Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Burn This Manifesto

with 2 comments

It has been a short week but it has also been a hard, slow week. So not much content round here but I’m reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin, I’m off to see Kick-Ass tonight and I will be returning to The Ascent Of Wonder soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate his creation of Twenty Years, Two Surveys Niall Harrison has been posting
individual survey responses, including one from Richard Morgan in which he says:

What do you consider the most significant weakness in science fiction as a genre?

A preparedness to accept very poor levels of quality in fiction (as discussed above) so long as the gosh-wow factor is cranked up sufficiently high. Recently I was asked in an interview if I watched much TV and in response I cited The Wire as the finest TV drama around. This wasn’t what the interviewer was after, so he rephrased the question and asked me if I watched much SF&F TV. But the way he prefaced the remark was, I think, very telling. Of course they’re not in the same class as The Wire, he said, but have you seen the new Battlestar Galactica or Heroes?

As I mentioned over there, this picking up on an interview I conducted with him in 2007 and it has in turn sparked a long and interesting comments thread on Torque Control. I agree with Morgan pretty much wholeheartedly, right down to the frack/fuck issue, and it has always been a sore point for me that most SF TV is so poor.

Niall also points me towards Ritch Calvin’s ‘Mundane SF 101′ essay in Volume 289 of SFRA Review. There are a couple of notable things about this essay. Firstly, it has recently won the Mary Kay Bray Award. Secondly, it describes Niall as “her”. Thirdly, Calvin writes that:

After the Manifesto was published, critics and criticism were swift and ranged from the well considered to the vitriolic. One of the first individuals to produce an extended commentary was Ian McDonald on his LiveJournal blog.

I feel like I deserve some credit since I’ve been hating on mundane SF since 2004. Thankfully it seems to have now died a death but there are always people happy to drink the Kool-Aid.

Written by Martin

1 April 2010 at 11:51

Posted in genre wars, sf, television

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. I think you’re being unfair to Battlestar Galactica: The Wire, (mostly) wonderful though it is, is much more morally clunking that BG. (Though this may be one reason you prefer it: you seem to imply, from your criticism of BG as being for the ‘morally confused’, that moral certainty is a virtue.) The fuck/frack thing is just a question of its being on FX rather than HBO. Yes, BG is wildly inconsistent, and there are some utterly terrible individual episodes, which isn’t true of the first four seasons of The Wire, but again that’s a network problem: 22 episodes per series is too many. And then there’s the question of season 5 of The Wire, which (at least compared to the earlier seasons) was a heap of crap that made an average episode of Law & Order look slowburning and subtle.

    Tom

    5 April 2010 at 10:20

  2. I think you’re being unfair to Battlestar Galactica: The Wire, (mostly) wonderful though it is, is much more morally clunking that BG.

    I’m afraid we will just have to differ on this, I found BSG utterly idiotic.

    (Though this may be one reason you prefer it: you seem to imply, from your criticism of BG as being for the ‘morally confused’, that moral certainty is a virtue.)

    Well, I do find moral certainity a virtue if the alternative is moral relativism. However, all I meant here is that the sloppiness of the show makes it worthless to anyone who has given any thought to moral or political issues.

    The fuck/frack thing is just a question of its being on FX rather than HBO.

    I think the question of the network only opens up more questions rather than closing this criticism down. Yes, the weird vagaries of American network TV does make swearing rare but:

    1) If we accept that realistic television can only appear on a couple of network, that still leaves the fact that SF isn’t appearing on them.

    2) If you can’t swear and hence provide total realism, you certainly shouldn’t draw attention to this fact. FX also made The Shield which, if not The Wire, is bloody good entertainment. It would be substantially less so if Vince McKay went round saying “fudge”.

    At best, “frack” is weak fan service for a fandom that didn’t actually exist and draws attention to its inauspicious genesis. At worst, it puts a big flashing sign on the show saying “everything we do is subject to artistic constraint”.

    And then there’s the question of season 5 of The Wire, which (at least compared to the earlier seasons) was a heap of crap that made an average episode of Law & Order look slowburning and subtle.

    I haven’t made it that far yet but I can well believe it. As you say, network formats and constraints do actively militate against good TV: 22 episodes are too many and series shouldn’t just run on indefinitely.

    Martin

    6 April 2010 at 12:40


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