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Three-body problem: chinese sf infusion The Expanse REVIEWS: cixin liu,Ann leckie, deadpool, supergirl, & more OUR search for intelligent space opera sF

Galaxis Number 6

The Worlds of SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION

MAY 2016 $19.95 TM

special review: star wars: The force awakens black holes Star Trek: the Next Generation Episode guide Season IV

Star Trek celebrates 50

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Catch up on what you missed ND CO UE SE ISS

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special report: German science fiction then & now The WOrlds Of sCIeNCe & sCIeNCe fICTION

OCT. 2011 $9.95

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Complete Episode Guide to the Modern SF Classic

B A T T L E S T A R

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Issue #2 A complete episode guide to the SyFy-era Battlestar Galactica! A special report on classic German science fiction; 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!

Issue #3 The Star Wars wuxia connection! The complete episode guide to original Battlestar Galactica; author Charles Yu interview; Lev Grossman’s The Magicians; search for Earth-like planets; photo visits to CERN & SpaceX; Google tech; fictional trip to Mars; Galactica: Blood & Chrome; & more!

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Galaxis May 2016

Issue #4 Special Trek focus! An extended review of Star Trek into Darkness, plus episode guide to first season of ST:TNG; Europa Report; Atremis Eternal; El Cosmonauta; Orson Scott Card boycott; space stamps; Indy Jones update; Ray Kurzweil speaks; Dragon Fire fiction; & more!

Issue #5 Special SF TV preview! New interview with David Gerrold; scientist Inge Lehmann; remembering Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy; Mandelbrot art; Star Wars VII update; Hugo controversy; Frazetta lives; ST:TNG episode guide seasons II & III; Dragon Fire part II; & more!

Find them all at www.weimar.ws

Get caught up on the best new science & SCIENCE fiction magazine!

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Issue #1 Our premiere issue! Michio Kaku interviewed; author David Gerrold on Star Hunt; Mobile Suit Gundam; Lathe of Heaven on TV; space photos; Virgin Galactic; Star Wars in print; Q&As with Mary Doria Russell, Deepak Srivastava, & Michael Medved; news & reviews; & more!


MAY 2016 Volume 1 Number 6

The Worlds of SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION

FEATURES

Galaxis

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DEPARTMENTS

Making Syfy’s nitty, gritty space tale

4 VIEWSCREEN From the editor 6 LAUNCH Tube Old series redux, White

Is it time for a reboot of the saga?

11 Imagery

Legendary singer also had SF cred

18 Flash Gordon returns

20 david bowie: Starman’s end 22 in search of intelligent space opera

The oft-slighted sub-genre is in great form

Kim Stanley Robinson on SF and environment

Celebrating a half-century of Star Trek

Fantastic space art

E.E. “Doc” Smith classic short story

Reviewing and rethinking Star Wars VI

27 the voyage from 2016 to 2312 28 A Long trek

35 spacex tours mars

House visitors, more Soviet space stamp, deep space, future thinkers 34 Game Set SF quiz and word hunt 57 Worldly tHINGS The rebels are toast 61 screenings Updates on TV shows and upcoming films 65 compendium What to see, hear, and do 66 webbed Special Trek edition 67 reviewscreen Three-Body Problem, Supergirl, film scores, Pandora’s Star, & more

74 next galaxis

40 pirates in space

46 the forever wars

51 Star trek: The NExt generation

Season four episode guide

Black holes begin to give up their mysteries

An astronaut’s viewpoint

59 rethink the black hole

photo: william tung/wikimedia commons

62 the orbital view

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ho knew that having all of the original Star Wars actors back for another cinematic go-around would be so much fun? I’m not talking about the movie (though that was fun—I explore that in-depth starting on page 46). I’m talking about the way the stars have conducted themselves in public as they are once again run through the publicity whirlwind for the new movie. Like when you re-connect with forgotten high school friends decades later only to realize that they were indeed pretty neat people, seeing Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the others make the talk-show rounds and liven up interviews with their wit and humanity has been refreshing. That media whirlwind includes giving many television interviews, visits to talk shows, and more. The UK’s BBC talk program The Graham Norton Show featured a panel that mixed the originals with the new cast members. One original star who didn’t show up for that was Mark Hamill, the man who made Luke Skywalker come alive all those years ago. Why did Hamill ditch the TV appearance? Was it a prima donna demand to be center stage? Or a contract dispute with the studio? No, he didn’t appear on that talk show couch because he instead made a Christmastime visit to a hospital to spend time with sick children. That one act confirms in my mind that Hamill is a hero, far more worthy of praise 4

Galaxis May 2016

for that than because he acts on screen. Meanwhile, his fellow original cast member Carrie Fisher has shown up everywhere from The Graham Norton Show to Good Morning America. In a world of pre-programmed promotional appearances in which people go out of their way not to say anything controversial, Fisher is refreshing because she is direct, willing to talk about real issues and not just repeat promo fluff, and not afraid to ruffle some feathers. On Good Morning America in early December, Fisher dealt with the body image obsession of Hollywood and American society, noting “I did lose weight, and I think it’s a stupid conversation.” Good for her, but she wasn’t done. The outspoken actress and writer took to Twitter to respond to jerks who had attacked her online over her looks. “Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well,” she wrote. “Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us, okay.“ One person, who goes by the Twitter handle SurferJoe and who uses all capital letters in all of his messages, tweeted “YOU DIDNT AGE WELL AND U SUCKED IN STAR WARS. IT WAS A REST HOME FLICK. WANT MY MONEY BACK.” He also opined “CARRIE YOU GET PAID TO LOOK THE PART NOT FATTEN FOR THE PART. WANT REFUND” and “CARRIE IS A ONE HIT WONDER w/AN F-U REPRISE. ‘STAR CHUNK’ CAN I HAVE MY MONEY BACK?” Someone named Tom Roberts tweeted

“@carrieffisher So you want the money & adulation that comes with being a famous actor but not the criticism. Whoever told you life was fair?” Whoever told him his opinion was worth airing? But his comment shows the blindness of many people who like to tear down others. Someone is rudely attacked; they defend themselves, and then they are attacked for defending themselves, as if to have done so was more rude than the original rude attack. Or, to sound old fashioned, some people would do well to just remember basic manners. It’s fairly common these days when someone is publicly rude and insulting to then defend themselves as if any criticism of them is “political correctness.” Political correctness isn’t about being nice, however. It’s not even about being overly nice. Political correctness has been with us for several decades, and it is an attempt to control the conversation by labeling the opposition as intrinsically bad—evil, racist, etc. Political correctness is a problem, certainly; but that’s mostly on college campuses where students are struggling with ideas of balancing free speech and intellectual integrity with often ham-handed attempts to control what other people say and think. But refraining from insulting someone is not a matter of political correctness. It is a matter of decency. It’s a matter of understanding how to interact with one another. That the ultimate goal is not saying whatever you want, it’s communication. If all that someone has to communicate is insulting bile, what makes them think that

Painting: Miauseboyz6

i have no need for a protocol droid


Someone is rudely attacked; they defend themselves, and then they are attacked for defending themselves, as if to have done so was more rude than the original rude attack.

other people should want to have anything to do with them? And they can’t say that they don’t think people should have anything to do with them—they’re making their comments publicly, not muttering them privately over a beer at a bar. another science fiction icon, Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart, expressed something similar many years ago when he was asked by a reporter about his bald head and the reactions people have to it. He responded that it surprised him that people would discuss it, because he was brought up believing you didn’t comment on or judge people based on their appearances. A certain good grace has been lost, or its presence eroded over time. Why is any of this even a concern here at Galaxis? True, we are generally more concerned with topics of science, technology, rationality, and the implications of all three. But when a meanness of word and May 2016 Volume 1, Number 6 www.weimar.ws Thanks this issue to: 20th Century Fox, The Commonwealth Club of California, Climate One, CBS, Ron Garan, Google, Lucasfilm, NASA, Paramount, Project Gutenberg, Kim Stanley Robinson, SpaceX, and Kin Tso. ON THE COVER: Fifty years ago, NBC launched Star Trek, a story that would continue half a decade and inspire millions of people around the

spirit takes over our shared lives, it hurts individuals (who are the subject of the insults) and it hurts our shared interest, the enjoyment of science fiction and science. It becomes a way for one person to try to control the entire conversation by bullying everyone else. In science fiction, we talk a lot about creating an improved world, perhaps one that uses reason instead of fear, lies, and superstition to make decisions. Perhaps a world in which technology advances at a much faster pace than we allow it to advance now, bringing improvements to our lives that much sooner. Perhaps a world where advances in technology and human behavior help us right wrongs, increase freedoms, and reduce dangers. Maybe all three of those worlds, and others. We each play a part in making those worlds come a bit closer to becoming reality, whether it is through how we vote, the things we buy, the causes to which we give

Galaxis globe. This issue, we explore the successes, failures, future, and meaning of Trek. Photo by Rob Young. Galaxis is published by John Zipperer. This is issue Volume One, Number Six. Except for photos by third-party photographers, all content is copyright © 2016 John Zipperer, except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction of any part is

money, or even the careers we pursue. It also happens by how we behave and how we treat each other. i think many of you know this oftcited line by Harlan Ellison: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Similarly, there’s no stopping people from writing anything they want on Twitter or saying anything they want into a camera and posting the video on YouTube. That’s what’s technologically and legally possible. But people are not entitled to spew ignorance and hateful and hurtful words and not have people judge them negatively for it. Here’s a call not for temporary peace and fake manners. Here’s a call for science fiction fans to lead the way in building a more civil world. John Zipperer/Editor & Publisher

Editor & Publisher John Zipperer jzipperer@gmail.com

Art Director & Design John Zipperer Printing: Issuu.com & MagCloud

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.

ters, logos, and related material represented in images—including but not limited to Star Wars, Supergirl, and Star Trek—are the properties of their respective copyright owners.

All articles in this issue are written by John Zipperer, unless otherwise specified. All images reproduced here are in the public domain or are used with required restrictions. All charac-

Address all communications to Galaxis magazine, including letters to the editor and business queries, to jzipperer@gmail.com or john@ weimar.ws. weimar.ws Galaxis

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LaunchTube News & views for today & tomorrow

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the galaxis newswAVE There will be an Indiana Jones 5, and star Harrison Ford will once again wield the whip. Steven Spielberg returns to direct the film, the production of which had reportedly been Ford’s goal in participating in the Star Wars sequels (see Galaxis #4). Jurassic Park’s David Koepp will write it, according to The Hollywood Reporter. No involvement from Indy co-creator George Lucas has been announced. . . . Actor Mark Hamill (left) has no problem if the character he portrayed for 35 years turns out to be gay. He told Britain’s Sun news-

paper, “[F]ans are writing and asking all these questions: ‘I’m bullied in school … I’m afraid to come out.’ They say to me: ‘Could Luke be gay?’ I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves. “ . . . More than 9,000 residents of China’s Guizhou province are being moved several miles away to make way for what will be the world’s largest radio telescope when it is completed in September. The Five-hundredmeter Aperture Spherical Telescope, known

Will Galactica, Babylon 5 both reach big screen?

Galactica model photo: John Seb Barber; Straczynski photo: Phil Guest

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ook for some TV favorites to get new life on the silver screen, if current plans come to fruition. Both Battlestar Galactica—apparently, the show that couldn’t die—and Babylon 5—the improbable but successful Trek challenger—are in the launch tube awaiting takeoff. In what observers are suggesting is a move by Universal to get its own space opera film franchise to compete with Disney’s Star Wars, producer Michael De Luca (of Fifty Shades of Grey) and Bluegrass Films’ Scott Stuber and Dylan Clark (of Ted 2) are reportedly producing a Battlestar Galactica motion picture for Universal. It would not be the first big-screen treatment for Galactica. Though created for the small screen as a 1978 ABC TV series, Galactica’s premiere received a theatrical release, helping the studio recoup some of the estimated $20 million sunk into the show. That first run of Galactica only lasted one season before it was canceled (see episode guide, Galaxis #3); it was revived for the hastily prepared Galactica 1980, which was panned by fans and aired even fewer episodes than the original series. Though Universal packaged two-hour telefilms out of the show and sold them in syndication in the early 1980s, the concept—and all dreams of a franchise—were in deep freeze for a couple decades until SyFy revived it as a reimagined series that won critical acclaim and an audience for five seasons in the new century. (That version of Battlestar Galactica would itself spin off the short-lived Caprica and the stillborn-but-promising Blood and Chrome.) Figuring out who is involved in the current project is a bit difficult; the people involved keep changing. Plans for a Galactica movie had been mooted in the late 1990s and resulted in a race between producer Glen A. Larson and original series star Richard Hatch to make the film. X-Men director Bryan Singer had been involved both before and after SyFy’s series in film attempts,

and as of late March 2016, he appears to be attached again to the film remake. He has reportedly tapped John Orloff as screenwriter. Orloff told Deadline he has wanted to write a Galactica movie “since I was 12 years old and built a Galactica model from scratch out of balsa wood, cardboard, old model parts, and LEDs. I love BSG, and I would pass on the job rather than frak it up.” According to Variety, Larson had been set to produce a Galactica film with writer Jack Paglen, but Larson’s 2014 death precluded that. Naturally, at press time no details are known about story, stars, or even concept. Will it be a reimagining of the original series or the revival? A continuation of either? More to come, surely. Meanwhile, J. Michael Straczynski is showing no signs of slowing down his Left: The Galactica appears ready for its next closeprolific career. Recent work includes up. Above: Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. producing the Wachowskis’ Sense8 and Straczynski owns the rights to Babylon 5. adapting Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red The Daily Dot’s David Wharton suggested Mars. Then came word that he would revisit his “five-year novel for television,” Babylon 5. in November 2015 that a feature film wasn’t Rumors and announcements have been kicked necessarily the best destination for Babylon 5. around for a couple years now that Straczynski Straczynski used his series to tell long, compliwill produce a film version of the show about cated stories with characters who underwent a space station hosting a variety of species and sometimes tremendous changes over the seasons. Wharton therefore suggests a revival on serving as a “last, best hope for peace.” Though Straczynski announced plans for one of the popular video streaming services a B5 motion picture during an appearance such as Netflix, “telling new stories set within at San Diego Comic Con in mid-2014, he set the show’s universe, but not necessarily set 2016 as the year to start production. Word out aboard the titular space station or limited to the cast of characters we already know. The today is ... well, it’s pretty quiet. Like Galactica, Babylon 5 has had numer- Telepath War, the Technomages, or something ous attempts to revive it, with Straczynski at- else entirely: Straczynski created a rich and tempting at least three times unsuccessfully to detailed future history we’ve only seen a small get it on-screen. None, obviously, made it, but fraction of, so applying a Star Trek approach of tvwise.co.uk reports that “thanks to the finan- ‘let’s see what’s out there’ could work very well cial success of Studio JMS, whose diverse slate with a new B5 series.” Who will win the race to the cinemas—Batof projects include the ... Netflix series Sense8,” the producer has more financial freedom to tlestar Galactica or Babylon 5? And will Firefly proceed without immediate studio backing. be far behind?

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by the English acronym FAST, needs the area to be free of residents “to create a sound electromagnetic wave environment,” according to China’s official news agency, Xinhua. The government is spending 1.2 billion yuan ($184 million) on the telescope. . . . They were the Wachowski brothers when they directed The Matrix and its sequels. Then first Lana and now Lilly Wachowski transitioned to being females; they

are now the Wachowski sisters. . . . Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut has plans to create a series of “underwater eco-villages” as part of what he’s calling Aequorea. Designed like underwater skyscrapers with only their tips above the surface, the buildings could house up to 20,000 people. CNN notes that the project is “utopian of course, and one suspects the research and development stage this project is currently

Raw Milk and AntiVaxxers: Science Strikes Back

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epublican lawmakers in the state of West Virginia wanted to celebrate. They had just passed legislation that legalized “raw milk,” that is, milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful ingredients. One of the legislators, Scott Cadle, brought in some raw milk to share with his colleagues in their proud legislative moment. Unfortunately, many of them got sick after drinking the raw milk. That result wouldn’t have surprised people who actually know why we pasteurize milk, but it apparently left some of the legislators in a state of denial. Something else must have gotten them sick. The trend to skip pasteurization is based on a lot of fallacies—such as that it causes lactose intolerance (it doesn’t), or that pasteurization doesn’t kill harmful bacteria (it does), or that raw milk miraculously kills such bacteria itself (it doesn’t). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is pretty clear on the topic: “[R]aw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1,500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.” Still thirsty for some raw milk? The FDA goes on to note that some fun effects of raw milkborne illnesses can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, body ache, and even miscarriage for pregnant women. Raw milk isn’t alone in tempting people to ignore good science. Actress and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy gained a whole new group of fans and anti-fans when she became the most celebrated person linked to claims that vac-

cinations were somehow causing autism. Those claims go back to one discredited person, and the claims themselves have been roundly debunked. By scientists. But the anti-vaccination movement not only continues, it is often strongest in areas such as California’s Marin County or Silicon Valley, places with highly educated and very independent-minded people. And that might be part of the problem. When people get to a certain level of education and wealth, some of them are tempted to think that no one is smarter than they are, that they are offended by anyone purporting to have more insight than they have. But the result of such beliefs has been sick GOP legislators and the reemergence of diseases long thought vanquished. The refusal to vaccinate one’s own children puts other people’s children at risk, particularly those with health conditions that prevented them from being vaccinated. Time magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger argued in De-

cember 2015 that “we shouldn’t—but too often still do—tolerate parents who deny established science and refuse to vaccinate their school-age children, potentially endangering every other child in the school and the community beyond as well. That’s a lesson the families at Brunswick North West Primary School in Melbourne, Australia, are learning in the worst way possible after as many as 80 of 320 students—or up to 25 percent of the student body—have been struck by chicken pox in just the past two weeks, thanks to the school’s liberal policies concerning vaccine refusers.” One recurring response is that the FDA and the CDC and, well, doctors and scientists everywhere would of course support vaccination or pasteurization, they’re all part of a cabal. Except in these instances, the science is with those cabalists. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said that “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” And it can make you sick or kill your children if you don’t.


The film’s release date is July 21, 2017. . . . When TV’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie-riffing program was canceled, the various talents behind it scattered to the four winds. Some created Cinematic Titanic, others created RiffTrax—two more movie-riffing programs. Now, RiffTrax celebrates its 10th anniversary with an MST3K Reunion Live Show, which will be broadcast live to more

than 700 cinemas on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. The Kickstarter-funded special will include live riffing of the SF B-flick Time Chasers, and it will star regular Rifftraxers Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Michael J. Nelson, as well as MST3K vets Bridget Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Jonah Ray, and original series castaway Joel Hodgson. . . . Spike TV’s Red Mars series (see TV preview, Galaxis #5) will be delayed following the exit of executive producer and showrunner Peter Noah. Spike TV hopes to go forward with new leadership on the show. . . .

Netflix Gets New Genre Series from Japan, Germany

photo: Official white house photo by lawrence jackson

dehaan photo: Neil Grabowsky; delevigne photo: walterlan papetti

in may outlast many of us.“ . . . Director Luc Besson is working on his next film, the comics-based Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The $180 million space fantasy stars Dane DeHaan (photo, immediate right) as Valerian and Cara Delevigne (far right) as Laureline, two spatiotemporal agents who travel through time and space on adventures.

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etflix has gone worldwide in its search for new original programming. Two series of interest to Galaxis readers hail from Japan and Germany. The 12-episode original anime series Perfect Bones takes place in the future, when scientists are trying to create the “perfect human” to ensure peace. But a group of these new humans are kidnapped by an organization that cares less about universal peace and more about a new world order. The show is directed by Kazuto Nakazawa and produced by Production I.G., home of such anime as Attack on Titan and Psycho-Pass. Perfect Bones will be the online streaming service’s first original anime series to debut all of its episodes at the same time in 190 countries reached by the service. Netflix’s vice president of international originals, Erik Barmack, said “In an era where the Internet knows no bounds, we are proud to deliver high-quality original anime to fans all over the world, at the exact same time, no matter where they live, whether it be Japan, France, Mexico, the U.S., and beyond.” Production I.G.’s CEO Mitsuhisa Ishikawa didn’t hold back. “We’re very excited about Perfect Bones.” A release date had not been announced at press time. Meanwhile, German director Baran bo Odar is behind Dark, the story of a present-day German town in which two small children disappear. The mystery of the town deepens when, in Netflix’s words, “the story takes on a supernatural twist that ties back to the same town in 1986.” The 10-episode series will debut in 2017. Odar promises that “As Dark will be an ensemble mystery series, I especially look forward to discovering and working with new German talent. This will be a fantastic ride, and I can’t wait to get started.” Dark will be the first Netflix original series entirely created in Germany.

Obama Has a Different Kind of Star Wars

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resident Ronald Reagan reportedly did not please the powers that be at Lucasfilm when his space defense concept became known colloquially as Star Wars. But you can’t keep the White House away from space opera pop culture, and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed good guys and bad guys alike from the Star Wars universe to the presidential mansion on December 18. Not everyone is impressed with Obama’s Star Wars love. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a

video statement claiming that Obama was too busy watching Star Wars to fight ISIS. Obama is reportedly still searching for Trump’s Sith assistant. The reason for all of this was the president’s final press conference of 2015, which Obama ended by saying, “Okay, everybody, I’ve got to get to Star Wars.” The president was heading to a special screening of the new J.J. Abrams-directed blockbuster sequel with American military servicemembers and their families. Stormtroopers and R2D2 later appeared in the White

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance with a Star Wars stormtrooper and R2D2 in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in December.

House briefing room when Press Secretary Josh Earnest held a meeting. According to Washington publication The Hill, one reporter saw Earnest with the stormtroopers and yelled, “Now we know what side of the force you’re in, Josh.” The real scandal, though, might be that the UK’s Daily Mail tabloid reported in January that the president didn’t actually watch the movie after all, though he did stop by the screening. He always was a Trekkie.

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The idea of a planet with three suns was good enough to win a Hugo Award (see page 67), so scientists apparently felt a need to prove that it’s pretty cool in reality, too. Astronomers have found KELT-4Ab, a planet 210 parsecs away whose stars KELT-B and KELT-C “orbit one another once every 30 years, and together they travel around KELTA and its planet every 4,000 years or so,” says Space.com. Cixin Liu would be proud.

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astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey have developed a plan to hide the Earth from hostile aliens. How? Shine lasers at the alien planet to offset the dip in our sun’s brightness caused by Earth’s transit across its face—the way we have discovered hundreds of new planets elsewhere. If that doesn’t work, the scientists tell New Scientist, they suggest tricking the aliens by making the Earth look like it doesn’t support life. . . .

Okay, Google: How Do I Get to the Moon?

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ugene Cernan holds a record that no one wants him to have for too long. Astronaut Cernan is the last man to walk on the moon, something he did in December 1972. Nearly 40 years later, in May 2010, Cernan testified before Congress with Neil Armstrong opposing President Obama’s decision to cancel a planned return to the moon. In this new century, private space travel companies have been slowly advancing their credibility as alternatives to governmentfunded efforts in space. Virgin Galactic (see Galaxis #1), SpaceX (see Galaxis #3), Blue Horizon, and others are competing for dollars, technology advances, and mindshare. Add Google to the mix, with a twist. Since 2007, the online search-and-advertising behemoth has been offering a prize to incentivize entrepreneurs to return us to the moon. There’s a $20 million prize for the first team to successfully “land a privately funded rover on the moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high definition video and images.” Cynics who say this is just a ploy to get someone else to help map the moon for Google Streetview can be ignored. However, cynics who point out that this doesn’t return humans to the moon are correct. It’s one giant step at a time toward that goal.

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To give incentive to more contestants, Google is offering a $5 million prize to the second team to accomplish the mission. But to compete, the teams have to prove that at least 90 percent of the costs of the mission were from private sources; they must announce a verified launch contract by the end of 2016 and complete their mission by the end of 2017. The competition has attracted worldwide participation. The first team to come up with a verified launch contract was SpaceIL, an Israeli team. “Only three countries have ‘softlanded’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman. “Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list looks more promising than ever. Last year we made significant strides toward landing on the moon, both in terms of project financing and in terms of the engineering design, and now we are thrilled to finally secure our launch agreement. This takes us one huge step closer to realize our vision of recreating an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel: to inspire a new generation to pursue science, engineering, technology, and math.” President Obama touted the work of American team Astrobotic Technology from Pittsburgh. “They are shooting for the Moon.

Literally. ... In America, that’s who we’ve always been. We explore next frontiers, we’re pioneers with a vision for tomorrow.” A Berlin, Germany-based team called Part Time Scientists (PTS) is also still in the race. It has received some sponsorship and technological help from that country’s technology leaders, including carmaker Audi. “We’ve been working on the project since 2008, and it’s mainly about the mission itself,” Thomas Kunze, a software developer with PTS, told news site The Local, “The competition comes second for us. Of course we would love to win the race, but even if another team is first, we are willing to complete our mission to the moon.” Google says that the point of the Google Lunar XPrize is to advance the technology of near-space exploration and exploitation. “A successful Google Lunar XPrize will result in cost-effective and reliable access to the Moon, allowing for the development of new methods of discovering and using space resources, and in the long term helping to expand human civilization into space,” the company says on its XPrize website. In 1999, Astronaut Eugene Cernan published a memoir called, appropriately, The Last Man on the Moon. If these private efforts blossom, that title will become an G anachronism.


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his colorful 1967 stamp from the now-defunct Soviet Union celebrates space exploration and the launching of satellites into Earth orbit. Image by Почта СССР. Номер ЦФА 3496.

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ew visions are as awe-inspiring as deep space, where the views are not only beautiful but are all the more incredible because they involve millions of stars and truly vast expanses of space. Here, the beautiful IC1871, part of the Soul Nebula also known as Sh2-199 and LBN667, is about 7500 light years from us, located in the constellation Cassiopeia. image by swagastro

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etropolis is a 1927 silent expressionist science fiction classic that still moves audiences today, nearly 80 years later. Where did that dramatic vision of class conflict, futuristic design, and an iconic robot come from? Meet director Fritz Lang and his screenwriter wife Thea von Harbou, shown here in their Berlin apartment in 1923 or 1924, during the time of the preparation of Metropolis’s script. The talented couple was photographed for “Die Dame” magazine. image by Waldemar Titzenthaler

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Photo this page: ELF. NEXT PAGE strait photo: david shankbone; TIPPER PHOTO: Duncan Penfold Photography; jane photo: tomdog

Covering The Expanse

Above: Authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, collectively known as James S.A. Corey. Next page, top: Dominique Tipper and Steven Straight. Bottom: Thomas Jane.

Syfy gets ambitious with high-drama space opera.

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BY JOHN ZIPPERER

t’s a hit. That’s the conclusion we can draw from the early announcement by Syfy that it has renewed its new series The Expanse for a second season. Word came down only a couple weeks after the series’ first episode aired in midDecember, a debut that the channel says was seen by more than 4.5 million viewers. “The Expanse is firing on all cylinders creatively, building a passionate fan base

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among viewers and critics alike, and delivering on Syfy’s promise of smart, provocative science fiction entertainment,” said Syfy President Dave Howe. “We can’t wait to see where the story takes us in season two.” The Expanse is based on a series of bestselling novels by “James S.A. Corey,” the pen name for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Beginning with the 2011 novel Leviathan Wakes, the series takes place two centuries in the future dur-

ing the industrial colonization of the solar system. The folks out on the space rocks resent being told what to do by people back on Earth, and business appears to be more powerful than governments. But humans are not the only ones looking to colonize the system. Amid tension between Earth, Mars, and other planets, freighter officer James Holden (Steven Strait) tries to survive. Meanwhile, a detective (Thomas Jane) is on the case of a missing woman (Florence Faivre). The characters end up


Left: “James Corey” is in real-life NAME TKTK and NAME TKTK. Right top: Steven Strait. Middle: Dominique Tipper. Bottom: Thomas Jane.

coming across a massive conspiracy. Rounding out the cast are Shohreh Aghdashloo (playing UN administrator Chrisjen Avasarala), Cas Anvar (pilot Alex Kamal), Wes Chatham (mechanic Amos Burton), and Paulo Costanzo (medico Shed Garvey. Produced by Alcon Television Group, the 10-episode first season currently airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern. The second season of 13 episodes is expected to debut in early 2017. Syfy has pulled out the promotional stops for The Expanse. The first season actually was presented several weeks before its premiere on the channel; it was released via on-demand services, including Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Playstation, YouTube, and other outlets and was available on those platforms until its official Syfy premiere. Syfy says millions of people watched the first episode on the various VOD platforms before its official premiere, and its first few episodes averaged 1.6 million viewers on Syfy. The reasons for the channel’s aggressiveness are rooted in Syfy executives’ belief that they have a trophy property that can garner them the kind of critical and viewer acclaim they haven’t seen since the channel’s Dune adaptation or the revival of Battlestar Galactica. “The Expanse is the most ambitious series ever for Syfy, and early screenings are drawing high praise from critics and fans alike,” said Howe. “With its cinematic feel, compelling characters, intense action and universal themes, it’s important for Syfy

to provide the opportunity for as many people as possible to watch and fall in love with this series.” One critic with a mixed reaction was Variety’s chief TV critic, Maureen Ryan. Though she praised the show for being “openly political” and taking on “issues of class, representation, and exploitation,” she faulted it for trying to stuff too much into its initial episodes. The series “tries to do too much at once in its opening episodes, which ultimately undercuts their overall effectiveness. Storylines about rogue elements, terrorist machinations, a missing woman, and political gamesmanship are all crammed into hours that have very little room to breathe. Clearly The Expanse wants to set up a series of linked mysteries, but too often it ends up sketching out a set of scenarios that could have been plucked from dozens of other sci-fi serials, and yet are vague, confusing, or insubstantial.”

Indiewire’s Liz Shannon Miller had a much more positive take on the show, calling it transformative in a way other shows can only hope to be. “It makes you reevaluate the importance of genre in general, to be honest, especially in an environment where the best sort of shows come about via crossbreeding,” Miller wrote. “Whether it be the way shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black blend comedy with socially conscious drama, or the way Breaking Bad brought crime and family together in new and exciting ways, the fact is that exciting things happen when crosspollination is allowed; when we don’t shove genres into boxes, and let them evolve into something new.” With its second season assured, the producers of The Expanse now have the time to explore all of the nooks and crannies of their fictional universe in less-hurried G manner.

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flash gordon zeitgeist cover: Dynamite

Flash Returns

Hollywood puts a focus on resurrecting Flash, but mum’s the word on how.

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BY JOHN ZIPPERER

s it time for a remake of Flash Gordon? Or a reboot? Or a reimagining? And if you remake Flash, which Flash do you remake? Fans of the swashbuckling hero will find out as Hollywood

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continues to thrash together plans for a new Flash film. Back in April 2014, trade publication The Hollywood Reporter noted that 20th Century Fox had a deal with producer John Davis and Star Trek Beyond scripters J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay for a Flash Gordon mo-

Left: Dynamite Comics has kept Flash Gordon alive in the medium in which it began: comics. Above: The poster of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial Rocket Ship.

tion picture. The paper reported that Fox executive Matt Reilly would oversee the film. In early 2016, screenwriter Mark Protosevich reportedly let it be known that he had been hired to rewrite the film. Protosevich’s previous credits include Poseidon, Thor, Oldboy, and I Am Legend. Aside from knowing who is working on the film, what do we know about the film’s story? Next to nothing at this point. Protosevich used social media to announce “I can’t wait to get started and if you’re curious about the take? I’m not saying a word. All I’ll say is this—it will be nothing like any version of Flash Gordon you’ve seen.“ Any clearer? Flash has been reimagined


many times. Older generations remember the character from his earliest incarnation as a comic strip, which debuted in 1934. Young Flash Gordon unwillingly travels to the planet Mongo with Dale Arden and mad scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov. On Mongo, they become entangled in the politics of fantastical kingdoms (the forest kingdom Arboria, ice kingdom Frigia, and other similarly obviously named places) while battling evil ruler Ming the Merciless. Radio serials, books, film serials (starring Buster Crabbe, who for most intents and purposes was Flash Gordon to generations of fans), stage plays, cartoons, and even a soft-core porno film (1974’s Flesh Gordon, which itself has become something of a classic and featured the work of a number of special effects wizards who would go on to fame in the science fiction film world) followed as the character’s fame grew. Later generations probably know Flash most from the 1980 Dino De Laurentiis motion picture starring Sam J. Jones as the football-playing hero, along with costars Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, and Timothy Dalton. The film was a critical dud, undercut by high camp and a jarring rock score by Queen. It came out a little after the also-jokey revival television series of competitor Buck Rogers—must have been something in the zeitgeist. Jones did not appear in Flesh Gordon, but the future Flash did get his start as a fully nude centerfold in the June 1975 issue of Playgirl magazine. In 2007, a short-lived television series aired on Syfy (in which Jones appeared as Krebb, a prisoner). But the newest effort to make a film has its origins as a sequel to the 1980 film; that might surprise folks, but the often-derided movie did go on to become something of a cult classic. Maybe the high camp and rock score added something contemporary audiences needed time to appreciate. In the past year or so, fans have been teased with claims that the new film would either be a remake or a sequel to the 1980 De Laurentiis movie, even starring Jones in some role. (Jones did make a cameo as Flash in a scene of the 2012 comedy Ted.) We might be in the dark about the direction, concept, and storyline of the next Flash Gordon movie, but it is pretty clear by now that Sam J. Jones is the Buster Crabbe for the past few generations of Flash fans. Will the new Flash film be a remake or a reboot or a sequel? It’s apparently been something of all of those, so the final outcome might still surprise. Two things you can count on are that script details will be few and far between, and that Sam Jones will be fully clothed in whatever role he G might appear in.

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PHOTO: Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974

David Bowie: Starman’s End The death of an icon.

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

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he man who lamented the fate of Major Tom in “Space Oddity,” who played an alien who fell to Earth, who sang about an alien “Starman” bringing a message of hope to humans—a man named David Bowie— died January 10, 2016, at the age of 69. David Bowie’s lasting fame will rest with the music world, which he managed to energize and challenge and conquer for more than four decades. However, the science fiction world also recognizes him as one of its own. In the 1970s, it was through his music that he staked a claim on the SF mind. After “Space Oddity” first made

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him famous in 1969, his stage persona Ziggy Stardust was an otherworldly (or just weirdly this-worldly) presence that put him at the forefront of the what’s-real-hereanyway glam rock movement. The 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars includes “Starman,” “Moonage Daydream” (about an alien trying to save the world), “Ziggy Stardust,” and even “Suffragette City” (with allusions to A Clockwork Orange). In 1976, Bowie starred in director Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel. In it, the singer portrayed Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from a very far-away planet that is suffering from a terrible drought. Newton

Left: Singer David Bowie during his Diamond Dogs era. Above: German film poster for The Man Who Fell to Earth (Der Mann der vom Himmel Fiel). Below right: Time celebrated Bowie as a fashion icon.

is on a mission to bring back water to his planet. He manages to amass great wealth on Earth, and he is tempted (and succumbs) to the pleasures of humans. But his plans go awry and his return to his home planet is thwarted. He ends up depressed and alcoholic. The film, which also starred Rip Torn, Candy Clark, and Buck Henry, became a cult favorite over the years. In the 1986 musical fantasy movie Labyrinth, Bowie was one of the few non-muppets in the cast; the other was star Jennifer Connelly. Bowie portrayed the goblin king, Jareth, who tries to help Connelly’s character and instead falls in love with her. A box office flop, the film also found a cult following. In the related horror genre, Bowie starred in director Tony Scott’s The Hunger in 1983. His character was John Blaylock, a vampire cellist. The film did not change his box office success rate. But it wasn’t cinematic revenue that was the measure of David Bowie’s success nor the reason millions of people revered him. He was an original, an artist who was unafraid to try new things even if they left critics wondering if he had lost his mind. An oddity here or there, a failure there or here, an outlandish creation now and then,


LIVE IN-PERSON:

Mary Roach

The Curious Science of Humans at War

Photo by Jen Siska

and people would just conclude he was off his meds. Some claimed that there was no real Bowie there, because he was too much of a chameleon. But Bowie’s ability to do new things almost every year straight up to his death—his final album, Blackstar, was released only two days before his death— showed him to be one of the most endlessly creative people in the public eye. It’s hard to be a popular artist who is relevant and successful in this fast-changing society. Not many alternative glam artists from the 1970s could transform into the cool deep-voiced singer of the 1980s, nor could they create a succession of bands and themes for the following quarter century. And it wasn’t all art. Bowie also innovated on the business side. In 1997, he sold Bowie Bonds to be redeemed with future earnings from his past music; the bonds brought him a quick $55 million. What did David Bowie actually stand for all those decades? Was there a through-line of a message with political or social meaning? Frankly, I’m not sure. Bowie was not a man on the front lines of feeding Africa (like U2 and Bob Geldof) or child abuse (Pat Benatar) or hell, even gun worship (Ted Nugent). Bowie was a man of style, and style doesn’t always comment on what it’s surrounded by. Intelligence is not usually associated with people who care about being cool. But Bowie was smart cool. He clearly had it, and he managed to be cool in every decade of his career, speaking to generation after generation. Pushing the envelope. And showing everyone else how it’s done. G

Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 7 p.m. Mary Roach, Author, Packing for Mars, and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Take a tour of duty with Roach and you’ll never think about our nation’s defenders the same way again. Location: Schultz Hall, Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto, California Details at commonwealthclub.org weimar.ws Galaxis

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PAINTING: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

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o paraphrase Joan Jett, the subgenre of space opera has been a victim of a bad reputation and has, until recently, had no chance to shake it. But when that chance came along, space opera’s writers jumped at the chance, and they have been producing some—forgive the term—stellar science fiction that deserves to give the entire field a better reputation. To many people, space opera is synonymous with westerns in space. Space cowboys, ships that flit between stars as if they were zipping between cities on Earth, fantastical but non-scientific weaponry, bug-eyed monsters, and in general an aim to please a non-discriminating reader or viewer have all helped put space opera into the literary ghetto. That’s not to say it isn’t frequently deeply enjoyable; only a snob would seek to take away the pleasure that comes from losing oneself in the adventures of heroes and heroines across vast galactic distances in the far future. I enjoy those stories as much as anyone else. And I also enjoy the more humanist-centered SF that really got traction during the 1960s’ New Wave period. But, truth be told, the idea of traveling in space and living there on distant planets or aboard advanced starships has a serious emotional connection with me, and it is central to my love for the SF genre altogether. Perhaps an important if often unspoken attraction for me to space opera is that it offers the ultimate science-fiction promise: We’ll get off this planet. Life won’t forever be bounded by paved streets and gas automobiles and traditional buildings and all of the other things we see decade after decade here on Earth. And I like spaceships. There are multimedia examples of the new space opera; arguably the most famous one was the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (see Galaxis #2). But the roots and the ongoing vitality of the science fiction genre are in literature, so let’s look at the ways that SF writers have taken the space opera sub-genre to new heights of intelligence and drama on the printed (or digitally distributed) page. For the past year, I have been engaged in a deepdive into recent space opera novels. It included books by Ernest Cline, Michael Flynn, Peter F. Hamilton, Ann Leckie, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, John Scalzi, and others. What did I learn?


In search of intelligent space opera Once relegated to kiddie stories and hackwork, stories of galaxy-spanning drama are today some of the genre’s finest works. BY JOHN ZIPPERER

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Space with Meaning What makes intelligent space opera intelligent? Readers will disagree on some of this, but I would posit the following: it is fiction in which knowledge of science actually matters, as does the ability to create drama, plot, and intriguing and realistic characters that are not cardboard stereotypes. And at their best, the stories will either explore or otherwise portray the realistic outcomes of scientific achievements that would seem fantastical to us today. Not only is the writing and science and characterizations in these novels very good, but they are politically potent. Today’s writers are proving that space opera isn’t purely escapist action dreaming; it can be every bit as effective at social commentary as was the late ’60s, early ’70s’ new wave of people-oriented science fiction. Ann Leckie made that obvious with her 2013 award-winning novel Ancillary Justice (see review, page 70). In fact, her book is really about politics, even though the ostensible storyline concerns the intelligence of a spaceship in human form (just go with it) out seeking answers and a bit of revenge. Gender, warfare, and galactic governance are all at the heart of the book, which tells a grand tale but focuses in quite closely on a small number of characters. A significant amount of this new, brainpowered space opera is coming out of the British isles. The recent passing of Scotsman Iain M. Banks (see Galaxis #4) served to highlight how aggressively UK writers have colonized this subgenre, and it threw into the spotlight their intelligence and productivity. In a field that was once dominated by Americans such as Asimov, Heinlein, Gerrold, and Alfred Bester, UK writers such as Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Charles Stross, and others have staked a claim to leading this new wave of deep-space, deep-dive, big-brained science fiction. Americans are not too far behind, with John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War spawning a popular series that helped him earn a $3.4 million book deal. Other Yanks such as Ann Leckie and Michael Flynn keep the home flag flying. Non-SF folks who peer into the genre from outside often associate it with the mindlessly wild, and to them a slobbering space toad is in the same category of entertainment as a detailed exploration of a post-human civilization 100,000 years in the future. But for this sub-subgenre of 24

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intelligent space opera that I’m defining here, slobbering space toads are definitely a lesser element than extrapolation and dramatization of technological, political, social, religious, sexual, and moral change.

The passing of Iain M. Banks highlighted how aggressively UK writers have colonized this sub-genre.

Space for Ideas Iain M. Banks’ series of Culture tales combine political and technological exploration. Banks, reportedly something of an intellectual anarchist, created the human star-spanning civilization of the Culture, which is basically anarchic in that there is no leader or central government. Thanks to material and technological plenty, humans are able to spend their lives doing pretty much whateverthehell they want. They can switch genders, go into intellectual isolation (or even opt out of humanity altogether), live anywhere they want, and, by Banks’ rules, they manage to get along pretty well because the Minds—the super-intelligent AIs running the Culture’s vast ships (some of which are many miles in length)—make all of the important decisions. One can argue about whether that makes the Minds a government; anarchy isn’t a fully logical governmental philosophy anyway. But Banks doesn’t just create the setting as a backdrop for his action; he has many of his stories driven by interactions between the Minds and their interests in taking an action (interacting with a new species, or going to war, for example). It ends up as good food for thought; anarchists often rail against government for taking power away from the people and perverting it to their own ends, and Banks basically shows it happens whether by government or computer or other means. But Banks extrapolates on the technological side, too. His Culture books are made up of the super-intelligent ship Minds, planet-encircling habitats filled with millions of people, and even contact with alien races so far advanced that it is considered to be an epochal change in humanity’s history (see his excellent Excession novel). Alastair Reynolds’ writing style is quite different from Banks’ style, but he too is a practitioner of the big idea, the grand prediction. His 2008 novel House of Suns (see Galaxis #5) covers hundreds of thousands of years in human history, and the story plays out over truly vast interstellar ranges. Dyson spheres (artificial structures encasing entire stars and including entire civilizations) are pretty matter-of-fact in Reynolds’ books, but he doesn’t underplay


the magnificent power and advancement (and motivations) of species able to create such things. Reynolds’ 2006 novel Century Rain tells the story of Verity Auger, a historical archeologist several hundred years in the future. Earth has been rendered uninhabitable by a “nanocaust” and the only survivors are people who were off-planet at the time, but they have split between nanotech-loving Slashers and people who have chosen to go to the threshhold of nanotech but not cross over—the Threshers. The story moves from that future Earth to a mysterious hidden copy of Earth, a living snapshot made in 1939 and secreted away somewhere else in the galaxy. On that second Earth, a historical genocide—the 1940s Holocaust—is avoided, but only to make way for an even bigger, planet-wide genocide at the hands of “aggressive” factions of the Slashers. Auger is sent on a mission to E2, as it’s called, and when she discovers what one group of humans has planned for that planet, she has to escape her enemies in E2, traverse a dangerous wormhole-like space tunnel, rely on an E2 man named Floyd (part detective, part jazz musician), and get help in her future world, where there just happens to be a war going on between Slashers and Threshers. Peter F. Hamilton is another British writer who thinks big—huge—as he spins his tales of interstellar war and human drama. His 2004 novel Pandora’s Star tells the story of the discovery of another civilization. The Commonwealth, which mostly concerns itself with commerce, takes on the task of a long-range expedition to investigate this newly discovered civilization, one that has had a fantastically large barrier built around its entire star system. To keep it in? To keep others out? The Commonwealth’s scientists and politicians aim to find out, but for the reader, the real fun is less in what they actually find than in the exploration of the large-scale space structures and the means of interstellar travel the characters undertake. Hamilton is writing galaxy-spanning SF, but he includes extensive (the paperback edition of Pandora’s Star is nearly 1,000 pages) human-centered detail and side stories. Though his backgrounds for many characters and his introduction of a vast cast of people might be too large and confusing or even a little soap opera-ish for some readers, he appears to be doing on the SF stage what Steven King does in

Hamilton is writing galaxy-spanning SF, but he includes extensive humancentered detail and side stories.

the horror genre. Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2015 novel of interstellar colonization, Aurora, centers around a generational starship sent to a nearby star in an attempt to colonize it. The people aboard the ship have advanced use of printers that can create anything— spaceships, homes, more printers—as long as they have the necessary feedstock materials for it. Colonizing other planets, though, proves much more difficult. In a similar vein, the Grant Tour series of novels by Ben Bova tells the tales involved as mankind colonizes first the solar system and then eventually reaches out to a nearby star (2013’s New Earth). Writer Ben Bova has been working at the top of the genre through several literary and stylistic waves, at he’s still at it in his 80s. Bova, like Robinson, Reynolds, and others, brings a level of reality to his science fiction based on his devotion to scientifically plausible technological discovery that is absent from the science-fantasy subgenre. I admit to a special place in my heart for Bova’s near-future extrapolations. His novels about American Chet Kinsman helping colonize (and lead to independence) the Moon were powerful and entertaining, and they also included heavy doses of his rationalist, right-leaning libertarian views. Scalzi’s Old Man’s War novel, which kicked off a series of novels by the same name, is largely a military story (recruitment, military culture shock, training, and then deployment and either death or heroics follow) with an SF overlay. However, the warriors in this story are either dead people who have been reanimated with new personalities or old people who have had their bodies rejuvenated and then launched into a vicious interstellar war as twentysomethings. Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (and its sequels Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy) also involves the creepy advancement—if you could call it that—of animating dead bodies for war or security means. The ruler of the Radch Empire has a corps of fighters—I’m going to call it the corpse corps—who are bodies that are controlled totally by the ruler, and not because they take orders. The Lord of the Radch controls them like robots. How Far Can You See into the Future? Star Trek looked first 300 and then 400 years into the future, and Gene Roddenberry and his team tried to figure out what weimar.ws Galaxis

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life and technology and human civilization would be like at those points in time. Buck Rogers figured 500 years was a good distance from which to check in and see how entertaining things could be. When Reynolds or Banks set a story hundreds of thousands of years in the future, they are not just saying that all rules that we know no longer apply, regarding human behavior and technology. What makes them writers of intelligent space opera is that they make serious attempts at trying to figure out what life and technology would actually be like after that massive passage of time. What discoveries could have been made? How would people have adapted to them? Would humans be empowered or enfeebled by having the ability to walk through walls, change genders, zip between stars, or have the knowledge of an entire civilization on-call in their heads? Nearly 70 years ago, legendary SF writer Robert Heinlein would write the simple sentence “The door dilated” in Beyond This Horizon. For years, critics had used that sentence to demonstrate how a writer could succinctly convey the incredible advancement of a society. The door didn’t open, the door didn’t slide to the side, the door didn’t swing shut—it “dilated.” In Alastair Reynolds’ 2007 novel The Prefect, main character Dreyfus is about to leave a spaceship with his colleague Sparver to investigate a hostile location. Reynolds is not as economical in his use of words, but he is just as matter-of-fact in his portrayal of a technological reality that would be revolutionary today but that is apparently beneath comment in the world of his novel. He writes: Dreyfus pushed himself through the grey surface of the suitwall. As always, he felt ticklish resistance as the suit formed around him, conjured into being from the very fabric of the suitwall. He turned around in time to observer Sparver’s emergence: seeing the edges of the suit blend into the exterior surface of the wall and then pucker free. For a moment, the details of Sparver’s suit were blurred and ill-defined, then snapped into sharpness. Like quite a few other SF writers, Reynolds is a scientist as well as a writer. In 2012, he told Wired magazine’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: Before I started writing the Rev26

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elation Space books, I’d already written two novels in my teens that were full of the stock furniture of science fiction—they had hyperdrives and force fields and tractor beams and all that stuff in it. And around about the time that I was writing the second one I started reading more hard science fiction, books by people like Gregory Benford and Robert Forward, where there was a tendency to try to keep the science a little bit more plausible, and I started to think, “Well, the next book I write, I’m not going to have any of that stuff in it. I’m just going to try to keep the physics as believable as possible.” So it was a natural challenge for me to try to write a space opera without faster-than-light travel, but I never found it particularly constraining because, okay, it eliminates certain story lines, there are certain things you can’t do in that kind of framework, but at the same time it opens lots of other possibilities. You can have stories about people leaving their planet and not coming back for a hundred years, because they’ve been traveling at the speed of light. One door closes and another opens, so I’ve always found it perfectly liberating as a writer to work within that kind of framework. It’s never felt stifling to me.

Intelligent space opera makes serious attempts to depict life and tech after a massive passage of time.

Reynold’s comments capture the joy of creating intelligent space opera. The very factors that make it more realistic also create opportunities to tell good stories. Some of these writers will resonate with you, some won’t. Some readers will want more human-centered stories; others will want post-human tales. Some will find the politics naive; and still others will want slimy monsters. That’s fine. It’s a big genre, and the space opera subsection is also large, and it is a pleasure not only to read it but to see that it is getting respect outside the genre, as many of these books have. Intelligent space opera was not created in the UK in the 1990s, despite the large number of writers from that land. One can look back to David Gerrold’s popular Star Wolf novels, Frank M. Robinson’s spare masterpiece The Dark Beyond the Stars, or even back to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series (see Galaxis #5). No, it’s nothing new, but the rich amount of intelligent space opera available today means it’s a good time to be enjoying this corner of the fiction world. G


Mars chronicler Kim Stanley Robinson talks climate and SF.

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BY JOHN ZIPPERER

cience fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson came to The Commonwealth Club’s Climate One series of programming in 2015 to talk about his genre and the state of the Earth. CREATING CLIMATE FICTION: “I was sent to Antarctica by the National Science Foundation, [which] has an Antarctic program for artists and writers. After my Mars books, I applied, got accepted, and spent two months down there. That was November and December of 1995. I was a roving reporter, and I followed the scientists around and spent a lot of time in the field camps. A lot of them were doing what they called climate change research, because Antarctica is one of the poles. The poles are changing faster than anywhere else on earth for reasons that aren’t well understood, and I would ask them, ‘How fast could climate change affect us?’ They would say ‘Oh, really fast.’ And I’d say, ‘How fast do you mean?’ They’d say ‘Two or three thousand years.’ That’s fast for geologists, but it’s slow for us. “I couldn’t think of a story. When I got back from an Antarctica, I wrote a novel about Antarctica that only just began to discuss climate change, but sea level rise is implicated in that because the West Antarctic ice sheet is unstable down there and could come off and sea level rise quite quickly. So that was one aspect of the story. “Another one was when they took the Greenland, Iceland cores at the turn of the millennium, they got 800,000 years of really good atmospheric data year-by-year. They found that there had been abrupt climate change, which the National Research Council put a report out on. What they meant was that the whole world had gone from a climate that was warm and wet near the end of the last ice age to cold, dry, windy in three years. And they postulated that the stalling of the Gulf stream had been the cause of this. I thought ‘Okay, three years is a story that I can tell.’ So that’s what I wrote

PHOTO by and copyright: allyunion

The Voyage from 2016 to 2312

Kim Stanley Robinson at a science fiction conference in 2008.

Forty Signs of Rain and got more and more interested in this notion of tipping points where, though climate seems stable, there are certain things that can happen that would rapidly change climate. INTERSTELLAR FILM: “I really disliked it. I thought it was a pretty dreadful movie in a lot of ways. If you presented it as climate fiction, then the world has a problem, the solution was magic. We can’t go faster than light. We can go through wormholes and even if you granted that bit of magic— which already is fantasy thinking—you would only be able to get a few people away from Earth, and you’d be leaving Earth to go to a place that looked like Iceland because it was filmed in Iceland. “So the plan A would never work in that movie and the plan B wouldn’t work either, so it was as if the filmmakers were saying, ‘Since this is a science fiction movie, we can be stupid and get away with it because it’s just science fiction.’ So I was offended by it, because science fiction is actually a very intellectually powerful genre; it doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for stupidity. So this is like a kind of 1930s’ power fantasy movie and we’re well past that now, we’re 80 years past that kind of thinking. GEOENGINEERING TO FIX THE CLIMATE: “It’s being researched now, so it isn’t a matter of should or not; we’re researching it already. Immediately everyone brings up the problem of what they call the moral hazard. That if you think that there might be some way out, some silver-bullet

solution to too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that we won’t decarbonize fast enough. You’ll think to yourself, ‘We can go ahead and burn carbon, because we have the silver bullet at the end of the game.’ The moral hazard has to be taken into account, but I think everybody is right from the get-go. Some geoengineering methods that have been proposed are clearly dangerous—like seeding the oceans, because the oceans are already in trouble [due to] acidification and overfishing, and to put another factor in there, you could risk destroying the food chain in the oceans by a byproduct. And then since one third of our food comes out of the oceans, humanity will be in terrible trouble. You should not mess with the oceans. “Now, this atmospheric stuff is a little more interesting, because the sulfur dioxide that you put up into the atmosphere is going to come down to Earth. It’s just like what a volcano does; so after the most recent big volcanic explosion, temperatures were three or four degrees lower for two or three years, and then the sulfur dioxide settled out. In other words, we could run experiments, and if they were doing bad things, then three or four years later we’d be back to where we were anyway. So I think people will be discussing this more, because it’s relatively inexpensive and relatively technically achievable. It doesn’t solve ocean acidification, [and] it doesn’t push the main problems, which aren’t even about climate control but are about environmental destruction more generally. “We talked about climate change, because in a way it’s comforting. If there were only climate change you can imagine you go over to the thermostat on the wall and shift it down and you change the climate and get rid of a problem. But if it’s complete biosphere destruction, if it’s a mass extinction event that we are causing by all of our habits put together, then it’s much scarier than the thermostat on the wall. So I think one of the reasons we talk about climate change so much is that it’s a synecdoche for the larger environment problem, and it’s the one that seems most amenable to a silver bullet fix. What we really need to do is talk about the entire environmental crash that we’re causing, and climate change is G just one part of that problem.” weimar.ws Galaxis

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He’s dead, Jim. Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Set phasers to stun. I have been, and always shall be, your friend. Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Make it so. Live long and prosper. Everyone remember where we parked. I’m a doctor, not a coal minor. What are w e l o ok ing at—a 20thcentury Rome? I am Locutus of Borg. I regret you were witness to that unfortunate display of emotion on the part of my son. Do you know the old Klingon proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold — in space. Fun will now commence. Highly illogical. Beam us up, Scotty. Khaaaaaaaannn! Resistance is futile. Hailing frequencies open, Captain. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Fifty bars of gold-pressed latinum. I like this ship — you know, it’s exciting! Fascinating. Admiral, there be whales here! Can I cook, or can’t I? It seemed the logical thing to do at the time. I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone 28

Galaxis May 2016

befor I sen able dece Brain and bra be careful. We wi to talk about time! a doctor, not an es honor. The ears mak Laddy, don’t you rephrase that? H and I shall have him the moons of Nibia an Maelstrom and ’roun I give him up! Ther proverb: only Nixon You’re dead, this is th I am programmed in mul variety of pleasuring. The here! There’s an old say bold—well, I guess we’r good day to die ... And th five card stud, nothin limit. If there’s nothin there’s something wron We’re Starfleet of of the job. You wi clever, Worf— books lately Guinan. I tend er your shields Out there— feel y tain’s


re. Captain, nse considereption on Bok’s part. ain! What is brain? Jim, ill. Timeline? This is no time ! We don’t have the time! I’m scalator. Die with ke all the difference. u think you should... He tasks me. He tasks me, m! I’ll chase him ’round nd ’round the Antares nd perdition’s flames before re is an old Vulcan n could go to China. he afterlife—and I’m God. ltiple techniques. A broad e line must be drawn ying: Fortune favors the re about to find out. It is a he day is not yet over. So, ng wild. And the sky’s the ng wrong with me... maybe ng with the universe! fficers. Weird is part ill be assimilated. Very — eat any good y? My name is d bar, and I listen. Lowand surrender your ships. —thataway. Young—I young. Caps log, stardate ...

a long trek Celebrating a half-century of forward-looking science fiction on TV, in movies, and more.

T

BY JOHN ZIPPERER he 1960s were just waiting for something like this to come along. Think back a half-century to that time. America was at the zenith of its postwar power. It was in the midst of a remarkable decade of economic growth, its military was unmatched (though not for lack of trying by the Soviets), and its cultural reach was vast. And yet. The country was in turmoil. Racial and gender inequality created burgeoning movements that found expression in self reflection and mass demonstrations. War in Vietnam fueled a growing counter-establishment movement among young people. Trust in government, long a widespread feeling in the postwar years, started to fray as the powerful and wealthy nation could not paper over or buy its way out of its problems. Then on September 8, 1966, a science fiction television program debuted on the NBC network. Star Trek boasted solid actors, powerful ideas, some of the nation’s top SF writing talent, and it quickly gained the attention of televised science-fiction fans hungry for a show that could engage their intellects as well as their eyeballs. Though the show would only last three years and a total of 79 episodes, one could also argue that it lasted a half century, making it one of the longest-lived science fiction stories in the world. Star Trek did not solve the nation’s problems of the 1960s. In fact, those problems got worse, and they delivered the 1970s, when the country really began to fray, the miracle economy began to sputter, and its international enemies became more aggressive on the international stage. But Trek didn’t make the claim to be the solution to those and other crises. Trek—as well as any philosophy honestly promoted—offered a way to deal with those problems and come to solutions that weren’t at the point of a gun or at the end of a fist. Former police officer Gene Roddenberry came up with the idea for a weekly televised science fiction program featuring weimar.ws Galaxis

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McCoy was crucial in that equation, because he let the viewers know that they weren’t left out of this utopian future just because they had anger and happiness and love. The synthesis of McCoy and Spock in Kirk was a way to let the audience know that they had a place in this wonderful future, and that it could be achieved with them. Secret to Eternal Life That positive message spoke to an alienated generation, and the abovenormal production and scripting qualities drew critical attention to the series, at least among the science and science-fiction crowd. Outside of that crowd, fame was hard to get and fleeting. The show was nearly canceled before a letter-writing campaign caused NBC to renew it. But after it limped through a third season sans Gene Roddenberry’s direct leadership and with some of the most questionable scripts in the show’s entire run (hello, “Spock’s Brain”), the show was canceled and done with. But the show did not die among the fans, and when it discovered a broad Left: In a promotional image for the second popularity in syndication, Hollywood pilot, Kirk wields a big gun and Sally Kellerman took notice. Star Trek fan conventions provides the spacey look. Right: Nichelle Nichols attracted thousands of attendees, and sizzles in this image highlighting her character. the attendees weren’t just killing a Saturday afternoon. They were enthusiastic, they were dressing up as their bringing the show back into live-action favorite characters, they were creating Trek reality. fiction and graphic art. First the studio wanted to produce a new In the early 1970s, NBC aired two sea- Trek television series. Star Trek: Phase II sons of a new animated Star Trek series, was to be the signature series on a new Paronce again drawing on the talents—at least amount national television network, which the voices—of the original actors, as well would challenge NBC, CBS, and ABC. But as the producers and even many of the the broadcast television world wasn’t ready top-of-the-genre writers from the original for a fourth network just yet, and after live-action series. The award-winning ani- some back-and-forth dithering, the studio mated series was a critical hit, and within a finally decided to launch Trek onto the big year, studio Paramount and producer Rod- screen in a major motion picture. To endenberry were talking about launching sure that everyone understood that this Star Trek: The God Thing. It was an abor- was A Big Thing, the 1979 film was called tive production, but it was the first step in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Star Trek timeline

development agreement

March 11, 1964: Gene Roddenberry puts together a plan for Star Trek, a new SF TV series

February 1965: “The Cage,” Trek’s first pilot, is viewed by NBC executives, who hate it; a rare second pilot is ordered.

April 1964: Roddenberry presents his series plan to Desilu Studio; the two parties sign a three-year 30

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September 8, 1966: Star Trek debuts on NBC with “The Man Trap”

1967: Star Trek receives NAACP Image Award

1968: Harlan Ellison’s “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode wins the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Teleplay

1968: “The City on the Edge of Forever” wins Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award

June 3, 1969: “Turnabout Intruder,” the final episode of the original series, airs

1967: “The Menagerie” wins Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award

August 6, 1969: Gene Roddenberry weds actress Majel Barrett January 21–23, 1972: First Star Trek convention is held in New York City September 8, 1973: A new animated Star Trek series debuts on NBC

Kirk Photo: McFadden, Strauss Eddy & Irwin for Desilu Productions / Wikimedia Commons; uhura PHOTO: by Desilu Productionsrelease sent by Cooper & Colin, Chicago / wikimedia commons

a spaceship traveling between planets, having adventures and telling stories about the human condition. Captain Robert April (later Captain Christopher Pike and still later Captain James T. Kirk) would lead the Yorktown (later the Enterprise) in interstellar trips that would allow Roddenberry to tell stories set in exotic cultures and on weird new planets, but the stories would really be about the weird old planet of Earth in the 1960s. Fifty years later, Star Trek is still telling stories about this weird old planet, now in the 2010s. Whether the Earth or Trek has aged better during that time is a topic to keep Trek fans arguing deep into the night. When writers and stars and fans and critics are asked about the magic in the series that made it last so long and attract such devotion from fans, the answer given most often is that the show offered hope that mankind could solve or at least deal with its problems intelligently and peacefully. Racism didn’t have to tear us apart. Being different didn’t have to be a handicap. Tomorrow would come, and it would be better than the crazy, mixed-up today. Hope. Lawrence Krauss, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, wrote for National Public Radio a 2009 essay in which he stated, “I don’t know if science and reason will ultimately help guide humanity to a better and more peaceful future, but I am certain that this belief is part of what keeps the Star Trek fandom going. I can only hope it isn’t as unrealistic as hoping when you fall into a black hole you will come out in one piece.” A good part of the credit for selling that message of hope goes to the oft-criticized triumvirate of Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley). In that trio, the inputs from the logical Mr. Spock and the emotional Dr. McCoy were joined in Captain Kirk, who used whichever input would help him solve the problem of the week.


Though a financial success, the film was not a blockbuster and it was a critical dud. Calling ST:TMP nothing but a “gussiedup” expanded TV episode, writer Harlan Ellison took issue with the failure to make a real motion picture. “It ... retains most of the crippling flaws attendant on all television episodic series: the shallow, unchanging characterizations; the need to hammer some points already made; the banal dialogue; the illogical and sophomoric ‘messages’; the posturing of second-rate actors; the slavish subjugation of plot and humanity to special effects. They were afraid of losing that quality of familiarity generated by the TV series ... and the tragedy is that they retained in fullest measure what they should have dispensed with,” he wrote in his review of the film in the April 1980 issue of Starlog magazine, one of the most

controversial articles in the magazine’s 34year life. What was usually overlooked by the folks who took issue with Ellison’s critique is that he actually ended on a hopeful note, or at least a helpful one. He suggested taking this film as the first of many in a series, perhaps an annual series, that would allow more economical production and create more human-centered stories. The folks at Paramount might not have liked being hit by Ellison’s two-by-four of a critique, but they did take his advice (or at least embark upon a similar path). The studio made sequels, though on a roughly every-other-year basis. Control was taken away from Roddenberry and given to veteran producer Harve Bennett; production was taken away from Paramount’s film division and given to

with the episode “Beyond the Farthest Star”

the final episode of the animated series, airs

1974-75: “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth” wins a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Series

May 1975: Roddenberry and Paramount agree to develop Star Trek: The God Thing; it goes nowhere

October 12, 1974: “The Counter-Clock Incident,”

June 17, 1977: Plans for Star Trek to return to television are announced

May 29, 1976: Saturday Night Live airs the sketch “The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise” lampooning Trek; written by Michael O’Donoghue, the script was later printed in Starlog magazine December 7, 1979: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

its less-expensive television division. And the stories became more humanfocused. There were still spectacular space battles and wondrous Genesiseffect special effects, but the human element came much more to the fore. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was followed by The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country, and the stories featured our aging Captain Kirk coming to terms with his life (and his son), Spock’s friendship and death (and rebirth), buried fears of the ship’s crew, confronting past mistakes and prejudices, and much more. While those movies were still going strong, Roddenberry got back on top of the horse at Paramount and created Star Trek: The Next Generation, which debuted in September 1987. Taking a different tack than the original and the animated series, Next Generation’s writers were, for the most part, not wellknown genre names. Rather, it was a producer-driven show that sometimes featured a surprisingly large number of writers’ names in an episode’s credits. But the it-takes-a-village approach worked for the new series, which became a critical hit and a monster hit in syndication, for a time enjoying its status as the highest-rated program in American syndication. Before Next Generation went off the air seven years after its debut, it had spawned a spinoff, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and—more important—had become the standard-setter for future iterations. The movies became Next Generation-focused, DS9 and its further sequel Star Trek: Voyager both took place in the timeframe and stylistic world of Next Generation. Fans online would become a bit of a parody of themselves as Picard-vs-Kirk arguments were infamous in internet chat rooms, but regardless of whether one preferred the original series or the Next Generation series, one couldn’t deny that Trek and its ideals were stronger than ever.

is released to much anticipation, mixed reviews, and middling box office June 4, 1982: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, produced by Paramount’s television division to keep down costs, is released, earning critical and box office raves

June 1, 1984: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, directed by Leonard Nimoy, is released May 23-25, 1987: At the Starlog Salutes Star Wars convention in Los Angeles, the first-ever (and likely only ever) meeting between Gene Roddenweimar.ws Galaxis

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Check-in Party As Star Trek celebrates 50 years—five long decades—this year, there will be official and unofficial events and commemorations galore. There will be special issues of magazines (ahem), live events, and plenty of other ways to note this milestone. If you had checked in on Star Trek during its tenth anniversary, in September 1976, you might have been cautiously optimistic that something would happen eventually to revive the show, but who knew what it could become. The TV series was long gone, the even shorter-lived animated revival was long gone, and there was nothing but rumor and hopes (and conventions— don’t forget the conventions) to keep fans dreaming happily. For its 20th anniversary, people had solid reasons for hope and happiness. The movie series was going along strongly, and then in October of ’86 came the announcement of a new series to launch the next year. Clearly, this was not a doomed show. By 1991 and Trek’s quarter-century mark, the franchise was riding high. Star Trek: The Next Generation had ushered in millions of new fans, and the future looked very bright. Licensed books and magazines and comics were easily found. Trek was popular, respectable, and profitable. Skip ahead to today, and fans can be berry and George Lucas takes place September 28, 1987: “Encounter at Farpoint,” the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, debuts in syndication November 26, 1987: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,

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hopeful, happy, and a bit worried all at once. The wildly successful J.J. Abrams Star Trek films have given birth to—as we’ll see—a television resurgence. At the same time, the movies are arguably (very arguably, because SF fans love nothing more than a good argument about their favorite media) deviating from the high ideals of Roddenberry’s original Trek. Those arguments can go on deep into the night, because one side can claim that the original series was the most pure incantation of the high-minded ethos of Trek; another side can say that Trek has to change—if it is to inform and inspire the current day, it must reflect it and its concerns. And that happens to involve lots of killing and explosions in space. It’s an Antonin Scalia v. Ruth Bader Ginsburg argument, in which friends can hold diametrically opposed views but still respect each other. Leading or Following But die-hard Trek fans, as we’ve seen, are interested in more than just having the series be financially successful enough to continue. They want the show to continue the inspirational stories that made them fall in love with it in the first place, whether that was back in the late 1960s, during reruns or movies in the 1970s and ’80s, or as a result of any of the sequel series. One response is to question how true to its claimed values the show has ever been. As writer David Gerrold revealed in his interview last issue (see Galaxis #5, page 28), the show sacrificed quite a bit to behindthe-camera political and commercial gods. Despite the earnest efforts of Gerrold, who worked on ST:TNG’s first season, to introduce even a barely acknowledged homosexual character or theme, the Next Generation powers that be resolutely refused. Decades after Gerrold’s brave attempts, Trek still thinks that acknowledging homosexuality is too exotic even for a show with blue-skinned aliens and shape-shifters. Another shortcoming has been the lack of real racial diversity. True, the show has

again with Leonard Nimoy at the helm, is released to critical and box office success June 8, 1989: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, directed by William Shatner, is released October 24, 1991: Gene

featured a multiracial crew in each of its incarnations, but for multiracial crews, they were still overwhelmingly white. Take a look at the world today; Caucasians are not even remotely in the majority, so would it take much insight by the producers and writers to feature crews that were much more Asian and black and Hispanic? Studios are usually conservative beasts, so they’ll take the path of least resistance to their landing a pot of gold. But if Paramount and the producers worried that a racially realistic crew wouldn’t be accepted by white audiences, they are surely missing out on the movie- and TV-loving billions around the world who would not look askance at darker skins. But. There’s always a but, because despite those shortcomings, Star Trek did blaze new ground and it did spread a message of inclusion and peaceful coexistence. If its racial balance was stuck in the 1950s Hollywood view, it nonetheless featured one of American television’s first interracial kisses (and if it seems bizarre to you that the Unit-

December 6, 1991: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, is released

November 18, 1994: Star Trek Generations, combining the Next Generation cast with original series stars, is released

January 3, 1993: “Emissary,” the first episode of the spinoff series Deep Space Nine, airs in syndication

January 16, 1995: “Caretaker,” the first episode of spinoff series Star Trek: Voyager, airs on the new Paramount network

Roddenberry dies

November 22, 1996: Star Trek: First Contact is released to rave reviews and box office success December 11, 1998: Star Trek: Insurrection is released June 2, 1999: “What You Leave Behind,” the final

magazine cover image: Star Trek official magazine, titan magazines; roddenberry photo: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

This would only falter after the third sequel series, Enterprise (later redubbed Star Trek Enterprise) lasted only four seasons and 2002’s big-screen film Star Trek: Nemesis landed with a thud at the box office. Producer Rick Berman had been the series’ guiding light for decades, but he seemed to have run out of gas, and the TV series had begun to look and feel the same. It was time for something new, and after waiting an appropriate time for official mourning, Paramount rebooted the entire concept by bringing in SF film wunderkind J.J. Abrams. There followed two movies (and counting), Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, and suddenly Trek was big box office and the center of attention once again.


tred, warfare, duty, greed, emotionvs-intellect, and much more. Sequel series and films have continued that legacy, and that is perhaps the soundest reason for fans and critics to be optimistic about the future as Star Trek hits the midcentury mark. Everything Trek Is New Again Star Trek will return to the big and small screens within the year, but it will be a changed Trek. The next cinematic installment of the franchise, Star Trek Beyond, will be released July 22, 2016, and when fans and critics got a preview of some scenes in early 2016, the film drew criticism as being too much about explosions and fighting instead of the ideas that animate Trek’s loftier fans. The final release of the film will answer the question about whether or not those criticisms are accurate. But it is not a new criticism of the J.J. Abrams-era Trek (see Star Trek Into Darkness reLeft: Titan Magazines’ official Star Trek magazine view, Galaxis #4). nicely celebrated the entire five-decade lineup Meanwhile, Paramount and CBS of Trek productions. Right: Gene Roddenberry in (and fans and critics) are preparing 1976 after giving a speech to college students— for the early-2017 debut of a new some of the first audiences to grasp the intellecweekly Star Trek television series. tual potential of the Star Trek shows. Demonstrating the ways in which ed States, well ensconced in the space age of video distribution has changed since the 1960s, still threw fits about two people Trek first premiered in the mid-sixties on of different skin color kissing each other, NBC—one of only three national networks then that should increase your respect for and little to no post-series life for a show— Star Trek). And having Lt. Uhura on the viewers will watch the new series on CBS’ bridge was so inspirational for a young new digital subscription service, CBS All Whoopi Goldberg that she begged Gene Access. Viewers pay $5.99 each month to Roddenberry for a role in The Next Genera- get CBS All Access, and in return they get tion. Even if the racial makeup of the crew on-demand streaming of any of thousands wasn’t realistic, it still let people know that of episodes from CBS series. The service at least the future did include every race. already has available all of the episodes of Then factor in the writing. No show can every previous Trek series, even though be much of anything without good writing, none of them aired on CBS. “We’ve expeand Trek had it. Harlan Ellison, David Ger- rienced terrific growth for CBS All Access, rold, Frederic Brown, Ted Sturgeon, Rob- expanding the service across affiliates and ert Bloch, D.C. Fontana, and many others devices in a very short time,” said Marc Demade the original series an intelligent plat- Bevoise, CBS Digital Media’s executive vice form for exploring topics such as racial ha- president and general manager. “We now episode of Deep Space Nine, airs May 23, 2001: “Endgame,” the final episode of Star Trek: Voyager, airs September 26, 2001: “Broken Bow,” the premiere outing of the spinoff prequel series

Enterprise (later redubbed Star Trek: Enterprise), airs on the UPN network December 13, 2002: Star Trek: Nemesis, the final motion picture to star the Next Generation actors, is released to disappointing box office and cold reviews

May 13, 2005: “These Are the Voyages,” the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, airs, the first series in a long time to be felled by low ratings December 18, 2008: Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Trek actor and widow of the series creator, dies

have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series.” The show will sport some heavy-hitting entertainment talent. Alex Kurtzman, cowriter and producer of 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, will serve as the show’s executive producer, along with Heather Kadin (whose work includes Scorpion and Limitless), Rod Roddenberry (son of Gene and Majel Barrett Roddenberry), and Bryan Fuller (a writer on Voyager and Deep Space Nine). Nicholas Meyer, director of the well-received Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, will be aboard as a writer and consulting producer. Meyer’s presence might help allay some fears of Trek traditionalists that the franchise has become just another space-laser shoot-em-up. With Khan and Country, Meyer managed to weave together action and adventure with thought-provoking and very human storylines that underscored themes of revenge and peace, forgiveness and inter-species understanding. “There is no better time to give Star Trek fans a new series than on the heels of the original show’s 50th anniversary celebration,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios. “Everyone here has great respect for this storied franchise, and we’re excited to launch its next television chapter in the creative mind and skilled hands of Alex Kurtzman, someone who knows this world and its audience intimately.” So a well-vetted group of producers is set to take Trek into its second half-century. Fans around the world will be keeping track of their every decision, every character, every story plot. As they should, and as they always have. “Every day, an episode of the Star Trek franchise is seen in almost every country in the world,” said Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group. “We can’t wait to introduce Star Trek’s next voyage on television to its vast G global fan base.”

May 8, 2009: J.J. Abrams’ big-screen reboot of the series, Star Trek, opens in theaters to critical and box office acclaim April 23, 2013: Star Trek Into Darkness is released February 27, 2015: Leonard Nimoy dies

November 2, 2015: CBS announces that a new Star Trek television series will premiere in January 2017, when it will air on the network’s digital subscription service July 22, 2016: The latest film, Star Trek Beyond, to be released weimar.ws Galaxis

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Game Set Quiz How good is your SFIQ—science fiction intelligence quotient? Take our quiz, which ranges from easy to expert questions. Answers are at the end of the quiz.

3

1] Which one of the following did not feature actor René Auberjonois? a. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine b. M*A*S*H c. Robocop d. Benson 2] What is David Gerrold’s pen name? a. Noah Ward b. Jim McCarthy c. Harlequin Ellisman d. Bjo Trimble 3] Thomas Jane’s character in The Expanse is ...? a. James “Jim” Holden b. William Holden c. Detective Joe Miller d. Dan Sylveste 4] Who is the writer of Blade Runner’s source material, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”? a. Joanna Russ b. Philip K. Dick c. Kim Stanley Robinson d. Tanwanda Bulminh 5] What is Supergirl’s Kryptonian name? a. Kon El b. Con Ed c. Luft Liss En d. Kara Zor-El 6] Judd Hirsch appears in Independence Day: Resurgence 34

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(as well as the original Independence Day). For what TV series is he most well-known? a. Happy Days b. Zilly and Olly c. Taxi d. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

What was it? a. The Black Hole b. On Golden Pond c. Saturn 3 d. Galaxy of Terror 8] What long-running SF story first appeared in 1963? a. Star Trek b. Perry Rhodan c. Doctor Who d. The Twilight Zone

7] Farrah Fawcett and Kirk Douglass co-starred in a science fiction-horror movie in 1980.

B O M E Y E R E V E I L E B

C O A T A D L R O W C S I D

U N R Z V O S O L A R S O N

L T V U I M I T R K O E S L

T T E S B X X D A U B S M E

U O L T U A A N S I B L E X

R C O Y A V L Z N J E W R X

E S U S R G A E I O S E A E

C Y B O C V G C B S T X N R

H E W N K E N A O S U E G O

T L Y R U B D A R B R A E C

O D C H T O R R M T N L R U

R I P L E T I Y A V I N S K

P R O M E T H E U S P E E R

A C K E R M A N I O P U L P

Word Hunt In the matrix above, find the words that match the clues below. Words may be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and even backward. Galaxy Quest captain Banks’ universe Pratchett universe Stanley Tweedle was captain of what ship? Imperial fighter Buck’s shuttle Batman’s pal Cheap B&W mag German galaxy Chicken or astrophysicist DC rival

Prometheus’ ship Prometheus’ director Khan director Death Star died near here Famous punny monster Ender’s space communicator Ender’s author Galactica’s creator Mulder wants to do this David Gerrold’s war against whom? Whedon’s first name

9] On what Star Wars planet does Maz Kanata run a castle tavern? a. Tatooine b. Takodana c. Jakku d. Endor 10] Who wrote the books that inspired Dreamworks’ Shrek movies? a. Daniel Handler b. Jacqueline Susann c. S.M. Stirling d. William Steig 11] What is a harsh mistress, according to the late Robert Heinlein? a. Valentine Michael Smith b. Life c. The Moon d. The fame of a science-fiction writer 12] What Doomsday Book author was named a Grand Master in 2011? a. Tananarive Due b. Connie Willis c. Leigh Brackett d. Nisi Shawl 13] Who was Captain John Sheridan’s predecessor aboard the Babylon 5 space station? a. Captain Michael Garibaldi b. Commander Jeffrey Sinclair c. Admiral Helena Cain d. Captain John Crichton 14] In John Carpenter’s The Thing, where does the malevolent alien attack? a. The planet Hoth b. An Arctic Circle oil rig c. An Antarctic research station d. A Mars colony ANSWERS: 1) c. 2) a. 3) c. 4) b. 5) d. 6) c. 7) c. 8) c. 9) b. 10) d. 11) c. 12) b. 13) b. 14) c.


spacex tours mars

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ART: All images by and courtesy SpaceX

o help promote its private space business, SpaceX released a series of posters promoting Martian tourism. Here’s a selection. This page: the beauty and excitement of Valles Marineris; following spread: take in the drama of Martian moons Phobos and Demos; final spread: Olympus Mons.

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pirates of photo: NASA / space shuttle endeavor

A glimpse at how the future looked long ago, in this excerpt from a science-fiction legend.

BY Edward E. “Doc” Smith This month, we present a chapter from “Doc” Smith’s legendary public-domain Lensman story, “Triplanetary.”

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pparently motionless to her passengers and crew, the Interplanetary liner Hyperion bored serenely onward through space at normal acceleration. In the railed-off sanctum in one corner of the control room a bell tinkled, a smothered whirr was heard, and Captain Bradley frowned as he studied the brief message upon the tape of the recorder—a message flashed to his desk from the operator’s panel. He beckoned, and the second officer, whose watch it now was, read aloud: “Reports of scout patrols still negative.” “Still negative.” The officer scowled in thought. “They’ve already searched beyond the widest possible location of the wreckage, too. Two unexplained disappearances inside a month—first the Dione, then the Rhea— and not a plate nor a lifeboat recovered. Looks bad, sir. One might be an accident; two might possibly be a coincidence....” His voice died away. What might that coincidence mean? “But at three it would get to be a habit,” the captain finished the thought. “And whatever happened, happened quick. Nei40

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ther of them had time to say a word—their location recorders simply went dead. But of course they didn’t have our detector screens nor our armament. According to the observatories we’re in clear ether, but I wouldn’t trust them from Tellus to Luna. You have given the new orders, of course?” “Yes, sir. Detectors full out, all three courses of defensive screen on the trips, projectors manned, suits on the hooks. Every object detected in the outer space to be investigated immediately—if vessels, they are to be warned to stay beyond extreme range. Anything entering the fourth zone is to be rayed.” “Right—we are going through!” “But no known type of vessel could have made away with them without detection,” the second officer argued. “I wonder if there isn’t something in those wild rumors we’ve been hearing lately?” Now, systematically and precisely, the great Cone of Battle was coming into being; a formation developed during the Jovian Wars while the forces of the Three Planets were fighting in space. “Bah! Of course not!” snorted the captain. “Pirates in ships faster than light—fifth order rays—nullification of gravity—mass without inertia—ridiculous! Proved impossible, over and over again. No, sir, if pirates are operating in space—and it looks very much like it—they won’t get far against a

good big battery full of kilowatt-hours behind three courses of heavy screen, and a good solid set of multiplex rays. Properly used, they’re good enough for anybody. Pirates, Neptunians, angels, or devils—in ships or on sunbeams—if they tackle the Hyperion we’ll burn them out of the ether!” Leaving the captain’s desk, the watch officer resumed his tour of duty. The six great lookout plates into which the alert observers peered were blank, their far-flung ultra-sensitive detector screens encountering no obstacle—the ether was empty for thousands upon thousands of kilometers. The signal lamps upon the pilot’s panel were dark, its warning bells were silent. A brilliant point of white in the center of the pilot’s closely ruled micrometer grating, exactly upon the crosshairs of his directors, showed that the immense vessel was precisely upon the calculated course, as laid down by the automatic integrating course-plotters. Everything was quiet and in order. “All’s well, sir,” he reported briefly to Captain Bradley—but all was not well. Danger—more serious far in that it was not external—was even then, all unsuspected, gnawing at the great ship’s vitals. In a locked and shielded compartment, deep down in the interior of the liner, was the great air purifier. Now a man leaned against the primary duct—the aorta through which flowed the stream of pure air supplying the


of space SCIENCE FICTION

entire vessel. This man, grotesque in full panoply of space armor, leaned against the duct, and as he leaned a drill bit deeper and deeper into the steel wall of the pipe. Soon it broke through, and the slight rush of air was stopped by the insertion of a tightly fitting rubber tube. The tube terminated in a heavy rubber balloon, which surrounded a frail glass bulb. The man stood tense, one hand holding before his silica-and-steel helmeted head a large pocket chronometer, the other lightly grasping the balloon. A sneering grin was upon his face as he awaited the exact second of action—the carefully pre-determined instant when his right hand, closing, would shatter the fragile flask and force its contents into the primary air stream of the Hyperion! Far above, in the main saloon, the regular evening dance was in full swing. The ship’s orchestra crashed into silence, there was a patter of applause and Clio Marsden, radiant belle of the voyage, led her partner out into the promenade and up to one of the observation plates. “Oh, we can’t see the earth any more!” she exclaimed. “Which way do you turn this, Mr. Costigan?” “Like this,” and Conway Costigan, burly young first officer of the liner, turned the dials. “There—this plate is looking back, or down, at Tellus; this other one is looking ahead.”

Earth was a brilliantly shining crescent far beneath the flying vessel. Above her, ruddy Mars and silvery Jupiter blazed in splendor ineffable against a background of utterly indescribable blackness—a background thickly besprinkled with dimensionless points of dazzling brilliance which were the stars. “Oh, isn’t it wonderful!” breathed the girl, awed. “Of course, I suppose that it’s old stuff to you, but I—a ground-gripper, you know, and I could look at it forever, I think. That’s why I want to come out here after every dance. You know, I ...” Her voice broke off suddenly, with a queer, rasping catch, as she seized his arm in a frantic clutch and as quickly went limp. He stared at her sharply, and understood instantly the message written in her eyes—eyes now enlarged, staring hard, brilliant, and full of soul-searing terror as she slumped down, helpless but for his support. In the act of exhaling as he was, lungs almost entirely empty, yet he held his breath until he had seized the microphone from his belt and had snapped the lever to “emergency.” “Control room!” he gasped then, and every speaker throughout the great cruiser of the void blared out the warning as he forced his already evacuated lungs to absolute emptiness. “Vee-Two Gas! Get tight!” Writhing and twisting in his fierce struggle to keep his lungs from gulping in a draft

of that noxious atmosphere, and with the unconscious form of the girl draped limply over his left arm, Costigan leaped toward the portal of the nearest lifeboat. Orchestra instruments crashed to the floor and dancing couples fell and sprawled inertly while the tortured First Officer swung the door of the lifeboat open and dashed across the tiny room to the air-valves. Throwing them wide open, he put his mouth to the orifice and let his laboring lungs gasp their eager fill of the cold blast roaring from the tanks. Then, airhunger partially assuaged, he again held his breath, broke open the emergency locker, donned one of the space-suits always kept there, and opened its valves wide in order to flush out of his uniform any lingering trace of the lethal gas. He then leaped back to his companion. Shutting off the air, he released a stream of pure oxygen, held her face in it, and made shift to force some of it into her lungs by compressing and releasing her chest against his own body. Soon she drew a spasmodic breath, choking and coughing, and he again changed the gaseous stream to one of pure air, speaking urgently as she showed signs of returning consciousness. Now, it was Clio Marsden’s life. “Stand up!” he snapped. “Hang onto this brace and keep your face in this air-stream until I get a suit around you! Got me?” She nodded weakly, and, assured that she weimar.ws Galaxis

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could now hold herself at the valve, it was the work of only a minute to encase her in one of the protective coverings. Then, as she sat upon a bench, recovering her strength, he flipped on the lifeboat’s visiphone projector and shot its invisible beam up into the control room, where he saw space-armored figures furiously busy at the panels. “Dirty work at the cross-roads!” he blazed to his captain, man to man—formality disregarded, as it so often was in the Triplanetary service. “There’s skulduggery afoot somewhere in our primary air! Maybe that’s the way they got those other two ships— pirates! Might have been a timed bomb— don’t see how anybody could have stowed away down there through the inspections, and nobody but Franklin can neutralize the shield of the air-room—but I’m going to look around, anyway. Then I’ll join you fellows up there.” “What was it?” the shaken girl asked. “I think that I remember your saying ‘VeeTwo gas.’ That’s forbidden! Anyway, I owe you my life, Conway, and I’ll never forget it—never. Thanks—but the others—how about all the rest of us?” “It was Vee-Two, and it is forbidden,” Costigan replied grimly, eyes fast upon the flashing plate, whose point of projection was now deep in the bowels of the vessel. “The penalty for using it or having it is death on sight. Gangsters and pirates use it, since they have nothing to lose, being on the death list already. As for your life, I haven’t saved it yet—you may wish I’d let it ride before we get done. The others are too far gone for oxygen—couldn’t have brought even you around a few seconds later, quick as I got to you. But there’s a sure antidote—we all carry it in a lock-box in our armor—and we all know how to use it, because crooks all use Vee-Two and so we’re always expecting it. But since the air will be pure again in half an hour we’ll be able to revive the others easily enough if we can get by with whatever is going to happen next. There’s the bird that did it, right in the air-room! It’s the chief engineer’s suit, but that isn’t Franklin that’s in it. Some passenger—disguised—slugged the chief—took his suit and projectors—hole in duct—p-s-s-t! All washed out! Maybe that’s all he was scheduled to do to us in this performance, but he’ll do nothing else in this life!” “Don’t go down there!” protested the girl. “His armor is so much better than that emergency suit you are wearing, and he’s got Mr. Franklin’s Lewiston, besides!” “Don’t be an idiot!” he snapped. “We can’t have a live pirate aboard—we’re going to be altogether too busy with outsiders directly. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give him a break. I’m taking a Standish and I’ll rub him 42

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out like a blot. Stay right here until I come back after you,” he commanded, and the heavy, vacuum insulated door of the lifeboat clanged shut behind him as he leaped out into the promenade. Straight across the saloon he made his way, paying no attention to the inert forms scattered here and there. Going up to a blank wall, he manipulated an almost invisible dial set flush with its surface, swung a heavy door aside, and lifted out the Standish—a fearsome weapon. Squat, huge, and heavy, it resembled somewhat an overgrown machine rifle, but one possessing a thick, short telescope, with several opaque condensing lenses and parabolic reflectors. Laboring under the weight of the thing, he strode along corridors and clambered heavily down short stairways. Finally he came to the purifier room, and grinned savagely as he saw the greenish haze of light obscuring the door and walls—the shield was still in place; the pirate was still inside, still flooding with the terrible Vee-Two the Hyperion’s primary air. He set his peculiar weapon down, unfolded its three massive legs, crouched down behind it and threw in a switch. Dull red beams of frightful intensity shot from the reflectors and sparks, almost of lightning proportions, leaped from the shielding screen under their impact. Roaring and snapping, the conflict went on for seconds; then, under the superior force of the Standish, the greenish radiance gave way. Behind it the metal of the door ran the gamut of color—red, yellow, blinding whiter—then literally exploded; molten, vaporized, burned away. Through the aperture thus made Costigan could plainly see the pirate in the space-armor of the chief engineer—an armor which was proof against rifle fire and which could reflect and neutralize for some little time even the terrific beam Costigan was employing. Nor was the pirate unarmed—a vicious flare of incandescence leaped from his Lewiston, to spend its force in spitting, crackling pyrotechnics against the ether-wall of the squat and monstrous Standish. But Costigan’s infernal machine did not rely only upon vibratory destruction. At almost the first flash of the pirate’s weapon the officer touched a trigger; there was a double report, earshattering in that narrowly confined space; and the pirate’s body literally flew into mist as a half-kilogram shell tore through his armor and exploded. Costigan shut off his beam, and, with not the slightest softening of one hard lineament, stared around the air-room; making sure that no serious damage had been done to the vital machinery of the air-purifier—the very lungs of the great spaceship. Dismounting the Standish, he lugged it

back up to the main saloon, replaced it in its safe and again set the combination lock. Thence to the lifeboat, where Clio cried out in relief as she saw that he was unhurt. “Oh, Conway, I’ve been so afraid something would happen to you!” she exclaimed, as he led her rapidly upward toward the control room. “Of course you....” she paused. “Sure,” he replied, laconically. “Nothing to it. How do you feel—about back to normal?” “All right, I think, except for being scared to death and just about out of control. I don’t suppose that I’ll be good for anything, but whatever I can do, count me in on.” “Fine—you may be needed, at that. Everybody’s out, apparently, except those who, like me, had a warning and could hold their breath until they got to their suits.” “But how did you know what it was? You can’t see it, nor smell it, nor anything.” “You inhaled a second before I did, and I saw your eyes. I’ve been in it before—and when you see a man get a jolt of that stuff just once, you never forget it. The engineers down below got it first, of course—it must have wiped them out. Then we got it in the saloon. Your passing out warned me, and luckily I had enough breath left to give the word. Quite a few of the fellows up above should have had time to get away—we’ll see ‘em all in the control room.” “I suppose that was why you revived me—in payment for so kindly warning you of the gas attack?” The girl laughed; shaky, but game. “Something like that, probably,” he answered, lightly. “Here we are—now we’ll soon find out what’s going to happen next.” In the control room they saw at least a dozen armored figures; not now rushing about, but seated at their instruments, tense and ready. Fortunate it was that Costigan— veteran of space as he was, though young in years—had been down in the saloon; fortunate that he had been familiar with that horrible outlawed gas; fortunate that he had had the presence of mind enough and sheer physical stamina enough to send his warning without allowing one paralyzing trace to enter his own lungs. Captain Bradley, the men on watch, and several other officers in their quarters or in the wardrooms—spacehardened veterans all—had obeyed instantly and without question the amplifiers’ gasped command to “get tight.” Exhaling or inhaling, their air-passages had snapped as that dread “Vee-Two” was heard, and they had literally jumped into their armored suits of space—flushing them out with volume after volume of unquestionable air; holding their breath to the last possible second, until their straining lungs could endure no more. Costigan waved the girl to a vacant


Instantly, the powerful weapons of the Hyperion were brought to bear, and in the blast of fulldriven beams the stranger’s screens flamed incandescent. bench, cautiously changed into his own armor from the emergency suit he had been wearing, and approached the captain. “Anything in sight, sir?” he asked, saluting. “They should have started something before this.” “They’ve started, but we can’t locate them. We tried to send out a general sector alarm, but that had hardly started when they blanketed our wave. Look at that!” Following the captain’s eyes, Costigan stared at the high-powered set of the ship’s operator. Upon the plate, instead of a moving, living, three-dimensional picture, there was a flashing glare of blinding white light; from the speaker, instead of intelligible speech, was issuing a roaring, crackling stream of noise. “It’s impossible!” Bradley burst out, violently. “There’s not a gram of metal inside the fourth zone—within a hundred thousand kilometers—and yet they must be close to send such a wave as that. But the Second thinks not—what do you think, Costigan?” The bluff commander, reactionary and of the old school as was his breed, was furious—baffled, raging inwardly to come to grips with the invisible and undetectable foe. Face to face with the inexplicable, however, he listened to the younger men with unusual tolerance. “It’s not only possible; it’s quite evident that they’ve got something we haven’t.” Costigan’s voice was bitter. “But why shouldn’t they have? Service ships never get anything until it’s been experimented with for years, but pirates and such always get the new stuff as soon as it’s discovered. The only good thing I can see is that we got part of a message away, and the scouts can trace that interference out there. But the pirates know that, too—it won’t be long now,” he concluded, grimly. He spoke truly. Before another word was spoken the outer screen flared white under a beam of terrific power, and simultaneous-

ly there appeared upon one of the lookout plates a vivid picture of the pirate vessel—a huge, black globe of steel, now emitting flaring offensive beams of force. Her invisibility lost, now that she had gone into action, she lay revealed in the middle of the first zone— at point-blank range. Instantly the powerful weapons of the Hyperion were brought to bear, and in the blast of full-driven beams the stranger’s screens flamed incandescent. Heavy guns, under the recoil of whose fierce salvos, the frame of the giant globe trembled and shuddered, shot out their tons of high-explosive shell. But the pirate commander had known accurately the strength of the liner, and knew that her armament was impotent against the forces at his command. His screens were invulnerable, the giant shells were exploded harmlessly in mid-space, miles from their objective. And suddenly a frightened pencil of flame stabbed brilliantly from the black hulk of the enemy. Through the empty ether it tore, through the mighty defensive screens, through the tough metal of the outer and inner walls. Every ether-defence of the Hyperion vanished, and her acceleration dropped to a quarter of its normal value. “Right through the battery room!” Bradley groaned. “We’re on the emergency drive now. Our rays are done for, and we can’t seem to put a shell anywhere near her with our guns!” But ineffective as the guns were, they were silenced forever as a frightful beam of destruction stabbed relentlessly through the control room, whiffing out of existence the pilot, gunnery, and lookout panels and the men before them. The air rushed into space, and the suits of the three survivors bulged out into drumhead tightness as the pressure in the room decreased. Costigan pushed the captain lightly toward a wall, then seized the girl and leaped in the same direction. “Let’s get out of here, quick!” he cried, the

miniature radio instruments of the helmets automatically taking up the duty of transmitting speech as the sound disks refused to function. “They can’t see us—our ether wall is still up and their spy-sprays can’t get through it from the outside, you know. They’re working from blue-prints, and they’ll probably take your desk next,” and even as they bounded toward the door, now become the outer seal of an airlock, the annihilating ray tore through the space which they had just quitted in their flight. Through the airlock, down through several levels of passengers’ quarters they hurried, and into a lifeboat, whose one doorway commanded the full length of the third lounge—an ideal spot, either for defense or for escape outward by means of the miniature cruiser. As they entered their retreat they felt their weight begin to increase. More and more force was applied to the helpless liner, until it was moving at normal acceleration. “What do you make of that, Costigan?” asked the captain. “Tractor beams?” “Apparently. They’ve got something, all right. They’re taking us somewhere, fast. I’ll go get a couple of Standishes, and another suit of armor—we’d better dig in,” and soon the small room became a veritable fortress, housing as it did, those two formidable engines of destruction. Then the first officer made another and longer trip, returning with a complete suit of triplanetary space armor, exactly like those worn by the two men, but considerably smaller. “Just as an added factor of safety, you’d better put this on, Clio—those emergency suits aren’t good for much in a battle. I don’t suppose that you ever fired a Standish, did you?” “No, but I can soon learn how to do it,” she replied, pluckily. “Two is all that can work here at once, but you should know how to take hold in case one of us goes out. And while you’re changing suits you’d better put on some stuff I’ve got here—Service special phones and detectors. Stick this little disk onto your chest with this bit of tape; low down, out of sight. Just under your wishbone is the best place. Take off your wrist-watch and wear this one continuously—never take it off for a second. Put on these pearls, and wear them all the time, too. Take this capsule and hide it against your skin, some place where it can’t be found except by the most rigid search. Swallow it in an emergency—it goes down easily and works just as well inside as outside. It is the most important thing of all— you can get along with it alone if you lose everything else, but without that capsule the whole system’s shot to pieces. With that outfit, if we should get separated, you can talk weimar.ws Galaxis

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to us—we’re both wearing ‘em, although somewhat different forms. You don’t need to talk loud—just a mutter will be enough. They’re handy little outfits, almost impossible to find, and capable of a lot of things.” “Thanks, Conway—I’ll remember that, too,” Clio replied, as she turned toward the tiny locker to follow his instructions. “But won’t the scouts and patrols be catching us pretty quick? The operator sent a warning.” “Afraid the ether’s empty, as far as we’re concerned. They could neutralize our detector screens, and the scouts’ detectors are the same as ours.” Captain Bradley had stood by in silent astonishment during this conversation. His eyes had bulged slightly at Costigan’s “we’re both wearing ‘em,” but he had held his peace and as the girl disappeared a look of dawning comprehension came over his face. “Oh, I see, sir,” he said, respectfully—far more respectfully than he had ever before addressed a mere first officer. “Meaning that we both will be wearing them shortly, I assume. ‘Service Specials’—but you didn’t specify exactly what Service, did you?” “Now that you mention it, I don’t believe that I did,” Costigan grinned. “That explains several things about you— particularly your recognition of Vee-Two and your uncanny control and speed of reaction. But aren’t you....” “No,” Costigan interrupted, positively. “This situation is apt to get altogether too serious to overlook any bets. If we get away, I’ll take them away from her and she’ll never know that they aren’t routine equipment in the Triplanetary Service. As for you, I know that you can and do keep your mouth shut. That’s why I’m hanging this junk on you—I had a lot of stuff in my kit, but I flashed it all with the Standish, except what I brought in here for us three. Whether you think so or not, we’re in a real jam—our chance of getting away is mighty close to zero. Now that I’ve gone this far, I might as well tell you that I don’t believe these birds are pirates at all, in the ordinary sense of the word. And it may be possible that they’re after me, but I don’t think so—we’ve covered up too....” He broke off as the girl came back, now to all appearances a small Triplanetary officer, and the three settled down to a long and eventless wait. Hour after hour they flew through the ether, but finally there was a lurching swing and an abrupt increase in their acceleration. After a short consultation Captain Bradley turned on the visiray set and, with the beam at its minimum power, peered cautiously downward, in the direction opposite to that in which he knew the pirate vessel must be. All three stared into the plate, seeing only an infinity of emptiness, marked only by the infinitely remote 44

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and coldly brilliant stars. While they stared into space a vast area of the heavens was blotted out and they saw, faintly illuminated by a peculiar blue luminescence, a vast ball—a sphere so large and so close that they seemed to be dropping downward toward it as though it were a world! They came to a stop—paused, weightless—a vast door slid smoothly aside—they were drawn upward through an airlock and floated quietly in the air above a small, but brightly-lighted and orderly city of metallic buildings! Gently the Hyperion was lowered, to come to rest in the embracing arms of a regulation landing cradle. “Well, wherever it is, we’re here,” remarked Captain Bradley, grimly. “And now the fireworks start,” assented Costigan, with a questioning glance at the girl. “Don’t mind me,” she answered his unspoken question. “I don’t believe in surren-

der of emptiness. Air rushed in to fill the vacuum, and the three visitors felt themselves seized by invisible forces and drawn into the tunnel. Through it they floated, up to and over the buildings, finally slanting downward toward the door of a great high-powered structure. Doors opened before them and closed behind them, until at last they stood upright in a room which was evidently the office of a busy executive. They faced a desk which, in addition to the usual equipment of the business man, carried a bewilderingly complete switchboard and instrument panel. Seated impassively at the desk there was a gray man. Not only was he dressed entirely in gray, but his heavy hair was gray, his eyes were gray, and even his tanned skin seemed to give the impression of grayness in disguise. His overwhelming personality radiated an aura of grayness—not the gentle gray of the dove, but the resistless, driving

The two officers threw off their suits simultaneously and fired at the same instant. dering, either.” “Right,” and both men squatted down behind the ether-walls of their terrific weapons; the girl prone behind them. They had not long to wait. A group of human beings—men and to all appearance Americans—appeared unarmed in the little lounge. As soon as they were well inside the room, Bradley and Costigan released upon them without compunction the full power of their frightful projectors. From the reflectors, through the doorway, there tore a concentrated double beam of pure destruction—but that beam did not reach its goal. Yards from the men it met a screen of impenetrable density. Instantly the gunners pressed their triggers and a stream of highexplosive shells issued from the roaring weapons. But shells, also, were futile. They struck the shield and vanished—vanished without exploding and without leaving a trace to show that they had ever existed. Costigan sprang to his feet, but before he could launch his intended attack a vast tunnel appeared beside him—an annihilating ray had swept through the entire width of the liner, cutting instantly a smooth cylin-

gray of the super-dreadnaught; the hard, inflexible, brittle gray of the fracture of highcarbon steel. “Captain Bradley, First Officer Costigan, Miss Marsden,” the man spoke quietly, but crisply. “I had not intended you two men to live so long. That is a detail, however, which we will pass by for the moment. You may remove your suits.” Neither officer moved, but both stared back at the speaker unflinchingly. “I am not accustomed to repeating instructions,” the man at the desk continued; voice still low and level, but instinct with deadly menace. “You may choose between removing those suits and dying in them, here and now.” Costigan moved over to Clio and slowly took off her armor. Then, after a flashing exchange of glances and a muttered word, the two officers threw off their suits simultaneously and fired at the same instant; Bradley with his Lewiston, Costigan with a heavy automatic pistol whose bullets were explosive shells of tremendous power. But the man in gray, surrounded by an impenetrable wall of force, only smiled at the fusillade, tolerantly


and maddeningly. Costigan leaped fiercely, only to be hurled backward as he struck that unyielding, invisible wall. A vicious beam snapped him back into place, the weapons were snatched away, and all three captives were held in their former positions. “I permitted that, as a demonstration of futility,” the gray man said, his hard voice becoming harder, “but I will permit no more foolishness. Now I will introduce myself. I am known as Roger. You probably have heard nothing of me yet but you will—if you live. Whether or not you two live depends solely upon yourselves. Being something of a student of men, I fear that you will both die shortly. Able and resourceful as you have just shown yourselves to be, you could be valuable to me, but you probably will not—in which case you shall, of course, cease to exist. That, however, in its proper time—you shall be of some slight service to me in the process of being eliminated. In your case, Miss Marsden, I find myself undecided between two courses of action; each highly desirable, but unfortunately mutually exclusive. Your father will be glad to ransom you at an exceedingly high figure, but, in spite of that fact, I may decide to keep you for—well, let us say for certain purposes.” “Yes?” Clio rose magnificently to the occasion. Fear forgotten, her courageous spirit flashed from her clear, young eyes and emanated from her slender, rounded young body, erect in defiance. “Since I am a captive, you can of course do anything you please with me up to a certain point—but no further, believe me!” With no sign of having heard her outburst Roger pressed a button and a tall, comely woman, appeared—a woman of indefinite age and of uncertain nationality. “Show Miss Marsden to her apartment,” he directed, and as the two women went out a man came in. “The cargo is unloaded, sir,” the newcomer reported. “The two men and the five women indicated have been taken to the hospital,” was the report of the man. “Very well, dispose of the others in the usual fashion.” The minion went out, and Roger continued, emotionlessly: “Collectively, the other passengers may be worth a million or so, but it would not be worth while to waste time upon them.” “What are you, anyway?” blazed Costigan, helpless but enraged beyond caution. “I have heard of mad scientists who tried to destroy the earth, and of equally mad geniuses who thought themselves Napoleons capable of conquering even the Solar System. Whichever you are, you should know that you can’t get away with it.” “I am neither. I am, however, a scientist,

and I direct many other scientists. I am not mad. You have undoubtedly noticed several peculiar features of this place?” “Yes, particularly the artificial gravity, which has always been considered impossible, and those screens. An ordinary etherwall is opaque in one direction, and doesn’t bar matter—yours are transparent both ways and something more than impenetrable to matter. How do you do it?” “You could not understand them if I explained them to you, and they are merely two of our smaller developments. I have no serious designs upon the earth nor upon the Solar System, nor have I any desire to rule over, or to control the destinies of masses of futile and brainless men. I have, however, certain ends of my own in view. To accomplish my plans I require hundreds of millions in gold, other hundreds of millions in platinum and noble metal, and some five kilograms of the bromide of radium—all of which I shall take from the planets of this Solar System before I leave it. I shall take them in spite of the puerile efforts of the fleets of your Triplanetary League. “This structure, floating in a planetary orbit, was designed by me and built under my direction. It is protected from meteorites by certain forces of my devising. It is undetectable and invisible—your detectors do not touch it and light-waves are bent around it without loss or distortion. I am discussing these points at such length so that you may realize exactly your position. As I have intimated, you can be of assistance to me if you will.” “Now just what could you offer any man to make him join your outfit?” demanded Costigan, venomously. “Many things.” Roger’s cold tone betrayed no emotion, no recognition of Costigan’s open and bitter contempt. “I have under me many men, bound to me by many ties. Needs, wants, longings and desires differ from man to man, and I can satisfy practically any of them. Personally, I take delight in the society of young and beautiful women, and many men have that same taste; but there are other urges which I have found quite efficient. Greed, thirst for fame, longing for power, and so on, including many qualities usually regarded as ‘noble.’ And what I promise, I deliver. I demand only loyalty to me, and that only in certain things and for a relatively short period. In all else, my men do as they please. In conclusion, I can use you two conveniently, but I do not need you. Therefore you may choose now between my service and—the alternative.” “Exactly what is the alternative?” “We will not go into that. Suffice it to say that it has to do with a minor research, which is not progressing satisfactorily. It

will result in your extinction, and perhaps I should mention that that extinction will not be particularly pleasant.” “I say no, you....” Bradley roared. He intended to give an unexpurgated classification, but was rudely interrupted. “Hold on a minute!” snapped Costigan. “How about Miss Marsden?” “She has nothing to do with this discussion,” returned Roger, icily. “I do not bargain—in fact, I believe that I shall keep her for a time. She has it in mind to destroy herself, if I do not allow her to be ransomed, but she will find that door closed to her until I permit it to open.” “In that case, I string along with the Chief—take what he started to say about you and run it clear across the board for me!” barked Costigan. “Very well. That decision was to be expected from men of your type.” The gray man touched two buttons and two of his creatures entered the room. “Put these men into separate cells on the second level,” he ordered. “Search them to the skin: all their weapons may not have been in their armor. Seal the doors and mount special guards, tuned to me here.” Imprisoned they were, and carefully searched; but they bore no arms, and nothing had been said or thought of communicators. Even if such instruments could be concealed, Roger would detect their use instantly. At least, so would have run his thought had the subject entered his mind. But even Roger had no inkling of the possibility of Costigan’s “Service Special” phones, detectors and spy-ray—instruments of minute size and of infinitesimal power, but yet instruments which, working as they were, below the level of the ether, were effective at great distances and caused no vibrations in the ether by which their use could be detected. And what could be more innocent than the regulation, personal equipment of every officer of space? The heavy goggles, the wrist-watch and its supplementary pocket chronometer, the flash-lamp, the automatic lighter, the sender, the money-belt? All these items of equipment were examined with due care; but the cleverest minds of Triplanetary’s Secret Service had designated those communicators to pass any ordinary search, however careful, and when Costigan and Bradley were finally locked into the designated cells, they still possessed their ultra-instruments. This eBook [short story] is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this G eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org weimar.ws Galaxis

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SPECIAL FEATURE

the forever wars Director J.J. Abrams reboots the franchise with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. How good of a movie is it?

PHOTO: WILLIAM TUNG / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

BY JOHN ZIPPERER

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y the end of the first weekend of release for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the film had grossed more than a half billion dollars worldwide, and it had broken domestic box office records. After its second weekend, it had become the fastest movie to earn $1 billion at the global box office. That’s not even taking into account the hundreds of millions that will be spent on toys and other merchandise, and the eventual digital and disk releases of the film. The film is ensured of a place in the halls of film success. But how good is this film? Before it heads to online streaming and cable movie channels and blu-ray and DVD sales, let us take a few minutes to explore the movie, its themes, quality, and meaning. Let’s be clear right upfront: This article discusses the entire movie, so there are spoilers aplenty here. Do not read further if you have not seen the movie or if you otherwise do not wish to know what happens. You have been warned. So why was this motion picture so anticipated, fretted over, and the source of widespread online threats to injure people who gave away the plot secrets? The Story The Force Awakens begins in a familiar way, with some important secret being spirited away and landing in the lap of a young misfit. We learn that though Palpatine’s galactic empire was defeated due to the events in Return of the Jedi, there has arisen a powerful group called the First Order, which is battling the Republic and something called the Resistance, which appears to be a Republic-assisted resistance force (well-named, then) taking on the First Order. A Resistance X-wing pilot named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) just manages to get directions to the location of the longlost Luke Skywalker (a returning Mark Hamill) when First Order troops attack and he is forced to safeguard the secret data with BB-8. Poe is captured and tortured by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), escaping from Ren’s First Order ship only with the help of disillusioned stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega), who takes as his new name Finn. They steal a TIE fighter, but their ship is damaged in battle and they are forced to make a crash landing on the wasteland planet of Jakku (much like a planet that is the farthest from the bright center of the universe). Finn, thinking Poe killed in the crash landing, makes his way to a human settlement (which is an ennobling

term when applied to this sad collection of tents), where he ends up meeting a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). He tells her he’s with the Resistance because he wants her help getting away, and she’s eager to believe he’s Resistance because she can unload BB-8 with him, but they end up on the run together. Chased by an intense attack of TIE fighters on the settlement, they escape in a nearby junkyard ship—the Millennium Falcon. Off Jakku, the Falcon is hijacked by none other than its previous owner, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). They, in turn, are boarded and threatened by two groups of traders who want to get revenge on Solo for some past cheating, and a rampaging monster is let loose and promptly rampages, allowing our motley group of heroes to escape in the Falcon. Once everyone’s been properly introduced to each other, they head to the planet Takodana and an old castle run by legendary pirate Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o). There, Rey is drawn to a mysterious box containing Luke Skywalker’s light saber, and when she touches it she has a series of visions of her past. She refuses to take the saber, and our heroes are in a bit of a disorganized mess when TIE fighters attack—followed by Resistance X-Wings, and it’s all capped by an appearance by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who brings everyone back to her Resistance base. Everyone, that is, including Han Solo, her former partner or husband or whatever they were. And whatever they were, they were it long enough to have a son, Kylo Ren, and raise him together long enough for him to eventually betray them and Ren’s Jedi teacher, Luke Skywalker. Devastated by the destruction of his Jedi training school, Skywalker disappears and Ren dresses in black and promises to carry on the work of his grandfather—good ol’ Darth Vader. Rey must learn that she has the ability to use the Force. And with some timely help from R2D2, she gets the directions to Skywalker’s location and sets off in the Falcon to find him. In the very final scene, she ascends a mountain path to find the great missing Jedi knight, Luke Skywalker. And once you have either accepted or rejected all of that, you’re still left with: What does it all mean? Is it all supposed to mean something? Or was it all just fan service, pushing every button that sends the Star Wars audience into paroxysms of joy? Audiences, thrilled by the preweimar.ws Galaxis

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MacGuffins Galore After seeing the film, a friend and colleague of ours complained about the plot points left dangling in front of the eager audience: “I mean, get your MacGuffins straight, yeesh.” A MacGuffin is a plot device meant to drive the storyline and motivate the characters—a motive, an end goal, a mystery, and it doesn’t even have to mean much in and of itself. It just gives a reason for the action. In A New Hope, it was the Death Star plans; in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was the Ark of the Covenant. As far as The Force Awakens is concerned, the filmmakers apparently couldn’t decide on one mystery, so they loaded the film with them, veritably emptying the mystery box’s entire contents into the script in the hopes that if viewers weren’t interested in one MacGuffin, they’d be caught up wondering about another of the MacGuffinsgalore. So we have what is presumably the main one: Luke’s disappearance. The disappearance itself isn’t too much of a mystery; it’s explained before long. So then we’re left to focus on Luke’s location. Where has he been hiding himself the years since his little Jedi academy went bust? And why are we supposed to care? Aside from curiosity and our affection for the character, of course, there seems to be no overpowering reason to locate Luke. He wanted to hide. He did. Life went on without him. Now suddenly it’s super-important to find him. Again, why? If he was crucial to helping defeat Ren, that might have been an answer. If he held the key to reconciling Leia and Han, or to stopping the development of a First Order super weapon, or if he frankly had anything to do with this movie other than Hamill’s one or two-minute cameo at the very end (and yet he got second billing in the credits, so those were likely two very remunerative silent cameo minutes he contributed), then he would make sense as the MacGuffin. As far as I can tell, none of that is the case. When he is told that BB-8 has the key to finding his old friend Luke Skywalker, Han Solo appears moved and helps out. But it soon becomes clear that Luke’s not his top priority. He’s got old enemies on his tail, an ex-partner (or ex-wife—again, who knows?) to deal with, his wayward son to try to deal with, and the First Order to 48

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PHOTO: AMY FROM UNITED STATES / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

vious two and a half hours of nonstop action and plot-baiting developments, left the theatre with the cinematic equivalent of Thanksgiving food coma. Now that you’ve had time to digest the film, however, let’s dig in and see what it means.


dodge. Luke seems to be pretty low on his priority list, and understandably so. Even Leia, sister of the absent Luke, doesn’t appear too caught up in finding him; she also has too many other things to deal with. In fact, much the same can be said for the other characters as well. With the exception of BB-8, the where-isLuke question is an afterthought. But the filmmakers have other MacGuffins for us. Other mysteries to ponder and questions to hope the film answers are: Who are Ren’s parents? Who are Rey’s parents (more on this in a moment)? Why is C-3PO’s arm red? Why did Han and Leia break up? That’s a lot of plot elements in one script. The Ultimate Rerun Fuel for the argument that The Force Awakens is driven too much by the need to provide fan service comes in the form of the numerous ways in which this new film is a best-of compilation from A New Hope. We have yet another Death Star-type planet-sized weapon. It is destroyed at the last minute by yet another attack that results in yet another giant explosion while the good guys zoom away in their fighter craft. There’s another scene of our heroes hiding in the Falcon’s smuggling hold. There’s another cute droid that squeebles instead of talking. The film is kicked off with another attack by the baddies, during which a cute droid is once again entrusted with the MacGuffin—in this case, the location of Luke Skywalker. We see another young hero on a desert planet riding a hovering speeder vehicle across the landscape. We have more scenes of the good guys getting tortured for information by the black-clad villains. There is yet another scene of the older leader (Obi Wan in A New Hope, Han Solo here) being slain with a light saber by the black-garbed baddie while the younger heroes/heroines watch. There are so many replicated scenes that it is impossible to chalk it up to chance. Rather, we have to accuse the writers of an intentional lack of originality. But then again, that is the point of this movie whose producers were so intent on ensuring it became a success with audiences. When the first sequel showed up in theatres in 1980, audiences and critics were impressed that George Lucas and his team made The Empire Strikes Back a real film and not just a rehashing of the best of A New Hope. The result was arguably the best film of the entire franchise, and it holds up today in every way—the storyline, the love story, the humor, the danger, the mythology, the special effects, the acting, and more. When Disney and J.J. Abrams made The Force Awakens, however, they didn’t do so

with the confidence with which Lucas and Co. approached their 1980 sequel. Instead, they felt they had to make absolutely certain that fans would love the movie, so they chucked everything into this script that they thought would draw paying viewers. But this is Disney, which has amazing and uncontrolled powers, so it was able to reorder the universe to suit its needs. Or, to put it more accurately, Disney reordered the Star Wars universe to suit its needs. A viewer who paid attention might remember that George Lucas more or less wrapped up the galactic storyline at the end of Return of the Jedi. Remember? Palpatine was killed, Darth Vader turned back from the dark side (and died), and the galactic empire was defeated. What those observant fans might reasonably expect from an Episode VII, then, might be a linear continuation of those events. Happenings with The New Republic, for example. But instead, Abrams and Co. arrange things so we’re basically back to the status quo ante at the beginning of A New Hope. They have basically replicated the Empire vs. the Rebellion with the First Order vs. the Resistance. They’re replaced Emperor Palpatine with Snoke, Darth Vader with Kylo Ren, R2D2 with BB-8, Luke with Rey, the Death Star with Starkiller Base, and so on. The Force Awakens was promised as being more in tune with the original A New Hope and less with the prequels. In some ways, the filmmakers accomplished it. The film is action-oriented; the friendship of the main characters is central to the story; there is a feeling of fun for much of the film. In other ways, they are more like the prequels, as they try hard to cram a lot of information onto the screen. But they do that less artfully than Lucas did in A New Hope, where strange off-screen names and allusions to tragic events evoked a feeling of a vast mythology behind the story. Death The biggest secret of the movie involves the death of a beloved character: People familiar with Star Wars lore know that the character of Han Solo was originally set to die in Return of the Jedi, which would have suited actor Harrison Ford well. Ford, in fact, had reservations about appearing in The Force Awakens, reportedly relenting after Disney agreed to make a new film featuring another of his justifiably beloved characters, Indiana Jones (see Galaxis #4). The death of Solo at the hands of his son releases Ford from the franchise. Unlike Star Trek, there is not resurrection of characters in Star Wars unless they were Jedi masters who return in ghostly form. The death was handled well. Han Solo weimar.ws Galaxis

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was trying to get his son back to the light side of the Force and of political reality (and of his shattered family). He thought he had succeeded, only to realize at the same time as the audience that Ben wasn’t to be swayed easily. And that Ben is very, very bad. Another question is brought up by a different—but possibly related—matter of parentage. Who is Rey’s family and why did they abandon her on Jakku? Judging from the bread crumb trail left in this movie, one could reasonably guess that Luke Skywalker is Rey’s daughter. After all, she is able to use the Force and his light saber gives her visions, something it doesn’t do for others who handle it. If true, it makes one wonder if any Skywalker has ever had a decent family life. Anakin grew up in slavery without a father, his wife died in childbirth, his children separated and Luke in particular forced to grow up on a desert world. Han Solo and Leia had some unspecified time together as a couple, but that apparently ended badly, and their son Ben/Ren became a murderous villain (something to leave off of their update on the family Christmas card). Add to that Luke—apparently, possibly, maybe, probably—had at least one child who was abandoned on another crummy world to grow up feral and unaware of her abilities with the force. Skywalker family reunions are not pleasant events. Enjoyment For all of those questions and criticisms, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an enjoyable movie. Watching it brings forth enjoyment. It’s exciting. The pace is non-stop. It’s funny and dramatic. The new heroes are engaging and well-done. But is that all that it is? Is it a movie made merely to be enjoyed? There is no law that says a movie has to have deeper meanings; when people lined up to see the original Star Wars in 1977, they were primarily taking in the good old-fashioned fun of good guys vs. bad guys, a little 1930s slam-bang fun film. Star Wars: A New Hope has well-known DNA in it from Joseph Campbell’s theories about myths. It also includes Lucas’ prototype of the Buddhism-inspired Force. But people could still watch that film and take or leave the philosophical side streets. It wasn’t until Lucas took on the three prequels that his urge to go deeper, to make the philosophies of the films more explicit and understandable, created a split among his fans. The prequels made hundreds of millions of dollars; they were all box office blockbusters. But some fans, particularly older ones, hated Lucas’ attempts to explain midichlorians and the internal political structure of the old Republic. Those fans 50

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wanted to be transported back to 1977, when they were nine years old and Star Wars blew their little minds. Fans can argue until the cows come home about whether The Force Awakens is true to George Lucas’ storyline or not. Such friendly arguments are part of what make life fun. For our part, we’ll note that the controversy over whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first in A New Hope’s famous cantina scene represents all we need to know about Lucas’ changing outlook. As an outsider filmmaker in the 1977s—a time of antiheroes and rebels of all types—Lucas could have the hero kill someone in a bar and walk out nonchalantly after tossing the barkeeper a coin for his trouble, and audiences would and did laugh and applaud. But the Lucas of the 1990s and the 21st century needed to make it obvious that his hero shot in self-defence. This is the Lucas who has had children, who has undoubtedly paid attention to the strenuous political and social fights over violence in our streets, who has joined fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in pledging to leave at least half of his fortune to charity, who created the George Lucas Educational Foundation to encourage innovation in education, and who worked some cutting political comments and themes into his prequel films. Viewers can and do disagree about the Star Wars prequels, but the critical ones among them might want to take a step back to at least appreciate that Lucas was trying to do more than simply throw together a film that would push all the right buttons and make a ton of money. He wanted to get across some of the ideas that preoccupy him at this more mature stage of his life. That Lucas focus is not to be found in the new movie. At the end of 2015, after The Force Awakens had opened, Lucas told interviewer Charlie Rose that Disney looked at the stories he had outlined to continue the series, “and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans.’ They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. … They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway ... if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’” In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders wrote on iO9.com, “when people ask Lost’s producers if they’re going to answer our questions, they bring up Star Wars’ midichlorians, as proof that some things are better not explained.” Lost, of course, was created by J.J.

Abrams, the man who admitted he wasn’t a Trekkie when he was given Star Trek to resurrect but said that he had always been a big Star Wars fan. So when Disney bought Lucasfilm and relaunched the film series, it brought in avowed Wars fan Abrams to direct the first movie, The Force Awakens. He had succeeded at making Trek into a worldwide box office behemoth with his two films in that series, Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness. But Trek has almost always before aspired to be deeper than a space shoot-em-up. Creator Gene Roddenberry wanted it to be a platform for discussion and criticism and inspiration (see page 28). With Abrams’ second Trek film, some critics began to wonder if he had resuscitated the franchise only to turn it into Star Wars (see Galaxis #4, page 22). With The Force Awakens, Abrams finally had his chance to guide a franchise presumably more to his liking. He also came into the job with about as much power as any director could have. He created or cocreated Alias, Lost, and Fringe, and had Mission: Impossible III as well as his two Trek films to his credit. He still had to work within Disney’s constraints; the film studio is obviously determined to make a big profit on its multi-billion dollar purchase of Lucasfilm, but Abrams would have seemed to be about the safest bet they could make to get that money rolling in. And it was a good bet. The money did roll in. As we noted at the beginning of this article, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already a historic success for Disney and its new subsidiary Lucasfilm. That’s what it was always meant to be; The Force Awakens is a money-run for Lucasfilm/Disney, but so what? That’s what studios do. Long before this magazine is published, it will likely have established itself as one of the most successful films in history, and Disney is taking advantage of the successful relaunch of the series to put forward plans for Star Wars theme parks and other spinoffs. The original Star Wars was not financed by 20th Century Fox as an act of charity; the studio funded it because it expected to make money from it. And look at all of the enjoyment and inspiration that audiences took from it. By resetting the story to A New Hope status, this movie reassures the audience that the franchise will not return to Lucas’ idea of an overall, evolving story with a point. Instead, the Star Wars franchise is now more like a video game: It can be endlessly replayed, things can happen to characters and locations, but in the end, you can always reset it and start over. The message to the fans is therefore the same as the message to Disney’s shareholders: Star Wars G will never end.


x Episode Guide, Part III: Season 4, 1990–1991

Year four The starship Enterprise cruises into its High Trek era. BY JOHN ZIPPERER inally, a space TV show survived to its fourth season. The first two Treks (original and animated) didn’t make it this far; the original Galactica didn’t survive to its second season; Space: 1999 and Lost in Space both failed to get to fourth seasons. But Star Trek: The Next Generation sailed into its fourth season with strong ratings, critical support, and top-flight production. What would it do with that newfound security and confidence? Some shows go off the rail just after they finally become big hits, as their writers get bored with established characters and situations and try to reinvent the shows with increasingly outlandish plots. What The Next Generation did was grow up. This is the season in which the show really started shar-

f

ing the spotlight with a wider range of crew members, and we got to see them in some relatively “quiet” episodes that didn’t need to be tarted up with slam-bang action because the producers knew the fans were happy with the characters. Episodes such as “Data’s Day,” “The Loss,” and others let us get a feeling for life on the Enterprise that was almost “behind the scenes”— impossible in a totally fictional story, but earning our appreciation for building out back stories of characters and letting actors other than Patrick Stewart shine. The result was a fine season that showed perhaps for the first time how a space-centered SF series could shine on the small screen, making fans and Paramount shareholders alike happy. Season one of Next Generation was explored in Galaxis #4; seasons two and three in Galaxis $5.

Producers (various titles and time frames): Rick Berman, Peter Lauritson, David Livingston, Robert Justman, Robert Lewin, Burton Armus, Mike Gray, John Mason Theme Music by: Alexander Courage Composer: Jerry Goldsmith Production Associate: Susan Sackett 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

Crew

The Best of Both Worlds, Part II Writers: Michael Piller Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: September 24, 1990

Studio: Paramount Creator and Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry

Cast

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 Michael Dorn: Lt. Worf Wil Wheaton: Wesley Crusher

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The Borg cube uses the knowledge from its new Locutus/Picard component to thwart an attack by the Enterprise, which is left crippled. The cube zooms off toward Earth. The Enterprise, meanwhile, has a new captain, William Riker, who takes the ship to Wolf 359, where Starfleet was staging a last stand against the Borg. The Enterprise arrives to find that the Borg won and that the fleet was obliterated. The Enterprise sets off after the cube, which refuses to negotiate with them. Riker sends Data and Worf into the cube on a mission to kidnap Locutus. With Locutus/Picard back on board the Enterprise, Data and Dr. Crusher try to use him as a conduit to the Borg’s collective mind, but they are unable to do so. But when the cyborg utters a one-word message, he is at first thought to be referring to his own need for rest until Data recognizes it as advice. They use Locutus to send a message to the cube to go into sleep mode, and thus caught off guard, the Borg cube is destroyed. Riker is offered his own permanent command, but he turns it down in favor of continued service as Picard’s Number One. Locutus/Picard: Sleep. NOTES: Commander Shelby, who jostles with Riker for leadership of the Enterprise, is played by Elizabeth Dennehy, who is the daughter of famed actor Brian Dennehy. Family Writers: Ronald D. Moore, Susanne L. Lambdin, Bryan Stewart Director: Les Landau Airdate: October 1, 1990 While the Enterprise undergoes some needed repairs following its bruising battles with the Borg in the previous two episodes, the ship’s crew members spend some quality time with their families. For Worf, that means an initially embarrassing but ultimately comforting reunion with his human adoptive parents. For Beverly and Wesley Crusher, that means fully digesting the death of Jack Crusher. For Captain Picard, that means a trip to France to spend time with his brother Robert on the family’s vineyard. He and his brother have long been estranged, with Robert not wanting his son René to follow Picard into Starfleet. But the two brothers soon make up (after fighting in the muck), and Robert lets René do what he wants. Worf: I do not believe any human can truly understand my dishonor. NOTES: There is no more obvious sign of the maturity and confidence of the series than this, following up a high-stakes action-packed twopart episode with a quiet episode centered on family. Brothers Writer: Rick Berman Director: Rob Bowman Airdate: October 8, 1990 Data has a family get-together of an entirely 52

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different sort. He takes control of the Enterprise and forces it to go to the planet Terlina III. There, he beams down to the home of his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, who tells him he summoned Data to him because he is dying and wants to give the android an emotion chip. Lore, another android, shows up, apparently called by the same signal from Soong. Lore tries to take the emotion chip meant for Data; he eventually tricks Soong into installing the chip in him. The Enterprise crew arrives and finds Data deactivated and Soong dying. Before expiring, Soong helps Data undo the damage he had done to the Enterprise when he was summoned. Lore to Dr. Soong: You didn’t fill Data with substandard parts—did you, old man? No. That honor was bestowed upon me. You owe me, old man. Not him. Me. NOTES: Brent Spiner played Dr. Soong, Lore, and of course Data. Wonder if he got three paychecks. Suddenly Human Writers: John Whelpley, Jeri Taylor, Ralph Phillips Director: Gabrielle Beaumont Airdate: October 15, 1990 The Enterprise rescues five teenagers from a Talarian spaceship. Four are Talarian, but one is a human named Jono, the grandson of a Starfleet admiral who had been orphaned when his parents were killed by Talarians a decade earlier. Jono, as politically correct folks in 2015 would say, “identifies as Talarian.” He doesn’t want to return to his human family, but instead wants to go with Endor, a Talarian Captain who arrives in an attempt to retrieve his adopted son. Picard finally relents, preferring not to impose his values on Jono and the Talarians. Jono: I am Talarian. Worf: You are confused. NOTES: This episode led to claims that the story excused child abuse. The Enterprise crew notice that Jono has some indications that he had been physically harmed, and that becomes part of the reason Captain Picard is so resistant to letting Jono stay with the Talarian who raised him after the deaths of his parents. Remember Me Writer: Lee Sheldon Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: October 22, 1990 They say that as people get older, their worlds get smaller, their circles of friends contract, they are alone more. Dr. Crusher’s not old, but she’s finding those effects to be happening in a very real way to her life. People on the Enterprise keep disappearing, and when Dr. Crusher inquires, she is told that those people never existed. It keeps going that way until only she and Picard remain on the Enterprise; the captain of course thinks that’s how it has always been and should be. And then there was one—only Crusher remains, and

she realizes that her entire universe is a bubble surrounding the Enterprise, and the universe is contracting. The incredible shrinking universe is the result of yet another failed experiment by Wesley Crusher, who was trying to create a static warp bubble. The Traveler appears and helps stabilize the experiment and retrieve Wesley’s mother. Dr. Crusher: It’s all perfectly logical to you, isn’t it? The two of us roaming about the galaxy in the flagship of the Federation. No crew at all. Picard: We’ve never needed a crew before. NOTES: All in all, a nicely played script. The actual reason behind (and the solution to) the disappearances is less interesting than the way Crusher, Picard, and the others so beautifully play out the perfectly natural absence of all that we expect on the ship. The Traveler, portrayed by Eric Menyuk, first appeared in the first-season episode “Where No One Has Gone Before.” He would have appeared more often if he had gotten the Next Generation role he had really wanted: Data, the role that of course eventually went to Brent Spiner. Legacy Writer: Joe Menosky Director: Robert Scheerer Airdate: October 29, 1990 The Enterprise attempts to rescue a Federation crew that was forced to make an emergency landing on Turkana IV, which just happens to be the lawless planet where the former security chief Tasha Yar was raised. An Enterprise landing party finds itself caught between the local warring factions, one of which wants Federation weapons. One of the sides offers up Ishara Yar, Tasha’s sister, as a go-between with the Enterprise, but she turns out to be working to get the Enterprise to help destroy her enemies. Data, who had befriended Ishara, feels betrayed. Ishara Yar to Data: The time we spent talking... that was the closest thing to friendship I’ve ever had. If that means anything to you. NOTES: Writer Joe Menosky scripts his first Trek episode with this tale. He would go on to write quite a few episodes for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Reunion Writers: Thomas Perry, Jo Perry, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga Director: Jonathan Frakes Airdate: November 5, 1990 The dying Klingon chancellor drags Picard into the messy process of choosing his successor, so Picard becomes the arbiter of succession. Klingon Ambassador K’Ehleyr, Lt. Worf ’s old flame, arrives with a boy in tow, and Worf learns that the boy—Alexander—is his son. Picard has to choose between Gowron and Duras, the two candidates for leading the Klingon council. Duras is the one who had smeared Worf ’s family name, claiming his father was a traitor and getting Worf shamed by the council in the past.


Following a high-stakes action-packed two-part episode with a quiet episode centered on family showed the maturity and confidence of the series at the start of its fourth year. During the succession proceedings, a Romulan bomb explores. While the Enterprise crew tries to figure out what’s happening, K’Ehleyr learns that it was actually Duras’ father, not Worf ’s, who betrayed the Klingons at Khitomer. Duras kills her, but not before she makes Worf promise to raise Alexander. Worf challenges Duras to a right of vengeance battle and is victorious. Gowron is named the new Klingon chancellor, and Alexander gets shuttled off to be cared for by the human adoptive parents who raised Worf (see “Family, previous page). Worf: A warrior does not ask so many questions. Alexander: I don’t want to be a warrior. NOTES: The always-intriguing politics of the Klingon Empire are a welcome return to the show, though shoe-horning Picard into a role in the choosing of the empire’s next leader seems like a naked attempt to keep the show’s star in the center of things. Picard’s great, of course, but Worf, K’Ehleyr, Alexander, and the others are strong enough characters to hold their own. Future Imperfect Writers: J. Larry Carroll, David Bennett Carren Director: Les Landau Airdate: November 12, 1990 While investigating an underground cave, Riker, La Forge, and Worf are knocked unconscious by gas. When Riker awakens, he finds that 16 years have gone by, he is now captain of the Enterprise’s, and he has a son named Jean-Luc (after now-Admiral Picard, of course). He is told by Dr. Crusher that he lost his memory of the previous 16 years due to an illness. Riker begins to piece together inconsistencies and glitches in this new world of his, finally concluding that he is on a Romulan holodeck with the goal of making him reveal sensitive information. But even that revelation proves to be false, as he learns that his supposed son is really an orphaned alien who had created the entire simulation so that he could have companionship. Data: Pardon sir, I am experiencing sub-space interference, which limits my abilities. I can’t operate as quickly as I­— Riker: What did you say? Data: I said I cannot operate as— Riker: No, that’s not what you said. You said, “I can’t.” You used a contraction, didn’t you? Data: Sir, I can explain if you would just give me a moment. Riker: No, you can’t; don’t even try.

NOTES: In the original telling of the Buck Rogers series, Rogers is trapped in a cave while investigating unusual occurrences there. He is exposed to radioactive gas, and he enters a state of suspended animation from which he doesn’t escape for nearly 500 years. Riker was lucky. Final Mission Writers: Kasey Arnold-Ince, Jeri Taylor Director: Corey Allen Airdate: December 2, 1990 Captain Picard brings along Wesley Crusher on a mission to deal with a mining dispute. It’s Wesley’s last mission (hence the title), because he has been accepted to Starfleet Academy. But their shuttle crashes on a deserted moon, and they are stuck without food or water. The one source of water they find is protected by some sort of force field. Picard is injured in an attempt to get around the field. Wesley finally finds a way to switch off the force field, and soon he and Picard are rescued by the Enterprise. NOTES: And so young Wesley Crusher finally exits the Enterprise after a frustrating four years of being the genius kid who alternately saves the day or endangers everyone’s lives with an experiment gone wrong. He’s Starfleet’s problem, now. The Loss Writers: Hillary J. Bader, Alan J. Adler, Vanessa Greene Director: Chip Chalmers Airdate: December 31, 1990 When the Enterprise is snagged by some twodimensional beings who are headed toward a “cosmic string” that could destroy the ship, counselor Deanna Troi discovers that she is unable to use her empathic powers. Disturbed by the loss, she quits her job. Picard persuades her to attempt to reach the aliens, and she and Data develop a plan to break the Enterprise free of their grip. After they make their break, Troi regains the use of her empathic abilities, which had been hidden underneath the aliens’ own strong emotional output. Dr. Crusher: Therapists are always the worst patients. Except for doctors, of course. NOTES: “The Loss” is not the strongest episode of the season, but it is a nice focus on Troi in a way that isn’t mocking, such as when her mother visits and belittles her. Data’s Day Writers: Harold Apter, Ronald D. Moore Director: Robert Wiemer

Airdate: January 7, 1991 Data takes center stage in this nice, low-key episode. Very much a “day in the life” story, “Data’s Day” tells us how Data spends his time when he’s not navigating the ship, painting, playing with Spot, or doing the sex thing with Tasha Yar. This particular day includes him giving some advice to Keiko Ishikawa, the woman who is about to wed Transporter Chief Miles O’Brien. His misunderstanding of standard pre-wedding jitters introduces some unneeded tension on the happy day. Meanwhile, a mission to transport a Vulcan ambassador to a secret meeting with Romulans apparently ends in tragedy, but the Enterprise crew discovers they had been deceived—the “ambassador” was a Romulan spy all along. Captain Picard performs the wedding ceremony for Keiko and O’Brien. Dr. Crusher: They don’t do a lot of tap-dancing at weddings. NOTES: There is drama in this story, but the pleasure in viewing it really comes from seeing things through the eyes of the innocent android Data. Rosalind Chao, who portrays Keiko, has a long acting record. Most interesting is her role as Soon-Lee, a South Korean refugee in the later episodes of the Korean War sitcom M*A*S*H; her character finally married Maxwell Klinger, and she reprised the role in the short-lived sequel series AfterMASH. The Wounded Writers: Jeri Taylor, Stuart Charno, Sara Charno, Cy Chermak Director: Chip Chalmers Airdate: January 28, 1991 Captain Picard enlists the help of Miles O’Brien to try to convince O’Brien’s former commanding officer, Benjamin Maxwell, to stop attacking Cardassian ships. Maxwell claims that the Cardassians are engaging in a military buildup, but evidence is scarce. O’Brien manages to talk his former boss out of his attacks, but not before Picard finds reason to warn the Cardassians to behave themselves. Picard: Take this message to your leaders, Gul Macet: We’ll be watching. NOTES: This episode is O’Brien’s chance to shine. Actor Marc Alaimo plays the role of Gul Macet. He would portray Cardassian Gul Dukat for nearly 40 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. weimar.ws Galaxis

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Star Trek does love its courtroom episodes, almost as much as it loves having the Enterprise serve as an interplanetary taxi service for alien ambassadors.

Devil’s Due Writers: Philip Lazebnik, William Douglas Lansford Director: Tom Benko Airdate: February 4, 1991 The people of Ventax II think a god—or, more accurately, a devil—has returned to claim their world. Called Ardra, she supposedly helped make the planet peaceful and safe in return for her coming back to claim it a thousand years later. Now, a thousand years hence, Ardra wants her due. Captain Picard, not being an idiot, is pretty sure she’s not a god/devil, and he sets out to prove it. In a court case, with Data acting as the impartial judge, he has La Forge recreate the supposedly miraculous tricks that Ardra has pulled off, and Riker is able to locate and take over her ship. She’s just a con artist who learned about Ventax II’s “bargain with the devil” and tried to take advantage of it. Riker: We are not impressed with your magic tricks! Ardra: I pity you. We live in a universe of magic, which evidently you cannot see.

they have in fact lost an entire day. The Enterprise returns to the star system, and they are contacted by an alien who tell Picard his plan failed and the alien race is going to destroy the Enterprise. The aliens are the Paxans, and they hate having anyone else in their star system. They normally push the ships away and convince their crews that it was the effect of a wormhole, but Data was not affected by their mind-erasing technology, so Picard ordered him to lie and try to convince the crew when they awoke to accept the wormhole theory. Picard realizes the Enterprise crew simply didn’t get rid of any anomalous clues before they underwent the mind wipe the first time; he convinces the Paxans to let them try again and do it better this time. If at first Data doesn’t succeed, try, try again. Data: We must leave, sir. Picard: This ship isn’t going anywhere—not until I get an answer. Now, who gave you that order? Data: You did, sir

NOTES: This episode, derived from an idea for the never-realized Star Trek: Phase II series in the 1970s (which instead morphed into 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture), is probably one of the weakest of the fourth season of Next Generation. The obvious “lesson” for the Ventaxians is clearly seen coming a mile away,

NOTES: This is the second episode this season—the first was “Remember Me”—that tells a science fiction story by making the mystery about the reality of the characters; they are just as in the dark as the audience. In both cases, characters have to act in unusual ways, and the resolution of the story makes it all sensible. And in both cases, they are well-executed stories.

Clues Writers: Bruce D. Arthurs, Joe Menosky Director: Les Landau Airdate: February 11, 1991 How reliable is your android? The Enterprise gets a lesson in the trustworthiness of resident ‘bot Data when all of the non-android members of the crew are knocked unconscious, apparently by a wormhole. Data tells his colleagues that they were only unconscious for half a minute. The ship leaves the star system it had been investigating and everyone tries to focus on other things, but discrepancies start to pile up, calling Data’s explanation into question. Why does Worf have an injury? What made Dr. Crusher’s moss samples grow faster than they should have? Further investigation shows that

First Contact Writers: Dennis Russell Bailey, David Bischoff, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore, Michael Piller, Marc Scott Zicree Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: February 18, 1991 Commander Riker is working undercover on Malcor III, a pre-warp society, when he is taken to a hospital with injuries sustained in an accident. Though Riker has been altered to appear to be the same race as Malcor’s population, medical attention will reveal that he is an alien to them. He tries to escape, but fails. Meanwhile, Picard meets with the chancellor of the planet and invites him to join the Federation. But after the chancellor’s security minister tries to frame Riker as a murderer, the leader decides his people are not ready for

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the Federation. However, Picard takes back to the Enterprise with him the one person who is ready, the person who was heading up Malcor’s now-discontinued warp project. Lanel: I’ve always wanted to make love with an alien. Riker: It’s not that easy, there are differences in the way that my people make love. Lanel: I can’t wait to learn. NOTES: What to say about an episode with six writers? Despite the opportunity for mayhem and muddle to be created by so many cooks in the writing kitchen, “First Contact” is a perfectly passable entry in the series. Galaxy’s Child Writers: Maurice Hurley, Thomas Kartozian Director: Winrich Kolbe Airdate: March 11, 1991 Dr. Leah Brahms, a designer of the Enterprise’s engines, arrives on the Enterprise, but Geordi La Forge isn’t exactly getting the fan crush come to life that he might have been hoping for. She turns out to be rather cold—and married. When she discovers that he had created a holodeck version of her (the awkwardly named “Booby Trap” in the third season), she is even less kindly disposed toward the Enterprise’s chief engineer. But they are forced to work together when the Enterprise nursemaids a space creature that decides the Federation starship is its mother. Their solution is to make the energy on which the baby creature is feeding unpalatable—and then scram. Leah Brahms: Commander La Forge, ever since I came on board there seems to be something a little ... peculiar about your attitude. You seem to know things about me, even though we’ve never met. NOTES: Last issue we wrote about third season episode “Hollow Pursuit,” in which Lieutenant Reginald Barclay gets into trouble when it’s discovered that he has created copies of various Enterprise crewmembers in a holodeck program, including a Deanna Troi who is attracted to him. It is somehow fitting that La Forge, who had a hard time being sympathetic to Barclay, is caught in a similar trap in this episode.


Night Terrors Writers: Pamela Douglas, Jeri Taylor, Shari Goodhartz Director: Les Landau Airdate: March 18, 1991 The Enterprise finds the USS Brittain, which had gone missing a month earlier. The crew is dead, except for Andrus Hagan, its Betazoid science advisor. Picard and his crew can’t find anything wrong with the Brittain, and the evidence shows that its crew likely killed each other. Deanna Troi finds herself having a mysterious dream. The Enterprise is also now unable to move, just like the Brittain, and Data says they’re stuck in some sort of space rift that won’t let them escape, though an explosion might set them free. While they try to get away, the Enterprise crewmembers are starting to get irritable and violent, due to a lack of REM sleep. Picard deputizes Data to act as captain, and the android works with Deanna to free the Enterprise—and an alien ship across the rift that had been contacting her and Andrus Hagan telepathically to get help. Data to Picard: Sir, as my final duty as acting captain, I order you to bed. NOTES: Liberal political commentator Arianna Huffington’s big cause is ... sleep. She says people aren’t getting enough of it, and she’s backed up by research that says insufficient sleep contributes to poor performance, weight gain, poor thinking, reduced sex drive, depression, bad skin, and forgetfulness. Maybe that’s all Locutus/Picard was getting at in the first episode of this season; he was trying to be helpful. Identity Crisis Writers: Brannon Braga, Timothy De Haas Director: Winrich Kolbe Airdate: March 25, 1991 Tarchannen III is an abandoned colony that had been investigated years earlier by a fiveperson away team from the USS Victory; one of those five was Geordi La Forge. Susanna Leijten, another of the five, arrives on the Enterprise and reveals that she and Geordi are the only two of the away team who can still be located. The Enterprise goes to Tarchannen III to investigate, finding evidence that others have landed there. Leijten’s body is found to have alien elements in it, and she is turning into another species. La Forge investigates the original Victory mission, and realizes there was another presence—an alien presence—there at the time, and it has been taking over and transforming the humans one by one. The Enterprise crew and Leijten must go back to Tarchannen III’s surface and find a now-transformed La Forge before it’s too late to return him to his human form. Leijten: I’ve come back, Geordi. Let me take you back, too NOTES: The character named Ensign Graham is portrayed by Mona Grudt, who, Wikipedia

tells us, “is a Norwegian TV host, dancer, editor, and beauty queen who was crowned Miss Universe 1990. She also became the first and the only Norwegian to capture the Miss Universe [title].” The Nth Degree Writers: Joe Menosky Director: Robert Legato Airdate: April 1, 1991 While investigating the space telescope Argus Array, Lt. Reginald Barclay is knocked unconscious by an alien probe. When Barclay recovers, he exhibits a rapidly growing intellect that first helps and then threatens the Enterprise. He eventually takes the ship to the center of the galaxy, where they meet the Cytherians, an advanced species that explores other star systems with remote probes rather than in person. Barclay returns to his normal IQ—except for a heightened ability to play chess. Barclay: I wish I could convey to you what it’s like for me now, what I’ve become. I can conceive almost infinite possibilities and can fully explore each of them in a nanosecond. I perceive the universe as a single equation, and it is so simple. I understand—everything. NOTES: The director of this episode, Robert Legato, was also a visual effects supervisor for the series. He would later win Academy Awards for his work on 1997’s Titanic and 2011’s Hugo. Qpid Writers: Ira Steven Behr, Randee Russell Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: April 22, 1991 Rogue archaeologist and Picard’s sorta-flame Vash shows up as Picard is preparing for a meeting of archaeologists. A less welcome visitor shows up in the form of Q, who wants to do something nice for the captain but of course does it in his own annoying way. Q creates a Robin Hood fantasy, with Picard as Robin and his executive staff as the band of merry men. Q takes on the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham and makes Vash Maid Marian. After a bit of above-par Monty Python and the Holy Grail-level fight scenes, Picard rescues Vash, who nonetheless goes away with Q to live a life of high adventure zipping around the universe. Picard: I’ve just been paid a visit from Q. Riker: Q? Any idea what he’s up to? Picard: He wants to do something nice for me. Riker: I’ll alert the crew. NOTES: Vash, played by Jennifer Hetrick, returns from her first appearance in the thirdseason’s “Captain’s Holiday. The Drumhead Writer: Jeri Taylor Director: Jonathan Frakes Airdate: April 29, 1991 Investigation into an explosion in the Enterprise’s engine room leads to retired Rear Admiral Norah Satie to believe it was an act of sabo-

tage. She accuses a Klingon exchange officer, who turns out to have been working with the Romulans but who apparently had nothing to do with the explosion—it was, boring enough, an accident. Picard accepts the conclusion that there was no nefarious intent behind the explosion, but Satie pushes further, looking for conspiracies. She eventually focuses her wrath on Picard, who has been resisting her increasingly wild accusations. Picard: There are some words I’ve known since I was a schoolboy: “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom—and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged. I fear that today— Satie: How dare you! You who consort with Romulans, invoke my father’s name to support your traitorous arguments? It is an offense to everything I hold dear. And to hear those words used to subvert the United Federation of Planets. My father was a great man. His name stands for integrity and principle. You dirty his name when you speak it. He loved the Federation. But you, captain, corrupt it. You undermine our very way of life. I will expose you for what you are. I’ve brought down bigger men than you, Picard! NOTES: Star Trek does love its courtroom episodes, almost as much as it loves having the Enterprise serve as an interplanetary taxi service for alien ambassadors. Half a Life Writers: Peter Allan Fields, Ted Roberts Director: Les Landau Airdate: May 6, 1991 Lwaxana Troi is back, this time in love with a scientist, Timicin, who hopes to reboot his world’s dying star and save his planet. He’s not having success, and he may have to commit ritual suicide as he reaches the set age for that ridiculous rite. Timicin’s people are not thrilled when he decides to skip the suicide and continue working on his experiment. Warships are sent against the Enterprise, and Timicin accedes to his daughter’s shaming of him. He is not strong enough to defy cultural tradition. He decides to go through with the ritual suicide. Timicin: You see Lwaxana, I’m on my way home now—to die. NOTES: David Ogden Stiers, who portrays the Kaelon scientist Timicin, who is Lwaxana’s love interest, also played the role of Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H for many years. The Host Writer: Michel Horvat Director: Marvin V. Rush Airdate: May 11, 1991 Odan is a mediator who is brought in to neweimar.ws Galaxis

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Beverly Crusher starts to feel the ick factor rising when Odan/Riker tries to continue their love affair; she has trouble separating the idea of the Trill from the body it inhabits. gotiate a treaty between two groups. Dr. Crusher falls in love with him, and they have a fling while he’s aboard the Enterprise. But when he is injured during an attack on his shuttle, Crusher learns that Odan is actually a Trill, a species that lives inside a host body. (We’ll see much more of that in Deep Space Nine.) The host body dies, so Riker offers to serve as a host temporarily until Odan’s new host body arrives. Crusher starts to feel the ick factor rising when Odan/Riker tries to continue their love affair; she has trouble separating the idea of the Trill from the body it inhabits. The factor hits the teenager-grossout level when the new host body arrives, and it’s female. Once ensconced in his/her new female body, Odan again reaches out to Crusher, but she rebuffs him. Crusher: Perhaps it is a human failing, but we are not accustomed to these kinds of changes. I can’t keep up. How long will you have this host? What would the next one be? I can’t live with that kind of uncertainty. Perhaps, someday, our ability to love won’t be so limited. NOTES: Aaaaaaaand finally we have controversy this season. Things had been going along pretty nicely, some good character studies, some deepening of back stories, some neat playing with SF storytelling conventions—all in all, not a stellar season, but not a bad one by any means. It also wasn’t controversial. Until now. But the controversy is in the eye of the beholder. Was this story an anti-gay story, in which one of our heroes, Beverly Crusher, rejects a female lover because of her gender? Or was it a pro-gay story, in which Crusher is shown to exhibit the feelings and thoughts that the writers want to change? Tor.com’s Keith DeCandido cited Crusher’s attempt to explain her rejection of the female host and noted that her attempt to describe it as a larger failure of humanity and not just her personal taste actually created the ambiguity and opened up the episode to criticism: “Crusher generalized, thus causing the character to marginalize a segment of the human population (both homosexuals and bisexuals) by omission.” Nerve.com’s Nick Keppler interpreted Crusher’s explanation as “meaning that the good doctor will get into bed with shifty aliens with weird ridged foreheads but for some reason draws the line at space ladies.” And yet, at this time of winter 2016, we will note that Star Trek’s many, many television 56

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and film series over 50 years have still not had an openly gay character. Kirk/Spock fan fiction doesn’t count, boys. The Mind’s Eye Writers: René Echevarria, Ken Schafer Director: David Livingston Airdate: May 27, 1991 En route to a vacation stay on Risa, La Forge’s shuttle is taken over by Romulans, who is brainwashed and sent back to the Enterprise, believing that he actually had his nice little vacation. Back at work, La Forge helps out with a mission to help Klingons deal with some pesky rebels attacking one of their colonies, but he does things like secretly ship Federation weapons to the rebels or try to assassinate a Klingon ambassador. Data discovers that a mysterious E-band radiation has been emitted by someone aboard the Enterprise, and the Klingon ambassador is implicated, La Forge is cleared, and they’re all off for another adventure. Data: One could speculate that the E-band was being used as some form of covert communication. Riker: We need more than speculation, Mr. Data. We need to know who, what, where, when, and why—or we may be going to war. NOTES: If you watched this episode or read this synopsis and thought, The Manchurian Candidate, then congratulations. That 1962 movie (remade in 2004 and both of them based on Richard Condon’s 1959 novel of the same name) featured a U.S. soldier captured in the Korean War, brainwashed, and sent back to the United States to commit an assassination. In Theory Writers: Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore Director: Patrick Stewart Airdate: June 3, 1991 After an increasingly close friendship with fellow crew member Jenna D’Sora, Data decides to try having a relationship with her and duly programs himself to have a subroutine to handle the matter. Meanwhile, the Enterprise investigates a planet in a nebula, and strange things are happening on board— things such as furniture being all piled up or objects moved to the floor. Data figures out that dark matter distortions are causing the weird occurrences, and the Enterprise is unable to escape the nebula until Picard goes out in a shuttle and charts a safe path for it. In the end, D’Sora is unsatisfied with Data’s overly logical and unemotional responses to

her presence and they break up. Data tells her he will delete the subroutine. Data: Are we no longer—a couple? D’Sora: No. We’re not. Data: Then I will delete the appropriate program. NOTES: This was the first episode directed by star Patrick Stewart. Redemption, Part I Writer: Ronald D. Moore Director: Cliff Bole Airdate: June 17, 1991 The Enterprise is en route to the Klingon homeworld to attend the installation ceremony of Gowron as the leader of the Klingon High Council. Gowron fears that the House of Duras will take the empire to civil war in their own attempts to get the leadership position. Worf takes a leave from Starfleet so he can join his brother Kurn and offer their help to Gowron in exchange for the return of their family’s official honor. However, Lursa and B’Etor Duras, sisters of the Duras who died in “Reunion” earlier this season, show up and say that their nephew will challenge Gowron. Picard is called upon to help decide whether the young Klingon is eligible, and he concludes he lacks experience to do the job. Gowron is installed as leader, he restores the honor of Worf ’s family, and then things get more complicated yet, as the Duras sisters gather a fleet with Romulan help—a female who looks quite a bit like Tasha Yar. Worf: I was rescued from Khitomer by humans. Raised and loved by human parents. I spent most of my life around humans. Fought beside them. But I was born a Klingon. My heart is of that world. I do hear the cry of the warrior. I belong with my people. NOTES: This season’s cliffhanger episode is not the masterpiece of last season’s “Best of Both Worlds,” but it is an interesting episode that dives into the history of both the series’ backstory (the Klingon Empire) and a major character (Worf). As such, it is a welcome entry. “Redemption, Part I” is also the 100th episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, well past anything achieved by the original series or the animated series. This is High Trek, Star Trek at its zenith of popularity and confidence. TO BE CONTINUED

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WorldlyThings

What’s new from the tech and toy worlds

I’ve Got Them Now—These Rebels Are Toast

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here are times when you just want to take your favorite motion picture franchise and spread creamy peanut butter all over it. Or perhaps butter and cinnamon. Maybe honey. Whichever you choose, the important thing is that your franchise—er, bread—has the Star Wars logo burned into it. This past Christmas, some friends gifted us with a toaster in the shape of Darth Vader’s helmet. And when you toast the bread, it comes out stamped with the world-famous Star Wars logo. We’re not sure what Emperor Palpatine would make of his top Sith henchman actually being of service to hungry rebel breakfasters, but we’re glad Anakin was willing to give it a try.

PHOTOS: JOHN ZIPPERER

on a more serious note, we are also fans of using technology to protect us. Google’s Nest products of connected home monitoring devices are slowly growing into a family of tools to do more than detect smoke from a fire; they are part of the revolution that is turning homes into smart homes, and making us feel and be safer at the same time. The Nest smoke detector (in batterypowered and wired versions) not only does what you would expect a smoke

Top: The Sith lord Darth Vader in toaster form. Left: the result. Bottom: Google’s Nest smoke detector.

detector to do—um, detect smoke—it talks to the other Nest detectors in your home so nothing gets past them. But Nest has more than that. The company also has smart thermostats that can learn your preferred temperatures and can ensure your home is the right temperature at all times. It has cameras that allow you to view your home (such as letting you watch your front door to see if anyone’s trying to enter). We’re well-known as Google fans here at Worldly Things, but we thought it was an odd stretch for the company when it bought the Nest company. Now that we see how it is utilizing the internet to keep you connected to your connected home, helping to make you safer and more informed, we get it. the sound of music is pretty good when you’re in the shower, thanks to the Abco Tech Bluetooth Speaker. Covered in weimar.ws Galaxis

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inside magazines

Above: We already knew R2D2 could fly, cut things, shock annoying little creatures, and access the central computer to shut down the garbage compactor. Now, he measures, too. Left: The Abco Tech Bluetooth shower speaker.

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 Get free digital edition or purchase print edition at weimar.ws 58

Galaxis May 2016

brightly colored rubber and plastic, the little (roughly 2.5 inches wide) pod attaches to the shower wall with a big suction cup on its bottom. Instruction buttons are fairly simple, if a bit difficult to read (in the center of the pod, light grey buttons have symbols impressed into the rubber), but you pretty quickly learn what does what. It’s also inexpensive ($14.99 on Amazon.com), so it’s worth a try. If you don’t take showers, the suction cup can stick to other surfaces, too. what makes a droid? Probably lots of wiring and circuit boards and magical whatever make up those innards. But if you want a droid’s help in assembling the ingredients of your next cookies or cake, you can call for R2D2 with this handy measuring cup set in the shape of the friendly robot. It turns out the little guy’s got the ability to break apart into component sections and measure out salt, sugar, sage, and whatever else you’re putting into your Wookie Cookies. One-half cup, one-third cup, onequarter cup, one cup, one-half teaspoon, one-third tablespoon, one-quarter teaspoon, and one teaspoon sized measuring cups apparently are the necessary parts for making an awesome ingredients-measuring droid.

It’s really not surprising that R2’s so handy. It seems as if every movie we learn that he’s capable of some new previously unmentioned ability. Cutting tools to release you from a forest net? Got it. Ability to fly? Check. Fire? Yup. Solve your ignorance of metric-to-standard measurements? Well, no. You’ll need to have your smartphone handy for that. back to the topic of sound: We had a problem. We had a handful of vinyl discs in our collection. For you younglings, an LP record is sort of like an oversized CD that inevitably has scratches. Oh, wait, you probably don’t know what a CD is, either. Well, nevermind. The point is that we had some of these ancient thingies that make noise; however, we didn’t have one of those old-fangled turntables on which to make them make noise. What to do? We decided to bring the sounds from those old discs into the modern world by turning them into MP3 files and adding them to our music collection in the cloud. You can hire professionals (or pay geeky friends) to do this, but we found out that for just $75.89 on Amazon.com, we were able to purchase a TechPlay ODC19 BK turntable. This inexpensive and lightweight system not only plays music, but it can easily make MP3s from the sounds of LP records and cassette tapes. Just like R2D2, it can do more. It also has an AM/FM radio and tells time. G


IMAGE: As matter falls toward the supermassive black hole, some of it is accelerated outward along jets. When one of the jets IS aimed in the direction of Earth, as illustrated here, the galaxy appears especially bright and is classified as a blazar. Credit: M. Weiss/CfA

New discoveries are leading scientists to

rethink the black hole BY john zipperer

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redit or blame probably goes to last year’s film Interstellar, in which humans try to establish an extra-solar foothold in space on planets around a massive black hole called Gargantua. That movie got folks thinking: Could human life be supported on a planet that replaces the energy of a sun with the energy given off by matter as it falls into the black hole and is superheated? A new option for humanity? Or wistful dreams of people staring too long into the night sky wondering how humans will fare among the stars? Interstellar suggests that black holes could be a boon to humanity after it has destroyed Earth; and the idea that black holes could be an alternative source of energy after stars die off takes that idea one step further. But scientists caution, even among the speculation. “When the stars are gone, black holes will be a lasting source of energy,” Arizona State University’s Lawrence Krauss told New Scientist magazine in January 2016. But “for the practical future, there are much easier ways to live.” Black holes are getting a lot of attention lately. They are turning out to be bigger, more powerful, and more mysterious than we had thought. That makes black hole studies one of the most exciting areas in space science today. Black holes didn’t even need Interstellar to stoke interest. One of the biggest discoveries lately was the detection of gravitational waves generated by two black holes colliding more than a billion light years away from here. The announcement came in February from the Ligo Collaboration, which has sites around the world that try to detect ripples in the space-time fabric. “With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe—objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime,” said astronomer Kip Thorne of Caltech.

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PHOTO: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

“Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples.” The discovery confirmed a prediction by Albert Einstein more than 100 years ago about a portion of colliding black holes’ mass being converted to energy. Physicists determined “that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole,” Ligo announced. “This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.” And that’s only one of the advances in black hole science. Earlier this year, a galaxy known as W2246-0526—the name just rolls off the tongue—was reported to be undergoing a violent disassembly at the hands of a black hole. The galaxy is the most luminous in the universe, and CBS News said “the galaxy is essentially self-cannibalizing, tearing itself apart. ... A supermassive black hole resides at the galaxy’s center, pulling together swirling gases and other matter to create ... an accretion disk” that produces illumination equal to the total of “300 trillion suns.” Dramatic enough? Peter Eisenhardt, of NASA’s Jete Propulsion Laboratory, said “The whole galaxy is being disturbed.” Astronomer Roberto Assef of Universidad Diego Portales, told CBS that an expected finale “would be that the galaxy will blow out all of the gas and dust that is surrounding it, and we would see the accretion disk without its dust cover—what we call a quasar.” Physicist Stephen Hawking has put forth an idea that might make that drama seem tame. Step back first to a friendly argument that Hawking had with fellow superstar physicist Leonard Susskind (interviewed in Galaxis #1) about whether information is preserved from matter that flows into a black hole. Space.com says Hawking’s new idea doesn’t decide that argument, but it plays into it. Hawking and some fellow scientists postulate that “at least some of the information devoured by a black hole is preserved” in what 60

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they’re referring to as a head of “hair” on black holes—the hair being comprised of zero-energy particles. The details of Hawking’s idea and the import of it can get a bit more difficult to understand. It has to do with whether matter that is drawn into a black hole loses all “information” about it as it is ripped apart, shredded, shorn of everything that made it what it was as it is absorbed into the black hole. Sort of. And the discoveries keep coming. Japanese researchers announced in January the discovery of an “intermediate mass” black hole located near our galaxy’s center. According to their model, the black hole would have a mass equal to about 1,000 times our sun. The astronomers detected signs of the black hole (which, naturally, they couldn’t see) via telescopes run by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). What intrigued them was that in addition to the compact center of the black hole, an unusually wide dispersion cloud extends 10 light years. NOAJ reports that the scientists “performed a simple simulation of gas clouds flung by a strong gravity source. In the simulation, the gas clouds are first attracted by the source and their speeds increase as they approach it, reaching maximum at the closest point to the object. After that the clouds continue past the object and their speeds decrease. The team found that a model using a gravity source with 100 thousand times the mass of the sun inside an area with a radius of 0.3 light years provided the best fit to the observed data.” Keio University professor Tomoharu Oka said his team determined the black hole’s existence by looking at those effects. “Considering the fact that no compact objects are seen in X-ray or infrared observations, as far as we know, the best candidate for the compact massive object is a black hole,” he said. Also in January, astronomers reportedly saw a nearby galaxy’s central giant black hole “burping” gases into the galaxy, perhaps helping to feed the creation of new stars. “This shows that black holes

And in yet another development: Supermassive black holes’ coronas give off flares of energy. In the artist’s illustration above, a supermassive black hole is surrounded by a swirling disk of material falling onto it. The corona contains highly energetic particles that generate X-ray light. The corona gathers inward, becoming brighter, before shooting away from the black hole (middle and right). can create, not just destroy,” astronomer Marie Machacek was quoted as saying by the BBC. Just a month before that discovery was announced, NASA gave some insight into not an intermediate black hole but a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy halfway across the universe. As the space agency put it in a press release, “A long time ago in a galaxy half the universe away”—7 billion years ago, in fact—a large number of high-energy gamma rays set off on a journey, reaching Earth only in April 2015. Studying the gamma rays has helped change the view of black holes. Previously, scientists had “assumed that light at different energies came from regions at different distances from the black hole,” NASA notes. Gamma rays were thought to have been produced closest to the black hole. “Instead, the multiwavelength picture suggests that light at all wavelengths came from a single region located far away from the power source,” said Jonathan Biteau of the Nuclear Physics Institute in France. The observations place the area roughly five light-years from the black hole, which is greater than the distance between our sun and the nearest star. This is helping astronomers rethink the environment around supermassive black holes. If there is an Interstellar sequel, filmmakers might draw on some of this latest research. It might even give a jumpstart to the movie that should benefit most of all from an reimagining: the oftG mooted remake of Disney’s The Black Hole.


Screenings

Tracking film & TV projects

What’s on and what’s next? Galaxis presents the latest on major SF and science TV and motion picture action. All TV airtimes are Eastern; airtimes and movie release dates are subject to change.

Taylor PHOTO: Dominick D; jones photo: gdcgraphics

Television

Agent Carter (Tuesday, ABC): Captain America spinoff. The Expanse (Returns in 2017, Syfy): Space series renewed for second season. The Flash (Tuesday, 8 p.m., CW): DC Comics’ super-fast superhero got off to big ratings. Gotham (Monday, 8 p.m., Fox): If Smallville could give us Superman without the superuniform, then Gotham can give us Batman without the bat-getup. Killjoys (Returns summer 2016, Syfy): Space bounty hunters. Legends of Tomorrow (Thursday, 8 p.m., CW): If you like Guardians of the Galaxy but prefer DC, this is your show. Renewed for second season. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesday, 9 p.m., ABC): Popular if convoluted superhero series in its third year. Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix): Second season premiered in March 2016. The Magicians, (Monday, 9 p.m., Syfy): The fantasy series based on Lev Grossman’s bestselling books (favorites of the Galaxis staff) has been renewed for a 13-episode second season, to air later in 2016. Nova (Wednesday, 9 p.m., PBS): Despite being decades old, Nova continues to be at the forefront of science reporting. Second Chance (Friday, 9 p.m., Fox): Reborn sheriff still tempted by the dark side. Orphan Black (Thursday, 10 p.m., BBC America): You know and I know, my clone sleeps alone. The 100 (Thursday, 9 p.m., CW): Teens reinhabit Earth after war. Renewed for fourth season.

12 Monkeys (Monday, 9 p.m., Syfy): Post-virus epidemic; inspired by the Terry Gilliam cult favorite film. Sense8 (streaming on Netflix): What connects eight strangers with extra-sensory abilities? The Shannara Chronicles (Tuesday, 10 p.m., MTV): Fantasy series based on Terry Brooks’ long-running set of novels. Elves, princesses, demons. You know. Startalk (check local listings, National Geographic Channel): Astrophysicist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson talks science and science fiction. Supergirl (Monday, 8 p.m., CBS): See review, page 76. The X-Files (Fox): Success of recent six-episode miniseries has all of the principals open to future episodes. Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix): Detective-superhero action; renewed for second season. Colony (Thursday, 10 p.m., USA Channel): Dystopic future—but you can escape to the offworld colonies. Emerald City (TBA, NBC): New The Wizard of Oz, with Adria Arjona as Dorothy.

Robin Lord Taylor plays the pre-Penguin Oswald Cobblepot in television’s Gotham.

Felicity Jones assumes the lead role in the Star Wars: Rogue One film.

Films Absolutely Anything (Out now in UK, Lionsgate): Monty Python reunion in SF comedy. Alien: Covenant (October 6, 2017, 20th Century Fox): Prometheus sequel, the first of three. Aquaman (July 27, 2018, Warner Bros.): Something fishy. Avatar 2 (TBA, 20th Century Fox): First of three sequels. Blade Runner sequel (2018, Scott Free Productions): Still early days, but Ridley Scott is back in the SF saddle. The Blob (TBA 2016): the third go-around for the greasy slimy invading monster. Captain America: Civil War (April 12, 2016, Disney): Wait, Spidey’s in this? Ghostbusters (July 15, 2016, Columbia): Distaff remake of 1984 hit. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 2, 2017, Disney): StarLord learns more about dad. Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24, 2016, 20th Century Fox): The aliens return, and they’re not happy. Iron Sky: The Coming Race (August 2017, Energia Productions): Crowdfunded sequel to Moon-Nazis film Iron Sky. Passage to Mars (TBA 2016): Survival for crewmembers on Mars mission. No Matt Damon. Passengers (December 21, 2016, Columbia): Sleeper on colony ship wakes, gets lonely. Ratchet & Clank (April 29, 2016, Gramercy Pictures): Video game comes to life, as our heroes

make an attempt to save the Solana Galaxy. Ready Player One (March 30, 2018, Warner Bros.): Steven Spielberg adapts Ernest Cline’s novel. Replicas (September 7, 2016, Company Films): Keanu Reeves stars in this film about a man taking on the powers that be to bring back his family. Oh, his family’s dead. Robotech (release date not announced, Sony): Anime adaptation comes to big screen. Star Trek Beyond (July 22, 2016, Paramount): Justin Lin takes the reins from J.J. Abrams. Spectral (August 12, 2016, Universal): Special ops vs. supernaturals in Europe. The Six Billion Dollar Man (December 22, 2017, Weinstein Company): Mark Wahlberg takes on Lee Major’s role. The Space Between Us (July 29, 2016, STX Entertainment): Man raised on Mars goes to Earth to find his father. Star Wars Episode VIII (December 15, 2017, Disney): Luke Skywalker is expected to play a bigger part in this installment. Star Wars Rogue One (December 16, 2016, Disney): Stand-alone film telling the story of the mission to steal the Death Star plans, leading into Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Thor: Ragnarok (November 3, 2017, Marvel): With the Hulk. The Three-Body Problem (TBA, July 2016): We wish we could show you the poster for this Chinese-made SF film, based on the best-selling novel, because the poster’s very cool. We hope the film is, too. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21, 2017, EuropaCorp): Classic SF comic. X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27, 2016, 20th Century Fox): A dark god awakens and causes havoc.

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Orbitman: If you could see what I see Former astronaut Ron Garan now sees the world from the orbital perspective.

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PHOTOS: NASA

ormer astronaut Ron Garan has spent more time in space than pretty much any American. He logged 178 days in space, 71 million miles in orbit, was a long-term resident aboard the International Space Station, and served on the space shuttle Discovery. All of that time up in the ether has affected his thinking, but not in a 1950s’ crazed-spaceman sort of way. Rather, he has used his unique experiences outside of the Earth environment (and mindset) to apply what he calls three-dimensional thinking—the “orbital perspective”—to long-term problems facing mankind here on Earth. He founded Manna Energy Foundation, a non-profit that works on issues of fresh water, renewable energy, and access to communications; he also started Fragile Oasis, a humanitarian initiative connecting people on Earth with astronauts out in space.

Facing page: His feet secured on a restraint on the space station’s robotic arm, NASA astronaut Ron Garan spacewalks. Above right: NASA’s Earth-changing “Earthrise” photo.

In November 2015, with his feet firmly planted on the ground, he spoke to California’s Commonwealth Club about how space can mess with your mind, and why it’s important that we let it. Here is what he said: I want to start out with a discussion of one specific image. I want to talk about NASA Image Designation AS8142383. This image changed my life, and it’s changed your life. In fact, I think it has changed the whole course of human history. Images have the ability to change perspective, they have the ability to change the way we see ourselves, and probably no image has done more to change the way we see ourselves than NASA Image AS8142383, more commonly known as “Earthrise.” The story of “Earthrise” begins on a winter morning, on December 21, 1968, at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Atop the tallest, heaviest, most powerful rocket ever built, the Saturn 5, sat Apollo 8 with its three-astronaut crew—Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders. The aim of the

mission: Be the first manned spacecraft to not only leave the Earth orbit but to successfully reach the moon and complete an entire orbit around it, and of course safely return to the Earth. Three days later, on December 24, Christmas Eve 1968, when Apollo 8 came out from behind the Moon for its fourth pass, the crew witnessed Earthrise. Commander Frank Borman saw the Earth emerging from behind the Lunar horizon and called in excitement to the others, taking a black and white photo as he did so. In the ensuing scramble, Bill Anders took the more famous photo. It was all captured on the flight recorder. They became the first humans to see the Earth as a whole planet and the first to capture it for the rest of us. Borman later recalled the moment: “It was the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life, one that sent a torrent of nostalgia and sheer homesickness surging through me.” weimar.ws Galaxis

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Astronaut Ron Garan

“Earthrise” has been credited with inspiring the first Earth Day in 1970, and it was selected as the first of Life magazine’s 100 Photographs that Changed the World. It could be the most influential environmental photograph ever taken. Bill Anders summed it up beautifully: “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered Earth.” This image revolutionized how we see the world, how we see ourselves. At its simplest message—one planet, one people, traveling together toward one common future— I would argue that this image changed the course of human history for the better. 2001: 64

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A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clarke summed up its significance this way: “The world that existed before Christmas 1968 has passed away as irrevocably as the Earthcentered universe of the Middle Ages. The second Copernican revolution is upon us, and with it, perhaps the second Renaissance. Many of the children born on the day that Apollo 8 splashed down may live to become citizens of the United Planets.” My first journey to space began in 2008. I woke on the morning of May 31st like any other morning. But as I awakened into full consciousness in quarantine at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the weight of this important day started to sink in. Sitting at breakfast with my crewmates, I thought to myself, This is my last day on Earth for a while. This journey to the launch pad began four decades earlier. One of my most vivid childhood memories, and the first moment I realized I wanted to be an astronaut, was July 20, 1969. It was that day where I as a young boy along with millions and millions of people around the world, watched those first footsteps on the moon. I don’t think I would have been able to put it in these words at the time, but at some level I realized that humanity had just become a different species. We were no longer a species confined to our planet, and I wanted to be a part of that group of people that stepped off the planet and was able to look back upon ourselves. A few hours after that Florida wake-up, I remember leaving the crew quarters, boarding the van, and waving to everybody as we stepped out. We all took turns climbing through the hatch and into the spacecraft . After we were all strapped in, I had a little bit of time to think. There I was strapped to Space Shuttle Discovery, which was strapped to 4.5 million pounds of explosive. It’s one of those wonderful moments that life gives you for self reflection. The digital clock in the center of Discovery’s control panel in front of me counting down to within a minute. At six seconds remaining, a low rumble started, which quickly built in intensity. Eight and a half minutes after launch, the engines abruptly shut down according to plan. Inside the spacecraft we instantly transition from having the force of three times our weight pushing us into our seats to being completely weightless. At this point I thought, “We made it.” By which I meant we survived, but also that my childhood dream of flying in space had just come true. A little over an hour after launch we were all safely in orbit, and I was finally able to unstrap and attempt flying around in zero gravity for the first time. Weightlessness was wonderful, and I was

surprised at how natural it felt. On that first day in space, the most spectacular moment was when I looked out the window for the first time. You get to really take a look at our planet; it’s just absolutely breathtaking. The first thing that struck me was how thin the atmosphere appeared. In that moment, I was hit with the realization that that paper-thin layer protects every living thing on our planet from perishing in the harshness of space. In contrast to this fragility, you can’t help but fall in love with the beauty of our planet. It’s a constant dance of light, colors, and motion. What’s really amazing and beautiful is watching the colors change on Earth, and watching thunderstorms cast long shadows across the horizon and watch the clouds turn to pink and to red, then gray, and then finally black. And then watch—as we pass into the dark side of the orbit—the Earth come alive. Watch all the lights of the cities, all the evidence of human activity, all of a sudden come to life. And the Earth becomes like a living, breathing organism. What I experienced in space was an immense gratitude for the opportunity to see the Earth from this vantage point, but also for the gift of the planet that we’ve all been given. And in some way I can’t explain, being physically detached from the Earth, from the only world I’ve ever known, made me feel deeply interconnected with everybody on it. It was in space that we look back and saw what we have always been: one single human family with a common origin—and now an awareness of the reality of our common future. We are now at the point where the challenges facing us require thinking, relating, and cooperating on the planetary level. The hard problems facing us cannot be solved at the national level alone. As renowned astronomer Carl Sagan famously said, “Molecules don’t have passports.” At the request of Carl Sagan, ... the Voyager One spacecraft provided us an even broader perspective of the world that we call home. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned the spacecraft around for one last look at our planet. Voyager One was about four billion miles away when it captured a portrait of our world. Earth appears as a tiny point of light a fraction of a pixel in size. This image inspired Carl Sagan to address our responsibilities to our Earth and to each other. “The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit? Yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.” G


Political

Animal

October 2016 ExoMars Arrival at Mars Space travel. The ExoMars 2016 mission, launched on March 14, 2016, will arrive at the red planet. It is made up of two separate craft: The Trace Gas Orbiter will search for and monitor gases in the Martian atmosphere from a level of about 400 kilometers above sea-level—er, dust-level; the Schiaparelli lander will go to the planet’s surface and test out technologies necessary for future

Mars missions. The two craft will have vastly different lifespans. The lander will operate for between two and eight days after it lands. The orbiter, however, will last much longer, ending its mission only in 2022. Before that end, in 2018, it will serve as a relay for the ExoMars 2018 mission. We’re going back to Mars. Location: Space. Cost: Free. Contact: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay. do?id=EXOMARS16

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THEN FEAST ON Lyle Lahey’s 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

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 11–13, 2016 Black Holes and Friends 2 Conference. Lectures and open discussions at this event delving into stellar-mass black holes in X-ray binaries, AGNs, GRBs, neutron stars, and pulsars. Speakers include experts from China, Germany, and the Netherlands. Location: Fudan University, Shanghai, China. Contact: blackholes2016.fudan.edu.cn May 12, 2016 Sea Heroes: Extreme Edition Lecture. Peter Willcox, author of Greenpeace Captain: My Adventures in Protecting the Future of Our Planet, was the captain of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior on the night in 1985 when it was bombed by French secret agents and sank off New Zealand. One shipmate was killed. Last year, a French agent who attached the mines to the hull of the Rainbow Warrior apologized for his deadly act. Does Peter Willcox accept the apology?

photo by and copyright: NASA / JPL-Caltech/USGS

Are You a

Compendium

Location: 555 Post St., San Francisco. Time: 6 p.m. check-in, 6:30 p.m. program, 7:30 p.m. networking reception. Cost: $7–20. Contact: 415-597-6705, commonwealthclub.org May 13–15, 2016 Whedonopolis 2016 Convention. A gathering celebrating all things Joss Whedon (and, as the organizers note, anything “Whedon-adjacent). Guests of honor include Juliet Landau and Marc Zicree. Other guests include Nicholas Brendon, Miracle Laurie, Damien Poitier, and many others. The event will include an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. behindthe-scenes program. Location: Airtel Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles. Cost: $30–60. Contact: whedoncon.com May 15, 2016 One Little Spark! A Conversation with Marty Sklar Lecture. Disney “Imagineering Ambassador” Sklar and two associates will discuss turning dreams into reality. Location: Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois. Time: 1 p.m. Cost: Free–$18. Contact: msichicago.org May 31, 2016 Astronomy Live: Opposition of Mars Lecture. Steven Beyer and Joe Rao will examineMars’ place among the stars of the constellation Scorpius and will explain what happens during the Opposition of Mars—when the red planet and the sun are on opposite sides of earth. weimar.ws Galaxis

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Trek 50th Anniversary Edition 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.

1701 News 1701news.com Well-done news and views, with good reporting on stories even avid Trekkies might not have known Forgotten Trek ottens.co.uk/forgottentrek A treasure trove of information, photos, and artwork with background on the various Trek incarnations Memory Alpha memory-alpha.wikia.com Sick of waiting for Galaxis to break down each episode of Trek? Head to the dataheavy Memory Alpha for all of the details A Piece of the Action apieceoftheaction.net Into Trek toys and products? Find out more here Priority One Podcast priorityonepodcast. com Weekly podcast with news from the Trek world Probert Designs probertdesigns.com See original artwork from the talented illustrator who contributed to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Next Generation Star Trek startrek.com The official Trek website with info and media from the TV series and the movies Star Trek Animated startrekanimated.com The Trek sequel series that was heralded by critics and fans at the time but that has been sadly overlooked since then; find out what you missed Star Trek Minutiae st-minutiae.com What fans would want to get lost digging through trivial details of a television series? Oh, yeah ... Star Trek New Voyages startreknewvoyages. com Since 2003, this high-quality fan series has been creating new stories based on the original characters; watch episode-length stories free Star Trek Reviewed startrekreviewed. blogspot.com Links to hundreds of fan films, reviews, parodies, and more Trek Core trekcore.com Cool features, such as a video with a Smithsonian conservator explaining the museum’s revamping of the original Enterprise model Trek News treknews.net Perhaps the most aptly named website in existence Trek Today trektoday.com Daily updated G Trek news and opinions 66

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tion, fantasy, pop culture. It’s all here, and this year Florida Supercon will feature Gotham’s Ben McKenzie; Star Trek’s Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, William Shatner, Karl Urban, Walter Koenig, Robert Duncan McNeill, and René Auberjonois; voice actors Steve Blum and Zach Callison; Babylon 5 and Tron’s Bruce Boxleitner (photo left); the original Boba Fett himself, Jeremy Bulloch; standup comedian Lisa Corrao; Harry Potter’s Devon Murray; producer Holly Payne; and many others. Location: Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, Florida. Cost: $5–250. Contact: 954-399-1330, info@ superconventions.com, floridasupercon.com

They’ll also discuss updates and discoveries from recent Mars missions. Location: Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St., New York, New York. Time: 7 p.m. Cost: $12–15. Contact: 212-7695100, amnh.org

Convention. The Science of Discwold authors Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart are among the many, many guests at this event celebrating (and reveling in) the late Terry Pratchett’s magical Discworld. Location: Chesford Grange, Warwick, UK. Cost: £30–75. Contact: 2016.dwcon.org

June 17–19, 2016 PopCon Convention. A broad-based popular culture celebration focused on creators—creators of podcasts, comics, gaming, and more. Featured guests include Troma mastermind Lloyd Kaufman, comics’ Joe Rubinstein, Twitch streamer Tina Dayton, author Tobias Buckell, nostalgia critic (there’s such a thing?) Malcolm Ray, and many more. Location: Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. Cost: $25–100. Contact: indypopcon.com

September 15–18, 2016 HawaiiCon Convention. Star Trek’s 50th anniversary (see page 28) gets highlighted at this convention in paradise. Guests include Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and others, including non-Trek folks such as author John Scalzi, comics creator Siya Oum, musician Jane Wiedlin, and a big batch of scientists from NASA and elsewhere. Location: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, 68-1400 Mauna Lani Drive, Kohala Coast, Hawaii. Cost: Full passes $79–1,966. Contact: hawaiicon.com

Thursday, June 30, 2016 Fearless Women Founders on Succeeding in Tech World Lecture/discussion. 6sense founder and CEO Amanda Kahlow, Branch Metrics co-founder Mada Seghete, and TapInfluence CEO Promise Phelon will discuss tech industry gender issues. According to a 2015 North American study by McKinsey & Company, women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender. How can this change? Join three leading women in tech as they share their experiences of being women in the technology industry. Location: 555 Post Street, San Francisco. Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program. Cost: $7–20. Contact: 415-597-6705, commonwealthclub.org August 26–29, 2016 The International Discworld Convention 2016

November 4–6, 2016 Eurocon 2016 Convention. Guests of honor from across Europe (France’s Aliette de Bodard, Hungary’s Jun Miyazaki, Poland’s Andrzej Sapkowski, UK’s Rhianna Pratchett, and others) headline this event. Location: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Montalegre, 5 – 08001 Barcelona, Spain. Cost: 35–40 euros, 10 euros ages 16–24, children under 16 free; one-day memberships 15 euros. Contact: eurocon2016.org March 7–8, 2017 Internet World Germany Conference/expo. The granddaddy of internetrelated events returns in this business technology-focused conference from the long-running franchise. Location: Munich, Germany. Contact: interG networld-messe.de

photo: Gage skidmore

Webbed

July 1–4, 2016 Florida Supercon Convention. This huge comics-and-relatedgenres gathering attracts about 50,000 fans and 265,000 square feet of exhibit space. Comics, animation, cartoons, anime (well, cartoons), video games, cosplay, science fic-


Reviewscreen The new, the classic, and some fantastic finds

The Three-Book Solution The Three-Body Problem By Cixin Liu Tor • 2014 399 pages

pHOTO: John zipperer; cover art: STEPHANE MARTINIERE, TOR BOOKS

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cience can be weird to the uninitiated who don’t understand its complications. Cixin Liu’s celebrated novel The Three-Body Problem begins with science weirding out scientists, who find themselves confronting inexplicable occurrences. What is happening? What’s driving scientists to commit suicide? Get set for a science-fiction novel that is set in China and on a planet four light years from Earth, where an alien race is looking to escape a planet that’s caught in the grip of a stellar vise. The aliens face a choice: undergo eventual instant death from their multiple suns, or find another planet far away from that danger and start a new life. The aliens, called Trisolarians because of the three stars that warm and cool and occasionally cleanse of all civilization their homeworld, discover Earth when they send out radio signal feelers and someone responds. That’s just the first of many surprises; the person who responds is a Chinese scientist who has watched her father be beaten to death by fanatical Red Guards during the idiotic Cultural Revolution and has herself been sent out into the wilderness to work with a logging group before being assigned to a special science unit that weimar.ws Galaxis

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Proof that politics can be fun & smart

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

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operates a space radio telescope. When she are smart enough to understand their probreceives a second signal from a Trisolarian lem and willing and able to do something to warning any recipients against responding help them, and that’s not going to apply to because it would mean their colonization many couch potatoes. Wang figures out the and doom, this disaffected scientist does re- problem as it is shown to him in successive spond, setting off a chain of events that could sessions, each time taking him through anwipe every human off the face of the Earth. other phase of the Trisolarian civilization as How great it is to read a science-fiction it tries to survive in a very hostile stellar enstory told from the viewpoint of someone vironment. other than an American or a Brit. One of the Now, when the story gets to multi-dimenmind-expanding benefits of good SF (hell, sional science—is the science still good? To even of bad SF) is that it can make you think be honest, it was over the head of this reviewof things in ways you have never done before, er. But if the details don’t bother you, just go considering strange alien societies or even along with it. different ways of communicating and thinkIf there is a weak element of Liu’s plot, it ing. The Three-Body Problem shows that it’s is in the execution of the human supportstill strange, even in 2016, to have someone ers of the Trisolarians. Except for Ye Wenjie, with a Chinese perspective tell a good ol’ the scientist who started this all with her realien contact story. And when the military sponse to the Trisolarians, they come across and scientific experts all gather around the as poorly fleshed out and with hastily extable to figure out what happens next, it’s not plained motivations for their acts of treachsome young American hotshot who comes ery against the entire planet’s population. up with the solution; it’s a semi-rogue Chinese police officer. It is also refreshing to read a successful SF novel that bases its story in science, making that science the bedrock of the story, in fact. How do you explain the effects on an inhabited planet of three stars? All too many SF films and books would have dealt with it by exposition from a scientist or a computer; maybe the author would have The Three-Body Problem becomes an existential problem made up a future enfor Earth after contact is made with the Trisolarians. cyclopedia or database that would provide the information in interstitials between chapters. The Three-Body Problem is something of Those solutions get the job done, but they a publishing phenomenon. Originally pubare often dry and boring, requiring a Greek lished in China’s Science Fiction World magchorus solution to imparting large amounts azine in 2006, it was a huge success in that of relevant information. country when it was released in book form in Liu’s approach is to make the mystery of 2008. It won China’s Science Fiction Galaxy the three-body problem central to the very Award in 2006; Tor’s English translation was existence of the Trisolarian race, and to have published in 2014 and was nominated for the the reader discover the problem, explana- Nebula Award for best novel, and in 2015 it tion, and possible solutions at the same time won the Hugo for that category. as nanomaterials expert Wang Miao. Wang Overall, it left me appreciative and ready encounters the problem in the titular game, for more. And there already is more. The Three-Body Problem, which he plays— The Three-Body Problem is the first book ”participates in” is a better way to describe in a trilogy. The Dark Forest and Death’s End it, because it is not a game that would attract complete the series. And it has already been many modern gamers, and that is by design. adapted into a Chinese motion picture. The aliens use the game to attract people who Let’s get that film onto these shores, too.

PHOTO: sunkins

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Starlog’s Sound of SF Films The Avengers, The Fantastic Films of Albert Glasser, First Men in the Moon, It’s Alive, North by Northwest, Rocketship X-M Produced by Kerry O’Quinn Starlog/Varese Saraband • 1977–1982

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round the turn of the century, I wrote a weekly science-fiction television column. As a result, I began to receive copies of SF movie soundtrack CDs for review. Seemingly once or twice a month, a CD with the latest Star Trek: Voyager music or whatever TV series at the time released annual soundtracks. Soundtracks are an acquired taste. It can put you back into the sounds and mood of your favorite television or movie. Separated from the visuals of the program, the soundtrack stimulates your mind to recreate and recapture the scenes and stories you have previously watched. The downside, however, is that the music usually doesn’t stand alone. Just listening to it as stand-alone music can be a letdown. The soundtracks include a lot of incidental music that adds atmosphere and emphasis to onscreen goings-on, but without that context, it seems less music and more sound effect. In the late 1970s through the early 1980s, science fiction behemoth Starlog magazine issued a series of soundtrack albums, mostly in conjunction with conductor Laurie Johnson. I was too young and poor at the time to have purchased them, but over the past 15 years, I have found and acquired all of them on eBay. But then there they sat on my bookshelf. With the exception of a mid-1980s album of Mozart’s music—which was not a soundtrack but was packaged to attract fans of the then-hit film Amadeus—the only LP records that I own

are these Starlog soundtrack albums. The problem is, I haven’t owned a record player for 15 years; I purchase and listen to music through Google Play; what good is vinyl to me? But now with very inexpensive (sub-$100) appliances you can play albums, CDs, and cassette tapes and record them as MP3 files, which of course can be uploaded to Google Play or saved to your iTunes library. So now all of my Starlog albums as well as Mozart have joined my thousands of other audio files, and I am reminded about just what a great job Starlog publisher and record producer Kerry O’Quinn did with these soundtrack albums. When you think about the magnificent works of classical music—such as Beethoven, Liszt, and naturally Mozart—the works are so complex, beautiful, moving, engulfing, that you figure months or years must have gone into the creation of each. Beethoven’s 9th symphony was not written on the back of a Starbuck’s napkin in 15 minutes. Lovers of modern electronic music sometimes lament that SF movies rely overwhelmingly on classic-format music, particularly after Star Wars’ great John Williams’ score electrified audiences. I love electronic music—ask me about modern German synthpop sometime—but classical-style music has earned its place on the big screen because of its greater ability to evoke a grand atmosphere. Starlog’s 35-year-old soundtracks remind us that classical music has been a staple of genre films for decades longer. Some of the pieces on these albums are incidental music that will have all but the biggest aficionados bored or hoping for the next track to start. But the main themes of these films are strong and stirring, and you can rediscover them today with the easiest of eBay or Amazon searches.

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.

commonwealthclub.org

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Reviewscreen Dear Sir or Ma’am Ancillary Justice By Ann Leckie Orbit • October 2013 422 pages

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am of two minds about this novel, which involves the two minds of the leader of a galactic empire, the Radch leader— known as Anaander Mianaai, the lord of the Radch. Anaander has an ability that emperors on Earth would have killed for: She can be in many places at once, using many different bodies with her consciousness in them spread throughout the empire to personally see to it that her orders are followed. One reaction I have to this book is that it is an intelligent space opera tale. It involves a far-future galactic struggle, but the struggle is not between warring civilizations. That’s in there, but unlike many a space opera, the conflict herein is within the Radch and within characters, rather than in space battles between warring parties. Author Ann Leckie—who pretty much cleaned up the awards field when this book won the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke, and Locus awards—weaves in some great science fiction ideas, both technological and social. As in the best tradition of science fiction, the implications of these ideas are explored in intelligent and interesting prose. For example, Anaander is not the only one with the capability of being in multiple places at once. The main character in this novel is Breq, who used to be an AI of a Radch ship capable of operating countless “ancillaries” or bodies she controls. The ship, the Justice of Toren (hence the book’s title), meets its fate at the hands of several of Anaander Mianaai’s bodies, revealing a long-term war going on within Anaander herself over the direction of the empire. One faction wants to continue its expansionism, “annexing” new planets and absorbing their populations into the Radch, as well as continue a severely hierarchical social structure that keeps the 99 percent in its place, to use a modern reference. The other faction opposes the annexations (and the use of ancillaries instead of normal human troops) and wants a more egalitarian society. Breq finds that her own mind has been a battlefield between the factions within the lord of the Radch. When Breq is no longer able to control the Justice of Toren, she sets off to get involved (or increase her involve70

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ment) in Anaander’s internal struggle. She picks up and partially rehabilitates Seivarden, a Radch soldier who used to serve on the Justice of Toren but who doesn’t know Breq’s true identity. Together they follow Breq’s plans for the future, but this is not a buddy movie script; Leckie uses Seivarden as a means of providing insight into Breq’s past, the workings of the Radch empire’s military and social structures, and the difficulties of navigating through an empire that is secretly at war with itself. I began this review by noting that I am of two minds about this book. My second reaction is that the book is occasionally needlessly opaque. It took me until about page 150 before I felt as if I knew what was going on, and the difficulty I was made to endure before that didn’t seem to serve any purpose. In all of the tragic, ridiculous, and tragicomic claims thrown at Ancillary Justice by a vocal minority of science fiction fans, one stands out—that the people who voted for it’s

Hugo recognition didn’t like the book and it really won because it was difficult to read. It’s not difficult to read; it’s more challenging than a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century novelization, but it’s not James Joyce. One of the most commented-on features of this book is that the Radchaai do not have gender differentiations in their language, except that all characters—male or female—are referred to with female pronouns. Mixing, changing, multiplying, or confusing genders is nothing new in science fiction, and it does not appear to be the theme or point of the book, so it is unclear why it was made such a distracting factor. (On a pragmatic level, it is difficult for readers to imagine a character if they don’t have any idea of what that character looks like.) Certainly, there are less-confusing ways to get across whatever point Leckie was trying to make without deploying this trick. With this book, it is possible to hold both ideas—appreciation and occasional exasperation—simultaneously.


The Sickest Superhero Movie Is the Awesomest Deadpool Directed by Tim Miller 20th Century Fox • February 12, 2016 108 minutes

PHOTO: gage skidmore

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f ever there was a costumed character you would not want your children to become, a mercenary who kills with abandon and glee would be it. But you might find yourself admiring the character nonetheless, if he was as humorous and as more-or-less on the side of good as is Deadpool. Star Ryan Reynolds is simply—to risk sounding like a 12-year-old—awesome in the starring role of Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, a mercenary who is horribly disfigured during an attempt to gain powers and cure his terminal cancer. He flees his fiance, fearing that she will never accept a man so scarred over his entire body, and he sets out to exact revenge against the man who engineered his tragedy. Much killing, swearing, killing, and insouciant wisecracking ensues. In fact, Deadpool makes more wisecracks than Ironman. One could complain about this movie by noting that swear word is followed by more swearing followed by nudity (men! women!) followed by decapitations followed by simulated sex followed by bullet-ridden corpses followed by some more swearing. And is that good bad? Is it bad bad? It’s certainly not something for the younglings. And it’s not to the taste of everyone who is older. But if you’re not turned off by that, you might very well find this to be an entertaining, funny, visually exciting (men! women!), and quite often just head-shakingly smart action film. If there is a significant disappointment in this film, it would lie in its over-reliance on superhero plot conventions. You have seen that a hundred times. The hero is wronged. The hero changes and trains and becomes, well, the hero. Then the hero hunts down the person(s) or organization that wronged him (and yes, usually a “him” and not a “her,” though we hope that will change) and has a physical battle, first killing henchmen (and yes, usually a henchman, though filmmakers are increasingly throwing in henchwomen, who of course are too dainty to be killed by male heroes so they have to be offed by the male superhero’s female sidekick) and then in a climactic battle between the superhero and the supervillain, the supervillain is vanquished. Superman does it, Batman

does it, the birds and the bees do it. Superhero films need to grow beyond that; with all of the popularity and money, not to mention the huge vats of human talent, that are going into today’s superhero films, audiences should get something other than the umpteenth reiteration of the same old storyline. Deadpool doesn’t break that pattern, and that’s too bad. Tragic, actually, in that Deadpool is clearly made for R-rated adult audiences, and it is so damned entertaining in so many ways. If only they had tried to come up with a more original plot. Comic-based movies have pushed the envelope before. Spawn featured a foul-mouthed, flatulent villain. Watchmen showed us what the Blue Man Group looks like under their skivvies. The 1995 production of Judge Dredd reportedly had to be re-edited to avoid an NC-17 rating. Heavy Metal didn’t even try to play nice enough to get a PG rating. That made each of those films something of a stand-alone experience. Studios don’t want stand-alone experiences; they want franchisable characters that can be reprocessed into new setups forever. Unlike the dark malevolence of 2005’s Sin

City, however, Deadpool is an explicitly violent and sexually suggestive film that is nonetheless a more lighthearted endeavor than Frank Miller’s noir tale. Joining Reynolds on-screen are Morena Baccarin (Wilson’s girlfriend, Vanessa), T.J. Miller (Wilson’s pal, Weasel), Stefan Kapičić (Piotr Rasputin, a.k.a. Colossus), Leslie Uggams (Deadpool’s roommate, Blind Al), and Brianna Hildebrand (X-men trainee Negasonic Teenage Warhead). They all turn in good performances; but let’s be honest, this is Ryan Reynold’s show, and he is worth the price of admission all on his own. Imagine Deadpool giving a monologue for 108 minutes, and it would still be worthwhile. Deadpool wowed ’em at the box office, breaking records for a film released at this time of the year. A sequel is already in progress. This spring, Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman will meet Chris Evans’ Captain America in Captain America: Civil War. We’ll review that when we get to it. But we would pay really good money to see Deadpool vs. Ironman. It would be the snarky quipfest to beat all snarky quipfests. weimar.ws Galaxis

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Supergirl Developed by Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, Andrew Kreisberg CBS • Monday, 8 p.m.

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n 1979, Christopher Reeve made us believe a man could fly. As the only survivor of the about-to-explode planet Krypton, Kal-El shot to Earth in a space pod and was rescued and raised by Ma and Pa Kent, who ensured he was a well-loved if incredibly bland man who could move among earthlings as one of themselves. We learned later that a few criminals also escaped, but little did we know that there were apparently more Kryptonians who got away before the big ka-bang. In fact, over the years, it appears there was a freight train’s worth of escapees, many of them megalomaniacal and quite indisposed to being nice to anyone of the Super-family. One of the nice ones to get out, Kara Zor-El, arrived after KalEl, and lost out on the popularity contest. Kara, a 12-year-old, was supposed to watch over her baby cousin Kal-El. Unfortunately for her, her ship was waylaid for 24 years by the effects of Krypton’s explosion, and by the time she arrived, Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent didn’t need her help. She grows up, gets a job working for media mogul Kat Grant (Calista Flockhart), and teams up with the Department of Extranormal Operations to fight the baddies. And there is no shortage of baddies, many of whom seem to have been imprisoned by Kara’s late mother and are eager for revenge upon the daughter. CBS’ Supergirl series tells the story of Kara, her backstory, the development of her super powers, and her development of friends and allies and enemies. It is the first time that most viewers will likely get to know the character; she obviously is not nearly as well-known as her cousin. The huge increase in the number of highprofile and successful comics-based movies 72

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Supergirl star Melissa Benoist and television shows is made possible by the rise to power in Hollywood of writers, directors, and producers who themselves grew up with comics. But to be successful, they need to draw in viewers who haven’t read that particular comic, nor perhaps any comic at all. Watching The Flash is greatly enhanced if one knows about all of the roles of the many new characters that keep getting introduced; without that knowledge, the show seems somewhat unstable. On the other side is the Guardians of the Galaxy movie; one didn’t need to know anything about that quirky comic to enjoy the rollicking fun of the film. What about Supergirl? Should viewers know about how Alex Danvers and James Olsen and Cat Grant and Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz and others fit together on the comics

page before they watch the show? Comics-based series have a tendency to get bogged down in their own internal histories. Fans who have followed the comics know the meaning of each villain or character introduced; audiences can either take them as they come or can be mystified by it all. In our opinion, a TV show should create new characters and stories to avoid falling prey to a fatal constriction of creative energy and storylines. Supergirl seems to be doing well in this case, but it’s still early days for the show. Supergirl works on another level. We’re decades into the realization that comics have millions of female fans and that Wonder Woman is not the be-all and end-all for readers looking for a female superhero to follow. The CBS show rather nicely functions as a female-centric vehicle that doesn’t have to be an awkward corporate attempt to portray a female point of view as conceived by a bunch of men. Nothing wrong with men writing about women; nothing wrong with women writing about men. But the reality of Supergirl is likely helped by the women who are part of the team running the show, including executive producers Ali Adler (also the co-creator of The New Normal), Sarah Schechter, and others. Just as comics-inspired entertainment is being made possible at a higher level of quality today thanks to all of the creators who grew up with comics, shows such as Supergirl are being made possible—and better—by powerful female Hollywood executives. The CW Network, which is partly owned by CBS, has carved out a place for itself as a home for DC Comics superhero programs, such as The Flash (which boasts a crossover with Supergirl this season) and Arrow. At press time, we were still unsure if Supergirl would be renewed for a second season on the Tiffany Network. Though it would be a shame if CBS cut the show, it would be an even bigger crime if CW didn’t pick it up and run with it.

top PHOTO: chripell from Friuli, Italy; bottom: Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV from Culver City, USA

Supergirl’s Heroic Conquest of Superhero Norms


Capsule Reviews

The Martian Directed by Ridley Scott 20th Century Fox • 2015 141 minutes rguably the most sciencefacty science-fiction movie to come along in years (or ever?), The Martian successfully brings to the big screen Andy Weir’s marvelous novel of the same name (see book review, Galaxis #5). Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, the astronaut stranded on the red planet by a forced evacuation of the rest of his mission team. Left behind, he must use his ingenuity—and he’s got lots of that—and available technology and other resources—he’s got very little of those— to survive. There’s no way a film can capture all of the details, character, and humor of a novel-length story, but The Martian does as well as any film could. Damon’s Watney is likeable and believable, and he’ll have you rooting for him right to the very end.

Pandora’s star cover: John Harris/Del Rey; Aurora cover: Orbit; Star Wars cover: del rey

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Pandora’s Star By Peter F. Hamilton Ballantine Books • 2004 988 pages f you love the multiple characters and personal stories and detailed backgrounds of everyday life to be found in an absorbing

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Stephen K i n g novel, Peter Hamilton has a novel for you, except instead of a horror novel starring everyday Americans, it is a deep-space opera starring a wide assortment of noneveryday people. Set in 2380, Pandora’s Star involves the discovery of a distant object in space that worries Commonwealth leaders, who fear it harbors dangerous aliens. That’s the story in an extreme nutshell; but this is a loooong novel, and it doesn’t even complete the story. There’s a sequel for that. With King, the length and everyday detail makes it more real, because the reader recognizes things from their own lives (food products, restaurants, movies, etc.). With Hamilton, the problem is a bit of a challenge, because there’s no way it can be real today. Sometimes, in the quest to provide realistic detail, we’re given too much information, such as the repeated information that a roadway is made with “enzymebonded concrete”; sometimes it’s okay to just call it a “road.” Good storytelling, too much detail. Enzyme-bonded concrete. Over and over. Enough.

Aurora By Kim Stanley Robinson Orbit • 2015 466 pages f you’ve ever listened to music composed by computers, you wouldn’t expect much if you hear that this novel was written from the perspective of a ship’s computer. Freya is the daughter of the main engineer aboard a generation ship headed to colonize a planet far away from Earth. Her mother, Devi, is not a warm presence in her life; her father, Badim, appears to do nothing but be a friendly face, even though he apparently holds some important position on the ship. No wonder the ship’s breaking down, and Devi’s grave illness as the ship approaches the target planet doesn’t make anything easier. The ship contains no more than a couple thousand people, who are nonsensically arranged in a series of separate interconnected biomes based unimaginatively on apparently 21st-century Earth national and ethnic setups. Each group is

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like they had been taken off the planet and shoved into a biome to create a similar land and culture to what they left behind. But it’s rather nonsensical, because this is a generation ship, and only the first generation would have cared about having the same environment as what they left behind. What the story loses in setup, it gains in an absorbing exploration of the difficulties—impossibilities, according to the lead characters— of successfully traveling far distances in space and finding other planets to inhabit. By the time you finish with this book, you’ll be a bit sadder, wondering if we’re really stuck on this ball of rock and mud for all eternity. Star Wars: The Force Awakens By Alan Dean Foster Del Rey • 2015 260 pages

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he novelization of the biggest Star Wars film in history is an weimar.ws Galaxis

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Reviewscreen a treat and a mystery when you stumble across a character’s line in the book that was different in the film. But there is not enough of that to make it alone the reason for reading this book. The story is cleanly and briskly told, faithfully giving readers the film-in-prose experience, which of course is exactly the purpose of film novelizations. One would expect nothing less from author Alan Dean Foster, who has been writing novelizations for at least four decades, such as for the first three Alien movies, Starman, Krull, and many others—including the first Star Wars film in 1977.

opportunity for fans who loved the movie to relive the story and the characters. It will not, however, appreciably add to the background of the saga anything that wasn’t in the movie. There are a few—a very few— short scenes that have either been added for the novel or were excised from the final movie script that nonetheless add some nice additional info about the story or characters. It is always a bit of

Batman vs. Superman Directed by Zack Snyder Warner Bros. • 2016 151 minutes ven before this movie hit theaters, many fans were adamant. It was terrible, a bomb, an embarrassment. The online memes presented co-star Ben Affleck as if he were ashamed of being in an obvious disaster of a film. Don’t believe the internet. Batman vs. Superman might not beat On Golden Pond or Europa Europa as a great serious film, but it

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is by no means an embarrassment or a disaster. In fact, it’s quite a well-done superhero mashup. Briefly put, Batman and Supes come to loggerheads because each of them sees the other as threatening humanity. So, for the good of humanity, naturally, each sees it as necessary to take down the other caped crusader. Affleck acquits himself nicely as the Dark Knight, and Henry Cavill continues his good work as a more serious, darker Kryptonian. Amy Adams is good as Lois Lane, but if we have to see her being saved from death one more time, we’re done with her. Luckily, for the feminists in all of us, there is the introduction of Wonder Woman, who makes a strong and welcome appearance in this testosteronefactory. Yep, a few over-the-top moments of Batman clearly losing it, and the less scenery-chewing Jesse Eisenberg the better, but overall, this film adds to and deepens the DC film footprint, and we’d welcome more in its vein. The Adjacent By Christopher Priest Titan Books • 2015 (U.S.) 352 pages n a novel that slips back and forth between an uncertain

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future with a globe-spanning Islamic caliphate, World War II, and even World War I, author Priest is up to his usual welcome tricks of meticulously planted clues and meanings. Readers need to keep their wits to understand it. Ocean and Orbiter By Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Colleen Doran, et.al. DC Comics • 2015 264 pages cience fiction has traditionally not fared as well in comics form as have other genres. Of the two stories that make up this graphic novel, the first, “Ocean,” is the, um, deepest and the better of the two. That is in part due to our Galaxis biases; “Ocean” is a science-fiction story, while “Orbiter” is an SF-horror story that did not flow as well as the first story. The artwork is very good, head-andshoulders above the hurried images in many comics.

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Spectre Directed by Sam Mendes MGM, Columbia • 2015 148 minutes ond number 24 is better than many of its predecessors; not as good as Skyfall, which was one of the best. Christoph Waltz is the baddie. We miss Judi Dench. G

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et’s talk to the aliens. What will we find? Friend or foe? Adventure or nothingness? In the next issue of Galaxis, we’ll examine alien contact (positive and negative) in the worlds of science fiction and scientific reality. We’ll also feature a special roundup of all of the upcoming action in the new lineup of Star Wars films—the mainline franchise ones as well as the one-offs.

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We will share our talks with pioneering and award-winning cartoonist Howard Cruse and provocative horror expert Sean Abley. All that, plus our famous review section, updates on current and upcoming SF TV and film projects, more short fiction, the next installment of our episode guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation, and much more. Coming soon.

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Galaxis May 2016  

Star Trek turns 50, and we help celebrate with an overview of the long-lived franchise, plus the next installment of our Next Generation epi...

Galaxis May 2016  

Star Trek turns 50, and we help celebrate with an overview of the long-lived franchise, plus the next installment of our Next Generation epi...

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