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 ★★★☆☆

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.

Super-Science Fiction v2n4 (June 1958)

In which I read old SF mags with interesting covers and writers I recognize:


via Vintage Geek Culture

  • Cover, by Kelly Freas: No story is related to the redhead full of gears and circuits, which is a damn shame. ★★★★☆
  • Hostile Life Form, by Daniel L. Galouye (aka Daniel F. Galouye): Vicious native animals kill a colony, so why not adopt the cute animals that attack the hostile ones? Oh, because nothing's that easy. Saw the ending coming a mile away but it's a good one. ★★★★☆
  • Little America on the Moon, by Arthur J. Burks: Awful. Implausibly bad Lunar colony, tedious and sexist 1950s psychology, Manifest Destiny in space, avoid. ★☆☆☆☆
  • Slaves of the Tree, by Eric Rodman (aka Robert Silverberg): 1950s genetics aside (with a handwavy explanation), an excellent story until two train-wreck writing failures. The under-explained but creepy Terran "Colonial Force" and their Darwinian expansion plan is wonderful for backstory. I had a consistent explanation for the protagonist Rayner's behavior, but also suspected there was no way a story written in the 1950s would even hint at a gay man as a character. Well, spoiler time. First, mouseover for spoiler. So what were readers of the '50s supposed to think about him? Second, psychic forces, ugh. John Campbell was a lunatic and a troll. There's pheromonal or other mechanisms that could be used, not this nonsense word denoting nothing real. I'm so close to loving this story, but a sane editor needed to beat the stupid out of it. ★★★☆☆
  • Look to the Stars, by Scott Nevets: A space news article about a "Cat Eye" light amplifier for telescopes; I can't find anything useful about it. And a supposed catalyst for an endlessly-flying upper-atmosphere rocket; I find the chemistry dubious and it certainly didn't become a thing. But keep in mind Sputnik had only launched the year before this, so this was some cutting-edge speculation here. (nil)
  • Special Aptitude, by R. H. Hardwick: This is what passed for 1950s pornography. They were sad little critters without PornHub. ★☆☆☆☆
  • Science Shorts, by Edgar P. Straus: What seems to be the announcement of the Nançay radio-telescope (NRT), which took some years after this article to actually be productive. 3D TV announced! Yeah, the eternal bullshit product nobody wants. (nil)
  • Frontier Planet, by Calvin M. Knox (also aka Robert Silverberg): Killin' natives is so good, it makes you want to stay and do farm chores and then kill more of 'em. Garbage story, which is a shock from Silverberg. Was he drunk? Did he lose a bet? Did John Campbell hold a gun to his head like Heinlein's "Sixth Column"? Avoid. ★☆☆☆☆
  • No Planet is Safe, by Harlan Ellison: "Each trip got worse. It seemed Mother Nature hated Man, and had set each alien world as a trap for him. No matter how peaceful the worlds had seemed, they had each held many hidden dangers, into which the Earthmen had stumbled." I don't buy the ending, it's a shaggy planet story if there ever was one, but Harlan never fails to amuse. ★★★★☆
  • One to a Customer, by Theodore R. Cogswell: Terrible people making stupid choices. Sadly not at enough length to be worth it. ★★☆☆☆
  • The Spacistor: More quaint science news. A now-obsolete improvement to the first transistors, explained breathlessly. (nil)

Movie Policy

My movie policy is "with rare exceptions, don't watch adaptations or sequels".

Movie adaptations of books are mostly horrible. What I read a book for is complex new ideas, setting, plot, very slightly writing style and characterization. Those are almost impossible for movies to capture; they can have attractive sets, cinematography, and soundtrack, and adequate hitting-marks-and-saying-lines by the walking meatsticks we call "actors", but there simply isn't time for a complex plot or any exploration of an idea in a film, and few of them even try.

Competent SF/F/H adaptations are almost nonexistent:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  • "It's a Good Life" (1961)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Altered States (1980)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1981)
  • "Who Goes There?"/The Thing (1982)

These are not competent, despite what some fanlings will scream in all caps:

  • Solaris (1972) and Solaris (2002), both are slow, tedious, and almost unwatchable. Stanislaw Lem's hard to film, but these are terrible.
  • 2001 (1968) was a collaboration, but the book has an actual ending.
  • The Shining (1980) is beautifully-shot, perfectly-acted nonsense which loses everything interesting from King's book.
  • Every Philip K Dick adaptation. I didn't hate Screamers (1995) or Radio Free Albemuth (2010), but neither are great films.
  • Watchmen (2009) and Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) tried, and about half of each succeeds perfectly, wrecked by the other half being trash.
  • Pirates of the Carribean 2+, which had sometimes spectacularly good ideas and amazing visuals, wrecked by Disneyfication, incoherent plots, bit part actors who aren't competent for limelight, and Depp's Mick Jagger impersonation wearing thin fast.
  • Harry Potter. Films 1-5 are fun trash, then 6-8 are grim, dull, melodramatic trash. I quite like the books, even the grindingly slow later ones, but these aren't quality adaptations.

Competent genre adaptations (I don't read romance or no-genre "literature", so I can't comment on those), I can think of:

  • The Godfather (1972), and the movie is far better than the book.
  • The Wages of Fear/Sorcerer (1977) perhaps, but I haven't read the French novel, only seen the French movie; Sorcerer has deeper characters and literally explosive tension.
  • Lonesome Dove (1989)
  • "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption"/The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • Fight Club (1999)
  • American Psycho (2000) and The Rules of Attraction (2002), but the Less Than Zero (1987) "adaptation of a title" almost cancels out both positive adaptations.
  • Man on Fire (2004) is better than the book, dumping the trick ending of the book helped.
  • A History of Violence (2005)
  • Jesse Stone: Stone Cold (2005) and all the sequels have done justice to Robert B. Parker's novels, though Tom Selleck is about 30 years older than the Jesse Stone of the books.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), the Swedish films are pretty close to the books' brooding tone, technophilia, and fucked-up psychologies, and the actors are great for it. NEVER watch American remakes.

Competent sequels are just as rare. After quite a while thinking on it, I have:

  • Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)
  • Sanjuro (1962)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1967)
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), also an adaptation, but the book is terrible.
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1982)
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
  • Aliens (1986), but only barely: It's written by a pack of syphilitic monkeys compared to Dan O'Bannon's perfect Alien, it's not even a horror movie, it's just another of James Cameron's trashy Vietnam-in-space flicks. Still, you take what you can get.
  • The Killer (1989), not technically a sequel to A Better Tommorrow (1986), but close enough.
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
  • New Dragon Inn (1992), I found the original 1967 film grim, dull, and unloveable despite great swordfights, the remake/sequel is fun while still menacing and having even better swordfights.
  • Léon: The Professional (1994), not technically a sequel to La Femme Nikita (1990), but close enough.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), considerably better than the first, and more like the comics.
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • While I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) as fun trash, it's not as good fun trash as the first.

I bring this up because of jwz's unhappy review of Blade Runner 2049. It's like they did everything I hate in films. And jwz likes Blade Runner, I barely tolerate it as moving wallpaper.

Philip K Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" is vastly more interesting than the very pretty but vapid Blade Runner, and the new one is a sequel to an adaptation, so it's a hall of mirrors reflecting horrors. All the philosophy and setting of DADOES is thrown away for visual flair & a nice Vangelis album, which you can listen to without a movie talking over it.

Why in Blade Runner are there artificial animals & people? Why is the city so empty except for little gaggles of people? Why is empathy their test for humanity? None of this is even hinted at. So the movie is just a psychopath murdering and raping what appear to be human slaves who try to run or can't quite pass his test.

So they doubled down on pretty nonsense instead of background or plot, and introduced stupid new ideas. The only good thing Jared Leto has ever done was American Psycho, especially the Huey Lewis scene. Every use of him in any other film should just be a remake of that scene.