Science Fiction: Looking forward back

November 11, 2009

So what is the state of science fiction in the twenty-first century?

Unfortunately, the newly-reimagined V series for ABC television is meeting an unenthusiastic response from pretty much everyone I know who watched the premiere. So, hey, let’s hop in that magic time machine known as YouTube and check back some twenty-six years to encounter a thoughtful-looking Charlie Rose interviewing Faye Grant about the 1983 miniseries:

An interesting quote:

    Rose: Does this somehow represent—because of the ratings success of the miniseries, and now they’re making it into a regular series—a comeback for science fiction?

    Grant: I think so. Not only is it a comeback for science fiction, it’s a new kind of science fiction. What— The science fiction that was portrayed in the past on television and so forth was something that was beyond what our technology could even fathom. And what we’re doing now is combining what we know does exist, or is possible, with the reality of the human aspect—how human beings would respond to this actually happening.

I’m actually reminded here of a quote from an episode of Family Guy: “Hold onto that thought because I’m going to explain to you when we get home all the things that are wrong with that statement.”

It’s a nonsense answer constructed around a potential seed of truth. Indeed, I am unsure if the most realistic part of V (technically the “sequel” known as, “The Final Battle”) was even written at that time. Okay, it probably was, as the sequel hit only a year later. But, still ….

The necessary elements of modern science fiction seem to involve the impossible, improbable, or undiscovered. There is—and I’ll have to write a mini book report on it—a reasonable theory of the progression of science fiction offered by none other than Dr. Asimov himself in 1962, but it necessarily doesn’t cover what happened starting at the latest in the 1970s with Star Wars. Even the reimagined V requires some technology that Ms. Grant could not fathom twenty-six years ago. And just because most of us are comfortable with depictions of faster-than-light travel doesn’t mean we can actually do it. But I suppose I’m nitpicking. She does have a point. After all, it’s not like V was ever preceded by a landmark feature motion picture about how human beings respond to the arrival of extraterrestrials. Then again, had there been, I would have had a rising, talented director like, say, Spielberg, handle the film, and cast someone like, oh, I don’t know, Richard Dreyfus as the lead. And, to be certain, I would have made it far more intimate a picture, focusing on a limited few characters and trying to clock the final cut somewhere under three hours instead of depicting a worldwide crisis and dragging the thing out over the course of three nights. Or five, if you want to get to the actual ending.

Okay, okay. Enough picking on Faye Grant. Really. Okay, not really. But it doesn’t change the fact that I had the hots for her when I was … um … twelve. I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t want to be with her so much as I wanted to be her. You know … whatever happened to Faye Grant? That delicate, satin-draped frame? As it clung to her thigh … er, never mind.

Actually, what happened to her was modest success making bad television.

Oh, right. The state of science fiction. Twenty-first century. Anyone? Anyone?

Anyway, I’m just spending words at this point. So I’ll give Ms. Grant the final word. Oh, and make sure to check that amazing television monitor she appears on for the interview:

    Rose: Carl Sagan says, and other astronomers—and people who have looked at extraterrestrial life—have said that it’s a kind of arrogance for us as a human species to assume that we’re the only people in the whole universe that could possibly—

    Grant: Yeah.

    Rose: —be—have the intelligence to have created a life.

    Grant: Absolutely. We’ve only been on this— We’ve been on this planet less than two thousand years. And our solar system as we know it is relatively small. So when you think that if we were on this planet two thousand more years, how big the solar system would become, and how we would travel. We’ve already gone to the moon and several other places.



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