We watch some zombie flick didn’t give us zombies; ramble a bit on owning busts and such. We jump into the Indies, with Manifest Destiny, a neat little book based on screwing with your US ecology and history; Lazarus 5, showing us a montage of Forevers’ training. Velvet 3 wows us like usual, in which a drug dealers boat is stolen, Unwritten: Apocalypse 1 a drug trip straight from the library. Astro City 8 showing us the closing of Winged Victory’s school. Pretty Deadly, just as confusing and convoluted as ever. Saga 18 with the burning house and an unusual bit of mercy from Prince Robot. Revival 17 astounds us with a stash of about one million teeth and crazy girl getting crazier. Star Wars 13, a great issue with Vader creating a black ops squad. Afterlife with Archie entrances us with teh history of the Lodge house and family. Uber 9 shows us it’s an 81 to 1 ration to disable a Battleship. God is Dead 5 finishes the creation of the artificial god, Odin gets taken out. Furious 1 with an actress that loses her temper, badly. Badass 1 disappoints terribly as someone has watched too many hitman movies. Curse 1 takes an aging sporto into the werewolf mythos. Capt Midinght 7 has the President hiring peopel for Black Sky; Doc Savage 2 introduces Doc’s cousin Patricia, badass in her own right. Buck Rogers 4 closes out the story too quickly and neatly.
Come check us out on Facebook, twitter @themeanergeek, leave us voicemail at 203 533 4910 and mail us at email@example.com, and occasionally see what we have to say textually at www.themeangeek.com
The two surviving Interviews we got from Emerald City Comicon graciously provided by the members of The Incompetent Comic Cabal Cast. Due to huge technical problems, all we have for you is a talk with Travis from the Washington 501st Cosplay group, and the great great guys from Thunderfrog Studios. Give it a listen and please, buy some books in aid of charity. Come check us out on Facebook, twitter @themeanergeek , leave us voicemail at 203 533 4910 and mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and occasionally see what we have to say textually at www.themeangeek.com
Due to Massive technical difficulties and limited mobility, I really only got time to do a very small amount of picture taking; you should VISIT ANDREW’S FLICKR FOR MORE AND BETTER SHOTS.
We watch BANGKOK KO, miss Harold Ramis, mention Rev’s review of YI SOON SHIN: WARRIOR AND DEFENDER; debate Oz The Great and Powerful; talk some Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption. Rev shotguns the first half of s4 of Walking Dead;finally get to some books with Marvel week, including-Amazing X-Men 3, with more soul pirates and Hank losing memory. Night of the Living Deadpool 1 and 2, chimichanga coma, that is all. Invaders 1, with Torch hiding out in the Midwest; Origin 2, with the horribleness of Mr. Sinister; Superior Spidey 25 and 26, with Carly monster, Osborn, Avengers, everyone is coming together for the last of this storyline. All New X-Men 21, visiting the history of Reverend Stryker; Black Widow 1 and 2, with the movie crossover of Nat trying to wipe the “red” in her ledger; Thor 17 and 18, where the confrontation comes down to the subways of Manhattan, Malekith becomes king, and young Thor drinks with dragons. All new X-Men 1 or 22 or whatever Iceman loves RUN DMC-that’s all I need. Uncanny X-Men 16, with a pro cyke rally and MGH on the streets of madripoor Indestructible Hulk 18, with unexpected terrigen consequences; Iron Man 20, facing the menace of RED PERIL The Muckraker. Hawkeye 16, where Kate hangs out with DISCOUNT BRIAN WILSON JR. Cap 15, with the joyous introduction of Dr. MINDBUBBLE.
Come check us out on Facebook, twitter @themeanergeek, leave us voicemail at 203 533 4910 and mail us at email@example.com, and occasionally see what we have to say textually at www.themeangeek.com
You’ve Been Missing It All
Comparative Levels of Fictional Sophistication in Geek Modes
Joss Whedon has ruined intellectualism and science in fictional modes aimed at those referring to themselves as “geeks”.
You already hate this article *and* myself, and that is a fine indicator of the precise thesis of it.
Over the decades, as we all know, nerdiness or geekiness has steadily increased in “popularity”, which, generally speaking, is a good thing. We who love these things went from
- Myopic academics and dreamers,
- The guy around the corner.
But let me explain why this is not as awesome as you think.
In the fifties, say, you had half-assed TV pap like Commander Cody and Tom Corbett, lampooned so effectively right now in Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykins’ Satellite Sam. Which, when we think of it, is not all that far removed from, say, Andromeda, or Earth 2, or any number of syndicated-only shows relegated to Saturday afternoons, which only in passing take a glance at actual science fiction. But in books, you had things by Clarke, things by Asimov, things by Gernsback and Bester and Heinlein.
Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. He authored dozens of textbooks. He made up the Three Laws of Robotics that screen writers love so much but never mention the developer thereof.
Hugo Gernsback was instrumental in developing amateur radio, involved in the first television broadcasts, and was an inventor, which we now, rather unromantically, call “makers” (way to water it down, Wired) Gernsback fucking invented science fiction! You don’t even know who he is, and if you do, I defy you to name one thing he wrote without going to Google. Gernsback felt that science fiction should be “75 percent literature interwoven with 25 percent science” I’m hard pressed to find any science whatsoever in Firefly.
Gernsback, Niven, or Asimov would have told you how the different planets in the unidentified and totally farcical Firefly “system” interacted with each other, how their varying distances contributed to indigenous life, how their different sizes would have contributed to human adaptation. Heinlein would have told you about how the sociologically different societies created and molded themselves and people’s place in them….
…Whedon tells you ” After the Earth was used up, we found a new solar system and
hundreds of new Earths were terraformed and colonized.” That’s it. There’s 2 other minor variations-
“The Earth got used up, so we moved out and
Terraformed a whole new galaxy (emphasis mine) of Earths, some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much.”
“Earth got used up, so we terraformed a whole
new galaxy of Earths, some rich and flush with the new technologies,
some not so much.”
That’s it. That’s the whole shebang. Nothing about the difference between galaxies and solar systems, which seem interchangeable to Whedon, but rather insulting to astronomers; nothing about how close they were to each other; just, “we found it”. Asimov would have laughed in his face, Niven would have slapped him, and Heinlein probably would have just shaken his head, walked away, and created a new society in his head. And almost insultingly, no explanation of why any given planet would be less well off than any other, considering it took spacecraft to get there, implying an absolute minimum technological level far beyond anything we have now. And he’s given a pass with, “…not so much.”
And now, now, this is what we expect of our Sci-Fi. We need no actual science-just put it in space. There is nowhere in any given episode of Firefly mentioning FTL of any sort. But the Serenity gets to any planet in just a couple days. Logically this would lend credence to the “solar system” version of the voice over, but even that’s wrong, since it takes months just to get to Mars.
Now if you’ve listened to the show you know I have proclivities toward Star Wars, myself. And, mistakenly or not, (mistakenly) Star Wars is lumped into the Sci-Fi category, although it’s clearly science fantasy; they explain nothing other than, well, nothing; and that’s a huge problem for a Sci-Fi story. Lucas tried to add some science by mentioning Midi-Chlorians, and everyone shit themselves. This is something I think Heinlein or even Asimov would have liked, myself; in this case, the previously mysterious Force, created by all living things, surrounding us, penetrating us, and binding the galaxy together (dark matter, anyone?) is still there, but living beings are not themselves sensitive to it, but are in symbiosis with other beings, channeling the Force. Midi-Chlorians are silly, but if R.A.H. came up with it first, Puppet Masters would have been a whole different story. And people would have fucking LOVED it.
So George Lucas and Joss Whedon are both culpable for popular Sci-Fi watering itself down.
BSG doesn’t stand alone in this either-neither version. At least BSG has the good sense however, to add spirituality against the lack of technological explanation-which makes the universe they live in far more interesting and complete. BSG had good science, mostly, but it was unobtrusive; subluminal speeds until the jump, thrusters, a complete lack of energy weapons; the need for actual fuel, instead of whatever runs the Serenity and the Falcon. BSG misses, however, in using nukes in space. As we all know, the primary destructive effects of nuclear weapons are 1) heat and 2) shockwave. Neither of which propagate very well (in the case of shockwave-not at all, period) without AIR. So in their effort to avoid energy weapons, they inadvertently ruined their science cred using nukes in space.
Halo wouldn’t exist without Larry Niven; Halo is literally a Ringworld, which was most clearly and explicitly described in his book Ringworld. But who knows that? How many “nerds” thought the reverse was true until they saw the publication date on Ringworld? The Ringworld is a prime example of the Big Dumb Object concept; often known as a megastructure. Dozens of pages are dedicated to its operation and organization, along with its cultures, races, and history. The Halo is, um, a weapon with no life (of consequence).
Whereas Freeman Dyson took the next logical steps from Stapledon’s Star Maker, positing a structure with a surface area of approximately 28.1 Eha (Exa Hectare), or about 550 million times the surface area of Earth, Jonathan Hickman thinks Tony Stark can do it all by his lonesome, as a hobby.
We’ve gone from Doctors and physicists and chemists and engineers writing our science fiction to fans of fans with English degrees, if that. And frankly, we’re all suffering for the lack of real science fiction.
Which brings me to my most sensitive statement-Star Trek is not as scientific as you’d like to think.
Just lost 100 listeners there.
My first big problem-and you must remember I started my Star Trek Life watching TOS, twice a day, in 1979 or 1980, having read the novelizations of TOS in first grade-is that people keep saying Star Trek predicted things. Star Trek hasn’t predicted shit. It’s fair to say they inspired tons of people to make things similar to what was in the shows, but that’s hardly predicting.
“PREDICTING: To state, tell about, or make known in advance, especially on the basis of special knowledge.”
Prop makers and writers of early Star Trek episodes really had no special knowledge. To predict something in it’s truest sense, one has to have an idea it’s going to happen already, and then tell people. Star Trek didn’t do that. Never has. People mix up cause and effect as it suits them to feel better about themselves and their devotion to a television show…They simply made up cool stuff. And don’t even start with the flip phone analogy-it’s played out. Communicators are not flip phones because:
1) The flip on the Communicator is the antenna, not half the phone with a screen and a speaker;
2) Communicators all worked within an internal network used by Star Fleet, not any other user with a device-making it, at best, a walkie talkie with really, really good range. To reach anywhere beyond high orbit, they needed the ship. I can call Singapore right now if I want, unaided, but Kirk could never call Tau Ceti unless Uhura was around.
I could go on but this isn’t about only Star Trek. As creators tried to engage more and more people, they necessarily had to water down the science-till now it just barely resembles such. There are crucial, necessary differences in movie and TV and novel science fiction; you can’t put off the random shmoe in the street watching TV, but it would be nice to have a visual entertainment mode that was the purview of the analytical and science minded. While people like DC Fontana are excellent writers and storytellers, the science is, at best, secondary. Many of them have no science background whatsoever, but somehow need to tell us about quantum entanglement and hyperspace and dark matter. Whedon has a formal (and impressive) education in film studies and women’s studies, so he’s no Asimov.
So where does that leave someone wanting real, hard Sci-Fi now a days? Well, kids, it’s only books. Oh, there’s still some hanger’s on in movies, like the excellent Gravity, the underestimated and very intriguing Chronicles of Riddick, which built a pretty engaging and diverse universe from the pale bones of the excellent Pitch Black. And really, this is the only place science fiction has ever really been science fiction. I tried looking for a few recent hard Sci-Fi books the last couple years and what I found was-
The excellent Dread Empires’ Fall-Walter Jon Williams-the best part of it being the actual physics of long range starship combat and maneuvering-Williams makes no bones about you knowing that if anyone ever got out into space, this is how combat would go, inertial dampers be damned. It also has a touching love story in it, yet one that goes to great lengths to remind you that people sometimes have bigger things on their minds than love.
The thought provoking and Niven-esque Leviathan Wakes-James S.A. Corey- half murder mystery, half contagion chase; again, the physics are very real, but although the threat is from another galaxy altogether, it’s Sci-Fi in the most classic sense-the ultimate weapon is not set toward the Sol system in malice, but that’s just kinda where it ended up. Attempts to capture and control it end up…not to the manipulator’s favor.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series-Red, Green, and Blue-Gives us really, really hardcore Sci-Fi-such to the point it was a challenge even for me; Mars needs water-so where do they get it? Saturn’s rings! Amidst genetic manipulation, -and just so we’re clear, not for making super-beings- imaginings on how new societies, unhindered by Earth-bound government, or out of time morals, might form, and the realities of terraforming a dead world, we are given insights into intrasolar politics.
Most notable about these books is not that they happen in space; not that they happen in the future; but that they happen in a universe where things aren’t taken as read or flat out ignored in favor of witticisms and snarky conversations. Two of them happen right here in the Sol system (and seriously, if you don‘t know what Sol is, just give up whatever you’ve been calling “Sci-Fi” altogether and go read Stephanie Meyer)
Now, let me tell you why I mention Meyer so explicitly. For centuries Vampires were evil creatures, cursed, resurrected for evil ends, dead dead dead. They didn’t just bang young women for the hell of it-they killed women, well, anyone- for their blood. Anne Rice comes along and makes us take a different look, where they get to bang, but they still kill people for blood. Stephanie Meyer comes along and suddenly blood is almost no factor at all, and hey, they’re fucking gorgeous and they sparkle. Not to go too crazy about Meyer, but you can see where popularity has taken a back seat to the “true faith” so to speak, of Sci-Fi. I can see the same arc with Whedon and any of Sci-Fi’s true forbears. Niven and others get so cray-cray they sometimes even put actual formulae and equations in the text, but Whedon just says “oh, there’s a lot of earth like planets in one system.” Really Joss? Are they all in the same plane? Are they all lined up on the ecliptic? You know what the ecliptic is, right Joss? You so don’t.
Now, you can see what’s going to happen, right? Let’s do some speculation. Speculation being 90% of what Sci-Fi should really be-looking from the history.
Doctorates and Masters in the sciences write Sci-Fi. Not a requirement, but at one point it was really a standard for good Sci-Fi. Authors invent and create things. They own patents. They are respected as men of science first.
In the interim:
People like D.C. Fontana use their English degrees to write science fiction television with the intent of making “Wagontrain in space” at the behest of Gene Roddenberry, a reportedly excellent student with an “interest” in aeronautics who nonetheless did not take an education in hard sciences.
Joss Whedon and Jonathan Hickman start writing professionally, one with an English degree and one with no education listed at all in his Wiki entry. Firefly and Avengers are wildly popular, and have nearly no bearing on science as we know it.
We can see the downward spiral.
And no, time travel is not science fiction. At best, it’s philosophical masturbation. While there have been various sets of “rules” that some screenwriters follow here and there, (“BTTF rules” “Terminator rules”) the most popular types are the least explained. The most popular type is the one without real consequences, vis-a-vis wibbly wobbly timey wimey.
What’s the point though? Why have I even mentioned this at all? Well, friend, while I won’t specifically judge you on your entertainment habits, (see this article about why) you have to admit, if you say you’re a Sci-Fi fan, and you don’t read anything with any actual science in it, at best you’re missing out on learning about the universe, how it works, and what our place as humans might be in it. At worst, you’re deluding yourself about what Sci-Fi is, can be, has been. If all you’re watching is Firefly, Star Trek, and yes, Star Wars, you are missing out. I won’t even go into the crucial differences in intellectual curiosity between readers and movie/TV consumers. You’re missing out. And if you’ve never picked up Asimov, you’re missing out on the very foundation, (heheh) of modern Sci-Fi.
Thing is, geeks don’t seem to be questioning anymore-they don’t seem to be questing except maybe in WoW; they’re not digging for intellectual satisfaction and ultimate knowledge. I keep running into people that can’t tell you the difference between galaxies and solar systems. Can’t tell you the difference between quanta and quantum, data and datum. They just want to “go be bad guys”. And they’re allowed that. They’re permitted, and no one can stop them. They’re perfectly fine with just being “super passionate”. And that’s perfectly fine for a pokemon fan. For a horror fan. For a comics fan. But Sci-Fi fans should be looking for more. A Sci-Fi “fan” who isn’t desperate to leave the planet; to learn something new; who hasn’t read Asimov or Niven…I can’t trust that motherfucker.
Hello everyone; welcome to a new mini-feature of The Mean Geek-Comics Podcasting on the Edge of Civility-all the Stan’s Soapboxes, from 1967 to 1980 read aloud for you!
If you’ve listened to the show at all you know that we love comics history.
It doesn’t get more historical than Stan’s soapbox, text pieces in just about every comics marvel did from 67 to 80. they’ve finally been collected in the really nice volume, Stan’s Soapbox: the collection. This book was put out by the Hero Initiative, a non profit, federally recognized organization designed to help out comic creators in time of need, since the industry usually fucks them early and retirement is often no playground. You should check out their mission at
For those of you that have never read older marvels, Stan would hold court on many many types of issues, often bout comics but frequently about real world issues. to give actual historical context to the soapboxes, the book condenses new stories for every year of the soapbox, which I will handily read out to you as well. Each new cast will be a year’s worth of Stan’s soapbox, so standby for 14 episodes. Having said that, here we go!
We watch ZOMBIE NIGHT, with Darryl Hannah and stinky zombie attractant feet; mention Chuck, mention Power and Gory by Chaykin; TechJedi re-watches all of Robotech while Rev watches Parks and Rec; commiserate about missing dvds; and Carl Macek; had to give up on an Alan Moore book; spend a lot of time thinking about how original creators would feel about how characters have been handled lately; eventually we get to the Marvels with Cap 14 and it’s runaway jingoism; Hulk Annual 1, living island-that’s all you need. Origin II #1, where Logan gets all jack london; Superior Spider Man 23 and 24, where the long fall begins Superior Venom appears, Ock argues with MJ May and Jay; Carlie downs some Goblin Juice; Thor 16-Revelations, Malekith, executions, and more! All New XMen 20, with Jean still unwilling to stay out of people’s brains; Indestructible Hulk 17 where terrigen bombs need to be stopped and BANNER IS THE ONE TO DO IT. Inhumanity one shot gets covered, where we get yet another long and complex Inhumans origin; Iron Man 19, The Starks take over Mandarin City in hopes to make it a new metropolis of tech; Uncanny XMen 5 with Illyana being counseled Hilarity ensues when she goes shopping with the Cuckoos. we finish up with Amazing XMen 2 with half the team in each plane of existence fighting soul pirates.
We just ramble ramble ramble while watching Dororro or some shit. The Rev comes to several conclusions about AGENTS OF SHIELD; talk about the ethics of Skyman in Captain Midnight; talk about BLACK SCIENCE and the exotic frog girl dancers. Saviors 1, with high guys and conspiracy lizards; Deceivers, with cowboy cia agents; Pretty Deadly 3, with Sissy releasing Ginny into the world; Revival 16, with dead livestock and radiation cover stories and an arson is foiled. Sage 17 with the confrontation with Prince Robo; Extinction parade 4with it’s veiled proselytizing; Doc Savage 1 witht a renewal of purpose and action from pulp-land; Satellite Sam 5, where everyone gets blown; Star Wars 12, where they finally create rogue squadron. Velvet 2, the newest AWESOME SPY BOOK YOU SHOULD READ. God is dead 4, trying to create an artificial god and epically failing; Astro City 7, with a framed Winged Victory; THE Star Wars 4, with it’s seven kinds of plot movements; Hellboy in Hell 5 with a bargain and a betrayal. Moriarty lives 1, following up on Reichenbach; Uber 8, where Stalins’ methodology comes through in making battleships and enhanciles.
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