Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I wonder if this ever happens next door...

"Hey, have you seen Rome on HBO?"

"No, no. I haven't really seen that."

"Oh man, you should. It's great."

"I don't know. It takes place in the past, right?"

"Well... yeah. It's about Julius Caesar."

"Yeah, see, I'm just not into into historical fiction."

"It was nominated for a Golden Globe!"

"What? For like Best Costumes or something?"

"No, no. Best Drama."


"Yeah, this is an HBO series. It's like Sopranos or Six Feet Under. You like those, don't you?"

"Yeah, I guess. It's just all that history. I mean, dates and places. It just seems so cold and technical. I just have trouble relating. And everybody talks weird. Thee's and thou's. What is that? It's just not real."

"No, you don't get it. I'm mean, sure this takes place in the past, and they have Romans and Greeks and Egyptians, but that's not what it's about. They are just using those as metaphors for the purposes of drama so they can talk about character. I mean, it's all about people, you know, like relationships, and conflict, religion and politics and in-fighting. It's just like Sopranos, just with Romans. It's not really historical fiction at all."

"So, do you like watch the History Channel all the time?"


A.R.Yngve said...

Very sad. That conversation really happened?

To quote Eric Idle's "The Galaxy Song":
"So pray that there's intelligent life somewhere else in space,
cos' it's bugger all down here on Earth!"


Tim Akers said...

I usually run into: "Science fiction? No, not really. UFOs don't interest me." Yeah.

Lou Anders said...

A very good friend of mine read an interview with Samuel Delany that I published. She thought he was brilliant and rushed out to B&N to get some of his books, but didn't buy any, as they all took place on "other planets."

To her credit, she later read Jeff Ryman's The Child Garden, and, upon enjoying it, has now ventured off planet a few times.

Ted said...

To be fair, most television SF hasn't been the sort of thing you could recommend whole-heartedly.

Lou Anders said...

This is my pet peeve, that the perception of our genre television SF generates may put people off discovering the literary variety. Don't know.

I would put the new Battlestar Galactica on a par with an HBO series, although their [spoiler] sidestepping President Roselyn's death is a step back. While I love the character, HBO's willingness to sacrifice members of their ensemble is laudable.

Ted said...

I enjoy BSG, but I wouldn't put it up there with the HBO series that I've seen. Part of it may be that the creators don't have as much time to spend on each episode as HBO apparently offers, but I'm not sure if all the time in the world would have made the "if we all pull together we can build a stealth fighter" episode a good one.

(I personally think The Shield is the best written show on basic cable.)

Lou Anders said...

I might concede, and put it on a par with an ER or a West Wing. However, I do think BSG has raised the bar considerably. Oddly, it's done so by being so recognizably contemporary. Ironic, in that what makes the show seem so realistic is the infusion of telephones, neckties, contemporary politics. Yet the idea of a parallel human culture developing an identical match to a 20th century telephone is pretty absurd!

Ted said...

Viewed as an example of parallel evolution, the world of BSG is of course absurd. I think one reason the show feels more realistic than other SF shows is that, by closely mimicking contemporary society, it benefits from all the automatic gap-filling that we as audience members do. We don't have to wonder, "How does such-and-such aspect of their society work?"; we're safe in assuming that it's just like our society.

And this works because in many ways, BSG isn't exploring fundamentally SFnal questions like the impact of technology on human experience, or dealing with the truly alien. BSG is about the stresses faced by people during wartime, and that's something we can identify with without too much difficulty these days.

Lou Anders said...

Absolutely. I think the most clever example of this "filling in the gap" that you mention is the President's ship, which, while every other vessel resembles a spacecraft, is built to look like Air Force One, right down to the size of the windows and the rows of seating. It communicates so much about what we take as rote about our own Executive office, without a single word of dialogue. It may be one of the cleverest, subtlest pieces of set design ever.