Friday, April 03, 2009

Science Fiction

Just watched the latest "Stargate" made-for-TV movie and it's not bad; they made a time-twisty plot work well.

Alas, it fails of great on a simple thing -- Our Heroes, stuck in a timeline in which their skills are unverified and having spent some time far away from military tech, are suddenly called up and stuffed into two-seater fighters on a crash-urgent mission-- one on which they will be accompanied through the Stargate by four Marines (oo-rah!), since the alternate timeline .mil/.gov does not trust 'em. This would all hang together...if only the script had not called for the two pilots on this subset of the SG-1 team to be flying the airplanes.

Wham! Suspended disbelief breaks free and heads floorward! Not workin' -- I happen to know (slightly) a real-life Samantha Carter and she struggles to remain current on less-demanding vehicles between defeating aliens and doing astrophysics. A jet fighter is not a VW Beetle, you don't just hop into one and take off from Washington, D.C. to Antarctica after months of not even flying paper airplanes.

Of course there was a dogfight, not to mention a drastic change in destination; and of course the limits on maximum range without refueling and weapon load (live weaponry? In planes flown by untrusted strangers who claim to be from another timeline? Surrrrre .mil would do that, you bet!) were ignored.

Here's a tip for SF writers in every medium: you can only do handwaving on the science-fiction-y bits. The actually-existing hardware has to be right or you give the game away. (A great advantage for me, of course, is that all the hardware I write about is real. If you wanna write about starships, go work on a starship).

...Don't even get me started about Daniel Jackson firing M92s one in each hand. At least the actor has the arms for it, but still.... Not.

11 comments:

D.W. Drang said...

I believe the quip is "I am willing to suspend my disbelief, I am not willing to hang it by the neck until it is dead, dead, dead..."

Still, not as bad as...

s*i*g*h*

Remember Cattlestar Galaxative '80? When they made a cheesy series worse?
One week the vipers are outrunning F14-launched (hypersonic) Phoenix missiles, and the next they go back in time 40 years and are having trouble outrunning BF109s?

Or, if you were really (un)lucky, you may have gotten to watch CBC's abortion of Harlan Ellison's Starlost...

WV: kersewee. Pronounced "Curse-a-wee", as in what I do when I remember Starlost...

jed said...

Sadly, that seems to be the achille's heel of a lot of Sci-Fi, particularly the big production video type. Sure, we can figure out how to pilot/repair this Guauld (hell, they don't pronounce it consistently, I won't try to spell it, and why this apparent need to stick apostrophes in names?) vessel. Or this Romulan or Klingon vessel, or name your alien technology that the whiz-kid figures out how to operate just in the nick of time. It ain't just in sci-fi either. Remember Iron Eagle? Hell, for that matter, Stargate disappoints in the stock trope that the good guys' weapons are always more effective than the bad guys'. (Except when the plot calls for the reverse.) Hey, all the armored Jaffa fall over dead instantaneously from a few rounds from a P-90? In Star Trek, the Klingons were supposedly the hardened warriors, except they could always be defeated. Same thing later in DS9 with with the Jem Hadar -- bred from the ground up to be fighting units.

So, that's one reason to really like Firefly (except for that ugly summersault thing Zoe did when rescuing Mal from Niska, which I assume Whedon put in as sort of a joke).

Brigid said...

And someone doesn't knock on the starfighter cockpit door any more and hand you hot chocolate chip cookies.

sigh

Linoge said...

Eh, Jackson was just going for the whole "suppression fire" thing. From semi-automatic pistols. With only 15-round magazines. So... short-suppression.

Anonymous said...

achille's
"why this apparent need to stick apostrophes in names?"

I get it, J'ed. Good one.

Conventional off-world combat in Dune and Janissaries was prosaic and believable. I didn't particularly fall for either book, but respected them highly for that feature. It's not easy.

I've read a lot of combat accounts by the participants that smacked of dime novels. I once had exclusive access to the unpublished memoir of one of Andrews' raiders. Hell of a story, but literarily the fellow had availed himself of everything the 8 years of an 1850's education had to offer; his style owed as much to Bulwer-Lytton as Washington Irving. I'm a reader, almost a scholar even, and yet found myself nodding off at Big Shanty.

jed' said...

Heh. Purely unintentional. And I'm mildly embarrassed at having put the apostrophe in the wrong place, since I do know better. Which brings up the digression that one of the worst things about the deplorable shape of a lot of the writing I wind up reading these days is that, as James Kirkpatrick observed, "you write what you read". His admonishment to writers was to read a lot of well-written stuff. The number of times I catch myself using the wrong homophone has increased, and that bothers me.

But when I see some oddball apostrophe tossed into a character name, I wonder what sort of alien pronunciation the write is trying to transliterate. But then "teelk" doesn't have any oddness to it at all. When I encounter something like that, I wonder whether I'm suppose to include some odd glottal or hiccough, or maybe the native language is imagined to sound like Taa.

Anonymous said...

Heh, yeah, the sister blog went off on that just a few days ago. Dah IntahW3bz is bad enough, but if you seek the real abnegation of public trust that brought down Journalism, don't look at their ethics or politics. It's the damned spelling--even in NYT and WSJ.

We learn to use language by, well, using it. Absorb enough really bad language usage in youth, and likely you'll never outgrow that. When the most-read sources betray the language, there's no getting it back. Little thing, many say, but if Chomsky and the whole movement that preceded him are right, words and grammar are the stuff of thought itself, and that's scary, right there.

I think the apostrophization in SF comes, originally, from "conscious archaisms" in Lovecraft et.al., based on transliterations of Hebrew in the King James Bible. 'Cuz it looks cool.

jed said...

Yeah, the whole brain-wiring thing is fascinating, and fodder for some serious nightmares. I mean, what if someone like Nancy Pelosi discovers the Nam-Shub of Sennacherib?

jed said...

Bletch. Of course, I was referring to James Kilpatrick.

Tam said...

I've needed blood pressure medication ever since editing and proofreading were replaced by HAL's spell-checking.

denice said...

willing suspension of disbelief. They could have given Daniel Jackson a couple of those 35 round 1911 .45s that I saw just before the sci-fi channel came on. Hey Tam! can I get those mags from Chip McCormick? And I still want that GE Mini Gun from Predator. 5000 Rounds Per Minute. I could blow a years salary in 5 minutes..... :D

WV: horizat. Actually you hold the zat sorta diagonally.....