Posts tagged with "star trek" - Faerye Net 2011-01-08T22:07:28+00:00 Felicity Shoulders What makes a good sequel 2011-01-08T22:07:28+00:00 2011-01-14T16:55:59+00:00 <p>In the movie-watching spree that constitutes the Ryan &amp; Felicity holiday tradition, I have recently watched partial or complete arcs of the following movie franchises: <em>Back to the Future</em>, <em>Star Wars</em>, <em>Alien</em>, and <em>Terminator</em>. (Small spoilers only &#8212; and if you&#8217;re not spoiled on this stuff, welcome to my blog!)</p> <p>Early on in this decadent parade of wonders, Ryan remarked to me that <em>Empire Strikes Back</em> is one of the best movie sequels ever. We talked about that and what it does so well. Then, just now, after rewatching the somewhat lackluster <em>Terminator 3</em>, we watched <em>Terminator Salvation</em>. We had been told it was bad. We decided to try it anyway, out of an unusual completionist urge. (I haven&#8217;t watched <em>Alien 3</em> and don&#8217;t plan to, okay?)</p> <p><em>Terminator Salvation</em> was great. Surprisingly tightly plotted. New Skynet tech and types were logical, part of a burgeoning machine ecosystem. It was well acted, full of ties to the original movie and winks at the entire Cameron oeuvre.</p> <p>This has cemented my desire to think (and therefore ramble) about what makes a good sequel (and in part, what does <span class="caps">NOT</span>.)</p> <p>1. <strong>A good sequel expands the universe of the original.</strong> This should be true of a straight sequel, not just the second act of three. Yes, the viewer loved the first one, but if you rehash the same material, some part of them will wonder why they didn&#8217;t just watch it again. <em>Empire Strikes Back</em> took us to new worlds, showed us a hint of the Emperor we&#8217;d only heard of, brought us inside the Imperial Fleet.</p> <p>2. <strong>It stays true to the original.</strong> This is tricky, but to my English-major self that means it develops at least some of the most important themes of the original. <em>Aliens</em> is a different <strong>genre</strong> from <em>Alien</em>, and some might argue not a true sequel, but it&#8217;s still about the same things: conflict between corporate and human interests, the relationship between human and artificial intelligence, social class, et c. It also means you don&#8217;t add a bunch of extraneous new characters that detract from the ones we know and care about.</p> <p>3. <strong>It deepens the characters.</strong> The feelings between Han and Leia, the risk-taking prompted by Marty&#8217;s insecurity, Ripley&#8217;s motherhood&#8230;these are things that didn&#8217;t exist in the first story, but don&#8217;t contradict it. They breathe new meaning retroactively into the first story while using the increased space granted by success (a necessary condition for sequels) to increase the emotional attachment of the audience.</p> <p>4. <strong>It follows through.</strong> If we were promised post-apocalyptic guerilla warfare, give it to us. If you hung a craft full of alien eggs on the wall like Chekhov&#8217;s gun, take that sucker down and start firing facehuggers. Don&#8217;t promise &#8220;I&#8217;m going to show these people what you don&#8217;t want them to see&#8230;.A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries.&#8221; and then ignore those people to have boring fisticuffs with infinite agents instead.</p> <p>5. <strong>It rewards the audience&#8217;s fidelity.</strong> This is perhaps the riskiest part. See number 1 &#8212; don&#8217;t rehash. The peril of the sequel, especially in action movies, is doing the same thing over, but bigger and fancier. Catch phrases become atrophied, meaningless, a string of checkboxes or gotcha moments. Chases become an obligation, not a thrill. The script serves the formula rather than the story. We didn&#8217;t need to see the T-101 shoot up a bunch of cop cars and smugly calculate 0 human casualties in T3. It was something we&#8217;d already seen, but shorn of the context that made it relevant in T2. A good reference is something that makes sense in the new context to someone who hasn&#8217;t seen the referent. If we haven&#8217;t seen <em>Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom</em>, we don&#8217;t scratch our heads in <em>Last Crusade</em> when Indy says &#8220;Fly? Yes. Land? No!&#8221; Obviously it matters whether he can fly a plane, and his incomplete knowledge creates tension and humor. T4 was full of shots, sets and moments that made devoted fans point and grin, but those things served this movie. Rhyme, don&#8217;t repeat.</p> <p>6. <strong>It surprises us.</strong> Keeping your promises doesn&#8217;t mean being predictable. We have expectations now, and you can play with them. Having the T-101 be the good guy in T2 reversed our expectations. (In T3 it was just a bit tired.) It surprised us. It surprised John Connor. It surprised Sarah Connor into an iconic image of surprise (I know I mentally fall down and backpedal against a waxed floor from time to time.) Set up a love triangle, then knock it down with a relative revelation. Make us expect the repeat, then play against it: a formidable swordsman menaces Indy, he reaches for his gun &#8212; but it isn&#8217;t there.</p> <p>Really, what this all boils down to is respecting the original but showing us something new. The <em>Star Wars</em> prequels contradict the originals and depart from their spirit. <em>Star Trek V</em>, among its other sins, takes us past a Galactic Barrier we crossed in the series and acts like that&#8217;s where no man has gone before. This is simple stuff, really, but I imagine that deep in Hollywood, making something complicated and expensive with hundreds of other people, it&#8217;s easy to forget what you&#8217;re really doing. You&#8217;re gathering the children by the fire to tell them a story. They say, &#8220;Tell us another!&#8221; They say, &#8220;What happens next?&#8221;</p> Top Ten Favorite Fictional Ships 2010-12-26T13:38:04+00:00 2010-12-26T13:38:21+00:00 <p>Because I recently named a vehicle, this <em>burning question</em> has been on my mind. (Wikipedia links contain spoilers, natch.) List subject to change without notice if I remember any more awesome vessels!</p> <ol> <li><strong>The Millennium Falcon</strong> &#8211; &#8220;I got your promise: not a scratch?&#8221;</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Enterprise-D</strong> &#8211; Icon of my formative years. I still physically wince when I watch <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Cause and Effect&#8221;</a>. Or <a href="" target="links"><em>Generations</em></a>, but please, who doesn&#8217;t?</li> <li><strong>Serenity</strong> &#8211; My favorite episode is <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Out of Gas&#8221;</a>.</li> <li><strong>(<span class="caps">SSV</span>) Normandy</strong> &#8211; Hey, <a href="" target="links">giving me a ship</a> is a good way to engage my affections. If you have a yacht on hand, I invite you to check if this works for non-fictional craft!</li> <li><b><span class="caps">HMS</span> Surprise </b>- Yes, I know there are real <span class="caps">HMS</span> <em>Surprise</em>s. But none of them have Jack Aubrey&#8217;s initials carved into the cap of the masthead, which <a href="" target="links">this one</a> does.</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Enterprise (-A)</strong> &#8211; It is a classic, I&#8217;ll admit.</li> <li><strong>The Dawn Treader</strong></li> <li><strong>The White Star</strong> &#8211; Despite the <a href="" target="links">dilution effect</a>.</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Defiant</strong> &#8211; It looks like an anteater, but then, my high school mascot was an aardvark.</li> <li><strong>Johnny Dooit&#8217;s sand-boat</strong> &#8211; From <em><a href="" target="links">The Road to Oz</a></em>. If anyone reading didn&#8217;t need to be told, then I salute you!</li> </ol> Darmok and diversions 2010-10-07T22:46:17+00:00 2010-10-07T22:59:11+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been substitute-teaching again, a pursuit which reminds me that, contrary to what I was taught of sleep cycles in Psych 101, I still apparently have the 26-hour day of a teenager. Since I go to sleep at a grown-up time and no longer live with a patient mother who is willing to shake and wake seven times before seven o&#8217;clock, this is a trial. You may infer what you wish from this about my blogging regularity. In case I haven&#8217;t mentioned it, I substitute-teach at the private high school from which I graduated, sometimes for teachers under whose auspices I myself learned. It is surreal and enriching.</p> <p>Today was a great joy. Many of the sweetest moments in my return to this school are in the actual teaching, which is of course difficult, changeable, suddenly enlightening stuff. But today my task was the classic sub-task: <span class="caps">DVD</span> in, lights off, stern gaze on. It was a good day to sub, however, for today I administered a Freshman tradition: Darmok Day.</p> <p>In my eighth grade year I had argued with my Government and Language Arts teachers. &#8220;Why do you have to show us such <span class="caps">BAD</span> episodes of <em>Star Trek</eM>? These non-Trekkers are going to think it&#8217;s all like that!&#8221; Yes, I said &#8220;Trekkers&#8221;, for I was a <span class="caps">TNG</span> nerd. In 8th grade, they showed us <a href="">Wesley Whining</a> and <a href="" target="links">Riker and the Androgynous Being</a>. But in ninth grade, my Humanities teachers finally showed the class a <em>good</em> episode of <span class="caps">TNG</span>. <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Darmok&#8221;</a>.</p> <p>Freshman Humanities is an English/History combined course that takes students through several millennia of human history and a pile of major religious texts and epics. At first &quot;Darmok&quot;&#8217;s connection to this seems somewhat tenuous: Picard recounts the story of Gilgamesh to the wounded Tamarian Dathon. Today&#8217;s students, still raw from their first-ever high school critical essay (on this same Gilgamesh), groaned at the name.</p> <p>But when I pressed them to consider why the freshmen watch this every year, they did see that a sci-fi tale of a culture which communicates entirely in terms of shared, mythohistoric stories had some relevance to a class where the students establish a knowledge of our own planet&#8217;s oldest shared mythohistoric stories. Stories that will allow them to communicate and understand. I didn&#8217;t mention, but did think, that in an odd way it connects them to traditions at their own school, to years of students yelling back and forth across the Great Hall: &#8220;Darmok and Jalad!&#8221; &#8220;At Tanagra!&#8221; Cultures within cultures, with their own languages of reference and metaphor.</p> <p>And of course, as one earnest young man said when I called on him, &#8220;Because <em>Star Trek</em> is awesome!&#8221;</p> The Eyeliner Principle 2010-01-07T11:27:57+00:00 2010-01-07T11:34:16+00:00 <p>The Eyeliner Principle is simple. For decades, eyeliner on men has meant Evil in science fiction, adventure, and action movies and TV shows. (On women, eye makeup has little significance. I would say on women it means the character is awake, but we all know that Hollywomen sleep perfectly made up, and seeing them without eye makeup is about as common as seeing them in bras that don&#8217;t match their underwear.) <em>Pirates of the Caribbean</em> broke new ground using eyeliner for the merely morally ambivalent.</p> <p>Now, you could probably come up with several cultural explanations for this: eye makeup is associated with women, so men with eye makeup are coded as effeminate and therefore transgressive, flawed. Or perhaps it&#8217;s playing on white audience&#8217;s xenophobia &#8211; certainly some eyelinered villains, like Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon, play on tropes of the dangerous, exotic Other. Maybe it&#8217;s a mish-mash of the two. Whatever the origins, it&#8217;s a pretty good bet when you see a guy in eyeliner in a mainstream piece of media, you shouldn&#8217;t trust him.</p> <p>I bring this up because it isn&#8217;t just a handy way of tagging baddies like the fianc&eacute; in <em>Titanic</em>. It allows the omniscient viewing public to differentiate good male characters from their evil twins, clones, doppelgangers, possessed or de-souled counterparts. This incurs no plot damage, since the other characters always seem to be ignorant of the Eyeliner Principle (they seem to be slow to catch on about leather pants, too). This holds true everywhere from <em>Young Hercules</em> (Yes, I&#8217;ve watched that. Hercules isn&#8217;t the only one that was young once) to <em>Star Trek</em>. Which is really the reason I brought this up*. It&#8217;s important that you all know that Captain Kirk with eyeliner is evil. Seriously, if you ever see William Shatner wearing eyeliner, <em>run</em>&#8230;and thank me later.</p> <p>*More on Evil Kirk coming soon!</p> Shaking hands is illogical 2009-10-22T22:58:41+00:00 2009-10-22T23:14:15+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m going to the <a href="" target="links">World Fantasy Convention</a> in San Jose this month. I&#8217;m excited. My mom isn&#8217;t though, because she&#8217;s worried about her offspring traveling and picking up <a href="" target="links">the dread H1N1</a>. While I try to allay her influenza fears as much as I can in general, I can see her point here. One of the main things you do at conventions is meet people. And here in America, when we meet, we mostwise shake hands.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve seen some people try to sidestep the handshake this year, but it&#8217;s difficult. You have to explain why you don&#8217;t want to shake, and some people take it personally. You&#8217;re basically deleting a major social ritual that communicates goodwill. It&#8217;s in the fabric of our culture, and it&#8217;s hard to rip out.</p> <p>That&#8217;s where my idea comes in.</p> <center><img src="" width="413" height="413" alt="a hand performing the Vulcan salute" title="Live Long and Prosper this Flu Season" /></center> <p>You see, at science fiction conventions, people share far more than a single culture. Even if you hate <em>Star Trek</em>, if you&#8217;re at a sci-fi con, you&#8217;re going to understand the gesture and its meaning. It fills the void left by handshaking. It doesn&#8217;t insult the recipient &#8212; most of us would love to live long and prosper &#8212; and hey, if you&#8217;re worried someone will think you&#8217;re a geek, you&#8217;re in the wrong place.</p> <p>I&#8217;d love to go to World Fantasy and Orycon this year and see people keeping their hands germ-free and their greetings classic and cordial, so if you think this is a good idea, please pass it along!</p> <p>Here are some tools you can use:</p> <p>Images (as seen above, all .png format)</p> <ul> <li><a href="" target="images">Small image</a> (207 pixels square, 19K)</li> <li><a href="" target="images">Medium-sized image</a> (413 pixels square, 50K)</li> <li><a href="" target="images">Large image</a> (825 pixels square, 146K)</li> </ul> <p>Flyers (.pdf format, image plus &#8220;Shaking hands is illogical.&#8221;)</p> <ul> <li><a href="/media/flusalute1sheet.pdf">One 8.5&quot; x 11&quot; flyer</a></li> <li><a href="/media/flusalute2sheet.pdf">Two flyers on one 8.5&quot; x 11&quot; sheet</a></li> </ul> <p><font size=1>Feel free to use these images and flyers under <a href="" target="links">Creative Commons Noncommercial-Share Alike</a>. Please link back here if you post derivative works online. (If you make a pin, flyer, or other offline derivative work, you don&#8217;t have to mess it up with my info. I&#8217;ll live!) Thanks to my dad for his photograph, and his hand.</font></p> <p>Live long and prosper this flu season!</p> Where did I park that invisible Klingon Bird of Prey? 2007-11-17T22:15:09+00:00 2008-05-25T21:22:01+00:00 <p>Looks like we need it again.</p> <p><a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">BBC</span> article:</a><br /><blockquote>A Japanese whaling fleet has set sail aiming to harpoon humpback whales for the first time in decades. <p>The fleet is conducting its largest hunt in the South Pacific &#8211; it has instructions to kill up to 1,000 whales, including 50 humpbacks. </blockquote></p></p> "He who would trade liberty for some temporary security..." 2007-09-16T10:03:13+00:00 2008-06-03T12:36:49+00:00 <p>I must respond to this <a href="" target="links"> article at the <span class="caps">BBC</span> site</a>. </p> <blockquote><p>&#8220;But it will also show whether someone inside a house is looking to harm you, because if they are, their heart rate will be raised. And 10 years from now, the technology will be much smarter. We&#8217;ll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they&#8217;re actually thinking.&#8221;</p> <p>He glanced at me quizzically, noticing my apprehension.</p> <p> &#8220;Yeah, I know,&#8221; he said. &#8220;It sounds very Star Trekkish, but that&#8217;s what&#8217;s ahead.&#8221;</p></blockquote><p> That doesn&#8217;t sound &#8220;Star Trekkish.&#8221; <em>Star Trek</em> was rather utopian. Or did you think reality TV invented this term &#8220;Big Brother&#8221;?</p><p> <p>I can&#8217;t wait &#8216;til the first time they shoot someone in a house for having a high heart rate, and find out he or she was masturbating, can you? Temptation to join <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">ACLU</span></a>...rising&#8230;.</p></p>