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October 4th, 2008

09:56 am
Now for the REALLY important political issue...

Interview with writers of the upcoming "Star Trek" prequel:

Orci: And it's controversial to even mention Star Wars and Star Trek in the same sentence, but Alex said, "We have to bring more Star Wars into Star Trek."

Kurtzman: (joke-coughing) Original Star Wars.

Orci: Original Star Wars. I want to feel the space, I want to feel speed and I want to feel all the things that can become a little bit lost when Star Trek becomes very stately -- which I love about it , but....

Kurtzman: Star Trek is often the space equivalent of sub battles, which is what makes it unique and different from Star Wars, so you can't blow that away, either.

Orci: It's somewhere between that the truth lies.
Occasional Superheroine blog post, regarding the comment "Bring more Star Wars into Star Trek"

(I love that other comment; "(joke-coughing) Original Star Wars").

It occurs to me that all of the worst Star Trek moments are the result of writers thinking it needs to be more Star Warsy. It worries me a little that they seem to think they're trying anything new by "bringing more Star Wars" into it. I mean, not hugely... ours is a fandom that has already been fed so much poorly written rubbish (largely from writers who were trying to make it more Star Warsy) that another bad movie isn't going to make a dent. It'd be a shame to see another few million Hollywood dollars producing yet another piece-of-crap clone, it just wouldn't be anything new. So i can't imagine getting that heated up about it.

Buttttt.... it'd also be a wasted opportunity; because Star Trek can do stories that are capable of being truly humanising.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a sci-fi author who's written Utopia's - and utopia's are normally something you either avoid with a ten-foot pole, or you realise in the climax that it's all fake and actually dystopic under the surface. Here are some choice KSR quotes that suggest that utopian fiction can play a stronger role than that; i'm quoting just because i think he phrases it particularly well:

"Okay, say that we're in trouble at the end of the 20th century. We are. Resources are depleted, populations are rising, we're in a race to invent a kind of living that will work before our problems overwhelm us. That being the case (and who but the rich think tank experts can deny it?), what kind of political art do we create? The utopia is the only choice." - http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue23/interview.html

"I’ve been working all my career to try to redefine utopia in more positive terms – in more dynamic terms. People tend to think of utopia as a perfect end-stage, which is, by definition, impossible and maybe even bad for us. And so maybe it’s better to use a word like permaculture, which not only includes permanent but also permutation." - http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/comparative-planetology-interview-with.html

"I first tried a utopia with Pacific Edge. Although I like that novel, particularly the standard novelistic aspects of it, it represented an aesthetic problem that left me kind of frustrated. I felt that I hadn't done justice to the global or political aspects, or the historical aspects of that situation and I thought, "I've got to try again, this is interesting" and useful to the world, just on the basic level of positive visions for people to think might come to pass. I should say we can't have enough utopian fictions. If people say "but they're always boring" then this is an aesthetic problem, or a political objection. It's not a reason not to do it. It's a reason that it's hard." - http://www.zone-sf.com/ksrobinson.html

I think this is something that Star Trek has done both very well and very poorly. There are episodes that i would point to as successful utopian stories, and ones that are appalling, and plenty (too many!) where the writers seemed to have lost any interest in looking at the Trek mythology as anything other than a vehicle for short sci-fi stories. (The most recent movie is a perfect example of the latter.)

But the first show was originally envisaged as an optimistic portrayal of what we could end up looking like if we survive that long and build something really good out of the world, and (except for Enterprise) the later series really ran with that concept. It got very shaky because you have about five million writers, and not all of them necessarily "got" it; plus the fact that the producers of the show were often kind of idiots (for example, some of them being openly hostile to the idea of queers in Star Trek (even though writers tried over and over again to insert positive gay characters, and kept having them removed or written out by producers)). But the backstory/mythology inserted into the show remained fairly consistently hippie-utopian.

So my point is just, you can do something empowering with that. It is possible to write genuinely good utopian sci-fi - like KSR says, it's a challenge - but whats the point of churning out this stuff if you're not going to attempt anything challenging? And you can do it without it turning out that everyone's secretly brainwashed, which is really the utopian-sci-fi equivalent of ending a story with "And then i woke up and realised it was all a dream." And Star Trek's mythology is just sitting there, waiting for somebody to use it.

So it would be a shame if the new movie was just another space opera, like Nemesis. Not a new shame, just, another shame.