as a viable platform for first-run genre television series, and many such series would follow in its path. How did this come to be? How did a failed three-season ’60s series become a mega-hit two decades later? Quality: The Next Generation was top quality in terms of acting and production, a far cry from the shaky finances of the 1960s Trek. In terms of writing, the series had its weak episodes, but it had a large number of strong episodes, ranging from extravaganzas such as “Best of Both Worlds” to quiet character studies such as “Home.” Continuity: Next Generation did not reboot the Trek universe (something Abrams would do to spectacular effect two decades later); it was set in the 24th instead of the 23rd century, and it paid homage to what went before in the adventures of Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Nichols, and others. Discontinuity: It takes courage to mess with an established formula, but that is what it takes to create something worthwhile and not just to create “product.” Next Generation didn’t just bring us the same characters or the same era, it resolved some issues from the previous incarnation of the series (such as Federation-Klingon war-

fare), changed the chemistry of the core unit (yes, they actually put a psychiatrist on the bridge), and let the characters develop over time, deepening our knowledge of them and our appreciation of their individual stories. Salvage: A number of the early stories featured in Next Generation were originally conceived as stories for a never-produced Trek series in the late 1970s. That series, often dubbed Trek II, never came to fruition, as studio Paramount wavered between supporting a TV series or a film; after much work and money had been sunk into TV series pre-production efforts, Paramount eventually went with the film option, and the result was 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. When Trek was resurrected (following the successful launch of the film franchise featuring the original actors), a number of stories and conceits (including calling the first officer of Enterprise “Number One,” an idea that harkens back to creator Gene Roddenberry’s original pilot for Trek, when the first officer was a—gasp—female) came along with it. Real Danger: What began as a fairly safe science fiction series

n


nz became a wonderfully complex storyline, as we will see when we get to season three. Many programs decide to “shake things up” by having cataclysmic happenings (major characters dying, locations shifting, cast changes); Trek didn’t need to do that, but it did need to prove that it was a show that was willing to take its characters and the series’ thematic challenges seriously, and that was something the show did spectacularly well. When the writers showed the Klingon Lt. Worf allow someone to die rather than have him assist them, it was true to the character and his outlook on life, even if in 20th century human terms it was morally wrong. This helped make the series more adult than juvenile, letting it stand head and shoulders above typical SF series. Science fiction: Plenty of science-fiction shows make little or no use of their genre tools. Science fiction stories, pretty broadly speaking, are extrapolations and explorations of the effects and possibilities of human progress, often technological. Most SF shows are futuristic westerns; Star Trek: The Next Generation had its share of shows that weren’t strictly genre, but the show had many, many that explored the effects of advanced weaponry, different ways of organizing society, medical advances, improvements in space travel, and more. Unnecessary Interruption If you were a bystander in 1986, you would not have said a new Star Trek series was the missing piece to the cultural puzzle at the time. Things were going rather smoothly back then. The economy was humming along nicely; visual science fiction had reoriented itself to the new possibility of sto-

rytelling and prosthetic special effects; and space exploration had been shunted aside in favor of a global endgame with communism. Even just in the Trek world, the focus was on the successful films. In short, Star Trek: The Next Generation never needed to happen. Gene Roddenberry made it happen. The creator and producer of Trek since the mid-60s, the former police officer turned TV producer had not had any big hits—to be honest, he hadn’t had any hits at all— since the early years of Star Trek. But the TV series had proved to be an enduring hit in syndication; it had spawned a well-regarded animated Saturday morning series from 1973-74; a continuing movie series (with only limited Roddenberry participation following the first one); and successful Star Trek conventions were educating the rest of the public on what exactly a science fiction convention was. So by the mid-1980s, nearly two decades after his better-than-it-needed-to-be science fiction series premiered on NBC, Roddenberry unleashed Star Trek: The Next Generation. It should have failed. But it didn’t. It became one of the biggest success stories in television history. Instead of actors trying to ape the styles or characterizations of Walter Koenig and William Shatner and George Takei, the show featured a brand new cast of actors confidently creating new characters. It wasn’t all goodness and crumpets; the show initially suffered from some mid-80s political correctness—putting a counselor on the bridge is like sticking a Soviet political commissar in a military unit—and the show’s leaders weren’t exactly inspiring (Captain Jean-Luc Picard abandoned his ship with disturbing frequency). But, oh, what Patrick Stewart’s Picard became. Stewart—not Roddenberry’s first weimar.ws Galaxis

39


Cast and Crew

Studio: Paramount Creator and Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry 40

Galaxis March 2014

Producers (various titles and timeframes): Rick Berman, Peter Lauritson, David Livingston, Robert Justman, Robert Lewin, Burton Armus, Mike Gray, John Mason Theme Music by: Alexander Courage Composer: Jerry Goldsmith Consultant: David Gerrold Associate Producer: D.C. Fontana Production Associate: Susan Sackett Script Supervisor: Cosmo Genovese Casting Executive: Helen Mossler Special Effects: Dick Brownfield Scenic Art Supervisor: Michael Okuda Senior Illustrator: Rick Sternbach Set Designer: Herman F. Zimmerman Consulting Senior Illustrator: Andrew Probert Patrick Stewart: Captain Jean-Luc Picard Jonathan Frakes: Commander William Riker Brent Spiner: Lt. Commander Data LeVar Burton: Lt. Commander Geordi la Forge Gates McFadden: Dr. Beverley Crusher Marina Sirtis: Counselor Deanna Troi Denise Crosby: Lt. Tasha Yar

Michael Dorn: Lt. Worf Wil Wheaton: Wesley Crusher Encounter at Farpoint Writers: D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry Director: Corey Allen Airdate: September 28, 1987 The maiden voyage of the newly rebuilt starship Enterprise takes it to Deneb IV to pick up the rest of its crew and to open diplomatic relations with the Bandi. The Bandi have built Farpoint Station, where items appear seemingly created by the thoughts of people and which is powered by a large, unknown source of energy. But on its way to the station, the Enterprise confronts the super-powerful alien being Q, who says their actions in this mission will determine whether humanity deserves to survive or be extinguished. At Farpoint Station, counselor Deanna Troi detects the presence of an unknown being in despair. Another ship arrives and attacks a Bandi settlement; Captain Picard orders an away team to visit the alien ship, where they discover

PHOTO: KREG STEPPE

choice; the producer wanted a Frenchman and only reluctantly settled on an Englishman portraying a Frenchman—performed Picard as a principled leader, not afraid to be unpopular if it meant making the correct tough decision but not unwilling to show his human side to his friends and crew. After that first season, Picard quickly became an icon of good leadership, and Stewart got to show himself as the icon of great acting that he is. In so doing, Stewart established Picard as arguably the most popular Star Trek captain of all time, which undoubtedly didn’t sit well with William Shatner. Because it all has something to do with Shatner, sooner or later.


Left: The navigation controls for Enterprise, as shown at the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton.

a structure similar to what’s found underneath Farpoint Station. The ship transforms into a large space-going creature, and Picard and his Enterprise crew help it rescue its mate—the unknown being whose powers were being milked by the Bandi to produce their wondrous station. Q deems the humans’ actions to be worthy of survival, for now. NOTES: This episode includes a special cameo appearance by DeForest Kelley, portraying a well-advanced-in-age Dr. McCoy making a quick visit to the new Enterprise. Elements of “Encounter at Farpoint” will be played out again in “All Good Things...,” the series-ending episode that once again brings Picard and the Enterprise to Q’s kangaroo court for their much-delayed judgement. The Naked Now Writers: J. Michael Bingham (pseudonym for D.C. Fontana), John D. F. Black, J. Michael Bingham Director: Paul Lynch Airdate: October 5, 1987

In this installment, we learn that Dr. Noonien Soong, creator of the android Data, apparently obsessed over details so much that he designed, built, and perfected Data’s nether regions to be “fully functional” to engage in sexual relations. But that exciting/titillating/disturbing revelation will have to wait. First, the Enterprise comes to the aid of the SS Tsiolkovsky, a science craft observing an unstable giant star. They find that the crew is frozen to death. Upon returning to the Enterprise, Geordi LaForge begins suffering from an ailment and he unwisely abandons sick bay, spreading whatever illness he carries. The Enterprise’s medical and scientific crewmembers study the effects of whatever affected the Tsiolkovsky. Data learns that it is similar to something that struck the Enterprise under Captain Kirk (see Notes below); meanwhile, various crewmembers begin exhibiting symptoms. It is at this point that we learn that Data’s USB port functions fully and that Tasha Yar likes cyber sex with real cybernetics. Wesley Crusher meanwhile takes control of the ship from Engineering, leaving the ship in danger from the collapse of the nearby star. Dr. Crusher, herself dealing with the effects of the disease, has to create a new cure for it, because the one used on the original Enterprise no longer works. NOTES: As an homage or follow-up of some sort to the original series episode “The Naked Time,” this go-around follows much the same formula: Have the characters act up and put the ship at risk as they shed their Starfleet duties and occasionally their clothes (Data and Yar in the new one, a shirtless Sulu in the original). “The Naked Time” was the fourth episode of the first season of original Trek, and “The Naked Now” was the second episode of the first season of Next Generation. In both cases, the episodes might have been improved simply by appearing later in the series, when we would know the characters better and could appreciate just how un-natural they were acting. Code of Honor Writers: Kathryn Powers, Michael Baron Directors: Russ Mayberry, Les Landau Airdate: October 12, 1987 Anchilles fever is ravaging the planet of Styris IV, and the only place to get the vaccine is on Ligon II, so Picard and crew head there to get some. The Ligonian leader, Lutan, is intrigued that the Enterprise’s security chief, Tasha Yar, is female. On Ligon, though women own the property, they are secondary to men in terms of wielding power. Lutan kidnaps Yar and pits her against his “first one,” Yareena, in a fight to the death. “Out of my way, woman!” — Hagon, to Tasha Yar NOTES: It is hard to avoid noticing the cringeinducing depiction of the Ligonians as a proud but violent race, and then having all of them portrayed by African-American actors. The kudos owed to the producers for hiring an oftenoverlooked group of actors are tarnished by their presentation in a stereotypical space-tribal society. A number of Next Generation actors have agreed, referring to this episode as a racist story and/or the worst episode of the series.

The physical fight between Yar and Yareena that is the deciding factor in a relationship makes this episode quite similar to the fight between Spock and Kirk in the original Trek episode “Amok Time.” That show had the benefit of being one of that series’ best entries. And not being racist. The Last Outpost Writer: Herbert Wright, Richard Krzemien Director: Richard Colla Airdate: October 19, 1987 In one of Cinefantastique’s giant annual Star Trek issues, someone involved in the early years of Next Generation claimed that Gene Roddenberry had expounded enthusiastically about the significant sexual endowments of the alien Ferengi. If true, it’s just one more weird aspect of Hollywood, not to mention TMI. In this episode, the viewers aren’t the only ones being introduced to the Ferengi; this is also the first contact the Federation has with this species. Chasing a Ferengi spaceship to the planet Gamma Tauri IV, the Enterprise and its quarry are both disabled by some unknown power. On the planet, they discover a system running on automatic pilot, apparently left there by the long-extinct Tkon Empire. The away teams from the Ferengi vessel and the Enterprise begin to struggle, and when a firefight breaks out, they encounter a humanoid projection called Portal 63. The projection accuses humanity of being barbaric, but Commander Riker is able to convince it that the Federation is worth preserving, while granting Riker the ability to destroy the Ferengi vessel. Riker refuses, and both away teams return to their vessels. The Ferengi return the energy converter they had stolen, which had kicked off the chase in the first place. NOTES: The Ferengi Letek in this episode is played by Armin Shimerman, who would go on to essay the role of another Ferengi, Quark, in the spinoff Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It’s also worth noting that this is a recurrence of the theme of humanity being put on some sort of trial on charges of being barbaric and undeserving of existence, just like in the “Encounter at Farpoint” opener. Where No One Has Gone Before Writers: Diane Duane, Micheal Reaves Director: Rob Bowman Airdate: October 26, 1987 This episode sees the first appearance of occasional character the Traveler, who would eventually lure Wesley Crusher into a new life. But first things first: We’re spared any details about the Traveler’s sex life. Starfleet engine whiz Kosinski and his assistant, the Traveler, board the Enterprise to run some tests on its warp engines. However, the tests go badly, with the ship surging faster than it’s supposed to be able to go; when the ship stops, they find themselves in a different galaxy. Wesley Crusher earns the admiration of the Traveler for his talents. Crusher notices that the Traveler phases in and out of existence during the warp tests, which turn out to be not due to Kosinski’s efforts but to something going wrong with the Traveler, who heads to sick bay. weimar.ws Galaxis

41


Lonely Among Us Writers: D.C. Fontana, Mark Halperin Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: November 2, 1987 The aptly (or lamely) named planet Parliament is the site for a meeting of delegates from two different species. Passing an energy cloud of some sort, as one does in space, the Enterprise experiences some strange phenomena when Worf and Dr. Crusher both exhibit some odd 42

Galaxis March 2014

behavior due to the cloud. The Enterprise itself suffers from the cloud; dropping out of warp and with Captain Picard being taken over by the energy field. After a struggle between the Enterprise crew and Picard, the crewmembers are able to separate their captain from the energy being and continue on to their Parliamentary appointment. NOTES: The recurring trope of Sherlock Holmes makes its appearance in this episode, as Data takes on the great detective’s guise to solve the mystery of crew behavior. Justice Writers: Worley Thorne, Ralph Wills Director: James L. Conway Airdate: November 9, 1987 The Enterprise visits the planet Rubicun III for the first time. Young Wesley Crusher joins a landing party and goes off to play with some of the children of the planet’s inhabitants, the Edo. While playing, he accidentally breaks the glass of a greenhouse. Tasha Yar had said that the Edos’ laws weren’t anything unusual, but she should have cleared her browser’s cache and googled the latest info on the Edo, for they turn out to punish even mi-

Above: A monitoring console in the main engineering section of the Enterprise. nor infractions of the law with the death penalty. Minor infractions such as breaking some greenhouse glass. The locals try to immediately kill Crusher for committing a crime, but Worf and Yar stop them. Meanwhile, in orbit, Data has discovered another craft of some sort orbiting the planet. The Enterprise crew learns that the Edo worship the ship as a god, and the god in turn is committed to protecting them. It’s up to Picard to extricate Crusher from the planet below while not angering the orbiting god. NOTES: Considering how wildly popular “Wesley Crusher” actor Wil Wheaton has become with movie and tech fans over the past couple decades, it can be hard to remember that his character was a wildly controversial one, especially in Next Generation’s early years. One feels sorry for the young actor, because there was a fair amount of “kill Wesley Crusher” sentiment espoused by the usual rabble. All of that is worth noting only because the producers here present an entire story around the

PHOTO: ALISTAIR MCMILLAN

The crew of the Enterprise, stuck in the Outer Rim after a partial return from the other galaxy, find themselves having visions of the past. The Traveler tells Picard that he is able to change thought into reality, and he can also tell that Crusher is a scientific whiz kid who deserves to have his talents nurtured. After Crusher and the Traveler are able to return the Enterprise to Federation space, Picard makes Wesley Crusher an acting ensign. NOTES: Writer Diane Duane is the author of about a dozen Star Trek novels, including 1983’s The Wounded Sky. That novel concerned an adventure involving James Kirk and his generation of Enterprise crew. Duane adapted the storyline into “Where No One Has Gone Before.”


PHOTOS: GATES MCFADDEN: COOLB AND GATES MCFADDEN.; MARINA SIRTIS: TIME DRURY; DENISE CROSBY: SALVATORE CAPALBI (SHELDON PAX) FROM ITALY; SPINER: RWOAN; LEVAR BURTON: GAGE SKIDMORE; JOHN DE LANCIE: JOHN DE LANCIE; WIL WHEATON: WIL WHEATON; JONATHAN FRAKES: BENJAMIN KRAHL; MICHAEL DORN: GAGE SKIDMORE; PATRICK STEWART: DAVID SHANKBONE

idea of killing Wesley Crusher, but of course they don’t carry through with it. Again, in light of Wheaton’s geek godhood today, the rabble is probably glad they didn’t. The Battle Writers: Herbert Wright, Larry Forrester Director: Rob Bowman Airdate: November 16, 1987 Ferengi captain Daimon Bok meets up with the Enterprise and presents Captain Picard with a gift: the Constellation-class starship Stargazer, aboard which Picard used to serve and on which he won a victory at Maxia, as Daimon Bok reminds him, by destroying an unidentified attacker that turned out to be Ferengi. Retrieving some of his old personal items from the Stargazer, Picard finds a round, glowing object that seems to be linked to serious headaches he has been experiencing. Bok lures Picard back to the Stargazer, where he has another round object that creates the illusion in Picard that he’s once again fighting the battle of Maxia. That battle, it turns out, had included Bok’s son at the command of the Ferengi ship, and Bok wants payback. It’s up to Riker and Data aboard the Enterprise to think two steps ahead of Picard, who thinks he’s in a pitched battle with them. Luckily, they know about the Picard Maneuver, a deception their captain had used to win at Maxia. NOTES: In this episode, Captain Picard explains that he was able to win the battle when he was aboard the Stargazer due to a short warp jump trick. That trick became known as the Picard Maneuver. The Picard Maneuver also became the popular name for actor Patrick Stewart’s habit of tugging the bottom of his uniform tunic when he stood up (from the third season onward). This was a result of the tunic’s bunching up on the actors when they sat down. All of the actors adopted this in some form, though leave it to Jonathan Frakes to take it one step further. As Wil Wheaton explained on his blog on February 12, 2007: “I also recall Jonathan Frakes always making a huge deal about doing the Picard Maneuver with the jacket on his space suit, pulling it down, tugging it from side to side, standing back up, yanking it down, sitting back down and tugging on his sleeves . . . I don’t think I’m conveying how incredibly hilarious it was, but maybe you had to have been working on the Bridge for 12 hours to be in the same comedy space we were whenever he’d do it.” In the early 1990s, Stewart was touring with a one-man stage show in which he played short vignettes of famous leading men, many of them Shakespeare creations. He was, of course, marvelous, and this writer remembers being in an Indianapolis auditorium filled to the brim with Stewart fans who were naturally hoping, assuming, expecting that Stewart would break into a Captain Picard soliloquy. Stewart did us one better: About midway through the performance, he made a comment about how he’s sure most of the people there were familiar with a certain spaceship captain he essayed; he then did the Picard Maneuver — and moved

on to other, more classic characters. It brought down the house. Hide and Q Writers: C.J. Holland, Gene Roddenberry Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: November 23, 1987 It’s the first appearance of the omnipotent alien Q since the premiere episode. This time, he steals some of the Enterprise bridge crew to take part in a competition. He tells Captain Picard (who was left aboard the starship when the others were taken) that he is there to test Riker to see if he’s capable of being granted the powers of a member of the Q Continuum. Q returns to the planet where he has secreted the others and tries to give Riker the powers, but the commander refuses. When in the course of the struggles there Worf and Wesley Crusher are killed, Riker finally assumes the powers and brings them back to life. But he tells Picard he will not use the powers again. When Q continues to test his resistance, Riker vacillates until he finally grants his friends’ wishes — which they reject, and he realizes he prefers the mortal company of his friends and crewmates. NOTES: Wesley Crusher dies in this episode. Was this an early form of fan service? Luckily, this was not Wheaton’s exit from the series. Haven Writers: Tracy Tormé, Lan O’Kun Director: Richard Compton Airdate: November 30, 1987 There are many people who wish a plague upon their in-laws, but leave it to the Troi family to take that to its logical conclusion. Mother Lwaxana Troi draws her daughter Deanna and the Enterprise to the planet Haven to honor a pre-arranged marriage to Wyatt Miller, a doctor. There is only one small problem: Deanna doesn’t want to marry Wyatt, and Wyatt is really in love with a woman he dreamt about. Sounds like a match made in heaven—er, Haven—but that would not turn out to be. A Tarellian ship nears Haven and is intercepted by the Enterprise, which holds it in a tractor beam because its inhabitants are afflicted with a very dangerous plague. Wyatt learns that a woman on board the plague ship is the woman about whom he has been dreaming, and he engages in a little subterfuge to get himself transported to the ship, despite the quarantine. Picard can’t retrieve Wyatt, because the doctor has become infected with the plague, and Wyatt and Deanna therefore are able to break their arranged engagement. NOTES: Majel Barrett, the wife of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, debuts as Troi’s mother, Lwaxana, in this episode. She already played the voice of the Enterprise computer and of course had played Nurse Christine Chapel in the original Star Trek TV series and in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In ST:TMP, we learned that she had become a doctor in her own right. Said Dr. McCoy: “Well, Jim, I hear Chapel’s an M.D. now. Well, I’m going to need a top nurse, not a doctor who will argue every little diagnosis with me.”

r Jonathan Frakes as William Riker

u

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher

j

Patrick Stewart as JeanLuc Picard

c

Gates McFadden as Beverley Crusher

w Michael Dorn as Worf

weimar.ws Galaxis

43


44

Galaxis March 2014

holodeck program is successfully reset by Wesley Crusher and the two gangsters try to walk out of the holodeck. Still awaiting Picard’s attention are the Jaradan. NOTES: “The Big Goodbye” won Next Generation a Peabody Award, as well as an Emmy for costuming. Audiences get their first extended look at the holodeck in this episode, and like it frequently does, the contraption malfunctions. As one observer noted after watching the umpteenth episode in which the holodeck malfunctions (the better to move along the plot): Don’t they have some sort of 24th-century OSHA that would make them fix it? Datalore Writers: Robert Lewin, Gene Roddenberry, Maurice Hurley Director: Rob Bowman Airdate: January 18, 1988 Data, the artificial lifeform created by Dr. Noonien Soong, turns out not to have been an only child. The Enterprise visits Omicron Theta, the planet where Data had been found by an earlier starship. The away team discovers that what had once been a farming colony is now a lifeless, barren landscape of rock. They find the

Above: Worf might not have had a chair for his station on the bridge, but he arguably had the best view.

lab where Dr. Soong created Data, and there they also discover another, nonworking (but presumably anatomically correct) android, and take it back with them to the Enterprise. When they bring the other android to “life,” he calls himself Lore and describes himself as a more advanced model than Data, though he later admits it was the other way around. More disturbing is what he says about how the planet became barren: a strange “crystalline entity” destroyed the colony and all life on the planet. Lore turns off Data and pretends to be him to the other crew members, to whom he also offers his help when the crystalline entity shows up. His impersonation of his brother lacks polish, and mother and son Crusher figure it out, revive Data, and arrive at the cargo hold in time to see Lore make plans with the entity to destroy the Enterprise crew. NOTES: In addition to building up Lt. Data’s back story, “Datalore” lets us see Brent Spiner’s acting chops. Here, he portrays both innocent

PHOTO: ALISTAIR MCMILLAN FROM GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

The Big Goodbye Writer: Tracy Tormé Director: Joseph L. Scanlan Airdate: January 11, 1988 In one of the first season’s stronger episodes, we get to see a side of the characters beyond their Starfleet roles. Jean-Luc Picard is a big fan of the detective stories of Dixon Hill, and he has a holodeck program written to allow him to play in that fictional world. (Let’s face it: If we had holodecks today, more than a few fans would create programs that allowed them to live in a Trek fictional world.) The captain, Data, Dr. Crusher, and a guest named Dr. Whalen are dressed up in their 1940s’ gangster garb and playing in the Dixon Hill holo-program when a computer glitch traps them inside. An alien race known as the Jaradan are about to start negotiations with the Federation, but their protocols are very strict. They are upset when they try to open contact with the Enterprise but can’t speak with the captain. Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew inside the holodeck realize something’s gone wrong when the safety mechanisms fail to prevent Dr. Whalen’s gunshot wound. Picard tries to describe what the holodeck is to the gangsters who are threatening them, but they don’t believe him until the


good-guy android Data as well as his not-sonice “brother,” Lore. Angel One Writer: Patrick Barry Director: Michael Ray Rhodes Airdate: January 25, 1988 Seven years earlier, the Odin spaceship crashed on the planet Angel One. The Enterprise sends an away team to meet with the planet’s matriarchal leaders and convince them to let the Starfleet crew search for Odin’s survivors. The leader, Beata, agrees, and the search turns up four male survivors who have taken local wives and do not want to leave. Beata, worried about the disintegration of her social system, has the four men taken into custody and threatens to have them killed. Meanwhile, a virus from the holodeck sweeps through the Enterprise, leaving Dr. Crusher in charge. She has only 48 hours to find a cure before the starship has to leave. NOTES: Yes, a virus on the holodeck. No Starfleet FDA, either? So the writers relied on some hokey holocrutch for their b-plot. But there is less defense for the show’s ham-handed attempt to tell a story about sexism without itself being sexist. Like the casual racism in “Code of Honor,” “Angel One” was a low point for a show that tried to be about a post-prejudice society. 11001001 Writer: Maurice Hurley, Robert Lewin Director: Paul Lynch Airdate: February 1, 1988 Arriving at Starbase 74 for maintenance, the Enterprise is assigned some Bynars to help out while most of the crew takes shore leave. Riker and Picard head to the holodeck for a jazz program, where they meet a surprisingly sophisticated character who charms them, Minuet. Meanwhile, the Bynars create a warp core problem that forces the evacuation of most of the rest of the crew, and Data and La Forge take the ship at warp speed to a location where its explosion won’t harm anyone else. But before they know it, the ship sets off on a new course: the Bynar system. The Bynars hope to upload to the Enterprise all of the data in their planet’s computer, which contains all of their knowledge and on which the Bynars effectively rely for everything. NOTES: “11001001” earned Next Generation another Emmy Award, this time for its sound editing. Too Short a Season Writer: Michael Michaelian, D.C. Fontana Director: Rob Bowman Airdate: February 8, 1988 As the Enterprise nears Mordan IV to help broker a peace settlement, the elderly Admiral Mark Jameson is growing younger and stronger. He had negotiated the previous peace agreement on Mordan, and he has been requested by that planet’s governor, Karnas, to negotiate the new pact. Jameson, intent upon righting a wrong he committed in that previous negotiation, has

been taking a lot of drugs that reduce the effects of age. With an Enterprise away team, he beams down to Mordan in an attempt to meet with a group of terrorists, but instead they beam into a trap and Jameson is shot. Picard then decides on a new gambit: Show up at Karnas’ headquarters and straighten out everything face to face. NOTES: In a quick game of six degrees of separation, Admiral Jameson actor Clayton Rohner has a long series of credits on his resume, including a guest appearance on the William Shatner police show T.J. Hooker. When the Bough Breaks Writer: Hannah Louise Shearer Director: Kim Manners Airdate: February 15, 1988 The Enterprise is searching for the planet of Aldea, which has managed to conceal itself from outsiders but reveals itself to Picard’s vessel long enough to request some of the ship’s children to help replenish its population, because the Aldeans have become sterile. The Enterprise, not surprisingly, says no, so the Aldeans kidnap five of the ship’s children, including Wesley Crusher, and uses its advanced technology to push the Enterprise three days away. Crusher and his mother discover that the planet’s cloaking shield is what has made its inhabitants unable to bear children. After Crusher instigates a passive resistance movement among the other kidnapped Enterprise children, Picard is able to reopen negotiations to return the kids and help the Aldeans have their own. Data and the Ferengi can help out, if they’re asked. NOTES: This is the only Next Generation outing for director Kim Manners, who would go on to become a genre hero with his work on The XFiles. Not to take this six-degrees thing too far, but starring in this episode is Jerry Hardin, who would become a household genre name for his work as the Deep Throat character in The X-Files. Home Soil Writer: Robert Sabaroff, Karl Geurs, Ralph Sanchez Director: Corey Allen Airdate: February 22, 1988 The colony of Velara III is falling behind in its efforts to terraform its planet. The Enterprise shows up with Darth Vader to get them back on schedule—no, wait, that’s a different SF story. But the ship does show up to find out what is going wrong, and they discover equipment that’s been programmed to attack humans and a crystal that acts oddly. Dr. Crusher thinks the crystal might be a lifeform, and she is proven correct when it begins to act up and then fends off attempts to get it off the ship and out of the ship’s computers, which it has accessed. The crew learn that the crystals become very intelligent when linked together by saline solution, but their environment was disrupted by the terraforming process. Data and LaForge try to find a way to save the ship and to save the crystal lifeforms on the planet. NOTES: If you have seen the episode or have just read the summary and you think, “Original series’ ‘Devil in the Dark,’” then you’re not alone.

y

Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar

t Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi

d Brent Spiner as Data

l

LeVar Burton as Geordi la Forge

q John de Lancie as Q

weimar.ws Galaxis

45


Heart of Glory Writer: Maurice Hurley, Herbert Wright, D.C. Fontana Director: Rob Bowman Airdate: March 21, 1988 Following the distress signal of a freighter 46

Galaxis March 2014

ship, the Enterprise finds it damaged but with life still aboard it: three Klingons. They are brought to the Enterprise, where they discover Lt. Worf. The three survivors from the freighter say that they had been on the ship when it was attacked by Ferengi, but later they admit they had taken it over in an attempt to go somewhere where they could live authentically Klingon lives. After a failed attempt to take over the Enterprise, none of the fugitives are left to live authentic lives. NOTES: This is the first episode in which the producers start to flesh out the lifestyles and society of 24th century Klingons. Michael Dorn’s Lt. Worf would deservedly become one of the viewer-favorite characters, not just because he’s a good actor but because he nicely brought to life the role of a Klingon unafraid to go against the niceties of human society. The Arsenal of Freedom Writer: Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Maurice Hurley, Robert Lewin

Director: Les Landau Airdate: April 11, 1988 The Enterprise arrives at the planet Minos, the last known location of the USS Drake. There they discover a holographic salesman hawking weapons. While an away team does battle with drones, the Enterprise is being attacked by other weapons. Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher, down on the planet with the away team, fall into a hole where Picard finds a computer, which reveals that the battles they are fighting are just a demonstration of a weapons system—one the Enterprise crew surmises destroyed both the Drake and the inhabitants of Minos. NOTES: The arsenal’s “Peddler” is played by none other than veteran character actor Vincent Schiavelli, whose resume includes roles in everything from Batman Returns to The Happy Hooker. Symbiosis Writer: Robert Lewin, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler Director: Win Phelps

PHOTO: KREG STEPPE

Coming of Age Writer: Sandy Fries Director: Mike Vejar Airdate: March 14, 1988 Wesley Crusher takes the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. He helps his fellow cadets, but he finds himself challenged and without help when it comes to dealing with the psychological part of the exam. Meanwhile, the Enterprise’s senior staff is subjected to an investigation of their loyalty and competence by their higher-ups in Starfleet. After they are cleared of wrongdoing, Picard turns down an offer of promotion to admiral. NOTES: Look for further elements of the Starfleet mystery from this episode to show up in “Conspiracy” near the end of the first season.


Left: Another view of the bridge’s many work stations.

Airdate: April 18, 1988 The Enterprise rescues four crewmen from an endangered freighter, who then begin to fight among themselves over the contents of a barrel. The men come from two different planets that are fighting over medicine needed to fight a plague (from which two of the survivors from the freighter are believed to be suffering). But Dr. Crusher sees that the “medicine” is really just a narcotic, being used for a non-existent plague. The four are returned to their planets, and Picard throws a wrench into the symbiotic customer-dealer relationship by refusing to provide replacement parts to the ships that plied the drug trade. NOTES: Judson Scott, who portrays freighter crewman Sobi, had previously appeared in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as Khan Noonien Singh’s number-one aide, Joachim. He would also appear as a Romulan in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Merritt Butrick, Sobi’s pal T’Jon, had previously portrayed James Kirk’s son, David Mar-

cus, in The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. His promising career and life were ended a year after his appearance on Next Generation, when he died of AIDS-related causes. Skin of Evil Writers: Joseph Stefano, Hannah Louise Shearer Director: Joseph L. Scanlan Airdate: April 25, 1988 While returning from a conference, Deanna Troi’s shuttle crashes on Vagra II. An away team from the Enterprise arrives and discovers Armus, a puddle of black goo. Think a thousand gallons of melted Hershey’s chocolate. Armus isn’t just a puddle of goo; Armus is a sentient being that is preventing them from reaching Troi’s shuttle. When Tasha Yar tries to get to the shuttle, Armus kills her. The Enterprise crew learns that Armus is a remnant of evil from a long-dead ancient race. Picard beams down to the planet to negotiate directly with Armus to get Troi back—or at least distract it long enough so that the Enterprise can get a transporter lock on her position and rescue her. NOTES: Chevy Chase was vocally unhappy with the NBC sitcom Community, on which he co-starred, but he still stuck with it into the fourth season before calling it quits (and after calling the show a number of names in the press). But Denise Crosby didn’t even wait a full year of Star Trek: The Next Generation before asking out of her contract. The manner of her death has been debated and criticized from the beginning, and the program itself addressed it in the spectacular third-season episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” in which her death is described as having been meaningless. The best fan activity associated with the episode that we can cite is a report many years ago in Starlog magazine about a genre costume contest in which the contestant walked to the stage and poured a container of dark syrup over themselves as their representation of “Skin of Evil.” We’ll Always Have Paris Writers: Deborah Dean Davis, Hannah Louise Shearer Director: Robert Becker Airdate: May 2, 1988 Following a disruption in space-time, the Enterprise responds to a distress signal from Dr. Paul Manheim, who is taken aboard the ship along with his wife, Jenice. Captain Picard recognizes Jenice as his former lover from many years earlier. She spills the beans on her husband, who is incapacitated but had been working on unknown projects. Meanwhile, localized time distortions are occurring on the ship and causing difficulties. Manheim awakens and reveals that his projects involve time and connections to other universes, and he thinks his experiments have gotten out of control, causing the time distortions. Data must go to Manheim’s laboratory and try to stabilize the experiment and end the timespace problems.

NOTES: The title, a Casablanca reference, regards the place where Picard and Jenice ended their affair. They recreate some of that in a holodeck scene in this episode. Jenice is portrayed by Michelle Phillips, formerly a member of The Mamas and the Papas singing group. Conspiracy Writers: Tracy Tormé, Robert Sabaroff Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: May 9, 1988 After being alerted to a possible conspiracy at the top of Starfleet, the Enterprise heads to Earth to find out what’s happening. Several admirals greet the Enterprise, and Picard comes to believe that one of them, Quinn, is not the same Admiral Quinn he dealt with a few months earlier (in the episode “Coming of Age”). Quinn tries to infect Riker with a parasitic creature, but the Enterprise crew is able to subdue the admiral. At Starfleet, Picard arrives for an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-style grossout dinner with his superiors. Riker, pretending to have been taken over by the parasite, prevents Picard from leaving, and the Starfleet leaders explain that the parasites are aliens who are planning to invade Federation space. Picard and Riker are able to kill the hosts and their parasites, but they learn that one of them was able to send a signal far away into the galaxy—perhaps summoning more like itself? NOTES: “Conspiracy” won an Emmy award for best makeup. Some of that makeup was blown to smithereens in an exploding head scene, which gave some people worries that the episode was too violent. Scanners it isn’t, however, and no one is likely to have nightmares from it. The Neutral Zone Writers: Maurice Hurley, Deborah McIntyre, Mona Clee Director: James L. Conway Airdate: May 16, 1988 After several decades of silence, the Romulans make themselves known again, and the Enterprise is sent to the Neutral Zone. On board are three humans who had been picked up on Earth after being revived from cryogenic stasis. The three are from the 20th century, their bodies preserved until a time when their incurable illnesses could be cured. Bingo—welcome to the 24th century. Several destroyed outposts along the Neutral Zone are found, as is a Romulan Warbird and its commander, Tebok. He and Picard face off, but they need to figure out who destroyed the outposts. Picard realizes that the Romulans aren’t going to go back into radio silence for another 30 years. But Star Trek: The Next Generation will go into several months of silence until the second season debuts in the fall of 1988. NOTES: Milwaukee-born actor Michael Alaimo booked numerous trips to outer space. In “The Neutral Zone,” he portrayed Romulan Commander Tebok. He also appeared in more than three dozen episodes of spinoff series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Gul Dukat. And he had portrayed a Romulan and a Cardassian in epiG sodes of Next Generation. weimar.ws Galaxis

47


The Orson Boycott t’s not about Ender’s Game. It’s not about the plot, it’s not about the character, it’s not about the actors or the directors or the studio behind the film. And it’s not about the publisher of the wildly successful and beloved book on which the new movie is based. It’s about Orson. Author Orson Scott Card. When a grassroots effort sprung up urging people to boycott the new Ender’s Game film because of Card’s well-known views against homosexuality, the author sought to mitigate the damage to the film by releasing a statement to Entertainment Weekly: “Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” That plea for room to disagree embedded in an accusation of intolerance earned the award-winning author widespread derision, and the controversy has put some of

48

Galaxis March 2014

the people involved in the film in awkward positions. Director and s c re e npl ay author Gavin Hood distanced himself from Card’s views, as did film studio Lionsgate Entertainment. Star Harrison Ford, who portrays Col. Hyrum Graff, told ComicCon in San Diego that he was attracted to the Ender’s Game story by the question of the morality of drone warfare and that he didn’t agree with Card’s attitudes toward gay marriage. “I think none of Mr. Card’s concerns regarding the issues of gay marriage are part of the thematic of this film,” Ford told the audience. “He has written something that I think is of value to us all concerning moral responsibility. I think his views outside of those that we deal with in this film are not an issue for me to deal with and something I have really no opinion on. I am aware of his statements admitting that the question of gay marriage is a battle that he lost and he admits that he lost it. I think we all know that we’ve all won. That humanity has won. And I think that’s the end of the story.” Ford has previously spoken out in favor of gay marriage and noted the increasing support for it in this country. American attitudes about homosexuality have changed dramatically in a fairly short time period — far more quickly than its attitudes toward race. Just a few years ago, even most

PHOTO: JDEERINGDAVIS

I

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

PHOTO: NIHONJOE

When Orson Scott Card’s beloved Ender’s Game finally reached the big screen, it was met with major controversy. And not because it involved children trained to kill.

Above: Author Orson Scott Card; bottom: Actor Harrison Ford with wife Calista Flockhart; Facing page, near left: Ender’s Game star Asa Butterfield (Ender Wiggin); Bottom: Abigail Breslin (Valentine Wiggin); Far right: The book that started it all.

liberal Democrats were sticking to the line that marriage was intended for a man and a woman, but not two men or two women. But President Barack Obama demonstrated that leadership still matters when he followed the lead of Vice President Joe Biden. The vice president had told Meet the Press in 2012 that he didn’t have a problem with


PHOTO: DAVID SHANKBONE

PHOTO: JOELLA MARANO

gay marriage, and that got the media set chattering and putting pressure on his boss to clarify his position. To Obama’s credit, instead of continuing to dodge the issue— and let’s face it, saying marriage is between one man and one woman is a dodge for most liberal Democrats, who were really just trying to avoid having it become a social wedge issue in their re-election campaigns—the president held a major interview in which he stated his support for gay marriage. Rather than becoming a problem for the president’s re-election campaign, the issue nearly disappeared from the national political landscape as polls quickly showed that people were largely supportive of marriage equality. But Card’s problems weren’t really about gay marriage, despite his claim. Though he was a member of the board of the fiercely anti-gay-marriage organization the National Organization for Marriage, critics have pointed to far more incendiary and hateful comments he made about homosexuals and homosexuality as reasons for publicly opposing him and his work. David Gerrold is the celebrated and outspoken author of numerous works, including the Hugo- and Nebula-winning book The Martian Child, the fictionalized retelling of his real-life experience as a gay man adopting a child. On Facebook, Gerrold posted a message to Card, which read in

part, “I don’t dislike you. I honestly don’t. I think you’re a very interesting author and you’ve turned out some works I admire. But you’ve made PR Mistake Number One. You’ve sided with hate-mongers. You’ve targeted a minority and you’ve characterized yourself as the righteous warrior. That gives you a short-term gain and a long-term loss. Look up Father Coughlin and Anita Bryant and Kirk Cameron. Now you’ve made PR Mistake Number Two — instead of honestly and sincerely apologizing for the hurt you have caused others, you have doubled down. You have played the martyr card, ar-

guing that you are the victim.” Gerrold also posted some thoughts directly about the question of boycotting, pointing out that a boycott of the film would hurt a large number of people involved with the film who had nothing to do with Card’s views. He also put on his well-worn teacher’s hat by arguing that “The real victory in the LGBT movement is that every time an anti-gay speaker raises the issue, it’s an invitation for others to respond. It makes it safe for everyone to contribute — and the result is that LGBT issues are now part of the national conversation. weimar.ws Galaxis

49


PHOTO: KYLE NISHIOKA

And in 2008, writing in The Mormon Times, Card asked “How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as ‘mentally ill’?”

Hugo- and Nebula-winning author David Gerrold has simultaneously calmed the critics of Card while also leveling serious charges at Card for his past comments about homosexuals.

Card’s own statements have contributed to that discussion. So as much as he has resisted marriage equality, he’s part of the reason that it’s inevitable.” That sentiment was echoed by Ender’s Game co-producer Bob Orci in an interview with Huffington Post. “We’ve come to embrace the fact that this actually gets to be a conversation,” said Orci. “We actually get to sit here and say that we support human rights and we support what’s going on in this country right now and that it’s trending in the right direction. Without this conversation, we wouldn’t be able to say that. We wouldn’t be talking about that. The book is about tolerance and understanding differences and bullying. So it’s actually turned out to be oddly relevant to the book, and it turns out that the book itself is the biggest advocate of the position.” Outside of the Ender’s Game book, author Card has found himself with a lessthan-tolerant reputation. Card told Salon. com interviewer Donna Mikowitz in 2000 that “I find the comparison between civil rights based on race and supposed new rights being granted for what amounts to deviant behavior to be really kind of ridiculous. There is no comparison. A black as a person does not by being black harm anyone. Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted. And the idea of ‘gay marriage’ — it’s hard to find a ridiculous enough comparison. By the way, I’d really 50

Galaxis March 2014

hate it if your piece wound up focusing on the old charge that I’m a homophobe.” On The Ornery American website in 2004, Card stated that “it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage.” Arguing that same-sex couples can never really be married even if they are, um, married, Card wrote that the marriage of a gay couple somehow harms his own marriage: “They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.” And, apparently unaware that people are able to read what he writes on a website, Card continued: The dark secret of homosexual society—the one that dares not speak its name—is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally. It’s that desire for normality, that discontent with perpetual adolescent sexuality, that is at least partly behind this hunger for homosexual “marriage.”

Left Behind While Card has been spending those years agitating against homosexuality and gay marriage, the country has moved far beyond him. The science fiction world has long been a place where people who differ from the majority views and appearances and lifestyles could find acceptance. Gay characters and their lives have been explored in novels for a long time. In television, they have been accepted parts of such high-profile productions as Babylon 5 and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. (A curious omission to the gay tolerance pantheon has been the Star Trek franchise; Gerrold, who helped create Star Trek: The Next Generation, has described elsewhere his unsuccessful attempts to introduce gay characters or themes into that series, only to be stymied by higher-ups.) Business focuses on the bottom line, and for the movie studios, it’s not good. Ender’s Game’s U.S. debut was a $27 million opening weekend, but by the end of the year it had still not yet earned back the money spent to make it. With a budget estimated at $110 million, it would need to not only clear its production budget but also the multi-million dollar distribution and promotional budget add-ons (some have estimated that films need to make one-third more than their budgets to cover those added costs). On i09.com, Charlie Jane Anders reported in 2011 about estimates that Megamind “cost between $130 million and $145 [million] to make (depending on what source you believe). But the [print and advertising] budget, or the cost of promoting the film, is estimated to be an additional $65 million, according to [BoxOffice.com editor Phil] Contrino.” So Ender’s Game probably has to make at least $150 million worldwide to earn the studio a profit. Whether Orson Scott Card collects on any back-end (in the black) earnings remains to be seen; studios can be notoriously creative when it comes to reporting profits, claiming that even wildly successful productions lost tons of dollars. If Card’s agent was smart enough and strong enough to demand a percentage of the film’s gross and not net revenue, then Card will never have to work another day in his life. If the agent wasn’t that good, then Card ... well, he’ll probably still never have to work another day in his life, because he has authored numerous bestsellers. Whether any future books are bestsellers remains to be seen. G


PHOTO: JOHN ZIPPERER

Revolutions for $5 Billion or $35

I

n mid-2013, a genius threw an idea into the public sphere. Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX (see Galaxis #3) wrote on his bog (teslamotors.com/blog) that California’s proposed high-speed train was too slow and too expensive. He suggested eight criteria for a better transportation system: it should be safer, faster, lower cost, more convenient, immune to weather, sustainably self-powering, resistant to earthquakes, and not disruptive to those along the route. So Musk proposed the Hyperloop, a high-speed train using “some enlarged version of the old pneumatic tubes”—to describe it very roughly. It would be a low-pressure tube with “capsules” transported throughout the length of the tube. The capsules, supported on a cushion of air, would accelerate via magnetic linear accelerator. It met all of his criteria. Musk estimated that the cost to build two one-way tubes between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be less than $6 billion. Compare that to the estimated $90 billion or so to run high-speed rail from the San Francisco Bay Area to the bottom of the state, and you can understand why the high speed rail has become a highly controversial topic in the Golden State, and why Musk’s out-ofthe-box idea got a lot of attention. More please, Mr. Musk.

Chromecast follows in the footsteps of Apple’s Apple TV, a digital media player that is also hooked up to a television but which acts as both the computer and the electronic key allowing the material to appear on the TV. Over the past couple years, Apple has added features to its $99 device, which remains a good choice for merging some computer services with the TV. But Chromecast doesn’t follow Apple TV’s footprints completely; in fact, it heads off in a different direction, one that Apple is unlikely to embrace (at least willingly) because it would cut into that company’s hardware sales. If Chromecast can send your digital media to a television, then it won’t be long before Google has it capable of letting you display your computer’s or device’s screen so you can actually do computing (write emails, work spreadsheets, edit photos, whatever) using your television screen (again, 55 inches would be a big help). It’s no big leap of technology necessary for that to happen or for them to fix the challenges of interaction with the screen. In other words, you don’t need to go stand in

front of your television and touch it like a tablet screen; you could use wireless mouses, track pads, and even voice commands or Kinect-like motion sensing. To make all of that happen, it will require continued development along a number of fronts, including the aforementioned display properties of Chromecast and similar devices, as well as voice interaction, motion sensors, computing power on mobile devices, and more. And absolutely none of that is unlikely or even difficult; it just requires the tech companies and their customers to continue down the path they’ve been following for decades and that Google has just started running down. At the turn of the century, people on the forefront of consumer mobility technology practically had to wear Batman’s utility belt to hold everything they wanted to take with them each day. A cell phone, a pager, a PDA for their schedule, maybe even a handheld game console. Apple’s iPhone and the ensuing [continued on page 80]

Model of the Hyperloop system as described by Elon Musk (bottom left). This shows the tubes on pylons and an example of solar panel placement.

from small things can come big changes. Or, in the case of Google’s Chromecast device, small things can wake up a wider audience to a big change that has been taking place before their eyes for the past several years. Chromecast ($35 from Google and various retailers) is a “dongle” or electronic key that is less than three inches long. Plugged into a television’s HDMI port, Chromecast lets you view on the TV media streamed through it from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. For example, instead of watching that YouTube video by KevJumba on your 4.5-inch phone, you can stream it to your television and watch it on a 55-inch screen. weimar.ws Galaxis

MUSK PHOTO: DAVID SHANKBONE; HYPERLOOP IMAGE: EDIT1306; DIAGRAM: EUCTEUDYQ

Worldly Things

What’s new from the tech and toy worlds

51


PHOTO: MARC7654

Dragon

52

Galaxis March 2014


n Fire

A mission to pay off the ship might end with its loss.

FICTION

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

N

ow that the passengers were all asleep in their bunks and the only sound was the low rumble of the ship’s engines, I could allow myself to contemplate the plan that they can’t know about. They think we’re headed to the colony on Luch, where there will be land aplenty for them to start new lives and stake new hopes on a largely empty planet. They don’t know that we’re instead headed to the Gustin sytem, one of the most densely populated areas in the Union, with six of the system’s 14 planets supporting human habitats filled with a mere 18 billion people. Rich planets, yes; exciting planets, yes. But planets where those 12 fugitives can find enough privacy to start new lives and new identities? Not at all. So while they continued sleeping for the next seven hours, I wandered up to the silent bridge cockpit to com-

municate with Earth. I sat at the tiny navigation desk and put on a headset for privacy, just in case anyone woke up and walked in on me during my call. I told the computer to make the connection, then I swivelled around to face the door at the back of the bridge. Just in case. A hiss and several clicks on the headset, then a robotic voice. “Contractor services. State code.” I spoke my mission code, got the confirmation, and soon I was speaking with my assigning officer. She wasn’t pleased with me—so nothing new. “Paulik, you’re not supposed to contact me until you’re at Gustin. What’s gone wrong? What have you done?” I made a face and was glad we were not on vidcall. “Nothing’s wrong. I just haven’t heard back from you guys about the new delivery route I sent you. You okay with it or not? If you don’t have a crew there to catch these guys when this ship lands, it’s all your fault.” I paused and cleared my throat. “It’s not my fault. I still get paid.” Another pause, but she didn’t say anything. “Right?”

Helix finally spoke. “You just get them to the Gustin Aorvro docks; we’ll take it from there. Don’t worry your pretty little brain about it. The credits are going to be autodeposited into your account as soon as our recovery crew finds the criminals.” Cyber criminals, I thought, who had amassed millions of credits through their acts, and frankly didn’t pay me all that much to transport them. But that wasn’t why I was selling them out to the Union troops; it was a favor for a prefecture government pal of mine (no, not Helix). Besides, I had hoped—futilely—during this trip to learn more about why they chose the victims that they targeted; going after a bank is one thing, but going after the Pantheon? That took guts; they’ve probably got the entire movement after them. They might even want to thank me after the Union grabs them, because their punishment by the government for cyber crimes will be a lot less than the revenge the Pantheon will seek. Most important to me is that I get my ship back in one piece after this is all over, because the money Helix pays me will finish paying off the old boat. After breaking the connection to Helix, I continued

sitting there for a while, just thinking about all the things that could go wrong. The passengers could find out about my plans before I lock in the auto-pilot and exit the ship. Jae, the only other crew member, could give away the plan somehow—subtlety is not his strong point. The escape shuttlepod could malfunction or even completely fail; I’ve never flown it such a long distance before. And of course Helix’s people might mess up the capture of the passengers and then refuse to live up to their agreement. They might even capture the passengers and still refuse to pay me, figuring I’m the worse off if it’s known I played amateur bounty hunter. I spent the next two hours triple-checking that my ship’s computer was programmed with the right cover story. Hao, the leader of my passengers, was going to start getting antsy during the next phase of the mission, when Jae and I both leave—as far as Hao knows, to avoid being seen on Luch, where he was led to believe I’m wanted on some random charge. He believes the ship will then auto-pilot back to me after dropping off

weimar.ws Galaxis

53


54

Galaxis March 2014

old. “If we go into the Luch system with all of our communications and hailing systems blaring, you’re going to have all of the authorities on the planet looking for where we land. There’s not a lot going on on that planet, so you’ll be the most exciting thing to come their way in years, even if you are what we told them you are: a boring group of settlers looking for farmland.” I turned back to my control panel, trying to make it look like I was glad to get back to routine maintenance. “So we’ve got to go in silent, on a new route, and hope they don’t detect us. Once you’re down on the ground, the Red Dragon comes back to me and you’ll be free to make your new lives and the Pantheon will never find you.” I paused. “Okay?” Hao nodded. He showed no reaction to my Pantheon mention. At least I tried. “Good. Now by the time the rest of your team wakes up, Jae and I will be gone, so I’d advise you to get some rest so you’re ready for the end of the flight,” I said. “Everything’s on autopilot, so you folks can just concentrate on getting your stories straight for when you land on Luch in a couple days.” Appearing satisfied, he walked away.

J

ae was the only one who would be coming with me when I left the ship. A longtime friend and 30-percent owner of the Red Dragon, he wanted to get the ship paid for as much as I did. This plan had to work. Get these miscreants off my ship and into the hands of the authorities. I had already deposited my payment from Hao. Now I needed to ensure that I receive my even bigger payment from Helix. If I didn’t, well, Jae and I would both be out of luck and maybe out of a ship. Several hours after Hao had left the bridge, I checked their bunk room to make sure he was in there—sleeping soundly, thank goodness—and then I went and got Jae. We grabbed a couple bags of packed items we’d need for the next few days before we got the Dragon back, and then we headed to the shuttlepod. Jae acted cold toward me, trying to communicate to me what I already knew. They could track us on the Stresemann Circle Station habitat, if they’re smart enough to follow. But I shrugged and tried to appear lighthearted as I ushered him into the pod. He took the seat at the back of the pod, and I had to climb over him to get to the cramped control seat. He’s the younger one; he should have climbed over me. But I got situated, started flicking the controls in front of me and on the wall to my side. The dashboard lit up, the viewscreen displayed our digital path to the station’s main dock, and a low hum of machinery filled the pod.

I wouldn’t be able to do any precision landing or docking, so I headed toward one of the openings in the station’s skin. There was an abrupt push-off from the ship, but the pod remained otherwise silent as we pulled away. On the reverse screen, I could see the Dragon becoming smaller and smaller, making me feel like we were falling when in fact we were accelerating. I didn’t take my eyes off the screen even when the ship was no longer visible. If they came after us, they could cause a lot of trouble; we could use up our pod’s limited amount of fuel just trying to outmaneuver them between here and our destination. Jae tapped me on the shoulder. “So how long until we get there? Can this little pod keep us alive long enough?” I sighed; I loved the guy, but he was an-

IMAGE: RICK GUIDICE; PD-LAYOUT; PD-USGOV-NASA

him and his team; the real reason, however, is that I don’t want to be anywhere near them when Sun Union troops show up to capture Hao’s gang. Being near firefights is not something I desire. It took Jae, my co-owner of the Red Dragon, and me a long time to get the computer program complex enough, deep enough, and randomly redundant enough to withstand what I was certain would be an extensive examination by Hao, once Jae and I had abandoned ship. There would still be two days of flight time before they supposedly reached Luch, and that would give then too much time to mess with the computers and possibly discover the true destination. And they’re computer financial criminals, so they know how to mess with computers. Jae and I tried to cover any weak points in our plan with autoshutdowns that appear to kick in when a break-in occurs; we figured that would make them a bit more cautious and would help explain why they’re unable to get certain information. We hoped. But even more than the programming, I was counting on Hao to believe that when Jae and I exited the ship in our escape shuttlepod, it was part of the plan to get them safely and innocently to Luch, and not part of the plan to deliver them into the hands of the authorities who would make them pay for looting the accounts of hundreds of victims. Instead of a cause for worry, our leaving should be a milestone in the successful completion of his grand escape plan. We hoped. Satisfied that I’d done all I could, I leaned back and stared at the cockpit’s ceiling for a few minutes, thinking about the future and how much better it will be after this diversion was over. Convinced that everything looked as it should, I sighed. More than my worry about my escape pod being able to get to the Stresemann Circle Station, I was worried that the passengers aboard my old ship would be able to intercept me. So I programmed the pod on a bit of a nondirect course to make it appear that I was heading to the tenth planet in the Gustin system, then after I’d disappeared from tracking systems, I’d hold a little while before setting off for Stresemann. Maybe I’ll even switch ships there, if I’d be able to access my accounts from one of the planet’s orbitals. “Paulik!” It was Hao’s grating voice, shouting from just down the corridor. Doesn’t that man sleep? He entered the cramped cockpit and towered over me. “The guys are getting worried—communication’s out, the pods are kaput. We don’t like it.” I made a show of calming down, as if I were explaining something to a nine-year-


noying me. “Yes, it’s made for long voyages. Just don’t do any heavy breathing.” After a few hours, the computer informed me that we were beyond the ship’s scanner range, and I finally started to relax. After a while, we fell into our usual halfhearted discussion about how great it will be when we are free of Dragon debt. We could enter into some sort of official courier service, perhaps for the government; that would be easy, well-paying work that would make it very unlikely to result in people shooting at us, and this Hao trip might just cement the ties to the government we’d need to get such business. We could overhaul the ship’s engines; buy an

android or two; upgrade the computer. Both of our heads jerked forward, following the lines of green energy bolts that had just flashed past us from somewhere behind the shuttlepod. Another bolt shot past on the other side, and the pod’s computer decided it was a good time to sound a mild alarm bell. “Repulsion shield raised,” the pod’s tiny computer told us. That wouldn’t help a great deal; like the pod and its computer, the shields weren’t intended to withstand much action or abuse. Who was shooting at us? The scanner showed no one behind us, but the pod had weak scanners, compared to the Dragon. Was it the Dragon firing at us? Had Hao taken control of the ship? Or was it government forces, getting rid of us now that we were off the ship and they could have their cake and eat it, too: capture Hao’s gang and get out of paying us at the same time? Or was it someone else completely? Pirates? No one was sending us any audio warnings; government forces identified themselves—unless they were intent upon eliminating us and not just stopping us. After another volley swiped the side of the pod, rocking us in our harnessed seats and kicking the alarm bells into a higher pitch, Jae began fiddling with the rear instruments. “Can’t we do anything to strengthen the shields?” I was at a loss, but not out of hope. “Jae, if those were from a Union ship, we’d be a smoking hulk right now. That means it’s Hao and the Dragon.” “That’s a good thing?” Jae nearly shouted. “They’re going to want to kill us. Slowly.” Possibly. “True, but they don’t know how to manipulate Dragon’s computer, and that ship knows we’re in this pod, so it’s required to try to avoid hurting us.” I put the pod on a makeshift zig-zag course to try to keep the energy bolts as far from us as possible. “That gives us a fighting chance.” The shot we’d taken on the side had knocked out a few functions on the navigation panel, so I had limited options about where to go. Basically, it was straight forward, with a few swerves to the sides here and there. There were no more attacks, and no appearance of the Dragon on our rear viewscreen. Jae tapped his headphones and claimed credit. “I figured if they’re messing on the top layer of Dragon’s computer, I could go the low-level route,” he said. “I told Dragon that conserving fuel was the top priority—” “—and the best way to do that is to slow down and stop firing. Good job.”

W

e still had the Dragon behind us somewhere, filled with a band of angry criminals. But for now,

they were hobbled from overtaking us, so we limped toward Stresemann Circle Station in its orbit around the ninth Gustin planet. The shuttlepod’s controls were still far from working well; I wouldn’t be able to do any precision landing or docking, so I headed toward one of the openings in the station’s skin. “This could work out yet,” Jae said. “How?” “If they come to the same place we go, then we can get the ship back.” “Or they could kill us while we try to get the ship back,” I snapped. He huffed. “Didn’t you think of how you were going to get the Dragon back?” “I know how we’re going to get it back,” I said. “Helix’s people are going to get it back to us after they snatch the criminals. Except now I’m not sure they’re going to do that, because we’re coming in to a different location than planned. I hope they get the redirect info from the pod.” “So you didn’t think of how you were going to get the Dragon back? Great.” “Look, if you think you can do this better, go ahead. I’m doing the best I can.” “Oh, I wouldn’t dream of interrupting you,” he said. “You’re on a roll.” I gave up struggling with the controls; the space station habitat’s collision defenses would ensure that we didn’t have a firey landing. Bruised a bit, yes, but not incinerated. I watched out the viewscreen as we descended through the station’s large gaps, down through the cloud layers, and headed toward a green landscape. The orbital habitat’s artificial gravity sank us into our seats. The pod’s instruments were whirring, and I just plugged my ears when a new warning siren went off. I could feel the station’s collision defenses cushioning our descent, but it was still alarming to me and to the pod’s computer. Finally, the ship rolled over a couple times, loose instruments and baggage crashed around the pod’s cabin, and I blacked out. After what seemed like hours, I shook myself awake. My head ached, as did every part of my body where the seat’s straps had restrained me in my seat. The crashing and crunching had stopped; the pod had settled itself somewhere. As my wits came back to me, I turned around to check on Jae, but he was okay. He shook his head, gave me a look that said he could have done the landing better, and then unbuckled himself. When we both were free from the harnesses, Jae popped the escape hatch and we saw that we had landed in a verdant landscape of the orbital. It was as good as we could have hoped: all we could see were trees and grasslands. Thank goodness we didn’t land in a busy street; the damage weimar.ws Galaxis

55


T

his time, when I came to, I was staring up into the face of a union officer, and there were several other union

56

Galaxis March 2014

troops in the background. I recognized the lead officer as Jordan, Helix’s colonel or general or something. Someone important enough to be nice to. I gave a little wave. “Glad you found ’em. It was hard keeping them all together when the plan got screwed up.” She looked pained to acknowledge me. “We were tracking you long-range the entire time, Paulik. Once they landed, we laid down a suppression charge to knock out everyone in the area.” Jordan reached down and offered me a hand. I accepted, and she pulled me up. “That was two hours ago. The gang’s in custody, and your ship is cleared, Paulik. “ “Our ship,” said a voice to my right. I looked over and saw Jae sitting up, rubbing his head. “And my money—our money?” I asked. Jordan barely shrugged. “Not my job to doll out the pay. Check with Secretary Helix. But I don’t see why you wouldn’t get the money. We got the crooks, and you did your job. More or less.” “Thanks.” Jordan and the other officers walked away. I looked at Jae. “Shall we see if they screwed with our Red Dragon baby?” By the time we got down to the Dragon, the union people had left. Jae waved his hand in front of the ID bar and the door slid open. I hadn’t been prepared to flee pursuers on foot, but I was always prepared for protecting the ship. “Dragon, systems security priority check,” I said, entering the ship. “Voice verify, view verify, genetic verify.” A few seconds went by while we stood motionless in the entry hall, waiting for the security check to complete itself. If Hao’s people had messed with it, there were so many overlapping and redundant and isolated security systems on the ship that at least one of them would report a discrepancy. I relaxed when Dragon’s deep voice said, “Alles in ordnung.” Jae slapped me in the stomach. “Get the damn thing to speak English.” “You know as well as I do that if it’s in German, that limits the number of people who can understand it.” “Yeah, like me,” he said, and disappeared into the ship. I followed.

W

e both arrived in the cramped cockpit at the same time. With room enough for only four people, there was not a lot to see or to double check. But we knew better than to bother checking the instruments. We sat in our pilots’ seats and looked up at the ceiling. The entire ceiling was covered by a painted mural of a dragon on a red background.

Jae quickly looked down at his instruments and made himself busy with programming the nav system. I looked long enough at the ceiling to make sure, then I turned my gaze out the viewscreen. “Crap.” Anyone else gets into my cockpit, they think Jae and I are just eccentrics who have a painted image on the ceiling in honor of our ship’s name. But Jae and I paid to the hilt to have the Dragon’s live computer state imaged on the ceiling; we knew every inch of that image, and if anything was out of place or different from what we remembered, that meant the ship’s computer wasn’t right. There was no hint of fire. I let my gaze flick back upward to the ceiling to be certain, but I was right the first time. There should be a hint of fire coming out of the dragon’s nose, as if it was getting up the energy to burn down a village or a valiant knight with his flaming breath. Hao had messed with the Dragon. And Jae and I both knew that the fire element was a reflection of our personal accounts, the financial accounts we had both worked so hard to increase. “Dragon, give me a status on our financial accounts,” I said. Dragon’s voice read off noncommittally. “The joint ownership account balance is one hundred and eight-nine credits. The fuel account is—” “Enough. Thank you.” “You are welcome. Alles in ordnung?” I sighed. “Nein.” Hao hadn’t screwed with the computer, but he had taken almost all of our money—the money he’d paid us (fair enough, can’t blame him) and the money deposited by Helix (I blame him). But how had Hao gotten our money? Helix wasn’t going to deposit it until her troops had captured Hao. Jae and I sat quietly while preparing for liftoff, running the systems through their startup procedures and each of us fuming. I didn’t even want to meet Jae’s eyes, so I made sure I concentrated on the dashboard ahead of me. Finally, I said aloud, “Dragon, a financial transaction accessed our accounts earlier today. Are the access codes still live?” “No. The codes are dynamic—” that means they changed once they were used, “—and were based on voice recognition.” I thought. “Did you record the account or accounts to which our money was transferred?” “Yes.” “But you don’t know the codes to access it there?” “Correct.”

DRAGON IMAGE: HOKUSAI, KATSUSHIKA

could have been serious, and the crowds and security personnel might have made it difficult to escape before we knew where Hao landed with my Dragon. But surely someone detected our approach and saw our landing even out here, so we knew we had to get out of there quickly. Jae grabbed my shoulder and pointed upward. Through one of the spaceviews, in the direction from which we had come, was a moving light—a ship. “That’s my ship,” I said. “Our ship.” “Come on, we’ve got to get off this station before they get here and find us. They’re not going to be in a good mood.” I started running away from our shuttlepod. Jae didn’t follow, shouting instead, “Why don’t we just take back our ship once they land? They’re going to have to get away from it, too, because if they suspect us, then they suspect Sun troops will be following the ship here.” I stopped. “Yeah, right.” Well, he was right, to be honest. “Still, we’ve got to hide and see where they land. Then we can think about recapturing the ship.” Jae was still looking upward. “I think they’re coming right here.” I saw what he was looking at—the Red Dragon looked like it was headed for our location; it had probably tracked us better than I thought. “Come on! They’ll be able to spot us soon, not just the shuttle!” We headed for the nearest trees and hoped they didn’t have live trackers. Even under the cover of trees, we continued running until we had gotten up enough of an incline that we could see down to our pod, but with plenty of space behind us to run further if we needed to. Jae was right; the ship came and hovered right above the pod before moving over and landing next to it. Whoever was piloting it was doing a far better job than I expected from a group of cyber criminals. Had they hacked the auto-pilot? I was going to have to do a complete system wash when we got out of here with the Dragon. Hao and his henchwoman Terita came out of the ship first, guns drawn. I automatically shrank back, even though there was no way they could see us from there. I wished we had some genetic decoys we could have distributed in the area to throw them off the scent, but this operation had long ago become a total improvisation. I stole a glance at Jae and saw that his face was impassive; he was just taking in what was happening, waiting as I was to see what happened next. Then we blacked out again.


There was no fire. I let my gaze flick back upward to the ceiling to be certain, but I was right the first time. “The person who verbally made the exchange was Hao?” “Correct.” I allowed myself a grin and a glance at Jae. “Dragon, Hao was on board for a week. How many voice recordings did you make of him during that time ?” Now Jae grinned. There was hope. Dragon did the calculation and quickly responded, “I have seven hours of total accumulated voice recordings of passenger Hao.” I paused again, thinking this might be too good to be true. “Dragon, can you

splice together and clean up enough to create a call from him to return the money? Think the bank would go for it.” “I have 56,000 spoken words by Mister Hao, many of them repeated, so I can make a natural sounding recording of him. But I will not be able to get his bank to return the money.” Damn. “Why not?” “I checked in the background while we were discussing this. Even though I captured his keywords and passwords when he accessed his account while aboard me, his account access information has since

been changed.” “He knows how to cover his tracks,” Jae finally said.

W

e took off, and once we cleared the habitat, we set off on a slow course toward the eighth Gustin planet, Ven Le. Jae and I and Dragon needed to brood over this, to see if we could figure out a way to get our money back, or at least some of it. Also slowly, because we wanted the union ship to get the hell out of the system as quickly [continued on page 80] weimar.ws Galaxis

57


58

Galaxis March 2014

CONCEPT ART PAINTED BY CHRISTOPHER SHY AND COPYRIGHT/TM JM STOVER


The New

Indie Filmmaking Artemis Eternal’s path to the big screen BY JOHN ZIPPERER he traditional, established way of doing things can be easier than trying something different. Like making movies. Or conducting an interview. Working outside the Hollywood establishment can be difficult enough for a young filmmaker, but doing it outside of the traditional funding establishment presents all kinds of problems. If the money’s not coming from a studio’s deep pockets or from an investment fund of local doctors or from government arts grants, where should independent filmmakers turn? Increasingly, they are turning online. Crowdfunding, in which money is raised online in small increments from strangers, has helped fuel such current genre films as El Cosmonauta (The Cosmonaut, see page 18) and A Swarm of Angels. But one of the influences for other crowd-funded independent films is a science fiction epic that has yet to reach production. Titled Artemis Eternal, it is the brainchild of filmmaker Jessica Mae Stover, and it is both an artistic and a business endeavor. When Galaxis approached Stover for an interview, she eschewed the traditional approach here, too. Not for her was the interview to be over the phone, by email, or in person at a local watering hole. She wanted

T

Determined to blaze her own path away from Hollywood, filmmaker Jessica Mae Stover and her band of Wingmen supporters look to create a film world better than the studio system.

to do it as a webcam chat via Google Hangout. As in frontier filmmaking, the idea proved better than the execution, thanks to intermittent problems with Galaxis’ internet connection. But through the course of repeated stops and starts, the employment of web video, audio, and even text chat, Stover explained how she came to pursue her vision of a truly independent science fiction film. “It’s the most expensive art form there is, with all the technology and labor,” she says. “So how can we approach this? If you don’t come from money [or] you’re a first time artist, you don’t have a lot of experience for investors” to weigh against the risk. “I started barnstorming. I talked to Greg Martin, the interactive artist I work with a lot, and I went around Los Angeles and met with top attorneys and the insurance company that insures a lot of studio films, and asked people to punch holes in my ideas— ‘Tell me why it won’t work.’ Then Greg and I did the website in a month. It was a lot of work. We’ve since tweaked it some, but we haven’t overhauled it. “My vision was to partner with a lot of fantasy and science fiction communities. We worked with the Onering.net, but it’s hard to do that,” she says. “As fantasy and science fiction fans, we love original science fiction and fantasy, but we don’t know what that is.” Comic-Con was another obvious but ultimately unsatisfactory place to search for partners. She says it is a hard place for independent filmmakers; there’s “so much noise” that it’s hard to “reach out to my people.” Relating the early days of her project, Stover admits to some disappointment but not to losing faith. “That’s how the discovery process went,” she says. “It never goes how you intend. I had hoped the web community would be more warm and embracing; some people were, but a lot of people weren’t.” weimar.ws Galaxis

59


She says her project was around since before Kickstarter or other popular online crowdfunding sites. “There’s not a lot of people operating in this space, so we tend to get compared a lot—but we’re different. A Swarm of Angels launched around the same time, so we weren’t influenced by each other,” Stover says. “They crowdsourced their creative, and we’re not. Philosophically, I don’t think having a committee works for a studio, [and] I don’t think it would work for us. But it might work once or twice—at least be interesting as a collaborative art project.” Perhaps in future years, when crowdfunding is better established for independent filmmakers, they will be able to share more ideas with each other about how to succeed. For now, “people haven’t really been that open to that, maybe just because they’re busy. But they should be open to that,” she says. “Teamwork.” Does she regret choosing this path? “No, I haven’t regretted anything. But I went through a period when it didn’t work as I intended; in fact, it wasn’t even close. Then Kickstarter came into the market. I did an interview with Variety; the article called us the independent version of crowd funding. But crowdfunding is supposed to be independent.” The Tale Stover is keeping the storyline of Artemis Eternal very close to her vest, to the occasional irritation of some fans who argue that they should be told more if they are being asked to support it financially. The official description of the film is short and vague: “Does life have to be the way it is?” Two friends find their relationship put to the test when they’re pitted against one another in a frantic battle of virtue and determination. The pair soon realize that their destinies are not solely in their hands, and that two competing forces seek to control the outcome of their conflict. With time running out, each will struggle to triumph over the other. Lyrical and charged with adrenaline, Artemis Eternal is the mythopoeic scifi-fantasy film that answers the question… “Once set into motion, can fate be stopped?” To Galaxis, she explains that “people have become frustrated because I haven’t given out the script, or a preview,” but she says the script could change. Still, she agreed to elaborate on the ideas behind her story. “It’s very mythopoetic. It borders on tone-poem,” she says. “To me it’s about the expectation that society puts on the individual. At what point do you deviate from your community? The best science fiction asks questions like that; at what Images this page and facing page: Artemis Eternal preproduction art. With plot details few and far between, the preproduction renderings are the best way for fans and potential supporters to get a sense of the story and feel of the film. 60

Galaxis March 2014


CONCEPT ART AND SKETCHES PAINTED BY CHRISTOPHER SHY AND COPYRIGHT/TM JM STOVER

point do those expectations deviate so much they make you change?” Like George Lucas before her, Stover cites Joseph Campbell’s work on commonalities among mythologies across cultures as a major influence on her own genre work. Asking her to give recommendations for fantasy stories is likely to result in suggestions of Arthurian legend or Aesop’s fables. One of the great writers to mine mythology was British writer and professor J.R.R. Tolkien, who created works of such lasting fame that they are still bestsellers being adapted into blockbuster bigscreen films today, such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and in which he created new myth. “He was amazing at so many aspects of humanities,” says Stover, “but his study of mythology and translating classics” made it easier for him to create new mythology himself. But mythology doesn’t have to be divorced from modern concerns. “Some of the best commentary on the Iraq war was happening on Battlestar Galactica season three,” she adds, “so there was a lot of mythology there.” In fact, when asked to name films that have inspired her, she lists Seven Samurai, Lord of the Rings, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “My three favorites,” she notes, “all mythological epics.” She also names Jurassic Park and Gravity as films she has enjoyed. But even in a discussion of her “guilty pleasures”—films that might not impress an elite critic but that she loves nonetheless—her artistic standards come through. Case in point: Independence Day. “I”m not guilty about it,” she says. “I can make an argument for it. If I’m writing on a five-star system, it’s like a 3.5 But I like in the first act the cross-cutting between all these segments of society. It is popcorn, but I love that. It has a scientist in it, Jeff Goldblum. They also don’t violate the rules. “I like action movies that make sense, like Goonies. It doesn’t have to be melancholy, but it has to make sense,” she adds, reiterating her distaste for filmmakers “making rules and then breaking them.” Stover has a somewhat conflicted attitude toward an independent filmmaker who became a wildly successful director and producer, George Lucas. Lucas drew upon Campbell’s work on mythology to create 1977’s Star Wars A New Hope. But there’s only so much she can take away from his experiences. “It was a different time when A New Hope was made, so it was not a good model for any modern filmmaker. It was a totally different market,” she says. “The script—when you read it, I would not get away with writing a screenplay with huge blocks of text. Lucas is more of a filmmaker than a writer. “The whole mythology around the mythology is that Gary Kurtz kept George Lucas focused on story craft. He departed after Empire, which Lucas didn’t direct. I think that maybe that is what happened. When he was at the studio he didn’t have much leverage, he was dealing with things he didn’t like. But he had an advisor who was like, ‘Let’s make good films.’” She says that the approach later became weimar.ws Galaxis

61


“‘Can we make a film and sell toys and don’t need to make it good to make money?’ I think that’s the way things work.” She says Lucas has “done a lot of good things and a lot of things that didn’t create good story craft, but he’s also contributed in tremendous ways, and that comes from owning his own intellectual property. “Something that worries me is that when you’re an artist and you reach a certain success level, people don’t question you and you end up with filmmaking that’s not as strong.” She says with novels, a good editor is needed to reign in the author and help craft a good tale. “With film, there’s really no editor who works with the screenwriter. It goes to your agent, through a bunch of MBAs,” she says. “So there’s no creative editor for most screenplays that are [being produced for] millions of dollars and being seen worldwide. “So I guess the Lucas thing makes me nervous, because it could happen to any artist. I don’t want anyone to be not giving me that feedback. When you’re just starting out, nobody thinks you can do anything—that’s the exact opposite. No one trusts your work, even when it’s good.” The Task There are many filmmakers who have built their careers outside the Hollywood mainstream, though many of them sooner or later ended up inside its orbit to one degree or another. George Lucas. George A. Romero. Roger Corman. Tom Tykwer. Tobe Hooper. Sam Raimi. Stover says Artemis Eternal will be completely free of the studio system. “Artists should be enabled to do their own small business without their own middleman,” she says. “I experimented with Kickstarter and asked what they did to help users, but they [said you’ve got to use your own network]. I felt really frustrated. Pretty low. I really felt like I got knocked down. “You know what? It didn’t meet my timeframe, but we just keep retooling and moving forward in increments. “I’ve always got the Wingmen. I just read that list of names. I read about what they’re talking about, and its usually movies and art. Before, I wouldn’t have anything and would have to constantly be pitching people and relying on them. Now we have others [to work with and support me]. We have enough wingmen. People know us. We’re moving forward.” A look at Stover’s professional background does not immediately provide clues that she would become an independent filmmaker with a dedication to working on the frontiers that makes 62

Galaxis March 2014

Roger Corman look like the ultimate Hollywood sellout. Her earliest claim to fame was as the host of AOL’s video series Jessica’s Crush, in which she interacted with various famous entertainment folks ranging from George Lucas to Sarah Michelle Gellar to Samuel L. Jackson. The show brought her fame, but it also appears to have strengthened her determination to do things her way. “I loved shooting my show and interacting [with its guests],” Stover says. “I had 5 million viewers; it was right before YouTube. But I realized, ‘Wow, I’m promoting things to my viewers that I don’t agree with.’ That was a breaking point for me.” She also got an inside look at the politics and business side of the industry. During her time on Jessica’s Crush, AOL Time Warner was dealing with the fallout of their merger—a disastrous corporate tieup that would result in tens of billions of dollars of lost market value and the two companies’ ultimate separation. But it had come together in a euphoric belief in media “synergy” and cross platform blah blah blah. It was supposed to help the company produce and distribute its own product, just as other massive tie-ups in the corporate world have done the same for movie and TV studios and broadcast and cable channels. What gets left out of such synergistic bliss is the independent producer. “My first serious acting coach said, ‘Don’t use your work as influence for how you make art,’ but I kind of did that, because the entertainment community was my community,” she remembers. “I turned a lot of things down; I could have been very commercial, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. It felt not ideal. “As a young person, as that teeny bopper, I didn’t think I would direct until I was a lot older. I’d always written. I started out writing and acting. I was going through the audition process, but the material was


DESIGN ELEMENTS/STYLE GUIDE DESIGNED BY GREG MARTIN; SOLEY PHOTO: JASON DEFILLIPPO; MARTIN PHOTO: ARTOFGREGMARTIN.COM; CONCEPT ART AND SKETCHES PAINTED BY CHRISTOPHER SHY AND ; ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT/TM JM STOVER

Previous page, center top: Artemis Eternal preproduction renderings. Center bottom: The cover of Stover’s forthcoming genre book, . Top right: Greg Martin, an early collaborator with Stover. This page, top: Todd Soley, the male lead in Artemis Eternal, is a veteran of Sappho, Dead Space, and other films. Right: The preproduction poster art for Artemis Eternal.

awful. So I wrote Artemis Eternal. I was asked, ‘Why do you have a line item for the director?’ I said, “What do you mean?’ On my show, I never had a director. I realized I already do this stuff. I think just being very young, I thought I needed years and years of experience. But that wasn’t true, and I already had it. “I think being a more serious intellectual can get in your way. So after I flipped that switch in my head, everything felt right. I was in a zone like I was supposed to be. I started out thinking I was going to hire the director. Everyone was like, “What are you doing?” I am the director. The Future If Artemis Eternal and her other projects produced by her own production company take off, Stover could find herself becoming a modern day mogul, having to decide if she wants to produce other people’s work or just work on her own projects. “I think it would be nice to be doing enough business to be like Lars von Trier. You could produce your own films inhouse independently with a distributing partner—whatever it takes—and work with others who want to make their films their way,” she says. “But with the market changing so much, it’s hard to commit to a dream. My idea is I want filmmakers to be able to produce at a professional level independently. I don’t want to own them like a studio does.

“But at the same time, you have to manage your risks. I really prefer the way authors deals are done, where you don’t give up so much. Studios really don’t make movies, they make licensing platforms.” Before she has to deal with the mogul question, though, she needs to finish Artemis Eternal “to have that as a proof of concept as a business ethic around how this can work.” In Stover’s immediate future is a science fiction novel she has written, called Astral Fall. She classifies it in the military science fiction genre, calling it “medium sci-fi.” “I don’t like the category; people get really uptight about it,” she says. “But it is more science fiction than fantasy. It’s

military science fiction that has a lot to do with special forces, intelligence, and media.” After about two and a half years of planning and writing, Stover was finishing the editing of the book when she spoke with Galaxis. The story is not connected with Artemis Eternal, “but it’s good for the film because everything I do all adds together for awareness.” And it is no surprise when she announces that she will be publishing the book independently. Because doing things the easy way isn’t for this artist. Inspired by Stover’s dedication, Galaxis plans to do its next interview with her via Google Glass. G weimar.ws Galaxis

63


ALL PHOTOS: COURTESY MAGNET RELEASING

EUROPA

Wayfare Entertainment assembles a global crew to search for life on a Jovian moon.

I

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

n his 1971 story A Meeting with Medusa, the late scientist and science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke envisioned vast floating lifeforms living within Jupiter’s stormy atmosphere. 64

Galaxis March 2014

Three decades later, another scientist and SF writer, Ben Bova, would find intelligent life in his aptly named novel Jupiter. In both cases, Jupiter is portrayed with a great deal of scientific accuracy, with the fictional speculation based on what types of life might exist in those conditions. That’s a far cry from Edmond Hamilton’s 1932 story The Conquest of Two Worlds, in which Jupiter is a jungle planet that is conquered by human explorers. From Galileo to Clarke and beyond, Jupiter has been a tantalizing target of scientists, science fiction authors, and dreamers hypothesizing about extra-terrestrial life. With our current knowledge that no de-

veloped life could possibly exist on Mars, our gazes turn to the further-out Jupiter, which is a more spectacular planet, much stranger and filled with many more unanswered questions than the inner planets, thus allowing more room for speculation. The filmmakers behind the new science fiction film Europa Report took their inspiration from the realists and wisely jettisoned thoughts of humid Jovian jungles for their film about a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. To achieve that, they worked with public and private space scientists and entrepreneurs and did extensive tests to create as realistic as possible a vision of spaceflight and extraterrestrial


A REPORT

planetary exploration. “This project felt like a unique opportunity to do something plausible but forward thinking, somewhere between NASA and Star Trek,” said producer Ben Browning of Wayfare Entertainment. According to the film’s production notes, a year of pre-production included consultations with experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, private space venture SpaceX (see Galaxis #3, page 24), and other scientific leaders who could help make the film as accurate as possible. They also found that such a mission wasn’t as far-out science fiction as many people might think. “One of my favorite

Top: The Europa Venture’s craft nears its goal in Jupiter’s orbit. Bottom: Europa Report director Sebastian Cordero.

moments in pre-production came out of a conversation with Steve Vance at JPL,” said the film’s writer, Phil Gelatt. “I asked him if a manned mission to Europa was possible today, and he said ‘Yeah, just give me a couple billion dollars.’ It was a reminder that many of our limitations are simply about a lack of will.” As they looked into what life on the icy moon Europa might look like, they consulted with astrobiologists and looked at the life that already exists deep under the surface of earth’s oceans. Production began at Brooklyn’s Cine Magic Studios in the fall of 2011 and involved a relatively short 19-day shooting schedule. Directing the 90-minute feature was Sebastian Cordero, an Ecuador-born filmmaker whose films include Cronicas, Rabia, and Pescador. Providing the script was Philip Gelatt, a writer who has to his credit Bleeding House, Nurse 3D, and the forthcoming adaptation of the novel Mecha Corps. The cast, like the filmmakers themselves and the fictional crew aboard the spacecraft, included veterans from around the world. San Francisco/Hong Kong star Daniel Wu portrays Commander William Xu in Europa Report, just his latest in a string of productions, including New Police Story, One Nite in Mongkok, and The Last Supper. South Africa’s Sharlto Copley (who plays engineer James Corrigan, a gentle but persistent wise-cracker) has appeared in District 9, The A-Team film, and Elysium. Christian Camargo (chief science officer Daniel Luxembourg) has been featured in The Hurt Locker, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, Picture of Dorian Grey, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, among others. Embeth Davidtz (Dr. Unger) is known for her role as the Jewish servant of Nazi commander Geoeth in Schindler’s List. Poland-born Karolina Wydra (science officer Katya Petrovna) has appeared in Be Kind Rewind and had a recurring role in the final season of Fox TV’s House. Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca (pilot Rosa Dasque) has appeared in The Countess, Sex Traffic, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days. Rounding out the cast is Michael Nyqvist (chief engineer Andrei Blok, who boasts that “the only thing I can’t fix is the food”), is an accomplished Swedish actor perhaps best known as the star of the Millennium series of films — The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played weimar.ws Galaxis

65


With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. “The international cast was one of the reasons I wanted to do the film—the idea of working with people from all over, which is very much what space exploration is becoming,” said Copley. Accessing actors from around the world had a business benefit, too. “Each of these actors brought value in territories that we were able to pre-sell [the film’s distribution] based on their involvement,” producer Browning said. “Michael and Anamaria are very popular in Europe, and Daniel Wu is a major star in Asia, which allowed us to secure Chinese distribution up front.” Reaching Europa Europa Report is filmed in a semi-documentary, reality TV style. It’s a film that lets you feel like you’ve actually been aboard a realistic space flight more than any number of more popular, action-oriented films. The conceit is supported by the information that the people of Earth were able to watch the crew’s mission for the first six months, so it’s not too far-fetched that other footage would be found and shown. The film begins with some initial innocuous video footage of the spacecraft crew going about their daily business. After three years of planning, they are on their way to Jupiter’s moon Europa to look for traces of single-celled life in the recently discovered oceans lying beneath the icy 66

Galaxis March 2014

crust. The Europa One mission is financed by the private company Europa Ventures at a cost of nearly $4 billion. In the day-to-day life aboard the mission craft, crewmembers film video messages to their children back home, they operate the craft, eat meals together, joke about the recycled waste water, and perform other activities. The mundane, day-to-day scenes are interspersed with additional elements of the mystery about what is happening on board and how it might be connected with their mission to Europa. At the beginning of the film, we learn that something has happened to one of the crew members, James. Through some back-and-forth time shifting, we see the surviving crew try to come to terms with their loss, as well as the knowledge that “no one at home knows we’re still alive” because they have lost communication with their base on earth. They continue with the mission, with Jupiter getting ever-nearer and giving them a goal to keep themselves focused. Time continues. Month after month; a year goes by. When they finally approach their target, the captain adjusts his plans to bring his chief engineer, Blok, down to the landing site with the crew because of an unknown problem the man has experienced, something that induces the others to talk about their concern for his recovery. Not wanting to leave him behind on the orbiter when they descend into the moon’s atmosphere, Captain Xi brings Blok along. When the landing capsule success-

ALL PHOTOS: COURTESY MAGNET RELEASING

Above: Polish actress Karolina Wydra portrays science officer Katya Petrovna. Right: Petrovna explores the surface of Europa.

fully lands on the icy surface of Europa, they begin exploring and experimenting. When they experience some unexpected effects on the planet, the crew begin to wonder what’s going on. Science officer Petrovna notes that “Life on earth began in the oceans, so in some ways this mission will be like taking a trip back in time.” But when they detect some moving lights, they try to learn more even as they realize they don’t know enough of what’s going on to make the best choices. More tragedy occurs in orbit when a solar storm causes the craft to make repairs, and on the moon things aren’t going much better; the remaining crew is forced to try to make an emergency takeoff leading up to a tense ending that belies the day-to-day normality of much of the earlier film. Bringing Europa to Life Just because the film tried for reality-based drama instead of space fantasy doesn’t mean that it was an easy project to com-


plete. The filmmakers’ research included everything from studying glacial rocks in New York’s Central Park to talking with space program veterans. NASA research led the filmmakers to include a rotating arm on their spacecraft; the arm contains the living quarters for the crew and its rotation around the rest of the ship creates an artificial gravity that helps the characters survive the dangers of zero-G—as well as simplifying some of the filming. The ship was designed by production designer Eugenio Caballero, who earned an Academy Award for his work on Pan’s Labyrinth. Going from the outrageous dark fantasy of Guillermo del Toro’s Labyrinth to the realistic space film Europa Report might sound like quite a leap, but the designer “always loved science fiction,” according to the production company, but “never had the chance to work in the genre. ... This was a very exciting project for me.” His team consulted with NASA and SpaceX for more than five months to design a spaceship that

felt “authentic and tangible, but also slightly ahead of current technology.” The ship was constructed on a soundstage in Brooklyn, mounted on a gimbal so it could rotate, shake, and move appropriately for the simulated zero-gravity shots. The ship set was a fully enclosed, 360-degree construction that director of photography Enrique Chediak (of 127 Hours) filmed with a system of eight cameras in fixed positions on the set. Unable to break apart the set to make filming easier, Chediak filmed with all eight cameras simultaneously. “Blocking was a long process,” Chediak said, referring to the practice of positioning actors and planning their movements. “We’d rehearse for hours, then we’d roll and you’d do two or three takes of one scene and cover 10 pages of the script. In a way, it’s almost like theater.” Cordero saw a benefit in the structured setups. “The work with the actors benefited greatly from the multiple cameras:

Scenes could play out with room for spontaneity, and very interesting things started happening in terms of framing and composition.” The zero-gravity scenes take place both outside the ship with a spacewalk and in the central area of the ship itself. The filmmakers used a combination of wirework, attaching the actors to moving dollies, and putting the actors on a parallelogram for more fluid movement. The actors reportedly all performed their own stunts and effects work. “It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve had to do,” said actor Copley. “You’re playing weightless, but we have very heavy spacesuits.” Special effects were handled by New York-based visual effects house Phosphene, whose award-winning work has been seen in Boardwalk Empire, Hope Springs, Tower Heist, and many others. For a three-year-old company, Phosphene has quite a resume, stretching from TV comeweimar.ws Galaxis

67


dies such as 30 Rock to Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick. But the busy company jumped at the chance to work in a favorite genre. “All of our artists love science fiction,” said Phosphene co-founder and co-owner John Bair, who served as Europa’s visual effects supervisor. “Everyone’s grown up with it. The fact that this was a hard sci-fi film in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey made it even more intriguing”—because the film’s effects not only had to entertain the audience but also needed to be scientifically sound. For example, what SF film doesn’t feature space shots full of dramatic backgrounds of stars? But Phosphene decided to stick to reality, in which a camera like the ones sending images back to the mission base on earth would not be able to pick up starlight. “Our cameras would be exposed for a single-point light source— the sun—and wouldn’t pick up any stars,” said Bair. “If you look at NASA footage, you never see stars.” NASA was also the touchstone for designing the surface of Europa. Bair’s team drew on data and images from NASA’s 1990s’ Galileo mission and added its own touch from studying photographs of glacial rock formations in Central Park. All together, Phosphene created more than 650 effects shots for the film, including a spacewalk sequence, exterior shots of the ship’s trip to the Jovian system, and extensive activity on the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon. The films’ score was provided by another space fan, Bear McCreary, whose work on Battlestar Galactica helped set the mood for that ground-breaking series. Bringing It All Home Europa Report, 90 minutes long from Magnet Releasing and Wayfare Entertainment, is rated PG-13 and was released for video on demand and online streaming services on June 27, and it garnered a theatrical release on August 2, 2013. In October, it appeared on DVD and Blu-ray and is also available for purchase or rental via online services such as Amazon Instant Video and Google Play. Europa Report received generally positive reviews upon its release, with numerous reviewers noting its dedication to staying on the reality side of science fiction and space fantasy. The film is not aimed at the audience member seeking a dogfight in space or magical spells from interplanetary wizards. But—to cite the old Microsoft joke— that’s a feature, not a bug. Intelligent science fiction films are all too few and far between these days. Notably, Europa Report is not a franchise anchor film from 68

Galaxis March 2014


ALL PHOTOS: COURTESY MAGNET RELEASING

Above left: Christian Camargo’s chief science officer Daniel Luxembourg. Bottom left: Anamaria Marinca portrays pilot Rosa Dasque. Above right: Elysium’s Sharlto Copley plays James Corrigan. Bottom right: Europa Report is now out on DVD and Blu-ray.

Universal or Dreamworks or any other Hollywood studio. “Science fiction films are traditionally difficult to make outside the studio system,” said Wayfare’s Browning. “But Wayfare’s integrated development, physical production, and financing capabilities made us perfectly calibrated to tackle a project like this.” The film’s realism is not restricted to its reliance on what we already know about

space; it’s also more likely representative of what we will see and how we will actually behave once we get out there. According to Wayfare, the first day of principal photography was November 16, 2011, the same day that NASA announced that it had discovered evidence of bodies of liquid water beneath Europa’s icy surface, a central element of Europa Report’s storyline. “We took it as a good omen,” said Cordero. G weimar.ws Galaxis

69


PHOTO: ED RITGER

70

Galaxis March 2014


Ray Kurzweil is a futurist, inventor (you can thank him for the first CCD flatbed scanner, print-to-speech reading machine, textto-speech synthesizer, and much more), and author with a knack for seeing where technology is leading us. He recently shared his ideas about how human life and lifespans could change radically as a result of medicine becoming an information technology. (You can find out more about him at www.kurzweilai.net.) Kurzweil made his remarks November 2012, at The Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley:

I

’d like to share with you my view on the transforming impact of information technology, which is encompassing more and more things that we care about. Recently health and medicine has become an information technology, and our understanding of the brain is also becoming amenable to information processes, particularly now that we can actually see inside the brain. Brain scanning is doubling every year. The amount of data we’re gathering is doubling every year. The precision and scale of simulations of brain regions is doubling every year — another example of the exponential growth of information technology.

That’s one of the key themes that I’ve been talking about for 30 years. Exponential growth is not intuitive. Our intuition about the future is that it progresses in a linear manner, not an exponential manner. You might wonder, Why do I have a brain? We have a brain to predict the future, so I can anticipate the consequences of my actions or inaction. A thousand years ago, I saw an animal walking toward a rock, and I saw myself walking on a different path toward the same rock, and I could actually estimate, “Hmm, we’re going to arrive at the same time—I’m going to go a different way.” That turned out to be useful for survival, that became hard-wired in our brains; we made a prediction about where the animal would be, and it was a linear prediction and it worked very well for predicting the future course of an animal in the wild. It’s not satisfactory when it comes to predicting information technology. People still use our linear intuition. That’s actually the principle difference between my critics and myself. They look at the current situation, the same one I’m looking at, and then apply their linear intuition. For example, halfway through the genome project, seven and a half years into

Ray Kurzweil at top speed The IT revolution has ignited a health-care revolution— that could change everything.

a 15-year project, we had finished just 1 percent of the project. So mainstream skeptics were going strong: seven and a half years, 1 percent—it’s going to take 750 years. That’s linear thinking. My reaction was, “No, we’re almost done; once you get to 1 percent on an exponential graph progression, you’re just about finished.” It’s only seven doublings [away] from 100 percent. It had been doubling every year, and indeed that’s exactly what happened; it continued to double every year, it was finished seven years later. That has continued past the end of the genome project; the first genome was $1 billion, now it’s down to $10,000; it’ll be $1,000 soon, and NIH [National Institutes of Health] is collecting 1 million genomes. That’s just one example of the exponential progression of information technology and how surprising it is. It’s not just computers; it’s gradually encompassing more and more fields that are succumbing to being information technologies. This is not an idle conjecture about the future. [A smartphone] is several billion times more powerful than the computer I used as a student. It’s a million times cheaper, it’s several thousand times more powerful, in terms of computation speed, memory, communication ability—and that’s not even including the cloud, which is where the really interesting things take place—[and] it’s 100,000 times smaller. We’re weimar.ws Galaxis

71


PHOTO: ED RITGER

going to do both of those things again in another 25 years; it gives you some idea of what will be feasible. Making of a Futurist I wondered, what can we anticipate about the future? I started out with the common wisdom that you cannot predict the future. It turns out that’s true for specific projects, specific companies, specific standards. But if you ask me what will be the cost in today’s dollars of a MIP [Millions of Instructions Per second] of computing in three years, 10 years, or how many bits will be moving around the world wirelessly in five years, 10 years, I can give you a figure that will be very accurate. It’s amazingly predictable. What’s predictable is they grow exponentially. Our brains are not growing exponentially yet, but when we are able to enhance them by merging with nonbiological technology, they will be. But our understanding of the brain is expanding at an exponential idea. A very predictable exponential trend is the shrinking of technology, not just electronics but mechanical technology, as well. Things like MEMS—microelectromechanical systems—we’re shrinking technology at a rate in terms of the threedimensional feature size of 100 a decade. Genetic sequencing was just the beginning of a major revolution in health and medicine to make that an information technology. Health and medicine was not an information technology before; it was just hit or miss; we’d find something. Here’s something that lowers blood pressure. Here’s something that kills the HIV virus. We would look for these things. Drug development was called drug discovery, going through maybe 10,000 compounds systematically, testing each one to see which one did something , without really a model of how it worked or why it should work. Now we’re actually understanding biology as a software process, which is fundamentally what it is. We have 23,000 genes, which are basically little software programs. They’re not written in C++; they’re actually written in three-dimensional protein interactions. But they’re linear sequences of data, and they evolved thousands of years ago, when for instance it was not in the interest of the human species for people to live past their early 20s. By that time, you’d raised your kid to be old enough—12—and you’re just using up the precious resources of the tribe. One of the software programs I have running in my body is called the fat insulin receptor gene. It basically says, “Hold 72

Galaxis March 2014

on to every calorie, because the next hunting season might not work out too well.” That was a great idea 1,000 years ago. I would like to tell my fat insulin receptor gene, “You don’t need to do that any more; I’m confident that the next hunting season will be good at the supermarket.” That was actually tried near where I work in Boston, at the Joslin Diabetes Center. These animals ate ravenously and remained slim and didn’t get diabetes, didn’t get heart disease and they lived 20 percent longer, and they got the health benefits of caloric restriction, while doing the opposite. They’re working with a drug company to bring that to the human market. That’s just one of the 23,000 genes we’d like to tinker with. There are hundreds of projects to turn off genes that encourage or permit disease processes like cancer or heart disease to progress. Conversely, there are hundreds of projects to add genes that will protect us from disease or prevent disease. I’m working with a company where we take lung cells out of the body of patients who have a disease caused by a missing gene. So if you’re missing this one gene, you’re likely to get pulmonary hypertension, and it’s a terminal disease. So we take the lung cells, scrape them out of the throat, in vitro we add the gene using new gene therapy techniques—it doesn’t trigger the immune system because it takes place outside the body—we inspect that it got done correctly, we replicate that cell several million-fold—it’s another new technology—and inject it back into the body. It goes through the bloodstream, and the body recognizes them as lung cells. This has actually cured this disease in human trials, and it’s continuing to be tested. There are hundreds of other projects like this. My father had a heart attack in 1961. It damaged his heart, so he could hardly walk. It’s called low-ejection fraction or heart failure; he finally died of it in 1970. There was nothing you could do about it then; there was nothing you could do about it five years ago. But now we can actually reprogram stem cells to rejuvenate the heart. This is a therapy using clinical prac-

tices; it’s not yet approved in the United States, [but] it probably will be soon. There are many other examples of reprogramming the software of biology. And one reason that’s significant is it’s not just a new approach to treating disease, it’s now making health and medicine an information technology, and it’s therefore subject to this law of accelerating returns. These technologies, which already are beginning to get traction, will be 1,000 times more powerful in 10 years, a million times more powerful in 20 years, and it will be a very different era. Revolutionary Times If I want to send you a movie or a book or a music album, three years ago I would


have sent you a Fedex package; now I can send you an email attachment. I can also send you [a] violin or guitar if you have the requisite three-dimensional printer and you can print them out. This is a revolution right before the storm. It’s [similar to] social networks eight or nine years ago before they really took off. The scale of the precision is getting better, improving very dramatically; it’s still above 1 micron, it needs to go sub-micron. The costs were hundreds of thousands of dollars, then tens [of thousands], now it’s thousands; it needs to go sub-thousand dollars. We’ll be there in a few years. The range of materials is getting very extensive. You can today print out 70 percent of the parts you need using your

three-dimensional printer to create another three-dimensional printer. That will be 100 percent within five to eight years. This is going to dramatically change manufacturing; a very wide range of products we’ll be able to manufacture. Go out to the 2020s, multi-nanometer feature sizes will be available and we’ll be able to print out things like clothing, and there’ll be a very vibrant, open-source availability of these designs. But that won’t kill the proprietary forms. Just like the situation we have today. You can have a very good time listening to open source—that is, free—music, reading free books, looking at free videos and free full-length movies. But people still spend money to see the latest blockbuster or to read Harry Potter or whatever. Those industries are doing okay to create proprietary forms of this information. That brings me to the brain. Fifty years ago a neuroscientist, Vernon Mountcastle, noticed that the neocortex, which is the part of our brain where we do our thinking, particularly our hierarchical thinking, was completely uniform, all of it looked the same, the connection patterns looked the same. That’s all he noticed. Then neuroscience went into the direction of talking about specialization and noticing that if a particular region is damaged in a stroke or an accident, that suddenly people would lose certain skills. So they assigned certain skills to certain areas. The assumption was that these different regions must work differently. There’s a little region called the fusiform gyrus that recognizes faces. So that must have some specialized circuitry that is organized for faces. V1, where the optic nerve spills into, recognizes the edges of objects and very simple shapes—that must be optimized for that. And in the frontal cortex we do these high-level concepts and languages and so on—that must be optimized for that. But it turns out one of those research studies was, What happens to V1 in a congenitally blind person? They’re not getting any visual images; does it sit there and do nothing? It actually gets harnessed by the frontal cortex to help it with high-level language concepts, so suddenly it’s doing high-level language concepts, which shows that the algorithm is the same. But what is the difference? It’s position in a hierarchy. Where does that hierarchy come from? That comes from our own experience. We actually build that hierarchy. The fundamental unit is an actual module of approximately 100 neurons, it’s repeat-

ed 300 million times, so we have 300 million of these modules that can recognize a pattern. This module can in a sophisticated manner recognize a pattern, even if parts of the pattern aren’t there. And it can wire itself to a higher level of concept based on the experiences we have. Is 300 million a lot? It was a lot from one perspective, in that other primates, which have a similar neocortex but don’t have this additional neocortex we had— that additional quantity was the enabling factor for the qualitative leap that humans made to create language and art and science and music and invention and technology. We have expanded our brains already with these brain extenders [computers]— we can access all of human knowledge with a few keystrokes. We really have offloaded a lot of our personal memories and collective memory and knowledge and ability to find that to the cloud, but we’re still limited by 300 million pattern recognizers. Ultimately we will expand beyond that by thinking in the cloud, which is exactly where anything interesting computationally happens. If you do anything interesting on [a computer]—do a search or ask Siri or Google Now a question, or translate from one language to another—it doesn’t take place in this rectangle [of your computer screen]; this is just a gateway to the cloud. Suddenly you need 10,000 computers to find something—that’s available to you in the cloud. The power of the cloud itself is going to grow exponentially. Being here in Silicon Valley, it’s an area of the world that I think is pretty bullish about the ability of technology to help with human problems. But there’s a strong school of thinking that says the world is getting worse and technology is responsible, and things were much better off before technology interfered with our lives. I remind people to read writers like Charles Dickens or Thomas Hobbes, who described life not so long ago as short, brutish, disaster-prone, disease-filled, poverty filled. The have/have-not divide does not go away. But at the end of the process, the countries that are worst off, are much better off than the countries that were best-off at the beginning of the process. I shouldn’t say “end of the process,” because the process hasn’t ended; in fact, it’s going to go into even higher gear as we get to more mature phases of biotechnology, its effect on agriculture, artificial intelligence, threedimensional printing, and so on. G weimar.ws Galaxis

73


Space Stamps

For decades, the world has celebrated its triumphs in space — on its postage stamps.

Soviet Union 1957 stamp celebrating the launch of Sputnik.

P

eople are increasingly abandoning hard-copy the world, highlighting firsts in space science, or individuals mail, traditional letters sent through the postal (human or canine) crucial to space science achievements, or just service. E-mail and direct online communica- showing what the countries’ taxpayers have been supporting. tion has won out, the new eclipsing the old. But Many of the stamps are little works of art, some unexpectedly postal services, ironically, have frequently been so. China in the 1950s was an ally of the Soviet Union; they some of the biggest boosters of the future, of wouldn’t have a falling out for another decade or so. Naturally, frontier-stretchers. They celebrated them the the communist government of China would celebrate the Sovibest way they knew how: in stamps. ets’ Sputnik satellite on a stamp. But who would have expected We’re not just talking about the Maoist China, one of the worst totaliUnited States Postal Service, of tarian states of the 20th century, to do course. Every advanced country has so with the image of a beautiful dragon used its stamps to highlight its own in space? Today, of course, China is an scientific and especially the space increasingly rich country that can celachievements. The United States, ebrate its own scientific achievements. China, and the Soviet Union all did Whether brightly colored or highthis. Other countries highlighted the lighted with restrained use of flash, achievements of their bigger allies, hundreds of these types of stamps have some of whom were occasionally been licked and placed on envelopes kind enough to let a smaller country’s and then shoved into a postal box. The cosmonaut ride along in the bigger recipients might not even have taken a country’s capsule. Airmail postage stamp of Fujeira (United Arab moment to appreciate their artistry or Collected on these pages are space- Emirates) celebrating the 400th anniversary of meaning, so we offer here a selection of related postage stamps from around Johannes Kepler’s birthday in 1971. them so you can do just that. 74

Galaxis March 2014


Small post-Soviet nation Belarus got into the stamp act with this 1991 offering.

A 2005 stamp from Azerbaijan featuring the first human space walk.

Romania’s Posta Romania commemorated Laika, a dog launched into space, with this 1957 stamp.

Soviet Union stamp from 1966 featuring Luna 11.

Soviet Union stamp from 1984 featuring the country’s space probe Luna 3.

Soviet Union 1972 stamp celebrating 15 years in space. weimar.ws Galaxis

75


Right: They were two repressive regimes, but their dragons and spaceships are still cool. In 1958, China helped celebrate the Soviet launch of Sputnik with these two stamps.

Left: The Soviet Luna 9 is featured on this Hungarian stamp from 1966. Below: Hungary celebrates the Soviet launch of a Venus probe.

Left: A Soviet Soyuz-9 stamp from 1970

Above: In 1991, the Faroe Islands commemorated European space travel with this colorful stamp. 76

Galaxis March 2014


Above: This 1962 U.S. stamp highlights the first man in space.

As the Soviet Union headed to the oblivion of history in 1989, it still managed to remind the postal world that it was a space pioneer. weimar.ws Galaxis

77


ARE YOU A POLITICAL

ANIMAL

?

THEN FEAST ON AWARD-WINNING POLITICAL CARTOONS For four decades, Wisconsin original Lyle Lahey commented on issues of the day in his own creative way. Now you can read a treasure trove of the late political artist’s work—meet the odd people who make the news.

They’re free! Classic Lahey cartoons:

weimar.ws/lahey or

lylelahey.blogspot.com 78

Galaxis March 2014

Compendium May 22, 2013 Quantum Mechanics: the Theoretical Minimum Lecture. Leonard Susskind, director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics, is one of the founders of string theory. Art Friedmn is a data engineer and coauthor with Susskind of Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum. They will present a lively and accessible introduction to a famously difficult field, the theory and associated mathematics of quantum mechanics, which attempts to understand the behavior of sub-atomic objects through mathematical abstractions. Susskind and Friedman offer crystal-clear explanations of the principles of quantum states, uncertainty and time dependence, entanglement and particle and wave states, among other topics. They provide a tool kit 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.

April 1–3, 2014 Space Tech Expo Expo/conference. The expo and conference for professionals in space-related technologies, featuring speakers from DARPA, NASA, Intelsat, SpaceX, Boeing, and many more. Attendees must be space technology professionals. Location: Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, California. Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception. Cost: Free–$495. Contact: spacetechexpo.com May 1, 2014 Facts vs. Feelings Panel discussion. Though ecological awareness is on the rise, environmental depredation continues at alarming rates. While many people cog-

for amateur scientists to learn physics at their own pace. Location: The Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., San Francisco, California Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program, 7 p.m. book signing. Cost: $7–20. Contact: 415-597-6705, commonwealthclub.org nitively understand that behavior has to change to save the planet, that knowledge isn’t often enough to trigger change. People hear about “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” but they still buy bottled water and throw away plastic bags. The disconnect is rooted in understanding the human brain—and the way our brains actually process danger. On the one hand, the long-term, slow threats that are destroying the planet don’t activate the human threat-response system. On the other, ringing alarm bells push people into short-term, survival-oriented, self-protective reactions. Could the neuroscience of change and the role of emotion be the missing links to reducing carbon pollution? Can feelings bring people into action? Location: The Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., San Francisco, California Time: 5:30 p.m. check-in, 6 p.m. program, 7 p.m. networking reception. Cost: $7–20. Contact: 415-5976705, commonwealthclub.org May 3–4, 2014 Aethercircus 2014 Convention. A large science fiction and steampunk convention in Germany, or in their words, “das große Steampunk Kunst- und Kulturfestival in Deutschland.” Well, in German or English, it’s the one place you can learn to


make “steampunkies.” Location: The fortress “Grauerort,” near Stade, Germany, about an hour’s drive from Hamburg. Cost: 10–50 euros. Contact: info@steampunk festival.de or aethercircus.blogspot.de May 9–11, 2014 Marcon 2014 Convention. A convention that focuses on “all those unexpected and unwanted glitches” in science fiction, fantasy, comics, and more. Featuring guest Glen Cook, Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps, Eric Flint and “the 1632 MiniCon,” and Ben Griffin. Location: Hyatt Regency Columbus, Columbus, Ohio. Cost: $10–60. Contact: marcon.org May 23–25, 2014 WisCon 38 Convention. Billed as the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention,” WisCon brings together guests of honor Hiromi Goto and N.K. Jemisin with a host of academic papers, dealers room, panel discussions, and more. Location: Madison, Wisconsin. Cost: $15–50 (childcare available for minimal additional cost). Contact: wiscon.info June 12, 2014 Diana Gabaldon Conversation and signing. Author Diana Gabaldon wrote “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting ‘Scrooge McDuck’ comics,” in the words of Salon.com. The author of Outlander and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, among others, will have an on-stage conversation and a book signing. Location: Smithwick Theater, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California. Time: 7 p.m. Cost: $25–50. Contact: keplers.com/event/diana-gabaldon June 17–19, 2014 Internet World Conference and expo. Professionals working in digital business come together for programming on marketing, commerce, cloud, social media, mobile, and more. Location: ExCel Conference Center, London, UK. Cost: See website for prices. Contact: internetworld.co.uk June 20–22, 2014 BayouCon 2014 Convention. At this “celebration of all things fandom,” find programming centered on anime, comics, gaming, and of course science fiction. Produced by the Southwest Louisiana Science Education Foundation, Inc. Location: Lake Charles Civic Center, 900 Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, Louisiana. Time: Starts Friday, June 20, at 5 p.m. and ends Sunday, June 22, at 6 p.m. Cost: $5–100. Contact: bayoucon.net July 11–13, 2014 WorldFuture 2014: What If Conference. Join speakers Paul Saffo, Raj Bawa,

Arnulfo Valdivia, and a thousand other attendees seeking to predict what’s next. Location: Hilton Orlando Bonnett Creek, 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando, Florida. Cost: See website for prices. Contact: 800-989-8274 or wfs.org/civicrm/event/ info?reset=1&id=37

inside magazines

July 24–27, 2014 Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014 Convention. Join the seething humanity of fandom on steroids, with media producers looking to make news and gain traction with fans, and with fans looking to get closer to the professionals. Special guests include everyone from June Brigman to Jane Espenson to Drew Friedman to J. Michael Straczynski to Denny O’Neil to ... oh, the list is too long. If you’re going, be sure to get your attendance badge very early; they sell out and you’ll be stuck with a lot of time on your hands in San Diego if you just drive or fly there hoping to buy it on a walk-in basis. Location: San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California. Cost: $15–45. Contact: comic-con.org August 14–18, 2014 Worldcon 2014 Convention. The 72nd WorldCon brings the show back to London for the first time since 1965. Join more than 7,000 other fans, as well as hundreds of writers, editors, artists, and other professionals. Location: ExCel Conference Centre, London, UK. Cost: See website for prices. Contact: loncon3.org September 4–5, 2014 International Conference on the History of Physics Conference. A look at aspects of Cambridge’s scientific history, from Newton to the 20th century. Planned speakers represent the United States, UK, Austria, Germany, and Italy. Location: Trinity College, Cambridge, UK. Cost: £40–85. Contact: 4+44 (0)20 7470 4800, historyofphysics2014.iopconfs.org October 4–5, 2014 APE 2014: Alternative Press Expo Expo. A Galaxis favorite, this trade show featuring countless independent comics, magazines, zines, books, and artwork fills the hall and can fill your bookshelf with original works for not that much money. Location: Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California. Cost: See website for prices. Contact: comic-con.org/ape October 19, 2014 Near Collision Between Mars and a Comet Space. No, it’s not street theater or a conference; it’s the real thing. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will come close to hitting the red planet, and the implications are real, including the safety of earth-launched craft orbiting Mars at the time. Location: Up. Time: About 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time. Cost: Free. Contact: space.com/20443mars-comet-2014-flyby-science.html G

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.

MAGMA TWO WAYS TO ORDER 1: Free digital download at issuu.com/weimarworldservice or 2: Purchase print edition at

weimar.ws Galaxis

79


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.

Andy Warner andywarnercomics.com Images and ideas from the rapidly rising comics artist and co-editor of Irene magazine Babylon 5 Encyclopedia oinc.net/b5/enc/ Episode guide, character data, and more from J. Michael Straczynski’s epic series Bill Nye billnye.com The science guy and proscience speaker Contrary Brin davidbrin.blogspot.com Blog by best-selling SF author Homemade Sci Fi homemadescifi.com Independent science fiction videos Icarus Interstellar icarusinterstellar.org An international volunteer organization supporting development of real starships Kerry O’Quinn kerryoquinn.com The personal and professional website of the celebrated publisher, producer, actor, director Michael Whelan michaelwhelan.com Blog, art, and shop for the genre artist Popular Science blogs popsci.com/blog-net work Blogs on a variety of scientific subjects from the PopSci team Ray Kurzweil kurzweilai.net Futurist, author, and inventor Kurzweil’s “Accelerating Intelligence” website Sci Final scifinal.com More independent SF videos 70s Sci Fi Art 70sscifiart.tumblr.com Full-color art from leading genre artists of the 1970s The Sci-fi Christian thescifichristian.com An “unabashedly nerdy and unabashedly Christian” site with podcasts, news, reviews, and more Space Adventures spaceadventures.com A private company that works with astronauts and cosmonauts to send private, self-funded (i.e., wealthy) individuals into space The Starlog Project weimar.ws/wmrstarlog1. html For fans of the legendary science fiction media magazine, here’s Galaxis’ issue-by-issue index and commentary Star Trek movie website startrekmovie.com Paramount’s official website for Star Trek Into Darkness Windows to the Universe windows2universe. org Science news and ideas from educators G 80

Galaxis March 2014

Dragon Fire [continued from page 57] as possible; the longer they were here, the more opportunity they had to cause trouble, to ask questions about our improvised operation. I no longer wanted to do business with them, so there was no point in me wasting time talking to them about what went wrong, who did what, and where all of the money went. Jae apparently agreed, and once in the dead of space, he headed aft to get us both some food. I stayed at the console, looking through the viewscreen that filled almost the entire front wall of Dragon’s cockpit. We had been out-smarted by Hao’s cyber criminal gang, and we were on thin ice with Helix’s government agency. They both hated us, Hao’s admittedly with more reason. And it looked like any chance of getting the money back from Hao was out of the question; he and his team were cyber masterminds; they could outwit commercial and government systems almost at will. They had not corrupted Dragon’s computer, thank goodness, but they had gotten control of navigation long enough to chase us. And still, how did they get our money from Helix? I was more than glad to see them get caught. Jae came back into the cockpit and took his seat, handing me a bowl of fah. I took it without looking at it, resting it on my knee. “What?” asked Jae, who knew me well. “I think, I think, Hao is our salvation.” “And our doom,” Jae said, starting to drink his soup. But he knew better than to ignore me when I appeared to be on to something. “So ... what?” “The government is always doing afterthe-fact actions because the smartest of the criminals find it so easy to outwit their computers,” I said triumphantly. Jae took another gulp. “Oh.” Another gulp. “And?” “Hao did it,” I said. “Uh-huh.” “Hao did it once, and he’s going to do it again.” Jae stopped eating and put down his bowl. It didn’t take too much to get him to pick up on my line of thought. Another reason we got along so well. “We have his voice. A lot of his voice.” Now I sipped my soup. Then I shrugged, pulled out of my shoe a data clip and slipped it into Dragon’s computer port on my dashboard. “Dragon, download this file with double copying, backup of your current status, and all voice inputs.” Dragon responded quickly. “Done.

Ready.” “Then, Dragon, we’re going to use our friend Hao’s voice to get some of our money back. I’ll input the words and you cover it with Hao’s voice. Ready? Good. Then create a voice call by Hao to Sun Union accounts for—” “I am sorry, I cannot do that,” Dragon interrupted. “I am receiving a message from a Jiànqiè ship; it is demanding that I prepare to be boarded. It is quite insistent. What should I do?” The Jiànqiè? “The Jiànqiè?” I gasped. “The Jiànqiè?” Jae said. “Yes, the Jiànqiè Typhoon. What should I do?” Dragon prompted. “Put it through,” I tried to think fast, but that’s hard to do when I’m panicking. “I wish it were the Pantheon.” A pause, then over the loudspeakers came Hao’s voice. “Bet you never thought you’d hear from me again,” and he laughed. Jae and I stared at each other wide-eyed. “But ... how?” I stammered. Hao’s voice laughed again. “You’re not the only one who can synthesize Hao’s voice. Now let us board, and maybe we’ll give you some of your money back.” “Dragon, prepare to dock.” TO BE CONTINUED G

Worldly Things [continued from page 51] smartphone revolution changed all of that, and today people use their handheld phone to play games, make phone calls, email and communicate via social media like Twitter, schedule appointments, take photos and videos, and watch videos. Those changes, plus what Chromecast heralds, are taking us to an even more exciting future, the one that has been promised by tech gurus and in which the computer disappears altogether, at least as a physical device. Google has made billions of dollars by commercializing and innovating the virtualization of services that can be run from anywhere on (practically) any computer. The genius of Google Glass is that it shows the company is already several steps ahead of others when it comes to getting rid of the computer. If your eyeglasses can be your computer, then why can’t any and every other device or object? While Elon Musk concentrates on big hardware, Google focuses on little hardware—and in the process the world changes for all of us. G


Game Set

Science Fiction Quiz

How good is your SFIQ—science fiction intelligence quotient? Test your skills with this quiz, which ranges from basic to expert questions. Answers are at the end of the quiz. 1] Why did Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry initially not want to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard? a. Stewart messed up his lines in his first screen test b. The first thing Stewart told Roddenberry was that he really, really disliked science fiction c. He wanted a French actor; Stewart is British d. He wanted to cast Stewart as Worf 2] Why was Firefly’s spaceship named Serenity? a. It is the name of creator Joss Whedon’s dog b. It was intended as a counterpoint to Inara Serra’s ship, the Cacophony c. It’s an homage to the Battle of Serenity Valley, where Malcolm and Zoe’s Independents lost d. Jayne Cobb gave it that name ironically 3] In what production did actor Clark Gregg first appear as Agent Phil Coulson? a. The Avengers b. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. c. Daredevil d. Iron Man 4] Actor Maximilian Schell died in February 2014 at the age of 83. In which one of the following movies did he not appear? a. The Towering Inferno b. Deep Impact c. The Black Hole d. John Carpenter’s Vampires 5] Which one of the follow-

ing honors was bestowed upon J.R.R. Tolkien? a. Commander of the Order of the British Empire b. Pulitzer Prize for fiction c. Nobel Prize for literature d. Presidential Medal of Freedom 6] What is the name of the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception? a. Arthur b. Mal Fillion c. Robert Fischer d. Dominick “Dom” Cobb 7] Which one of the following novelizations was not written by Alan Dean Foster? a. Star Trek: The Motion Picture b. Star Trek: The Next Generation Encounter at Farpoint c. Tranformers d. Alien 8] In Battlestar Galactica (both series), what was the name of the president of the twelve colonies at the time of the Cylon attack? a. Roslin b. Zac c. Adar d. Adama 9] Which of the following is not the title of a novel by David Gerrold? a. A Matter for Men b. A Season for Slaughter c. A Time for Terror d. A Day for Damnation 10] What is the name of the main character in David Ger-

rold’s Chtorr books? a. Joe McCarthy b. Jim McCarthy c. Squeelbot d. Liz Tereen 11] What was the name of the computer worn by Twiki in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century? a. Maximilian b. Mr. Crichton c. Cyclops d. Dr. Theopolis 12] Which one of these was not a spinoff from Doctor Who? a. The Sarah Jane Chronicles b. Ramona’s World c. Torchwood d. K-9 13] Who portrayed Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? a. Ray Park b. Noah Hathaway c. Jake Lloyd d. John Dunn 14] Who directed the 1995 science fiction film 12 Monkeys? a. Steven Spielberg b. Christopher Nolan c. Jonathan Frakes d. Terry Gilliam 15] What is the name of the planet colonized by earth’s population in the film After Earth? a. Cygnus b. Nova Prime c. Pandora d. Terra Neuvo 16] In what film did actor Sam Worthington portray Jake Sully? a. Terminator: Salvation

b. Clash of the Titans c. Avatar d. Aeon Flux 17] What was the first film that was directed by David Cameron? a. Terminator b. Xenogenesis c. The Chatterbox Seven d. Pirhana 18] Who is Hayao Miyazaki? a. Legendary Japanese anime creator b. Founder of video game company Atari c. The lead villain in the Robotech movie d. The creator of the Transformers series 19] What production did not feature star Roy Scheider? a. Jaws b. seaQuest DSV c. Blue Thunder d. The Rocky Horror Picture Show 20] What story features giant mecha called Jaegers? a. Pacific Rim b. The Return of the Gundam c. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen d. Cowboy Bebop 21] In Ender’s Game, what is Ender’s last Name? a. Tobago b. Komplet c. Wiggins d. Hefner ANSWERS: 1) c. 2) c. 3) d. 4) a. 5) a. 6) d. 7) b. 8) c. 9) c. 10) b. 11) d. 12) b. 13) c. 14) d. 15) b. 16) c. 17) b. 18) a. 19) d. 20) a. 21) c. weimar.ws Galaxis

81


Reviewscreen Words of Steel: The Many Faces of Superman Man of Steel Directed by Zack Snyder 8BSOFS #SPT t 5IFBUSJDBM SFMFBTF +VOF    DVD/Blu-ray: November 12, 2013 143 minutes

O

nce there was a man who saw himself as having godlike power over earthlings, who could save or destroy millions of lives with a mere decision. Presidents waited on his very words; armies didn’t say “booâ€? without his say-so; and he had a secret name. He was Joseph Stalin, or at least that was the public identity he assumed when he took over the evil empire, aka the Soviet Union. “Stalinâ€? of course means “steelâ€? in Russian, and that was the name assumed by the man whose birth name was Ioseb Besarionis je JugaĹĄvili. You already know this story is not really about the evil Russian dictator and mass murderer. But the superhero we know of as Superman was created during Stalin’s time, and they both latched onto “steelâ€? as a word denoting strength and power, even powerful strength. Strength means different things, however, and the new Superman film Man of Steel does a good job of reminding us of how one man can display multiple types of strength. A reflection of that is the studio’s promotion of this film, which included aggressive outreach to Christian pastors, complete with advance screenings. CNN reported that Warner Brothers had created “Father’s Day discussion guides and ... special film trailers that focus on the faith-friendly angles of the movie. The movie studio even asked a theologian to provide sermon notes for pastors who want to preach about Superman on Sunday. Titled ‘Jesus: The Original Superhero,’ the notes run nine pages. ‘How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?’ the sermon notes ask.â€?

82

Galaxis March 2014

Left to right, top row: Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White). Middle row: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent), Russell Crowe (Jor El), Diane Lane (Martha Kent). Bottom row: director Zack Snyder; Chef Kevin Doherty and Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent)

SNYDER PHOTO: ELEN NIVRAE; CAVILL PHOTO: DAVID SHANKBONE; ADAMS PHOTO: CHRISA HICKEY; SHANNON PHOTO: TONY SHEK; COSTNER PHOTO: CHEF KEVIN DOHERTY; LANE PHOTO: SIEBBI; FISHBURNE PHOTO: CHAD J. MCNEELEY, U.S. NAVY; CROWE PHOTO: CAROLINE BONARDE UCCI

The new, the classic, and some fantastic finds


If you are looking for overtly religious (and specifically Christian) themes and echoes in Man of Steel, you are in luck. There is much talk about sacrifice, about changing beliefs, about having godlike powers, Superman falling off a ship in a Christlike crucifixion pose, and even a visit by Superman to a Catholic church, where he shares his dilemma with a priest (their conversation taking place directly under a stained glass window depicting Jesus of Nazareth), who tells him about the need to have faith. Oh, and Superman comes to the moment of truth in which he must accept or dodge his responsibilities at the age of 33, which happens to be the age Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Okay, we get it. Those themes are clearly there, and it is hard to believe they were not intended as overt storyline themes; they certainly aren’t accidental. But they also point to the second, less obvious type of strength that this film stresses: the strength to do what’s right, to stand up for people who need it, to sacrifice. This layering of Superman’s motives and needs gives this character something he has usually lacked. The oldest criticism of Superman is that he is a boring character; he has all the physical strength he needs to do whatever he needs (as long as there’s no kryptonite around), and he’s morally an adult boy scout. How do you make such a character interesting, especially for the long haul? How do you show conflict in such a character, when you

know he will always choose the right way? The filmmakers behind Man of Steel have made their Superman (portrayed by Henry Cavill) interesting by spending much of the film leading up to his adult acceptance of his super role. Superman is told by his father (played by Kevin Costner) not to show his powers, or else it would create havoc that challenged people’s beliefs. Instead of glamorous scenes of Superman showing off his powers, we see him first being terrified by his powers and his uniqueness, trying to hide it, and then we see him ostracized by his peers because he is different. Jor El (Russell Crowe) has a much more significant role in this film than Marlon Brando had in the 1979 Superman. He is crucial not only in the opening scenes set on Krypton but later in the movie, in slightly different form, when he is around to try to protect his son. Man of Steel goes the opposite direction from the Christopher Reeve-era Superman films in terms of humor; if the Reeve films suffered from too much humor (and they increasingly did), this film both benefits from less humor and suffers from not enough. Superheroes or action stars making wisecracks while they are inflicting grievous injury on someone has long ago become not only tiresome but disturbing evidence of psychopathy—think about it; what type of person thinks of one-liners while killing? But a little

more grounded humor would have been welcome here. Director Zack Snyder (who also did 300 and the upcoming 300: Rise of an Empire) and screenwriter David S. Goyer (who got a story assist from Christopher Nolan) take the route of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This film is quite dark, its look in early scenes is grunge industrial, and the theme of one man being willing and able to stand up to the bad guys is central. Some viewers are also likely to be somewhat annoyed by the camerawork, which barely focuses for long enough for the audience to immerse itself in the scene; the view is always swaying and skipping between characters and objects onscreen. The ending of Man of Steel suffers the usual problem of superhero films: We know the good guy will win, but first he must battle his opponent(s) in an epic take-down. It is too drawn out, and General Zod (Michael Shannon) survives too long for even fantasy reality; after two and a half hours, General Zod should have boarded the same boat from the end of The Return of the King to take him to the Land of the Overlong Movies. When Cavill returns on Superman vs. Batman, we’ll see if we get more of the angsty first half or the overdrawn second half of Man of Steel. weimar.ws Galaxis

83


Reviewscreen politics is important, but it’s not a blood sport

Discworld chugs along at 40 Raising Steam By Terry Pratchett %PVCMFEBZt.BSDI  64FEJtion; UK edition out now) 384 pages

T Who convinced Americans that politics is all about shouting & polarization? Meet the antidote: Week to Week, the political roundtable program from The Commonwealth Club of California hosted by Galaxis editor/publisher John Zipperer, where we feature journalists & academics with differing views discussing the political issues of the day with intelligence, humor, & civility. Come to our roundtables (complete with a social hour) in San Francisco, download the podcasts, or watch us on the California Channel. For event dates & media links:

commonwealthclub.org/w2w

84

Galaxis March 2014

hat’s a nice book cover you see on this page, isn’t it? Don’t expect to find it when this book is finally published by Doubleday on March 18 of this year. That’s because Galaxis read the UK version of the book, which was released four months before the American edition is on sale. With no real language changes needed in two English-speaking markets (and Americans could cope with the occasional colour instead of color), it seems silly to make U.S. fans wait for a book as eagerly anticipated as each new Discworld novel is. On top of that, when it is as easy to order the book from amazon.co.uk (as we did) as from amazon.com, it becomes even more illogical. But perhaps that’s fitting, for the Discworld novels take place on a disk-shaped world perched atop the backs of giant elephants on top of an even larger turtle hurtling through space. There’s also explicit magic in this world, not to mention dwarves, vampires, witches and politicians. But that magic has been slowly seeping out of the Discworld novels as time has gone by and as author Terry Pratchett has built up some reliably solid characters such as Commander Vimes, and as he has introduced a steady stream of technological and sociological developments into the previously stock-fantasy world settings. Previous novels have shown Discworld (and especially the chaotic but relatively progressive city-state of Ankh-Morpork) adapting to the invention of the telegraph (called the clacks), newspapers (complete with crossword puzzles over which the city’s patrician obsesses), a postal service, banking, and a modern police force. Raising Steam features the disruption caused by the invention of a steam locomotive. The Discworld books of recent years have increasingly focused on Ankh-Morpork, usually on iron-willed Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch. Readers who enjoyed Granny Weatherwax or the adventures of the wizard Rincewind have to reread the old

books. Instead, as in Raising Steam, Pratchett has presented nearly every book lately as another chapter in the modernization (and demagicking) of the society of Ankh-Morpork and the surrounding areas. The action in Raising Steam is more of the political sort than massive armies that fight against a backdrop of wizards and gods creating earth-shaking interruptions. Here, Moist von Lipwig is the center of attention. The quasi-reformed huckster and swindler—who has already been entrusted with running the post office, bank, and mint—is once again pressed into service by Ankh-Morpork’s patrician leader, Lord Vetinari. This time he is to help establish a railway, an effort that is kickstarted by a country genius bumpkin who invents the first successful steam engine. Vetinari might be a tyrant, but he always seems to be on the side of slowly civilizing his rough-and-tumble city-state. A railway network linking that city to other cities—friends and rivals—will help the local economy, expand the city’s (and Vetinari’s) influence, and improve the general cause of peace. Thus we follow Moist on various trips to the hinterlands and neighboring lands—such as the France-standin, Quirm. He occasionally uses brute force but more often his wily negotiating skills to recruit golem workers, hire travel writers, and sweet talk everyone into doing what is needed to get the train system up and running. Meanwhile, in what for most of the book feels like a barely connected separate story, a fundamentalist anti-modernist movement among the dwarves is threatening both the railway and the peace that exists between the dwarves and other species. Neither the weakest nor the strongest Discworld entry, Raising Steam moves forward the story of Ankh-Morpork’s evolution into something ... not respectable, but a city in which respectable people like Vimes and his wife can spend their time peaceably. So can we.


Sandra Bullock’s Gravitational Pull Gravity Directed by Alfonso Cuaran Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films; distribVUFECZ8BSOFS#SPUIFSTt0DUPCFS  2013 90 minutes

T

here are few adult films you would show to your kids. Or your parents. Or brag on your Facebook page that you love. That’s because when people hear “adult film,” they think of the kind with naked people doing explicit things to each other and themselves. But Gravity is an adult film, and it’s okay to let people know you got excited about it. It’s not an exciting film like Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but it is a welldone movie in which no laser beams blow up spaceships that zip around like fighter planes; no one has the power to read minds or levitate; and no multi-colored space aliens appear to blow our minds or planets. The film begins with the sober warning that life in space is impossible. That helps set the stage for what is really less science fiction and more of an adventure survival film. People can get bogged down in definitions of a film, and we would rather see filmmakers make films with good stories rather than trying to hammer the film into one or another marketable category. In the case of

Gravity, we get a story that does a great job of depicting the vast size and scope of space, not to mention the alone-ness it instills, and it accomplishes this feat not by setting it in the most bizarre far away galaxy but by putting it a relative stone’s throw away, right in earth orbit. As we noted in our review of Prometheus (Galaxis #3), we like to see films that can show space as something not clogged up with spaceships and intelligent life forms every two light years, and Gravity shows just how alien nothingness can be. Gravity is an oddity; it’s a science fiction film that includes no science fiction or fantasy, unless you consider one short sequence involving a meeting between the two leads in a Russian escape capsule. It’s really an adventure story that ultimately is about nothing more (and nothing less) than one person coming to terms with their own will to live. If you do not like adventure stories, there is no reason to think you will like Gravity. And it is an acting tour de force for star Sandra Bullock. She must carry most of the film either on her own or with George Clooney’s increasingly distant guidance, and she must do it (holding the audience’s attention) mostly through the unforgiving screen of a spacesuit helmet. All told, it is a film with only three characters visible, plus a couple voices heard over the communications

system, and one of those three characters doesn’t stick around too long. As with most adventure films, the story is pretty straight forward. Sandra Bullock, as physician-astronaut Ryan Stone, is at work on the Hubble Space Telescope while on a mission of the space shuttle Explorer. But the real-life problem of space junk intervenes when the Russians try to destroy one of their own spy satellites by blowing it up with a missile, and the explosion causes a chain reaction in which the bits of that Russian satellite then hit other satellites and pieces of space junk at high velocity, causing a cascading effect of new dangerous bits zooming through low orbit at high velocity. Bullock’s Stone and George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski on his final mission are able to recover from the initial strike by the debris, but they have only limited time to get to some sort of safety. Conveniently (and improbably, as we shall see), there is the International Space Station nearby, and the ISS should have some escape pods to take them back to earth. If that fails, there’s also (conveniently) a Chinese station nearby. So maybe the filmmakers didn’t do such a good job at making space seem vast and alien after all. But stories with astronauts slowly fading away into outer space or falling into the atmosphere after becoming stranded in space have been done, and director Alweimar.ws Galaxis

85


WHAT YOU

MISSED

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

GET CAUGHT UP ON THE BEST NEW SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE!

Galaxis 86

Galaxis March 2014

Reviewscreen Sandra Bullock has quietly turned into the actress who can seemingly do no wrong. fonso Cuarón (who co-wrote the script with his son, Jonás Cuarón) are after all telling an adventure story, not a real science fiction tale, so they have provided attainable challenges for the characters to reach, even if they stretch the imagination of the audience or the credibility of the story. Better minds than ours have noted Gravity’s shortcomings. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the best known scientists in the world, admitted liking the film, but that didn’t stop him from pointing out its story failings, which he tweeted in a number of messages labeled “Mysteries of #Gravity.” These mysteries included things such as “When Clooney releases Bullock’s tether, he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together” or “Satellite communications were disrupted at 230 mi up, but communications satellites orbit 100X higher,” or “Why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope,” or “How Hubble (350mi up) ISS (230mi up) & a Chinese Space Station are all in sight lines of one another” or “Why Bullock’s hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head” and even “Why we enjoy a SciFi film set in make-believe space more than we enjoy actual people set in real space.” Or we could always ask someone who has been there. Former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman wrote on Quora.com: “[t]he question that most people want me to answer is, how realistic was it? The very fact that the question is being asked so earnestly is a testament to the verisimilitude of the movie. When a bad science fiction movie comes out, no one bothers to ask me if it reminded me of the real thing.” After pointing out the many details that the movie gets right—down to the exactly correct valves to have Bullock’s character turn off at the right time—Reisman does note that the seeming simplicity of hopping from spacecraft to space station is overplayed in the film, or that the struggle to save Clooney’s Kowalski was both unlikely and unnecessary. But he also notes that he doesn’t want to be one of those people who are unable to enjoy an enjoyable film because they’re busy nitpicking. And, finally, let’s share some words about the star of the hour. Sandra Bullock has

quietly turned into the actress who can seemingly do no wrong. Earlier in 2013, the Academy Award-winning actor costarred in the buddy-cop comedy The Heat, in which she and Melissa McCarthy blazed a hilarious trail through Boston’s underworld. For too long, she appeared in underpowered films such as the Speed sequel and yet even managed to turn the Miss Congeniality sequel into a worthwhile time-waster, but all along she has been showing just what a talent she is. The Blind Side made her a big and award-wielding name; Gravity should show she can pack theatres and bring in more than a half-billion dollars even when she’s acting through a massive spacesuit and helmet. It’s not just because she’s likeable, though she is; it is because she can act the hell out of a scene even through that bulky suit and helmet. And an adventure survival story might be a simple story, but if you don’t care about the character, want her to survive, believe that her survival redeems whatever in her past has made her survival a question in the first place, well, you wouldn’t watch more than 10 minutes of it. Meanwhile, co-star George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski is really the only other actor in the film, except for a briefly viewed third astronaut at the beginning. Does Clooney ever give a bad performance? He might answer otherwise, but we wouldn’t agree with him. Like Bullock, whether he’s in a comedy or a thriller or an indie political film, Clooney does a great job. Here, he, too, is working through a spacesuit and helmet, and one is reminded of the power of his voice. He can be at turns playful, instructive, vulnerable, inspirational, and authoritative. To accomplish that across a number of films would be impressive; to accomplish that within one film (again, in a suit, and not as the focus of the film), means we are way past the time when Clooney should be in the top tier not just of celebrities but of actors. And the final actor? The final character in Gravity is space itself, nothingness, and it puts on a great show of malevolence and indifference. If the scripters hadn’t junked up space with a few too-close space stations, we’re sure space would have been perfect.


The Long Book The Long War By Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett *OTJHIU4UVEJPT(SPVQt QBHFTt

A

irships are incredibly romantic and frankly cool methods of transportation. With their dramatic outlines and their slower-than-planes travel that allows

you to actually enjoy the passing scenery, they bring long-distance travel to a human dimension, a rare combination of advanced technology and feet-on-the-ground human scale. In this sequel to The Long Earth, authors Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett extend their story and fill in some of the aspects of the world. They also introduce the concept of The Long War; readers probably expected

something like this. It is basically a frontier colonization tale, a conflict between a central government eager to extend its authority to the new territories and colonists who want to be left alone in their old-fashioned habitats. But just as some wags complained that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace promised doldrums rather than action with its opening crawl explaining taxation policies and trade guild actions, the driving forces of these novels might lose most people if they aren’t already inveterate viewers of the PBS NewsHour. The Long War takes a very long time to get going, and when it gets going, it’s hard to realize it has gotten going. The hero, Joshua, is a less interesting character this book than he was in the original book; here, he mostly walks around talking to people for much of the book. Then things happen, or don’t happen, and things end with a bit of a difference in the long earth civilization. Or not. We’re just not sure. In our review of the first book, The Long Earth (see Galaxis #3, page 74), we criticized the authors for failing to make a fully fleshedout fictional world. Happily, The Long War does address that need. We get lots more detail about the settlements and the politics and the peoples of the long earth; it is, however, what makes the first part of this book a bit boring. Far too much of the long earth appears to be populated by an aging hippy’s vision of paradise: technologically undeveloped towns in which for the most part people make sane decisions because government and technology are the bringers of evil. That’s an overly broad indictment of the book, we readily admit; but so is the book’s indictment of technology and large civilized living. The really interesting aspects of these books are the hints about previously existing advanced civilizations in the long earth. Any reader hoping for an exciting exploration of those civilizations, however, will be disappointed. These books are a gloss on the incredible possibilities the authors have created with their setup. In The Long Earth, the pleasure to be had was provided by the adventure of the airship travel. Zeppelin locomotion again plays a background role in The Long War, but it is mostly about the conflict between the central government and the colonies. It’s a story we have seen before, and any story that tries to refry old story beans needs to add something to carry the interest: exciting characters, plot twists, sex, adventure—hell, some dragons. The Long War is a very well done failure to add any of those. weimar.ws Galaxis

87


Reviewscreen Dark Horse Omnibus Spectaculars Star Wars Omnibus series By various writers, artists %BSL)PSTFt0VUOPX OFXWPMVNFTTUJMM being released

I

n the mid-1970s, Marvel Comics found itself in a bad run of luck. As writer Sean Howe explains in his book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, the company wasn’t sure it should produce the licensed comic for this strange space fantasy being filmed in Algeria with “a cast of mostly unknowns.” But it was “a time when Marvel’s sales were in free fall,” and the comics publisher wanted to build ties to the movie industry, so the company got the rights and produced its adaptation. According to Howe, “The phenomenal success of the Star Wars movie translated into a sales bonanza for the tie-in comics, which went into multiple printings and pulled the company out of its immediate financial straits.” The Marvel run of Star Wars comics would continue for years before being cancelled after issue #107. Years later, up-and-coming comics publisher Dark Horse would take up the banner, or at least pick up the publishing licence, and it would publish a new series of Star Wars adaptations for a little bit older and wiser crowd. Starting in 2006, Dark Horse began collecting its own Star Wars comics and reprinting them in its new high-quality “omnibus” format. The first volume was X-Wing Rogue Squadron Volume 1, which collected stories from Dark Horse’s X-wing: Rogue Squadron and X-wing: Rogue Leader series. Since then nearly three dozen other volumes in the series have been printed, collecting everything from tales based on the old Droids animated series to the new Clone Wars animated series, film adaptations, humorous takes, foreign adaptations, and the tales that made a million fans and saved the skin of Marvel Comics. Warning: This series of omnibus books is an absorbing, addictive presentation of classic and recent Star Wars comics. Most fans who discover the Dark Horse Star Wars Omnibus series will likely start where it all started, with the first volume of the A Long Time Ago... series, which was first published in 2010. This book begins with the six-issue adaptation of the first re-

88

Galaxis March 2014

leased film, Star Wars IV: A New Hope, with scripting chores handled by Roy Thomas and art by Howard Chaykin and Steve Leialoha. The art was admittedly crude at times, and the story occasionally looks rushed, which would be no surprise to people who know the pressures of working at the old Marvel and of putting out a time-sensitive adaptation of a Hollywood film. But, reading the adaptation today, one is reminded of the sense of—forgive the term—marvel and fun that was inspired by George Lucas’ first film. Looking at the rushed art and the cut corners really should do no more than to get us older folks to admit that A New Hope also had its cut corners and budget-inspired compromises, but what came out of it was a spirit of energy and optimism that found a ready fanbase in those 1970s-weary audiences. Following the first film, Marvel went on to tell original Star Wars stories, and the first volume of A Long Time Ago ... gets off to a weak start with tales that would not be up to par with the films nor with later volumes in this series. The middle three books in the fivebook set of A Long Time Ago ... include most of the best art and the best stories. The final book in this collection declines with some subpar stories, though for different reasons than the early books. The list of writers and artists who would contribute to the Marvel Star Wars books included many people who were or would soon become superstars of the comics world: Chris Claremont, Archie Goodwin, Al William-

son, Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Jo Duffy, David Michelinie, Cynthia Martin, and others. When you add in the UK editions of Marvel’s Star Wars comics, which appear in the first volume of the Wild Space omnibus set, then you also get to drop the name Alan Moore. Impressive names. Mostly impressive comics, though not always. Star Wars comics stories were weakest when the writers tried to shoehorn in stories from obvious Earth eras and genres. The first volume of this series shows the weakness from generic space-monster and western storylines, as the storytellers tried to fill in the blanks in the Star Wars universe still waiting to be fleshed out by George Lucas. By the time one is in the last couple books, there are too many stories that read like someone took their renaissance fair ideas and set designs and dropped in Luke and Leia and Han.


WHAT YOU

MISSED

Another mistake for the series was shifting the focus from the main characters (again, Luke, Leia, Han, the droids, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader). Brief roles by smaller characters from the films, such as Wedge or Admiral Ackbar, help flesh out the original universe. But the creation of new characters all too often left this reader impressed with the ability of George Lucas to create interesting characters often with little more than an allusion to a backstory, an ability not shared by the comics creators. There is a two-volume set in the series titled Wild Space. This omnibus set includes reprints of the original Star Wars comics published in the UK; also created by Marvel, they were nonetheless separate from that company’s series. Other stories in Wild Space include advertising tie-ins, a deftly done “side story” spoof featuring Tag and Bink, some tales told in art styles very unusual for a mass market comic, Star Wars Kids tales, a Sergio Aragonés

humorous visit to Lucasfilm, and much more. For all of the corporate straight-jacketing that large franchises like Star Wars impose on their licensees, the Wild Space set demonstrates that Lucasfilm is more willing to experiment and take a joke than it is often given credit for. Publishing collected volumes of comics previously issued as stand-alone monthly books can be a blessing and a problem. Let’s start with the problem, and it’s only a problem for the publisher. Once readers know their favorite comic book will be presented in a slickpaper, perfect-bound book at some point, some readers are less inclined to pay for the initial releases of the comic books. But the blessings, well, they are more obvious. For every fan who missed one or more issues of a beloved comic, the omnibus reprints can be a great way to gather them all in one place. Also, as with the early Star Wars comics published by Marvel, comic books used to be cheap to make and cheap to purchase, and that meant they were printed on very low-quality paper with often bad color separation. These omnibus presentations are printed on high-quality glossy paper with excellent coloring. Also, for whatever reason, Dark Horse opted not to include ponderous historical introductions to the books; that means you can enjoy them for what they are: fun and occasionally great stories. Available in paper and digital formats, the Dark Horse Star Wars Omnibus series has been produced for about seven years, and—with new volumes already scheduled for many months from now—it looks set to continue drawing in new and old fans for years to come. These volumes range from several hundred pages to nearly 600 pages, so if there’s a story or two that don’t catch your fancy, there’s sure to be others in the thick collection that does.

Warning: This series is an absorbing, addictive presentation of classic and recent Star Wars comics.

Issue #3, December 2012

The Star Wars wuxia connection explained! A complete episode guide to the original Battlestar Galactica; SF author Charles Yu interviewed; Lev Grossman’s The Magicians almost makes it to TV; the latest on the search for Earth-like planets; photo visits to CERN and SpaceX; tons of Google innovation; a fictional trip to Mars; update on Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome; & more!

TWO WAYS TO ORDER 1: Free digital download at issuu.com/weimarworldservice 2: Purchase print edition at magcloud.com/user/jzipperer

GET THE BEST NEW SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE!

Galaxis weimar.ws Galaxis

89


Reviewscreen

architecture and designs. Artist and storyteller Nihei illustrates all of this with a simple but unhurried style that reflects the manga medium but that is blessedly devoid of the ultra-rushed look of many Japanese graphic tales. The writing surprises even more, however, with enough mystery and barely explained happenings to keep the intrigue but not so much that it causes Neon Genesis Evangelion-like bafflement. There is also some welcome sneaky humor that helps move along the story. (It’s almost as if Ridley Scott got a sense of humor and directed a mecha.) Set one thousand years after our solar system has been destroyed by a weird alien invader known as the Gauna, Kights of Sidonia takes place largely aboard the “seed ship� Sidonia, one of supposedly many such vessels that seek to save humanity and escape the mysterious Gauna. The story in volume 1 begins with Nagate Tanikaze emerging from an abandoned level of the Sidonia, where he had lived with his grandfather until the man’s death. The young man, who had taught himself to pilot giant mecha called Guardians using old training machines left in the lower levels of the vessel, is accepted as a Guardian pilot and quickly becomes the first human ever to directly battle a Gauna. He also becomes a hero for his accomplishments, though not without drawing the ire of some other pilots jealous of his rapid rise. The Gauna themselves are shape-changing giants that are very, very difficult to destroy, so the Sidonians have developed into a per-

Interstellar Anguish Knights of Sidonia By Tsutomu Nihei 7FSUJDBM *ODt7PMVNFToPVUOPX QBHFTt

B

y mid-2014, Netflix users will reportedly be able to stream an anime version of Tsutomu Nihei’s arresting manga series, Knights of Sidonia. Though we look forward to the video version, readers are strongly urged to get immersed in this storyline ahead of the moving-pictures version. Pick up the book and find out what’s going on aboard the giant refugee ship Sidonia. There are many pleasures to be found in reading these books, including the artwork and the intelligent storytelling. In look and feel, the Sidonia art is reminiscent of some of the dystopic near-future stories from late 1970s and early 1980s European artists working in Metal Hurlant and its American cousin, Heavy Metal. The “seed ship� is like one large city, with aging, crumbling buildings and omnipresent large tubes running up, down, and everywhere, presumably transporting the ship’s HVAC or other mechanical systems. But it’s not ugly, and there’s much beauty to be found in the spare, Japan-tinged 90

Galaxis March 2014

petually armed-and-ready society, able to send out the Guardians to repel any Gauna they might come across in their flight. In volume 2, Nagate again gets close-up with a Gauna, after disobeying orders so he can rescue Hoshijiro, another Guardian pilot. And the legend of Nagate grows a bit more. Readers who appreciate the genius of Knights of Sidonia might want to see other works by the same artist/writer. SF specialist Nihei is the creator of the cyberpunk manga Blame!, the post-apocalyptic NOiSE, the action-oriented Biomega, and Abara, which also features giant shape-shifting creatures called ... Gaunas. Nihei has a background in architecture, which must help in creating the fascinating cityscape interior of the Sidonia. But before heading to the store (or Amazon or bn.com) to order those other books, pick up all of the available Knights of Sidonia volumes and pre-order the upcoming tomes. There is a lot of garbage out there from genre (and non-genre) entertainment sources, so it’s always a treat to find a treasure like this. Nihei has created an intriguing future full of danger, space opera, interesting characters, exciting action, and good SF concepts. On Sidonia, humans (except for the naturally raised Nagate) are able to get nutrition from photosynthesis, cloning is common, and there are new genders for Nagate to explore. All are presented in a matter-of-fact manner that helps make the fictional world easier to accept, and though we see it all through the eyes of the newbie Nagate, even he doesn’t dwell too much on the weirdness of it all. And then there’s Lala Hiyama, a cyborg human-bear hybrid who serves as a dorm mother in Nagate’s living quarters. But we’re out of space.


Breeding like Hobbits The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Directed by Peter Jackson; from the book by J.R.R. Tolkien 8BSOFS#SPTt Both available on DVD/Blu-ray

JACKSON PHOTO: MIKE WHALEN; BOOK COVER: HARPERCOLLINS

W

hen Peter Jackson took home the best director’s Academy Award for his final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was thrilling for genre fans. First, it was a nice surprise to have a fantasy film win the Oscar for 2003’s best director and (the one and only time a fantasy film has accomplished the act of earning) best picture. Second, Jackson is a fan favorite with his roots in small-budget splatter films who clearly knew what he was doing—and did it very well. He makes great films, and he deserves the accolades. Those hosannas are continuing with the release of his first and second films adapted from a classic fantasy novel. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 source novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, Gandalf announces to the risk-averse Hobbit Bilbo Baggans that “I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you— and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.� What follows is a modest-sized book (our hard-bound edition has only 319

pages, including maps and other illustrations) that serves as the basis for a film series that is proving to be very good and profitable, too; for it has already earned New Line Cinema and MGM more than $1.5 billion from the first two films. The second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, will probably push the combined take to $2 billion by the time it’s done, and that’s all before the third and final film in the trilogy is even released. The studios and the fans are therefore singing director Jackson’s praises, and they are correct to do so. The conventional wisdom is incorrect, however, on the general merits of these first two films in the series. The first film was dinged by some critics as being stretched out with too much singing and character background (as if blockbuster films usually suffer from excessive characterization). The second film, the line goes, is better because it dives into more story and action. The reality is that both films are good; but it is the second one that is stretched with action and lacks the depth of characterization and reality of the first film. Yes, the first film did feature singing. As in Tolkien’s book, An Unexpected Journey features characters breaking out into more song than an episode of Glee. But we prefer a film to intersperse action scenes with quieter scenes that not only give us depth on the characters but that

propel the story along and up the tension. An Unexpected Journey is a classic first film in a trilogy. We are introduced to the characters—as Gandalf lures Bilbo into being the “burglar� in his little adventure, stocked full of dwarves. We get a bit of fan service by seeing characters from the Lord of the Rings trilogy who don’t actually appear in the book The Hobbit. We’re not purists, so no problem there. The Desolation of Smaug, besides achieving the laudable feat of including a word like “desolation� in its title, is the middle film and follows its conventions. The characters split up and are reunited, we learn more about their ultimate quest and their enemies but not how it will all turn out, and there is plenty of action and near-misses to stretch out the runtime. As the title suggests, the film does include the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who also was the central villain to Star Trek Into Darkness, see page 22), who admirably gives us a more-unified villain than the somewhat amorphous orcs and shadowy villains who have been chasing our heroes up until now. The Desolation of Smaug has many of the benefits of a Peter Jackson Tolkien film, but it also has the motion picture equivalent of bloatware. There are the awesome vistas, great characters and characterization, fine special effects, actors at the top of their form, and direction and plotting that pull you through the entire two and a half hours of screentime. But the film also has a bit of a padded feeling, with action scene piled on top of action scene, each one extended too long. Also, too many of the action scenes include turns of the battle that are just oo convenient; the character in the barrel just manages to escape being smashed to bits far beyond the expanded realms of reality that we even give to a fantasy film. Other times, our heroes fall in metal tubs from great distances and jump out just in time. Indiana Jones gets a pass on that kind of thing; the roots of his story are the low-budget cliffhanger serials of the 1930s. But The Hobbit’s author went so far as to create extensive languages and indices for his book—which are being drawn upon to help pad out the third film in the series, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, due out in 2014. So Tolkien created a very specific reality world for his fantasy tale. The fantasy is in magic rings and dragons and mythological races living together on Middle Earth. Not in the characters being able to perform unbelievable feats usually reserved for comics superheroes and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If we have to choose between dwarves singing or fighting improbable battles ad infinitum, we’ll take a few more songs with our film, thank you. weimar.ws Galaxis

91


WHAT YOU

MISSED THE WO OF SC RLDS SCIENCEIENCE & FIC TIO N

OCT. 20

11 $9.95

Reviewscreen Inside the Marvel Bullpen Marvel Comics: The Untold Story By Sean Howe )BSQFS$PMMJOTt)BSEDPWFSSFMFBTFEJO Paperback release: October 2013 QBHFTtIBSEDPWFS paperback

PLUS: OU R FAVO RITE TH INGS

Comple te Episode Guide to Modern the S Classic F

weimar.ws

5

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!

TWO WAYS TO ORDER 1: Free digital download at issuu.com/weimarworldservice or 2: Purchase print edition at magcloud.com/user/jzipperer

GET CAUGHT UP ON THE BEST NEW SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE!

Galaxis 92

Galaxis March 2014

W

ith all of the page-turning interest generated by a master thriller novelist, Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story takes the reader from the very birth of the legendary comics publisher up through 2012. Along the way, Howe gives us countless feuds, financial panics, creative differences, surprises, and behind-the-scenes stories that almost make you feel like you were there. You are also probably left with the gratitude that you weren’t really there, because the reality of Marvel was very tempestuous and for most of its existence, the creators got little money and disputed credit for their works. Perhaps the biggest surprise to long-time Marvel readers, especially the ones who are now aging baby boomers but who started buying the new wave of superhero comics in the 1960s and 1970s, is that Marvel was not the behemoth publishing company they might have believed. At times, it was strictly limited to how many titles it could publish (or it would risk losing its distribution deal through its arch rival, DC). At other times, it was so close to closing up shop that top talent was laid off and the small staff could practically have fit in someone’s garage. When Marvel launched its new line of superheroes—Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk, etc.—it saved the company and revolutionized the graphic storytelling industry. It would take a while for non-superhero comics to regain a foothold in the industry, but with the possible exception of horror comics in the 1970s (and the tip of the hat for that goes mainly to competing publisher James Warren, not to Marvel), even today non-superhero comics are largely the domain of independent and small press publishers. Superheroes sell; Marvel learned that, and it took that conviction to the bank. Of course, superhero comics sell—until they don’t. By the mid-1970s, Marvel was on the ropes and was even on the brink of bankruptcy. Howe expertly takes the reader through the conflicting approaches to saving

the company, and when the final salvation appeared, it wasn’t in the form of a caped crusading hero. It was a farmboy from Tatooine and his pet robots: Marvel licensed Star Wars, which sold like hot cakes and allowed the company to begin expanding again. Throughout the recounting of decades of successes and friendships, failures and angry partings (Jack Kirby being only the most famous of the latter), Howe gets across how exciting it must have been to be a part of it. It wasn’t superheroic, but it was more interesting than the usual office job. I will admit to a disinterest in superheroes. They occasionally engage me in the movies, but on the comics page, they hold no great interest. So one might expect that more than 400 pages detailing the stories of various superhero creations and the fights, sales figures, and marketing around them would be of absolutely no use to me. However, it is a measure of Sean Howe’s meticulous researching, his clear and compelling writing style, and the forehead-slapping occurrences at Marvel that I was engrossed by nearly every page of this book. It is a book for comics lovers, it is a book for superhero aficionados, it is a book for business people, it is a book for creative dreamers, and it is a book for anyone interested in the roughand-tumble world of American business, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.


CAPSULE IMAGE: EL COSMONAUTA; S.H.I.E.L.D. PHOTO: UNCLE_SHOGGOTH

Capsule Reviews

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Created by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon .BSWFM5FMFWJTJPO"#$t5VFTday, 8 p.m. ET/PT 60 minutes

Elysium Directed by Neill Blomkamp TriStar Pictures Theatrical release August 9, t0VUOPXPO%7%BOE Blu-ray 109 minutes

S

I

trategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division is better abbreviated as S.H.I.E.L.D. For Marvel comics fans, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs no introduction, and for millions of others, the Avengers movie served to introduce them to this organization. They might be forgiven for worrying that a weekly network TV spinoff might prove to be cheap and poorly done, like a 1970s superhero TV series. But when they realize there is that magic name, “Whedon,” in the creators credit not once but twice, they should relax and give the show a try, because ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a far-above-average television drama that is thoroughly a series of the new century. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not populated with spandex-wearing superheroes cracking jokes while they pummel bad guys. It’s instead populated with imperfect dogooder government agents trying to outwit and fight the bad guys. There is some pummeling. But the bad guys deserve it.

f Hollywood resurrected David Gerrold’s classic Star Trek episode “The Cloud Minders,” they might come up with something like this. In the year 2154, the earth is populated by teeming masses of poor people, while the rich are pampered on an orbital station far above the surface. Former thief Max (Matt Damon) is seeking to get to the station, named Elysium, where he can get treatment for his radiation exposure. Elysium’s defense secretary, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), works hard to keep the undesirables from Earth from reaching her pristine station. Elysium has lots of action, some obvious social and political commentary, some great acting, a bit too much similarity in look to District 9 (also from director Neill Blomkamp), and a bit too much similarity to “The Cloud Minders.” The Complete Making of Indiana Jones By J.W. Rinzler

The stars of ABC’s hit drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at ComicCon

Ebury (hardcover), Del Rey QBQFSCBDL t.BZ  300 pages

T

he full title of this book is The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films. That’s a lot of words to fit into a book title, not to mention a lot of content to promise for one book. Author J.W. Rinzler also did the honors for the Making of ... books covering Star Wars episodes IV through VI, but each of those films garnered its own oversized book. This is still a massive volume of behind-the-scenes stories and photos from the LucasFilm vaults about the making of the four Indy films. With the demise of much of the genre fan press and the rise of the gossip- and script-secretscentered online media coverage, there is not a lot of reporting on how a film

is actually made any more. The Complete Making of Indiana Jones goes a long way toward redressing that, showing the changes that are made during planning and production, the various considerations and politics that come into play, and the many, many people who contribute to making a film of any sort, not to mention epic films. Iron Man 3 Directed by Shane Black 8BMU%JTOFZt5IFBUSJDBMSFlease May 3, 2013; out now on DVD and Blu-ray 130 minutes

W

e are going to miss Robert Downey, Jr., when he finally hangs up the metal suit for good. This film, the final in the Iron Man trilogy, brings some closure to the story of Tony Stark, his role as Iron Man, and his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Taking place in the weimar.ws Galaxis

93


aftermath of The Avengers film’s New York battle, IM3 focuses on the hunt for the terrorist known as the Mandarin. Stark is feeling the effects of New York. Throw in political intrigue, lots of things exploding, and the kind of quips and attitude that have made each Downey appearance as Iron Man a delight, and Iron Man 3 is a notto-miss film, and judging from the film’s box office of more than $1.2 billion, apparently few people have missed it. Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 1979–1981 By Thomas Warkentin, Ron Harris, Sharman DiVono The Library of American $PNJDTBOE*%81VCMJTIJOHt December 2012 300 pages

T

he introduction to this coffeetable book explains why its contents will come as a surprise to many people, even diehard trekkies: The daily Star Trek newspaper strip is largely unknown due to its failure to get widespread distribution; newspapers either went for the classic strips of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon or took the exciting Star Wars strip. After a five year voyage in print, so to speak, the Trek strips ceased.

THE WO OF SC RLDS SCIENCEIENCE & FIC TIO N

This collection brings together the color Sunday and the black-and-white daily Trek strips from the comic’s launch through 1981; the remainder have been collected in a second volume, also out now. The storytelling is quite good, and the art ranges from okay to excellent, with lots of wonderful scenes successfully depicted in the small amount of space allotted for a newspaper comic. Reading them sequentially is occasionally irritating, with the beginning of many strips reiterating what was just read in the previous strip—a necessity to newspaper readers. But it’s a high-quality trip back to the late seventies, to optimism, to post Star Trek: The Motion Picture characters, and to some old Trek friends.

OCT. 20

11 $9.95

G PLUS: OU R FAVO RITE TH INGS

Comple te Episode Guide to Modern the S Classic F

94

Galaxis March 2014 weimar.ws

5

Thor: The Dark World Directed by Alan Taylor Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Theatrical release November 8, t0VUOPXPO%7%#MVSBZ 112 minutes

T

hor star Chris Hemsworth, as you can see in the photo

at left, can feel confident about his secure place in the superhero film pantheon. His Thor films are a success. Let’s be honest. The Thor films are not high cinema. They are popcorn entertainment, and as such they have to meet a bar of being entertaining. That they do. Will we need a third Thor film? No, but we didn’t need a first or second one, either. Need is not a real factor in popcorn entertainment. We prefer to focus on the fact that Marvel Studios (now part of Disney) continues to show with Thor: The Dark World how it has elevated the once-derided superhero film from the cheap, Clevel flick to the big-budget, highquality blockbuster film. That’s a good thing, and despite the usual punch-em-up that seems to be the only way superheroes know to solve things, this movie also includes some nice acting and clever lines. Oh, the plot? A bunch of bad guys called “dark elves� who are burdened with ridiculous names (Malekith, Algrim) battle Thor and his band of warriors with even more ridiculous names (Fandral, Volstagg, Sif) over an ultimate weapon, Aether. Punch, punch, punch, kapow. Who wins? What do you think? G

Next Galaxis

alaxis is evolving. The next time you see us, we will be in the form of a nice big, thick book. We launch The Galaxis Reader with a collection of the best updated articles from the first four issues of the magazine, plus some brand-new material. And you’ll be able to pick it up from our friends at Amazon.com.

to check out the independent SF film Nydenion, and we’ll look at the unexpected genre films of the former East Germany. We’ll give a post-mortem and review of Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, & much more. Look for it all in the future of Galaxis. See our ad on the next page, or follow us on www.weimar.ws for upIN FUTURE ISSUES OF THE GALdates, links to new and past issues, AXIS READER: We head to Germany and for all of the latest Galaxis news.

HEMSWORTH PHOTO: SACHYN

Reviewscreen


The best of Galaxis magazine in book form

1 Galaxis Galaxis The

reader

John Zipper er

Coming soon from www.weimar.ws

weimar.ws Galaxis

95


96

Galaxis March 2014

Galaxis March 2014  

The magazine of science fiction and science returns with an in-depth examination of the J.J. Abrams-era Star Trek films, a season one episod...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you