Posts tagged sci-fi
Writing by: Brian K. Vaughan
Art by: Fiona Staples
Saga Vol. 1 collects #1-6 of the ongoing series. I am genuinely baffled as to how this series went unnoticed by me until now. I decided to review the TP, as I prefer to read new stories in big chunks rather than small issues at a time, and was immediately enraptured with it. I mean I LOVED it. I’ve since been given the ‘oh, yeah, you haven’t read that??’ several times from comic reading friends, so I feel like a bad collector now for missing this one. I shall amend that mistake here and now. I plan to pick this up in my local shop today and read the next two issues that are available digitally, while I wait impatiently for another TP to be published.
For those who are new to Saga, I’ll give you the gist. Alana and Marko are very different creatures from different planets whose respective species are at war with each other. In fact, it’s seen as a traitorous crime against both sides that they have fallen in love and begun a new family together. Saga opens with an intense child birth scene in which it’s very apparent that these two prior soldiers care for each deeply and despise the spreading war between their homelands; it’s also very apparent that their new family will not be accepted by authorities and that they must, literally, run for their lives. Their relationship is tumultuous but incredibly supportive, the new parents are terrified and powerful all at once. They are prepared to do anything necessary to protect their new family from the many forces who challenge it’s existence, including their own stubborn dispositions.
First off, the story. Amazing. Brilliant. Exciting and so different. The addition of narration from the child’s point of view is incredibly creative and gives the story an extra layer of intrigue. Is she grown as she narrates? Who is she? Where is she now? This story never stops for air, it just rolls along at a perfect speed, constantly introducing new, awesome creatures and worlds. Alana and Marko can never get too comfortable, their quest for survival and freedom will not be won without plenty of pain and hardship along the way.
Next, the artwork of Fiona Staples. If you consider yourself a semi-knowledgeable comics reader, you have seen and heard her name before. her style is so pretty, so easy to fall in to. It’s instantly recognizable as she works wonders with lines and shadows, somehow managing to create great depth in the panels without ever making any stroke too heavy or hard. She excels at facial expressions; it’s always very clear what the character is feeling, regardless of what is being said. This art style is absolutely perfect for this story, opening up beautiful fantasy worlds in equal clarity and detail as the words of Brian K. Vaughan do.
Saga is one of the most innovative, quality pieces of comic book work I’ve read in years and if you are not reading this, you are missing out on a real diamond of a creation. This book has adventure, romance, fantasy, sci-fi and violence and it’s all brought together in a polished, wonderfully illustrated gift box of a publication. Buy it and read it, right now.
Editor’s Note: This article was written as a collaboration between Kristen McHugh and Stephanie Wooten. We apologize for the length but we hope you enjoy the read and can provide your thoughts on this matter as well. Kristen did an amazing job putting together our hodge-podge of ideas so at the very least it deserves a read because of Kristen’s awesome writing skills. Thanks!
Warning: If you’ve never seen Torchwood or been on the internet with Torchwood fans. . . you know the drill.
Let’s begin at the beginning: Stephanie and I came to Torchwood in different ways. I came into it from the BBC America premiere, as an avid Whovian. Stephanie stumbled into the TW: CoE panel at SDCC 2008, already familiar with Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who, but not aware of how much darker its spin-off was, or would become.
No, this is not another rant about Ianto. Well, it is a little bit. Creators have the right to determine what happens and what’s at stake in their universes. Taking the whims of fandom into account is a recipe for disaster and can shred the creative vision faster than a piranha shreds a steak.
And yet. . . creating successful television for the long-term necessitates knowing your audience, persuading them to invest in each season and getting them to tell their friends. If you’ve got a finite story to tell, then you know how long you’re hoping they invest. If you haven’t got a set endpoint for the narrative, the trick is keeping it both fresh and familiar.
Russell T. Davies would be right if he said that Torchwood: Children of Earth was the most successful series of TW to date. He’d also be guilty of profound disingenuousness if he ascribed that purely to the TW: CoE narrative. The format helped to keep the audience hooked. It’s a lot easier to keep an audience interested for five straight days than it is to keep them coming back each week over three months. There’s data on all TW series to date, but – check out one of only TWO negative reviews: Ginia Bellafante apparently JUST HATES GEEKY THINGS. Here’s also a link to nielsen data.
To give CoE credit: it was brilliant storytelling. Tightly-paced, relentlessly tense narrative full of moral complexity and a lot of living in shades of grey, rather than black and white. That doesn’t mean Davies didn’t break his fanbase, and I know a number of people who won’t be back for Miracle Day.
Much has been made of the Jack/Ianto fangirls/shippers and how they represent the, “Broken (fan)base,” of Torchwood. The thing is, while they’ve been the most vocal, they’re not alone in being broken. Some of us just have slightly different rationales for why investing in Miracle Day seems risky.
This is what Stephanie and I decided to hash out: Why did we feel betrayed by Russell T. Davies? What could have been done differently to keep from alienating fans? Should it have been done differently?
Via twitter, email and text, we’ve given a lot of thought to this. What we’ve concluded is pretty simple: Davies keeps killing off the people we’re supposed to be invested in, but never lets us mourn. This is a bad practice in a period of downturn in the fortunes of genre programming in general. Outside of Syfy, (which has axed BSG/Caprica/SGA) there’s not a lot of sci-fi & fantasy genre programming on the air at the moment. Yes, we have Supernatural, Fringe, True Blood, & Game of Thrones (not counting the few remaining SyFy original programs) but when one considers the large number of television stations and countless hours of programming, it seems to be a pretty small number in comparison to the number of criminal procedurals and/or reality shows. Only a few genre-related pilots were picked up by the networks. Outside of premium or dedicated cable channels, Doctor Who is the only consistently performing or growing show in the genre category. As geeks, we’d like to see more quality genre programming and we’d like it to last more than a few episodes.
Returning to TW, yes, people die in real life. Yes, characters die in fiction. However, there is something to be said for acknowledging that a character not only means something to the people in-universe, but to the audience. RTD hasn’t given his audience that chance as seems clear in multiple interviews.
Stephanie and I both have two huge sticking points, beyond Davies’ tendency to gloss over the value of the audience when speaking to the press.
1. In-universe grief is where?
2. When the only way to raise the stakes is killing characters, how hard are you really trying?
There are times when a senseless death that comes out of nowhere works in a narrative. Joss Whedon is a master of this. Joyce Summers’ (Kristine Sutherland) death led to one of the most powerful examinations of mortality in a universe where death and risk was a constant. “The Body” is starkly powerful, and I (Kristen) have had a similar experience in real life. That episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer devastated me. Just as it devastated the characters and the audience.
Mini-spoiler alert: If you have not seen Serenity or later seasons of Buffy, skip the next paragraph.
Tara Maclay’s (Amber Benson) death is another example of BtVS dealing with the aftermath of a senseless and unintended death. The metaphor may not have been perfectly executed but Willow’s extreme anger at the world over the loss of a loved one is a common reaction to death (see: Xander punching the wall in “The Body”). Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s (Alan Tudyk) death in Serenity further illustrates that it is entirely possible to kill a beloved character for absolutely no reason and have it work.
Have you ever watched an episode of Spaced, and just started longing to have a one-sided conversation with Simon Pegg? Don’t worry, this is perfectly natural, and now your prayers have been answered. Joining the much-needed introduction of autobiographies from beloved comedians, Nerd Do Well follows the story of a precocious, young boy who grows up to be the actor, writer, comedian, celebrated geek, and zombie hunter (whoops, we dropped the “zed word”) we’ve all come to know and appreciate.
If you’re suddenly wondering what inspired Simon Pegg to put his life story down on paper, it’s cool. He seems to be a bit confused about it, too. Made clear from the start, Pegg was more interested in writing a clever sci-fi/adventure narrative starring a dashing hero that is a rather impressive combination of Batman and James Bond, and solves mysteries with the help of his state-of-the-art robot butler, Canterbury. While Nerd Do Well is an actual memoir of Simon Pegg’s life, he does manage to slip in a few chapters of this action-adventure hero by creating a parallel story arc portraying how these real-life incidents would have been handled by his alter-ego. So if you begin to get a bit tired of reading recounts of childhood influences, never fret; soon there will be robots and espionage to put you right back on the edge of your seat.
Aside from a sneak-peak into Pegg’s imaginary Batcave, Nerd Do Well shows a very intimate side of the entertainer. From growing up in a theater-appreciating family, to using every opportunity since an early age to exert his comedic side, even into teenage romances, and embarrassing childhood memories, we’re able to see an entire world of influence that helped create the personality we see on screens and stages. Pegg recounts, in great detail, the feelings and reactions he was searching for the very first time he intentionally tried to solicit a laugh with a joke. While we hear a lot of celebrities in recent years jump on the ‘geek bandwagon,’ Pegg openly relates his first feelings of love and romance to the feelings he experienced when discovering Princess Leia. He describes his transition from being weary of horror movies, to growing a self-proclaimed obsession with the genre. What’s particularly impressive about the way these stories are recounted is the way they’re presented. The way Nerd Do Well is written feels so candid and natural, that it seems more like having a conversation with the author than just reading his history.
Nerd Do Well is a fantastic look into what inspires a person to pursue a position in the public eye, and what it takes to get there. From this memoir, we can very clearly learn that a strong love of Star Wars and zombies will get you farther in life than you ever imagined. And while I, personally, would have loved to hear more on Pegg’s reaction to his likeness randomly showing up in The Boys, hopefully this inspiring memoir will now allow him to write more about the dashing superhero and his robotic butler.
I absolutely want my own Canterbury.
Learn more about Simon Pegg, Nerd Do Well, book signings, and tours at Peggster.net.
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So Syfy has officially canceled Caprica, citing poor ratings and a decline in viewership leading to viewing numbers too low to justify more episodes. In what seems like a little bit of a “Frak you” to fans, Syfy has also announced that, effective immediately, they will not be airing any of the already-produced episodes, instead choosing to burn them off sometime in 2011.
The popular thing these days when a show is canceled is to start a fan campaign to try to get the network to reverse the decision to cancel the show. Fan campaigns, with the notable exception of the resurrection of Jericho, are largely unsuccessful. Sci-fi fans are notoriously dedicated to their favorite shows, though, and there are already several fan campaigns in action to try to “Save Caprica.” Whether or not the show can be saved remains to be seen, but the cancellation of Caprica is indicative of a larger problem for sci-fi fans: Why do our shows keep getting canceled?
Critics of the re-branded SyFy channel generally have the same (valid) complaints. First and foremost: shouldn’t a channel positioning itself as the place for science fiction actually, you know, have some science fiction programming? A look at their program lineup shows, among other things, WWE wrestling, a couple of reality-type shows, and four different versions of Ghost Hunters. Their original movies are awful almost to the point of intentional parody of the genre, their miniseries have been hit-or-miss, and their original series are uneven at best. Battlestar Galactica was arguably their biggest hit and their most well-made, well-written, well-produced, and well-acted series of all. The network was clearly trying to capitalize on BSG‘s success with Caprica, as well as the upcoming Blood & Chrome, both taking place in the BSG-verse. The only current original series I’m enjoying are Warehouse 13 and Eureka. Haven is getting better, but took most of a season to really get into its own groove.
I’m sort of conflicted as to whether or not I want Caprica to be “saved.” It took me a while to get into the story, and it often more resembled a soap opera than science fiction, but I’m an ardent believer in producing and supporting as much sci-fi on TV as possible. There has to be a smart, engaging alternative to the endless number of reality shows and dozens of versions of procedural dramas that make up current TV viewing options. Trying to build support for shows outside of those formulas takes a little extra work, though, and things like lengthy mid-season breaks, changing broadcast days and times, and showing more promotional support for professional wrestling and paranormal reality shows on your own network don’t help build a strong, loyal audience. There’s a market for quality sci-fi TV series, but it seems with each cancellation that networks are unwilling to give shows a chance to find their footing, and to give the viewership a little more credit than to assume that sci-fi, excuse me SyFy, fans don’t want more, and better quality, science fiction TV. Every time a sci-fi show gets canceled prematurely, I fear we’re taking another step away from an entertainment culture that produces and supports programming that’s outside of the reality show/procedural norm.