Tag Archives | Science Fiction

We the Liver

Howard the Duck Whatever you may think about the ethics of foie gras (my own view is that producing it violates a duty, that producing it nevertheless violates no right, that consuming it violates no duty, and that refraining from consuming it is nevertheless a permissible specification of an imperfect duty – but like I said, never mind), there’s something heartening about the insouciantly defiant attitude of these lawbreakers. They’re not storming the citadel, they’re treating the citadel as irrelevant.

Oh, to see the State’s edicts cheerfully ignored en masse, La Boétie style, on issues more important than foie gras!

In completely unrelated news, this is unwelcome.

Signs in the Heavens

Starbuck Click here for some MAJOR SPOILERS about the upcoming season of Battlestar Galactica. (Conical hat tip to AICN.) 

The following paragraph contains speculation about those same spoilers, so if you want to stay spoiler-free, STOP READING NOW:

I’m guessing that the development with Starbuck has something to do with her having previously been told by both Leoben and the Cylon doctor on Caprica that she is “special.”  

Also, the new Galactica has frequently reprised episodes from the original series, including unproduced episodes (the arc on New Caprica) as well as Galactica 1980 episodes (human-looking Cylons, Starbuck’s being marooned, arguably Dr. Zee). It’s not impossible that they might do a twofer and seek to reprise an unproduced Galactica 1980 episode. And so it’s worth remembering what arc had originally been in store for Starbuck on G80 before it was cancelled.     


The Passion of Indiana Jones

Word is that the fourth Indiana Jones movie is finally starting to slouch its way toward the big screen. (Conical hat tip to AICN.)

One non-obvious reason to be excited about this is that Lucas and Spielberg have suggested more than once that the complete Young Indiana Jones DVD set won’t be released until Indy IV is. Young Indy was one of my favourite tv shows (incidentally very libertarian and antiwar) and surely the most nuanced work Lucas has ever done. A few years ago a random scattering of Young Indy episodes (in the studio’s ineffable wisdom, nos. 6, 8, 10-13, 15-18, 20, and 22) were released on VHS, but the long-awaited DVDs are supposed to be the full deal, including footage never actually broadcast and lots of bonus features.

Although I’m glad they’re getting rid of the pathetic-old-coot-Indy framing device – the tv series’ equivalent of Jar Jar – I don’t care for the way that Lucas has been re-editing the series, jamming what were originally disparate one-hour episodes together into broken-backed two-hour episodes. But we all know Lucas can’t let past work be; I sometimes expect hovercars to be edited into the director’s cut of American Graffiti.

Young Indiana Jones Heretically, I actually like Young Indy better than the Indy movies, with which it has only tenuous connections anyway; both the character and his world seem radically different between the tv and movie versions, and trying mentally to put the two together is like learning that Hilary Swank’s character in Million Dollar Baby got resurrected and changed her name to Lara Croft. I think this disparity hurt the success of the tv series; viewers tuned in expecting something similar to the movies and were disappointed by the (usually) slower pace, greater realism, darker mood, and more thoughtful scripts, while many viewers who would have liked the series didn’t think to tune in, expecting a low-budget Raiders for kiddies. (Insanely erratic scheduling didn’t help much either.)

Admittedly Young Indy at its worst could be pretty cheesy – hey kids, here’s another famous historic event or personage to be oversimplified and crammed implausibly into Indy’s life story – but at its best it was stunningly good. And it was at its best fairly often – particularly the World War I arc, and most particularly episodes 9 and 11, which deserve a place of honour at libertarian/antiwar film festivals. (In the interest of full disclosure: I also liked the second American Graffiti movie – another film with strong libertarian and antiwar themes – more than the first. I may be the only person on earth of whom this is true. So caveat lector.)

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Indy movies too, and I’m looking forward to Indy IV for its own sake. But I worship the tv series (again, at its best); so the promised advent of Indy IV is doubly good news for me.

So what’s Indy IV going to be about? Here’s a clue:

For the moment, the title of the new film as well as its story line are being kept under wraps. In August, however, Lucas told Empireonline.com, “I discovered a McGuffin. I told the guys about it and they were a little dubious about it, but it’s the best one we’ve ever found. … Unfortunately, it was a little too ‘connected’ for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, ‘Can’t we do it with a different McGuffin? Can’t we do this?’ and I said ‘No.’ So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. And then Harrison really wanted to do it and Steve said, ‘Okay.’ I said, ‘We’ll have to go back to that original McGuffin and take out the offending parts of it and we’ll still use that area of the supernatural to deal with it.’”

Any guesses as to what this controversial, potentially offensive McGuffin (= object on which the plot turns) might be? My first thought was the spear that was used to stab Jesus during his crucifixion.

An Observation

The first rule of Fight Club violates the first rule of Fight Club.

I’m just sayin’.

The Birth of the Clinic

Wally Conger’s recent description of an especially engaging opening to a novel reminded me of what is one of my favourite openers ever – the beginning of Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber. Who could read this and not be sucked in?

It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.

I attempted to wriggle my toes, succeeded. I was sprawled there in a hospital bed and my legs were done up in plaster casts, but they were still mine.

I squeezed my eyes shut, and opened them, three times.

The room grew steady.

Where the hell was I?

Then the fogs were slowly broken, and some of that which is called memory returned to me. I recalled nights and nurses and needles. Every time things would begin to clear a bit, someone would come in and jab me with something. That’s how it had been. Yes. Now, though, I was feeling halfway decent. They’d have to stop.

Wouldn’t they?

The thought came to assail me: Maybe not.

Some natural skepticism as to the purity of all human motives came and sat upon my chest. I’d been over-narcotized, I suddenly knew. No real reason for it, from the way I felt, and no reason for them to stop now, if they’d been paid to keep it up. So play it cool and stay dopey, said a voice which was my worst, if wiser, self.

So I did.

A nurse poked her head in the door about ten minutes later, and I was, of course, still sacking Z’s. She went away.

By then, I’d reconstructed a bit of what had occurred.

I had been in some sort of accident, I remembered vaguely. What had happened after that was still a blur; and as to what had happened before, I had no inkling whatsoever. But I had first been in a hospital and then brought to this place, I remembered. Why? I didn’t know.

However, my legs felt pretty good. Good enough to hold me up, though I didn’t know how much time had lapsed since their breaking – and I knew they’d been broken.

So I sat up. It took me a real effort, as my muscles were very tired. It was dark outside and a handful of stars were standing naked beyond the window. I winked back at them and threw my legs over the edge of the bed.

I was dizzy, but after a while it subsided and I got up, gripping the rail at the head of the bed, and I took my first step.

Okay. My legs held me.

So, theoretically, I was in good enough shape to walk out.

I made it back to the bed, stretched out and thought. I was sweating and shaking. Visions of sugar plums, etc.

In the State of Denmark there was the odor of decay….

It had been an accident involving an auto, I recalled. One helluva one….

Then the door opened, letting in light, and through slits beneath my eyelashes I saw a nurse with a hypo in her hand.

She approached my bedside, a hippy broad with dark hair and big arms.

Just as she neared, I sat up.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest “Good evening,” I said.

“Why – good evening,” she replied.

“When do I check out?” I asked.

“I’ll have to ask Doctor.”

“Do so,” I said.

“Please roll up your sleeve.”

“No thanks.”

“I have to give you an injection.”

“No you don’t. I don’t need it.”

“I’m afraid that’s for Doctor to say.”

“Then send him around and let him say it. But in the meantime, I will not permit it.”

“I’m afraid I have my orders.”

“So did Eichmann, and look what happened to him,” and I shook my head slowly.

“Very well,” she said. “I’ll have to report this….”

“Please do,” I said, “and while you’re at it, tell him I’ve decided to check out in the morning. ”

“That’s impossible. You can’t even walk – and there were internal injuries….”

“We’ll see,” said I. “Good night.”

She swished out of sight without answering.

So I lay there and mulled. It seemed I was in some sort of private place – so somebody was footing the bill. Whom did I know? No visions of relatives appeared behind my eyes. Friends either. What did that leave? Enemies?

I thought a while.


Nobody to benefact me thus.

I’d gone over a cliff in my car, and into a lake, I suddenly remembered. And that was all I remembered.

I was….

I strained and began to sweat again.

I didn’t know who I was.

But to occupy myself, I sat up and stripped away all my bandages. I seemed all right underneath them, and it seemed the right thing to do. I broke the cast on my right leg, using a metal strut I’d removed from the head of the bed. I had a sudden feeling that I had to get out in a hurry, that there was something I had to do.

I tested my right leg. It was okay.

I shattered the cast on my left leg, got up, went to the closet.

No clothes there.

Then I heard the footsteps. I returned to my bed and covered over the broken casts and the discarded bandages.

The door swung inward once again.

Then there was light all around me, and there was a beefy guy in a white jacket standing with his hand on the wall switch.

Shock Treatment “What’s this I hear about you giving the nurse a hard time?” he asked, and there was no more feigning sleep.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is it?”

That troubled him for a second or two, said the frown, then, “It’s time for your shot.”

“Are you an M.D. ? “ I asked.

“No, but I’m authorized to give you a shot.”

“And I refuse it,” I said, “as I’ve a legal right to do. What’s it to you?”

“You’ll have your shot,” he said, and he moved around to the left side of the bed.

He had a hypo in one hand which had been out of sight till then.

It was a very foul blow, about four inches below the belt buckle, I’d say, and it left him on his knees.

           !” he said, after a time.

“Come within spitting distance again,” I said, “and see what happens.”

“We’ve got ways to deal with patients like you,” he gasped.

So I knew the time had come to act.

“Where are my clothes?” I said.

           !” he repeated.

“Then I guess I’ll have to take yours. Give them to me.”

It became boring with the third repetition, so I threw the bedclothes over his head and clobbered him with the metal strut.

Babes in Toyland

Child Catcher and Toymaker There’s an interesting phenomenological shift that happens when something you thought you knew suddenly surprises you by turning out to contain – to have all along contained – something else that you always associated with an entirely different context.

For example; just now while channel surfing I caught a few minutes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a movie I haven’t seen since childhood.

Specifically, I saw the scene where the Child Catcher invades the Toymaker’s shop. Now although I’d remembered the Child Catcher vividly all these years (really, who doesn’t?), I hadn’t remembered the Toymaker at all.

But seeing the Toymaker now – that mobile, mock-innocent face, that fake German accent – it’s Benny Hill! And the whole movie is retroactively transformed.

Okay, I didn’t say it was a profound example. Just an example.

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