athelind: (Sci Fi)
The Threepenny Space Opera: An Introduction

WARNING! TV TROPES!

This is the first in a series of posts under the head of The Threepenny Space Opera, in which Your Obedient Serpent bandies about ideas and concepts for science fiction RPG settings. These are primarily Notes To Myself, and the different concepts may or may not be compatible with each other in a single milieu.

I have been in a Star Wars Saga Edition game for the last four years, and, while I enjoy it a great deal, I confess that I enjoy it in spite of the setting, not because of it. It is hardly an original insight to assert that the Lucasian setting isn't "really" science fiction, but rather, fantasy with a thin veneer of technology; it has some truth to it, but that doesn't curtail my ability to enjoy a rip-roaring laser-adorned Hero's Journey.

If forced to pick a side when the line is drawn between Romanticism and Enlightenment, however, Your Obedient Serpent falls squarely in the latter camp.1 There are elements of Classic Space Opera that are Very Important To Your Obedient Serpent, and they can only be shoehorned into the Galaxy Far Far Away with great effort -- and are entirely absent from, say, Dark Heresy and many of the other starfaring settings offered to the RPG community.

I am rambling, which is nothing new. Let me therefore invoke that tool of PowerPoint abusers worldwide, and proffer a Bullet List:

  • I want a vision of a hopeful, optimistic future. Cautionary tales are an important part of the science fiction estate, but they aren't, contrary to Post-Modern thought, more "mature" or "sophisticated" or "valid". When all the visions of the future are dystopian, when the only message from tomorrow is "Beware", then where will we find the hope and inspiration to drive us forward?

  • I want to Explore Strange New Worlds. Even Star Trek: the Next Generation fell short on this one, keeping NCC-1701-D largely within the borders of the Federation, boldly staying where everyone had gone before; the movies, of course, abandon the notion of "exploration" entirely.

  • I want to Save the Day with SCIENCE!! I want a setting and a system where the Vulcan manning the sensors contributes as much to the adventure as the Dashing Space Pilot.

  • And on that note, I want a game that doesn't shy away from starships and space combat, while making sure that ALL the player characters can take active roles when the Space Pirates drop out of Netherspace, or the Negative Space Wedgie looms on the main screen. I want a game that's not afraid of starmaps, and where travel between the worlds is an opportunity, not an obstacle (or a quick screen-wipe).


There will be more forthcoming.


1 In the topsy-turvy backwards world of Literary Jargon, I am an unrealistic dreamer because I reject Romanticism.

athelind: (Sci Fi)
For years, I've been calling Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination/Tiger! Tiger!* "a forgotten cyberpunk classic from the '50s" and "more cyberpunk than cyberpunk".

I was even more correct than I thought: William Gibson, one of the progenitors of the Cyberpunk Movement, has just cited it as one of his favorite novels, going so far as to say "I doubt I’d have written without having read it."

Hunt it down, people.

It's still high on my list for Books That Oughta Be Movies.


*Tiger! Tiger! was the title of the first book publication, but it was originally serialized as the Stars My Destination, and, frankly, that's a far better title.
athelind: (hoard potato)
The replies to my previous post have pointed out a few shows that have eluded my notice -- or that I simply forgot about. I'm listing this partly so I remember what timers to set!

Defying Gravity is a 13-episode British/Canadian/USian co-production, following 8 astronauts on their six-year mission around the Solar System in the year 2052.

It started 02 August 2009 on ABC, and I didn't hear word one about it until this morning. This suggests that there's some glitch in the Buzz Network. Episodes are on Hulu, but.. gaaaah. Space stuff needs big screen. I won't watch postage stamps.

(Technically, it's a summer show, so it doesn't quite count toward the "dead fall" issue. But it's SF, and, crap, we all MISSED it!)

Flash Forward is one that I had heard about, and forgot: it revolves around an event in which everyone on Earth blacks out for over two minutes, and in the aftermath, it turns out that everyone has had a vision of their future, six months down the road. (It'll be interesting to see what they do after the show's been on for six months, and the visions either have or have not come true.)

It starts 24 September 2009, once again, on ABC.

ABC seems to be the go-to place for network SF this year: on 03 November 2009, they'll be treating us to a remake of the miniseries, V. I was never a fan of the original series, so my initial reaction was "meh" -- but then I remembered how everyone reacted to the news that they were remaking the velour-jumpsuit-and-robot-dog epic of the same era. One of the minds behind this revival also gave us The 4400, so I'm definitely tuning in.

Since I'm now watching everything else on ABC, I'm also going to tune into The Forgotten on 22 September 2009. It's "science fiction" in the same way CSI and Numb3rs are: it's fiction, about science. I'm going to give it a try just because it has Christian Slater, and I still miss My Own Worst Enemy.

(Hey, Quel and I started watching Castle just because it had Nathan Fillion in it.)

This is odd. It's not so much that Geek Chic has run its course -- it's just moved to a network that hasn't had much of anything to show in the SF genre in a long while.

(Of course, that could be evidence in and of itself that a trend is on its way out -- when the lowest-rated network finally jumps on the bandwagon.)

Did I mention that Eastwick is on ABC, too?

Over on NBC, Day One is going to start in the Spring, following good ol' Chuck. I don't know if it'll find any more success than NBC's last post-apocalyptic drama, but we'll give it a shot.

On Cable, BBC America has given us the summer show, Being Human. Quel and I have been enjoying it thoroughly, even though the premise sounds like a bar joke: "a vampire and a werewolf rent an apartment with a ghost..." It's only 6 episodes long, but a marathon's coming up this weekend, and it's also available On Demand for those who have access to such things.

And coming up on AMC:

A six-episode remake of one of my all-time favorite shows, The Prisoner. What this one lacks in pennyfarthing bikes and surreal Welsh architecture, it makes up for with Ian McKellan. I've seen an extensive trailer, and since I'm not particularly vulnerable to knee-jerk aversion to radical changes, it looks like it has potential.

Can't find a specific premiere date on that one, sorry.

athelind: (Default)
The replies to my previous post have pointed out a few shows that have eluded my notice -- or that I simply forgot about. I'm listing this partly so I remember what timers to set!

Defying Gravity is a 13-episode British/Canadian/USian co-production, following 8 astronauts on their six-year mission around the Solar System in the year 2052.

It started 02 August 2009 on ABC, and I didn't hear word one about it until this morning. This suggests that there's some glitch in the Buzz Network. Episodes are on Hulu, but.. gaaaah. Space stuff needs big screen. I won't watch postage stamps.

(Technically, it's a summer show, so it doesn't quite count toward the "dead fall" issue. But it's SF, and, crap, we all MISSED it!)

Flash Forward is one that I had heard about, and forgot: it revolves around an event in which everyone on Earth blacks out for over two minutes, and in the aftermath, it turns out that everyone has had a vision of their future, six months down the road. (It'll be interesting to see what they do after the show's been on for six months, and the visions either have or have not come true.)

It starts 24 September 2009, once again, on ABC.

ABC seems to be the go-to place for network SF this year: on 03 November 2009, they'll be treating us to a remake of the miniseries, V. I was never a fan of the original series, so my initial reaction was "meh" -- but then I remembered how everyone reacted to the news that they were remaking the velour-jumpsuit-and-robot-dog epic of the same era. One of the minds behind this revival also gave us The 4400, so I'm definitely tuning in.

Since I'm now watching everything else on ABC, I'm also going to tune into The Forgotten on 22 September 2009. It's "science fiction" in the same way CSI and Numb3rs are: it's fiction, about science. I'm going to give it a try just because it has Christian Slater, and I still miss My Own Worst Enemy.

(Hey, Quel and I started watching Castle just because it had Nathan Fillion in it.)

This is odd. It's not so much that Geek Chic has run its course -- it's just moved to a network that hasn't had much of anything to show in the SF genre in a long while.

(Of course, that could be evidence in and of itself that a trend is on its way out -- when the lowest-rated network finally jumps on the bandwagon.)

Did I mention that Eastwick is on ABC, too?

Over on NBC, Day One is going to start in the Spring, following good ol' Chuck. I don't know if it'll find any more success than NBC's last post-apocalyptic drama, but we'll give it a shot.

On Cable, BBC America has given us the summer show, Being Human. Quel and I have been enjoying it thoroughly, even though the premise sounds like a bar joke: "a vampire and a werewolf rent an apartment with a ghost..." It's only 6 episodes long, but a marathon's coming up this weekend, and it's also available On Demand for those who have access to such things.

And coming up on AMC:

A six-episode remake of one of my all-time favorite shows, The Prisoner. What this one lacks in pennyfarthing bikes and surreal Welsh architecture, it makes up for with Ian McKellan. I've seen an extensive trailer, and since I'm not particularly vulnerable to knee-jerk aversion to radical changes, it looks like it has potential.

Can't find a specific premiere date on that one, sorry.

athelind: (hoard potato)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia arranged for a long weekend for her birthday, and so, on Friday, we went to see District 9, and today, we finally wended our way to downtown San Jose to see Moon.

We are two for two on Smart, Well-Done, Thought-Provoking SF movies this weekend. The previews indicate several more are on the way -- and a few smart, thoughtful non-genre flicks, as well.

I was tempted to do a blog entry castigating District 9 for being an uncredited remake of Alien Nation, Moon for being a rip-off of all those '70s SF movies, right down to the rip-off set designs, and The Time Traveler's Wife for being based on a novel and thus proving Hollywood has to steal all their ideas from someplace else -- but I don't think the target audience would get the sarcasm.

If Generation Rape-My-Childhood thinks that Hollywood can't do anything new or non-derivative, maybe they should expand their horizons beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster or the remakes of 30-minute toy commercials from the '80s.

Sure, movies like this are in the minority, but they always have been. Sturgeon's Revelation holds, and has always held. If it seems that there was a higher percentage of good movies in decades past, that's because people prefer to remember the stuff they liked -- and because TV stations and cable channels seldom run the real crud.

athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia arranged for a long weekend for her birthday, and so, on Friday, we went to see District 9, and today, we finally wended our way to downtown San Jose to see Moon.

We are two for two on Smart, Well-Done, Thought-Provoking SF movies this weekend. The previews indicate several more are on the way -- and a few smart, thoughtful non-genre flicks, as well.

I was tempted to do a blog entry castigating District 9 for being an uncredited remake of Alien Nation, Moon for being a rip-off of all those '70s SF movies, right down to the rip-off set designs, and The Time Traveler's Wife for being based on a novel and thus proving Hollywood has to steal all their ideas from someplace else -- but I don't think the target audience would get the sarcasm.

If Generation Rape-My-Childhood thinks that Hollywood can't do anything new or non-derivative, maybe they should expand their horizons beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster or the remakes of 30-minute toy commercials from the '80s.

Sure, movies like this are in the minority, but they always have been. Sturgeon's Revelation holds, and has always held. If it seems that there was a higher percentage of good movies in decades past, that's because people prefer to remember the stuff they liked -- and because TV stations and cable channels seldom run the real crud.

athelind: (Sci Fi)
I've spent the day being melancholy about the Apollo 11 launch, which happened when I was 5. So I come home from work, and what do I find on my Friends list, courtesy of the [livejournal.com profile] retro_future community?



The cover to my very favorite book from childhood.

Please keep me away from any mention of Major Matt Mason or the Colorforms Outer Space Men for the next 72 hours or so, or I'm just gonna curl up into a Schwartzchild Radius of nostalgia and never be heard from again.


Those of you participating in [livejournal.com profile] tealfox and [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi's Star Wars Saga game this weekend who read the linked review will see a particular irony in this particular book impinging on my consciousness at this particular juncture.
athelind: (Default)
I've spent the day being melancholy about the Apollo 11 launch, which happened when I was 5. So I come home from work, and what do I find on my Friends list, courtesy of the [livejournal.com profile] retro_future community?



The cover to my very favorite book from childhood.

Please keep me away from any mention of Major Matt Mason or the Colorforms Outer Space Men for the next 72 hours or so, or I'm just gonna curl up into a Schwartzchild Radius of nostalgia and never be heard from again.


Those of you participating in [livejournal.com profile] tealfox and [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi's Star Wars Saga game this weekend who read the linked review will see a particular irony in this particular book impinging on my consciousness at this particular juncture.
athelind: (Sci Fi)
Almost every library I've patronized in the last four decades has used the same basic set of icons to delineate the various genre ghettos: a skull for mysteries, a stylized atom or a rocket ship surrounded by "atomic" rings for SF, and so forth. Most of them even seem to use the same company, with red ink on yellow stickers.



Why can't I find these icons on the web? I find several places selling library genre stickers, but not the classic old red-on-yellow designs.

I know they're OUT there -- I see them at my local library all the time, on brand new books.
athelind: (Default)
Almost every library I've patronized in the last four decades has used the same basic set of icons to delineate the various genre ghettos: a skull for mysteries, a stylized atom or a rocket ship surrounded by "atomic" rings for SF, and so forth. Most of them even seem to use the same company, with red ink on yellow stickers.



Why can't I find these icons on the web? I find several places selling library genre stickers, but not the classic old red-on-yellow designs.

I know they're OUT there -- I see them at my local library all the time, on brand new books.
athelind: (weird science)
I find myself amused by some of the "new entries" in the "Canonical Glossary of Slang for Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0".

Current slang such as "Cobweb Site" and "Dead Tree Edition" has infiltrated "future" slang as as the "bleeding edge of the One-And-Twenty" slips toward the Present Day and into the Recent Past.


athelind: (Default)
I find myself amused by some of the "new entries" in the "Canonical Glossary of Slang for Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0".

Current slang such as "Cobweb Site" and "Dead Tree Edition" has infiltrated "future" slang as as the "bleeding edge of the One-And-Twenty" slips toward the Present Day and into the Recent Past.


athelind: (hoard potato)
It occurs to me that Your Obedient Serpent has been remiss in his duties; despite having seen Mr. Abrams' Star Trek twice, I have yet to give my loyal readers any semblance of a review.

The short review:

Hooray! I'm 10 years old again!

I'm ten years old, and Star Trek is once again new and fresh and exciting. It's full of action and adventure. It's optimistic and bright without being smug and self-satisfied. It's dangerous and exciting without being a dark, dismal, Crapsack World.

When Mr. Abrams said, over the last year or two, that he "wasn't really a Star Trek fan", he was, evidently, lying through his teeth. And I applaud him for it.

The movie is wonderous. It hits every note perfectly. The funny parts don't slow down or cheapen the genuine urgency; the shout-outs and continuity nods are quick and casual. [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia missed some that I caught, and I missed some the first time that I caught the second time around.

I got choked up at the very beginning; Quel got choked up at the end.

The cast is splendid, simultaneously hearkening to the original portrayals of the characters, yet making the roles entirely their own. Zachary Quinto manages to do this with Leonard Nimoy standing right there.

For those poor, benighted souls who have not yet seen this spectacle on the big screen, I shall politely put the remainder of this behind a spoiler cut. )

If you haven't seen it yet, go now. Boldly.


athelind: (Default)
It occurs to me that Your Obedient Serpent has been remiss in his duties; despite having seen Mr. Abrams' Star Trek twice, I have yet to give my loyal readers any semblance of a review.

The short review:

Hooray! I'm 10 years old again!

I'm ten years old, and Star Trek is once again new and fresh and exciting. It's full of action and adventure. It's optimistic and bright without being smug and self-satisfied. It's dangerous and exciting without being a dark, dismal, Crapsack World.

When Mr. Abrams said, over the last year or two, that he "wasn't really a Star Trek fan", he was, evidently, lying through his teeth. And I applaud him for it.

The movie is wonderous. It hits every note perfectly. The funny parts don't slow down or cheapen the genuine urgency; the shout-outs and continuity nods are quick and casual. [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia missed some that I caught, and I missed some the first time that I caught the second time around.

I got choked up at the very beginning; Quel got choked up at the end.

The cast is splendid, simultaneously hearkening to the original portrayals of the characters, yet making the roles entirely their own. Zachary Quinto manages to do this with Leonard Nimoy standing right there.

For those poor, benighted souls who have not yet seen this spectacle on the big screen, I shall politely put the remainder of this behind a spoiler cut. )

If you haven't seen it yet, go now. Boldly.


athelind: (weird science)
[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty huhs. "That's weird. I can receive Roadrunner mail, but not send it.
[livejournal.com profile] pyat prefers Blade Runner mail!
[livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte says, "I've read things that you wouldn't believe. Free Diplomas burning off the shoulder of Orion. Enlarged penises glittering by the Tannhäuser Gate. All this will be lost, like spam in the rain."


Please credit [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte for this. He deserves all the blame credit.

athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty huhs. "That's weird. I can receive Roadrunner mail, but not send it.
[livejournal.com profile] pyat prefers Blade Runner mail!
[livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte says, "I've read things that you wouldn't believe. Free Diplomas burning off the shoulder of Orion. Enlarged penises glittering by the Tannhäuser Gate. All this will be lost, like spam in the rain."


Please credit [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte for this. He deserves all the blame credit.

athelind: (hoard potato)
Watchmen, in brief:

Both [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I really enjoyed it, demonstrating that it worked both as a movie, for someone unfamiliar with the story, and as an adaptation, for someone who's read it a dozen times or more since it came out.

There's a lot more I can say about it, but it only seems to come out in conversation. When I sit down to try and just write, I come up blank. That's why it's taken me two weeks to present even this much.

I will say that, in my estimation, Snyder made a good stab at examining the superhero movie in his own way, just as Moore and Gibbons scrutinized the superhero comic book all those years ago.

The Battlestar Galactica finale, also in brief:

Whoa.

Again, Quel and I both loved it -- and yes, we both cried. Long-standing questions were answered -- and others weren't. As far as I'm concerned, though, they picked the right questions to leave unanswered.

I also suspect that this ending may be close to the one that Glen Larson really intended for the original series.


athelind: (Default)
Watchmen, in brief:

Both [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I really enjoyed it, demonstrating that it worked both as a movie, for someone unfamiliar with the story, and as an adaptation, for someone who's read it a dozen times or more since it came out.

There's a lot more I can say about it, but it only seems to come out in conversation. When I sit down to try and just write, I come up blank. That's why it's taken me two weeks to present even this much.

I will say that, in my estimation, Snyder made a good stab at examining the superhero movie in his own way, just as Moore and Gibbons scrutinized the superhero comic book all those years ago.

The Battlestar Galactica finale, also in brief:

Whoa.

Again, Quel and I both loved it -- and yes, we both cried. Long-standing questions were answered -- and others weren't. As far as I'm concerned, though, they picked the right questions to leave unanswered.

I also suspect that this ending may be close to the one that Glen Larson really intended for the original series.


athelind: (hoard potato)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I just watched the first 45 minutes of Dollhouse.

We didn't bother with the last 15.

The MacGuffin for the pilot episode was a hostage negotiation. If they'd done the same "engagement" on Burn Notice or Leverage, there would have been a lot less twiddling, and a lot more Smart People Doing Smart Things, quite possibly punctuated by explosions. Even a fairly mundane police procedural like Law & Order would have mustered more tension.

Sure, this was a pilot, and had to spend some time to establish the premise -- but My Own Worst Enemy hit the ground running in its opener, while presenting an equally-complex, somewhat less "arty" premise in a way that should be the textbook chapter of "show, don't tell".

Our combined assessment: Joss is too in love with his Brilliant Idea to actually tell a story with it.

I, on the other claw, have been "meh" about that premise since I first heard about it months ago.

I keep thinking that maybe I'm just disappointed because it was so hyped up, and didn't measure up to the hype -- but, frankly, if Joss Whedon's name hadn't been attached to it, I wouldn't have bothered to tune in in the first place.

And now I won't.


Oh, and I'm sorry if I was too busy being bored to notice if Dollhouse was "sexist".
By the way, you can watch all 9 episodes of My Own Worst Enemy at NBC's web site. Ding DING ding.

athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I just watched the first 45 minutes of Dollhouse.

We didn't bother with the last 15.

The MacGuffin for the pilot episode was a hostage negotiation. If they'd done the same "engagement" on Burn Notice or Leverage, there would have been a lot less twiddling, and a lot more Smart People Doing Smart Things, quite possibly punctuated by explosions. Even a fairly mundane police procedural like Law & Order would have mustered more tension.

Sure, this was a pilot, and had to spend some time to establish the premise -- but My Own Worst Enemy hit the ground running in its opener, while presenting an equally-complex, somewhat less "arty" premise in a way that should be the textbook chapter of "show, don't tell".

Our combined assessment: Joss is too in love with his Brilliant Idea to actually tell a story with it.

I, on the other claw, have been "meh" about that premise since I first heard about it months ago.

I keep thinking that maybe I'm just disappointed because it was so hyped up, and didn't measure up to the hype -- but, frankly, if Joss Whedon's name hadn't been attached to it, I wouldn't have bothered to tune in in the first place.

And now I won't.


Oh, and I'm sorry if I was too busy being bored to notice if Dollhouse was "sexist".
By the way, you can watch all 9 episodes of My Own Worst Enemy at NBC's web site. Ding DING ding.

athelind: (hoard potato)
I'm finding it hard to get excited about Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse.

The premise is very, very close to the recently-canceled Christian Slater vehicle, My Own Worst Enemy -- without the promise of that show's continually-evolving character dynamic, and the wonderful interaction (via cell-hone video messages) between Slater's two personas.

Yes, everyone's sure that the Dollhouse story arc will involve the system breaking down, and "Echo" slowly retaining memories between downloads. Enemy started with the breakdown, dropping you right into the middle of things as poor schlub Henry finds himself in the middle of his super-spy alter-ego's anarchic existence.

Please note that I was somewhat "meh" about Dollhouse's premise even before I'd started watching Enemy.

[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I will give Dollhouse a try, but I may find myself in the unlikely position of wishing I was watching Christian Slater instead of Eliza Dushku.


Yes, I know, after snarking on the shows we DROPPED, I never got around to posting about the new shows we LIKED this season. And now one of them's gone.
athelind: (Default)
I'm finding it hard to get excited about Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse.

The premise is very, very close to the recently-canceled Christian Slater vehicle, My Own Worst Enemy -- without the promise of that show's continually-evolving character dynamic, and the wonderful interaction (via cell-hone video messages) between Slater's two personas.

Yes, everyone's sure that the Dollhouse story arc will involve the system breaking down, and "Echo" slowly retaining memories between downloads. Enemy started with the breakdown, dropping you right into the middle of things as poor schlub Henry finds himself in the middle of his super-spy alter-ego's anarchic existence.

Please note that I was somewhat "meh" about Dollhouse's premise even before I'd started watching Enemy.

[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I will give Dollhouse a try, but I may find myself in the unlikely position of wishing I was watching Christian Slater instead of Eliza Dushku.


Yes, I know, after snarking on the shows we DROPPED, I never got around to posting about the new shows we LIKED this season. And now one of them's gone.
athelind: (gaming)
Posting this so I don't lose the link: d20 Modern, The Full Monte

They have a zipped, downloadable version right there on the front page.

For those baffled by this, geeky prattle follows. )
athelind: (Default)
Posting this so I don't lose the link: d20 Modern, The Full Monte

They have a zipped, downloadable version right there on the front page.

For those baffled by this, geeky prattle follows. )

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