RIP Gardner Dozois

Sad loss, but: I only ever read a few of his own stories, and not memorable. I grew up reading the first two dozen of his Year's Best SF collections, and a few later; they were a good summary of what happened each year in short SF, then I'd follow up with the authors I liked from them. But I noticed by the '00s that his editorial selections went from 75% white male US/UK writers doing Ben Bova-style SF to over 90%. The early volumes always had some Pat Cadigan, "James Tiptree, Jr", Nancy Kress, and many more, and that faded out by the end; very few non-US/UK writers ever did make it in; I was going to say that no non-white writer ever made it in, but Octavia Butler is in #2 and #5, Steven Barnes in #34, and a few others, maybe 1% representation. I want more variety in "year's best".

Star Wars

  • Auralnauts Star Wars
  • Ep 1: Rewriting the Jedi as belligerent drunks looking for a party and disrupting chain restaurants makes far better sense than whatever late-stage-dementia Lucas was doing.
  • Ep 2-3: (Didn't watch, never saw the Lucas versions. Maybe I should?) Later: Have watched, was unbearably awful even in parody and short form, and 1.5x speed. I can't imagine how bad the original is.
  • Ep 3: Later: Even more awful for a while, then the music video, dance-fight, and end are pretty great.
  • Ep 4: LASER MOON. Creepio's psychosis and Leia's dating profile are to blame for everything.
  • Ep 5: The parade is adorable and the Bespin after-party is the bleak morning after we all deserve, but surprisingly this is the weakest ep.
  • Ep 6: The Last Laser Master is Star Wars on Ice plus Laser Floyd, and finally makes sense of muppet planet.

Fantastic. ★★★★★

What I'm Watching: End of Lost In Space

Spoiler Warning for S1E7-S1E10.








I should say something nice: I do like the Chariots. They're not as cool as the 1960s Snow-Cat-based Chariot, but they're solid vehicles for rough terrain, I'd like a little more interior space and visibility, but if I was a kid with this show on, I would 100% want a Chariot toy and action figures.

Sadly, this ends my nice things, mostly because the writers were knocked unconscious and were unable to finish writing these eps.

You've stuck your Chariot in a tarpit. Do you A) Pull out the seats or any other long surface and hop to safety, B) Use the weather balloon rig to fly to safety, or C) Go down with the ship, prepare for ultimate sacrifice (heavy dramatic music), then come up with a wacky plan involving crawling thru tubes? If you are a moron and a writer on this show (but I repeat myself), you choose C.

Judy's Hippocratic oath and these groundhogs' inability to put a patch on a fuel tanker dooms everyone. I don't think Judy could act differently, and the politician is useless, but I would expect spaceship engineer Don West to think first.

Dr Smith's jig is up. And then she has to take more direct action, which isn't really her forte. Her plan to use Maureen doesn't make a lot of sense, when Will's the only one who knew how to fix the Robot. But happy accidents solve every problem, and now there's two magic space drives.

Finding out where the drive comes from explains some of the first ep plot holes, but FTL is still magical bullshit, and otherwise unnecessary to this show's premise.

There's plot around the politician, and Penny whining, and none of it matters in the least. Waste of screen time.

The Pitch Black monster ripoff and cave full of fuel shit are nonsense: The planet has aquatic hydrocarbon-eaters like the eels, so it'd have a land version. The blind apex predators which are stated to eat everything don't notice stage-whispering and Scooby-Doo-sneaking right next to them.

Maureen's behavior is reckless, suicidal, and you'd call CPS immediately, she shouldn't be in charge of jack shit especially after exploding her husband and Don. She tells her brat "you are a good person", when Will murdered his pet. I know I'm a little monomaniacal on that, but that is a massive sign of psychopathy, little Michael Myers there should be in a padded cell, not polluting the gene pool of a new world. They'll have venture capitalists in a few generations.

"Don't you have any regrets?" "I don't believe in looking back, that's how you crash into things."
— there's still a few good one-liners.

Dr Smith throws away her helmet and makes herself vulnerable when she should know better, paranoia is her thing. Why is there artificial gravity now, did they run out of budget for wires or CGI? I can't be sure, because either they need to clean real lenses, or they CGI'd in a bunch of fake lens flares in every goddamned scene. Then there's a crappy CGI robot battle and a program suddenly thinks a boy who killed it is its friend. And where's the alien ship in all this? Maybe it's even more Canadian than I thought, and they're Mounties like Dudley Do-Right. One planetary infestation by Humans, one Mounty to clean it up.

The plot just drives all over at random, flailing around, and then plays happy music when the writers "and a miracle happened" their way out of any mess. Truly some of the worst plot I've ever seen. By this point, I actively loathe Maureen.

I really hope this doesn't get a second season, much as I like Judy and Dr Smith and even Don, and they managed to lose the Resolute as I hoped for last time; the rest of the Robinsons are still super annoying, and there's just no chemistry.
★★☆☆☆ for these eps.

What I'm Watching: Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams

An Amazon anthology series loosely based on PKD stories. As with all "Famous Name's Famous Title", the connection is tenuous at best.

Title sequence is appalling, like some direct-to-VHS shit Blue Moon would be ashamed to ship.

Many spoilers ahead for these terrible PKD adaptations, but also I would hope that you've read all of PKD's stories before seeing the terrible video adaptations. Many are free on iBooks or archive.org.

I want some good SF to watch again someday, is that too much to ask?

Real Life: If you're not sure if you're in real life or a dream, ask yourself if you actually know any of the facts of your life and job; you can't make up skills you don't know, for instance advanced math. The back-and-forth structure was annoying, and I thought both protagonists were vapid idiots. Also every technical phrase was gibberish. Avoid.
☆☆☆☆☆

Autofac: "After the war, the land was decimated.": Decimation means to execute every tenth person in a rebellious province. Annihilated, Demolished, Exterminated, these are appropriate words. Fucking morons.

I loved the old short story, unstoppable delivery trucks, all-consuming factories, a long campaign of sabotage against the dumb but evolving autofacs, and the futility of opposing evolution. The Galaxy illustrations are fantastic, too: Spare but technical and precise.

SIGH. So this show: Good crappy post-apocalypse Amazon drone-shipping look, but too much computer tech with shitty Matrix-looking scrolling text, blondes who think dreadlocks are OK, and then a shitload of exposition, AIs and a girl in a jumpsuit who says she's a robot, and a WIRED magazine CEO profile saves the world. Bears about 2% resemblance to the story.
★★☆☆☆

Human Is: Incoherent set of disconnected scenes. Space-Nazis on "Terra" (so you know it's the future—Dick often did that, tho) deciding to invade Poland^W Rexor IV with a single spaceship. Vera, Essie Davis, goes to a literally underground sex club with annoying jazz, spacing out at projection screens, and huffing drugs. Vera was a scientist in the story, but here she's some useless bureaucrat in a 1940s-German-inspired outfit. There's maybe the worst-shot combat scene I've ever seen.

Then asshole Space Nazi Silas turns nice, which clearly means he's not human anymore. The book's sappy romance and annoying child are here replaced with food and sex, which I shan't complain about. And then the worst court scene since Picard whined about Data's humanity. So trite and obvious it's like PKD madlibs. I hated this, but it's not so far from his stories as the other two.
★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Still Lost in Canada^W Space

Spoiler Warning for S1E5-S1E6









Apparently Mom thinks it's easier to fly a weather balloon to stratosphere than make a simple Galileo telescope. And then somehow she's able to naked-eye observe a close-orbiting black hole, which would be cooking the planet with X-rays already, and have weird time dilation effects; see Greg Egan's Incandescence for a more plausible story of being that close to a black hole.

Then the claim that the trees have one growth ring… when these are clearly old-growth, decades to centuries worth, with moss, thick undergrowth, and years-rotting fallen trees as one would expect of Canadian forests.

A yearly cleansing by stellar fire would leave a mostly-sterile desert with fast-growing weeds and voracious predation by estivating animals, like Death Valley blossoming in a yearly monsoon season, not cool evergreens (even aside from the utter stupidity of Earth-like plants on an alien planet).

I guess I should give them credit for one scene where grass is digitally recolored from green to purple. A small token nod to "not Canada".

Dr Smith is increasingly awesome and terrible. I assume she knows how to pass as a therapist from years of being in therapy, and a half measure of con games and grifting. The shit she does to program Angela as a weapon is amazing. Knockout performance.

Penny's teen romance with Vijay is awkward and they're both quite terrible actors, and there's Vogon-quality poetry. I would love these scenes to be much shorter, or for them both to be eaten by eels, on-screen and slowly.

Don West, Argentine soap opera actor Ignacio Serricchio, has improved greatly from his annoying first few eps, good comic timing and enough schemes of his own going on to be interesting, and he plays off well against heroic Judy. Single-camera editing only works if you're meticulous about sets and wardrobe, however, and the St Christopher medallion he took from Dr Smith keeps appearing and vanishing around his neck, and the time of day keeps changing even when it's overcast, throughout a few of his scenes, which suggests these were fix-it shots on another day. Maybe Señor Soap isn't great at reading lines without multi-camera and a teleprompter?

The asshole politician, the snooty Japanese scientists, and dozen generic extras are less present and interesting than the CGI fairy moth thing. Utter failure for an "ensemble" show, it would be better if all these extras and the supposed crew of the Resolute died and left the Robinsons isolated.

I grew up watching reruns (a decade too late for original run) of the original Lost in Space, which was about the triangle of Dr Smith, Will, and the Robot, and the rest barely even had names, and it worked because Billy Mumy had enough charm and wit even as a kid to stand up to Jonathan Harris and Bob May. He could read a line of naïve dialog and then show the gears turning as Will figured out what Smith was doing. Which is to say, everything this show's Will is not capable of.

This Will Robinson has graduated from emotionless sociopath to harming his pet. He's gonna be a serial killer.
Still ★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: Lost in Space

Why are they crash-landing in the ship's mess room, not in the control room, trying to pilot? How can an interstellar journey from Earth to "the colony" (later stated to be on Alpha Centauri) miss and still hit another habitable planet? Even by my usual standard of "FTL is magical bullshit", this is magical bullshit. SIGH.

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
—Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

Every scene builds pseudo-tension of an improbable danger just barely missed. Then drags on with people weeping or bickering to dramatic music for a half hour.

The alien planet is Canada 🇨🇦, as usual. Glaciers, then Rockies or Cascades pine forest. They didn't even try to make it look like Not-Canada. That was a stupid running gag in Stargate SG-1, but this is really kinda inexcusable.

The sets look like trendy gyms and cafeterias, except for the ubiquitous flooded Jeffries Tube. The glass screen UIs aren't bad. Production is fine, but not amazing, lot of junky plastic gadgets that could've been made in the 1990s.

The robot is fairly shitty, a gunmetal-and-black, pseudo-organic, insectile death machine with Warhammer 40K spiky bits, so it doesn't have to look like anything that works. I really liked the original Robot, and its predecessor Robby in Forbidden Planet. Nobody would ever love this thing.

Will Robinson isn't supposed to be fit for stress, but in practice he's totally calm, icewater in his veins, face of a sociopath. Or of an 11-year-old child with no comprehension of his scenes. Maybe he's the real robot.

Taylor Russell (from the Saved by the Bell remake) as Judy, the adopted girl for diversity (there are so far 2 black women and one hispanic soap opera actor in a world of honkies) is the only competent one, and initially extra aggressive and adventurous, and then hit with PTSD and a bit too much caution. Competent actress, as well.

Parker Posey as "Dr Smith" is a very different kind of fraud, but so far not as dangerous as the original, and I've always had kind of a thing for her.

Penny is a moron with no survival skills or common sense. Mom is a bossy engineer, Dad's an absent almost divorced soldier, and their bickering and stiffness don't make them endearing.

I am horrorstruck at the total lack of security on everything, like airlocks and other destructive ship systems which work with a single button press and a fail-bad abort button. Except the 3D printer, which won't make a gun after an emergency crash-landing because alien planets don't need guns? No tech or physical security people consulted on this series.

As of S1E4, I don't hate this, but I have zero investment in most of the characters so I check out when Judy or Dr Smith aren't on screen.
★★★☆☆

Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon is now on Netflix, based on the cyberpunk books by Richard Morgan (which I read about 15 years ago and am somewhat fuzzy on). I'm up to ep 5 of 10 now; time for binging is hard to come by but I'm trying.

"Avoid blunt force trauma to the base of the brain, and energy weapons fired at the head!"

Good story adaptation. Doesn't flinch from any of the gross biology, the casual homicides and "organic damage", the sex and nudity. It's some good old-fashioned porn and torture porn at times.

So first, the weird premise: Everyone has an alien-tech chip in their spine which backs up the brain, lets them transfer to another "sleeve" (body). I have problems with this: Alien tech shouldn't interact with Human biology, and how did they get interstellar travel in the very near future? The show doesn't do much to establish the year or future history, but best I can figure:

  • Now? Interstellar travel.
  • 2050? Find alien tech, get brain chips.
  • 2100: Protectorate vs Envoy war.
  • 2350: Present.

I don't remember how much was explained in the book, but it's way too fast up front and then nothing happens for 250 years.

There's too many physical hardware devices, when almost everything should be software projected on any flat surface or into your optic nerve.

The Methuselahs, rich assholes who can't die, don't really show off how debauched they are until a few eps in, but it's pretty tame compared to Caligula.

The Neo-Catholic and Muslim fruitloops who don't want to be resurrected never made any sense to me in the book, and of course they're committing demographic suicide, there shouldn't be any "believers" this long after the chip.

I don't like the goomba actor they "sleeved" Kovacs in, but Ortega, Elliott, Poe, and most of the others are fine. Kovacs' Hello Kitty backpack full of guns makes me laugh every scene. The fight scenes are great, very bloody and physical, up-close combat. The hotel fight was excellent, once the mooks realize the hotel's killing them.

Visuals are sometimes very derivative of Blade Runner, which wasn't at all the impression I got from the book. Later it gets more of its own look, more gutter SF. The trash areas look like Richard Stanley's Hardware, but not as dirty. The upper city has pneumatic tubes for cars like Futurama, and flying cars with manual controls which seems so implausible it may as well be a sleigh with flying reindeer.

But it's well-shot, the CG mixed into the world constantly as you'd expect from neural-interfaced brains.

Should be ★★★★★ because they made a show of guns, fucking, and brain-fucking for me, but the stupid timeline knocks it down to ★★★★☆

Nightmares of the Only Human

I just had this dream/nightmare, so now I'm telling you so you can be scared.

I was one of the only Humans ever abducted and brought to live in alien society, mostly in space stations. I was getting along as a PI/thug for hire since Humans are more casually violent than aliens, who are mostly small and peaceful. Their infosystems are ridiculously open and simple, so I can just code around anything. I suspect Humans had been loose in the Galaxy before this cycle of civilization, because they already had a suspicious fear of our kind.

Then I hear about a ship full of Humans coming, so I bribe/threaten the dockmaster into giving me the passenger manifest. It's Mark Zuckerberg and a shitload of Facebookers. A few seconds of thought reveal how this is gonna go: Facebook infestation, spreads system to system, within a Galactic cycle everyone would be their slaves.

I get ready to take my ship to the other side of the Galaxy, figuring 100,000 years time and light-years should keep me safe (even in my dreams, I don't believe in bullshit like FTL travel). The station panics, having never seen anything that scares a Human. I get out to the edge of the system, see their ship on my radar. Moral quandry: Should I kill them all, and prove how violent Humans are, or let these predatory literal motherfuckers loose on defenseless little alien critters?

I woke up. What I'm saying is, if you meet a Facebooker, kill them before they get out into the Galaxy.