the SF Ghetto

Four TV Shows That Are Better Than Doctor Who

A few months back, Eric wrote a lengthy piece about why Doctor Who is the best television show ever. I think he's terribly wrong in that Doctor Who more or less encompasses everything I hate about TV.

Don't get me wrong, now, I like Doctor Who. There's a fair amount of it that I find to be hugely enjoyable. And there are certainly much worse shows than Doctor Who. There's a reason that the character has had the staying power he has, and not the least of it is because of exactly what Eric talked about in it being able to be anything it wants to be. There's something to be said for a show that can be a historical melodrama one week and a space opera odyssey the next. But I think one can get too wrapped up in that sort of thinking as well. After all, after 50 years and a limitless expanse of space-time to explore, one would hope for a few more recurring villains than just The Master, The Daleks, and the Cybermen, which the rebooted series keeps going back to the well for rather than trying to ever break new ground. And the few times they have strayed from that formula, such as with the Weeping Angels, they've never really been able to sustain them as anything more than a creepified CGI version of the monster under the bed.

So, no, as charming and fun as it often is, there is much better television to be had than Doctor Who. Here are four examples:

Even when the SF Ghetto tries to get it right, it totally gets it wrong

So there's a new old thing going on in the SF Ghetto now. And this time it's stumbled into mainstream public discourse via the usual organs of the incoherent left, primarily the previously linked Guardian, and then this story from the equally histrionic Nation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the trope, every time this particular conversation comes up it goes something like this:

1. Some Idiot who cares about the SF Ghetto notices that a subculture largely created by and maintained by socially inept straight white men seems to overly cater to the fantasies and wishes of socially inept straight white men.

2. Said Idiot sets out to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and stages some sort of event or crisis or program designed to probe the question of why an insular group of people with low levels of empathy and a general lack of ability to self reflect seem to primarily create and read stories about characters that look and act a lot like they do.

3. Other Idiots, looking at what said Idiot is doing, and being members of an insular group that's generally pretty poor at self-reflection, rush to jump on board with said Idiot's program because hey, this is NEW, nobody has EVER pointed this out before.

4. Genre critics who are invested in the academic language of identity politics then flock to the program and there is a great deal of sturm und drang, inevitably Tor gets involved and the whole thing is a huge deal.

5. Everybody forgets about it and goes back to talking about how the Lord of the Rings was the "BEST THING EVAR! w000t!" because they don't really give a shit about any of this stuff, they just go through the motions because they know they're supposed to.

6. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Sometimes an Organization Breaks Your Heart [Updated]

Update: the entire ReaderCon board has resigned.

Update 2: the Con Committee has released an official statement reversing the board's decision and committing to future action. Guess I was wrong about the ConCom having no real power.

ReaderCon is the only science fiction convention I make a point to attend every year, despite it being a five hour (or more) journey by bus, train and bus again. Longtime readers of this site will remember when I discovered it and loved it. For the past two years I've even hosted a reading event there with the great Brian Francis Slattery.

But the problem with loving anything is the risk that it will break your heart. At the last con, writer Genevieve Valentine was repeatedly sexually harassed by fan notable Rene Walling. Valentine reported this to the Board of Directors expecting that Walling would be banned for life, since ReaderCon policies state that there is zero tolerance for harassment and harassers will be banned for life. However, Walling was merely banned for 2 years. Lots of people are speculating that this is because he is friends with members of the board and a high profile figure in fandom (former WorldCon board member, former Arisia fan guest of honor, blah blah blah). You can follow the various reactions from the round-up here and here, but the basic point is that if you don't enforce your own policy then that policy has no meaning, and further, especially since Walling has a history of harassment, giving him a slap on the wrist makes ReaderCon feel like a less than safe and welcoming place. Con Committee member Matt Cheney has resigned in protest, and at least one other key member of the Con Committee has objected. (The Con Committee is a group that helps the Board with organizing and putting together the event, but has no formal power.) Writer Veronica Shanoes has put together a petition demanding Walling's permanent banishment and the resignation of the Board of Directors, or else the signatories will no longer attend. Over 300 400 people have put their names down, including notable figures like Catherynne Valente, Jeff VanderMeer, Ekaterina Sedia, Ted Chiang, NK Jemisin, Kelly Link, former ReaderCon Guest of Honor Ellen Datlow, editor Liz Gorinsky, editor John Joseph Adams, SFWA publicist Jaym Gates, radio host Jim Fruend and many more. I've put my own name down.

Frankly at this point, if the Board does not cede to the demands in the petition, ReaderCon will almost certainly cease to exist.

A few people have accused the undersigned of overreacting, mostly anonymous cowards in the comments section.

This is not overreacting.

We men may sometimes find it difficult to imagine what it's like for women at an event like this. As a man, I've never gone to a con (or any event) wondering if someone's going to follow me around and make inappropriate comments or touch me in unpleasant ways. I ride the subway every day and never wonder if I'm going to get groped. In my life I've gone to parties and gotten passing-out drunk and never had to worry about getting raped. These aren't things I have to deal with, or think about. My personal security is almost never on the line. But women have to think about these kinds of things all the time.

If the predominantly male Board of ReaderCon says that people who behave this way are allowed in, it sends a message to women: your personal security is at risk here. Your personal security is not that important to us. And it implicates the convention-going public in that sentiment: it implicates us all, and it says to the world, this is what science fiction and fantasy conventions are like.

Which sort of goes back to the objection that JF Quackenbush lobbed at sf conventions, that they're places for people to go to behave badly. Specifically, he called them "a building full of adults who have failed to figure out how to live like grown ups." I don't think that's true, and my experience at ReaderCon has been the opposite of that, but sometimes the haters are proven right. And sometimes an organization breaks your heart.

ReaderCon Wold Newton Reading Video

At ReaderCon one weekend ago, I hosted my second Wold Newton ReaderCon special, with readings by a number of fine writers, namely:
Jeff VanderMeer
Veronica Schanoes
Jaym Gates
Daniel Jose Older
Jo Walton
and
Matt Kressel

Music was provided by Brian Francis Slattery and his amazing band!

Unfortunately, I forgot to turn on the camera until the first reading had begun so you miss the first little bit of Jeff VanderMeer explaining what he's reading, and my ridiculous silliness while dressed up as the Doctor. But here's the rest of the video of the whole event:

To Hack or Not to Hack

So, this is not a new idea. It's been around forever and has given us perfectly useful terms like "jury rig," "kludge," and "quick and dirty." It's called "poverty" and "diminished standards of living" and yes, Virginia, they really do exist and they're more than likely coming to your house within the next couple of generations. But no, that's not a good thing.

Fucking nerds.

Fucking Mamatas

Got to give the man his due, nemesis of mine tho he may be, and saws about broken clocks taken into account etc etc, Nick Mamatas is right the fuck on on this one:
End Geek Pride.

Although I should note that in the piece he more or less word for word name drops the title to what I said about this nonsense here two and a half years ago. So naturally I agree with him. Not that he swiped the idea from me, because Nick Mamatas is a Highly Original Voice of a Generation, and wouldn't stoop to aping this particular bonobo-with-a-keyboard's views. I'm sure it's really just the collective unconscious. Or Cryptomnesia at worst. Right Nicky baby?

Down and Out in the SF Ghetto: Part Whatever; or The Girls of Alpha Centauri

So I just read this.

And it made me think of this.

Which of course brought me back to the thoughts I had in the comments here.

And all of that made me think I wanted to go back to the well and talk, once again, about how the SF Ghetto sucks and try to explain, once again, why it is that a grown up who allows social conventions established while being bullied in childhood is suffering from arrested development and, like certain other groups of people, really needs to expand his or her horizons. And this time I'd explain how all of it is tied up in the pathological politics of identity in our culture for which I similarly have no patience despite my immense amount of sympathy for them.

And then I realized that the thought of doing all of that, once again, left me feeling fucking exhausted.

So I'm not going to do that.

Gene Roddenberry's Unfortunate Legacy; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate Star Trek

Netflix in their pursuit of continual appeasement of the great god Mammon has etched a deal with Paramount Pictures that allows them to stream all day all night all Star Trek all the time. And lo it did come to pass that the great multitude of Star Trek Nerds were pleased. I have taken this opportunity to, with no extra expenditure than I would otherwise make, finally sit down and engage with the franchise as a text. I can now say unequivocally that it is without a doubt every bit as stupid as I always assumed it was, but I have nevertheless made some discoveries about it that I think have wider cultural implications that can be profitably unpacked.

I should note that I elected to watch the series in the chronological order internal to the franchise. I began with Star Trek:Enterprise, followed by 2009 Star Trek prequel/reboot, then watched the 60's Star Trek, then the Motion Pictures featuring the original cast, then Star Trek: The Next Generation, and finally Voyager (Deep Space Nine is not yet available on netflix as of this writing) flipping back and forth between them interspersed with the feature films with the Next Generation cast until Voyager gradually, finally, mercifully ground to an ignominious halt. In all of this, I find very little that is of any value, the Wrath of Khan and the interesting treatment of the "Mirror Universe" being the most notable exceptions. Of all of these particular cash cows, however, the one that I think is most consistently my favorite is the truly abhorrent Star Trek: Enterprise.

On Right Wing Fantasist Reactionism

The latest hubbub in the nerdosphere is an absurdly stupid article from Leo Grin that basically says that fantasy was much better in the good-old days when JRR Tolkien and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) walked the Earth, and that since then fantasy has succumbed to liberal elite moral relativism to give us gritty, "nihilistic" fantasy writers like Joe Abercrombie, who naturally, by extension, represent the Decline of Western Civilization. Forget that Conan was an amoral figure who basically killed anyone who got in his way and took any woman he saw, and was in turn a send-up of what Howard saw as the namby-pamby chivalric knights that were popular in historical writings at the time. And forget that the morals in Tolkien's work have (pretty deliberately) the complexity of a fairy tale. But then that may be the point; the author wants to see beautiful, noble good up against ugly, traitorous evil and anything more subtle, more realistic than that is somehow the End of Civilization. In other words, he wants the kind of shoehorning of everything into a reductionist, black-and-white worldview typical of right-wing ideology in general.

Fans Are Jackasses: Part whatever

So bear in mind I'm on day three of not smoking and that's made me more cranky than usual, but I just wanted to take a minute to tell fans of Repo! The Genetic Opera to fucking get over themselves.

In case you haven't heard about this latest little storm of fandom outrage about something stupid (y'know like putting a chinese kung fu star in a movie and then calling it "the karate kid" because duh, don't they know karate is japanese?!?!?!) there's this movie getting made called "Repo Men" about guys who repossess organs purchased on credit whose owners then got foreclosed on. This is the same premise as the aforementioned "Repo! The Genetic Opera." So now RTGO fans are all pissed off because their beloved indie B-Movie is getting "copied" by a big hollywood studio. And how dare the big studio for ripping off such an original idea. Except wait a second, not only is it not an original idea, its a fucking boring one and more than that, the new movie is really a rip off of a truly original and great sci fi flick from way back called "Repo Man," and RTGO is a rip off of that too, the only difference is that rather than repossessing organs, in Repo Man the main character repossesses cars.