Friday, March 19, 2010

New and Noteworthy (SF TV Reruns, "The Boring Age," "For Stranger Maps," The Rarity of Bad Reviews, Hollywood Sequels, McCalmont on Wolfe)

In today's edition:

* Ed Left of Airlock Alpha on what happened to the reruns of classic science fiction shows that were once on basic cable (e.g. on the Sci-Fi Channel, where science fiction is rarer than it once was). Inevitably, this discussion touched on the tendency of channels to stray from their original, core programming (a point also touched on by CNN's Breeana Hare in "Who Killed the Music Video?").

The point Left makes is the obvious one, which I've written about before at length, namely that cable channels have shifted from being niche markets to trying to snap up the biggest slices of the viewing pie they obviously can-while the niche stuff ends up on the web.

* Time Magazine's "10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years," a bit of pop futurism that I found trite for the most part, but which included an interesting piece by Michael Lind on "The Boring Age"-in which our technohype is put into perspective and the future is made out to be less futuristic than anticipated.

Lind offers a nice round-up of the arguments that we are not, after all, living in an age of runaway, breakneck technological change. I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions-for instance, I have a hard time picturing fossil fuels as still dominating our energy portfolio in any version of 2050 that's actually viable-but on the whole, he presents the point well. In fact, I found myself wondering if we are approaching the moment at which the cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk/Singularitarian images of tomorrowland are already as obsolete and retro as William Gibson made visions of flying cars appear in "The Gernsback Continuum"-or are even looking at that moment in our rear-view mirrors.

* Ken MacLeod's call "For Stranger Maps," a lengthier-than-usual blog post from the author (which has also resulted in a longer-than-usual string of comments) in which he writes about the over-simplicity of far too many fictional worlds based on the ancient or Medieval worlds-certainly in comparison with the real thing. (One thing that always catches my attention reading history from those eras is how complex governance was-the division of powers and functions among differing entities, and in cases, how modern the concerns of their governments often seemed to be. Who pictures a fifteenth century ruler worrying about monetary policy, for instance? Yet they certainly did so.)

* At Tor.com, Jo Walton writes about "Why Reviewers Don't Often Say 'This Sucks,'" while Genevieve Valentine offers a list of upcoming genre film sequels (along with assorted snarky comments).

* Jonathan McCalmont at Ruthless Culture in the first of a multi-part examination of Gene Wolfe's classic Book of the New Sun cycle, the present piece discussing 1980's The Shadow of the Torturer-which, I am pleased to see, offers more substance in its assessment than just about any other critical take of those books I've seen.

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