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Monthly Archives: March 2012

So, on Saturday, March 10th, I discovered that the old Science Fiction show The Starlost had been re-made into a new Hulu series, titled Ark. Knowing that Ellison, the father of Starlost, had hated the show and wanted it to be entirely different, I was pretty excited.

 

Wikipedia lied to me. To say Ark is based on The Starlost is about the same as saying Tron is based on Gulliver’s Travels. Sure, there’s a little similarity – Both Tron and Gulliver’s Travels are about a man exploring worlds they aren’t from, populated by creatures with completely separate ways of living than their familiar world; but one is about computer programs engaging in a revolution against a totalitarian master program, and the other one is Tron. You may know by now that I have not read Gulliver’s Travels.

 

Ark takes place on a space ship carrying humans who don’t know that they are on a spaceship at the start of action. The similarities end there. These humans come from at least 2 different periods of human history (probably more, but there are a total of five or six characters in the show, with three never appearing on the ship and one not speaking English), and wake up from some form of long term sleep-storage. They discover that on Earth, they are officially dead. They find a number of actually dead people on the ship, and there are bombs in some parts of the walls. And that is about the extent of what we learn about what’s going on over the course of the ~55 minute web series.

 

I’m actually not bothered by this lack of completion; it’s fairly well executed, the show leaving us befuddled and confused. It was obviously meant to continue into a second season, which never materialized. A significant portion of me really does want a whole lot more; there is a lot of potential in the plot. But I just can’t get past the fact that it has absolutely NO connection to what Wikipedia claimed it is a remake of. There are not pocket worlds on this space ship, so far as presented! There is no Planet-Saving reason for these characters to have been loaded onto the same space ship, so far as presented. Perhaps had there been a second season, things would have been explained. As it is? It feels like it wants to be simultaneously The 4400, Riverworld, and LOST. No one knows what’s happening! At the end, the MYSTERIOUS VOICE says “everyone’s here”, implying “the entire human race” (which was not suggested at all by what had happened so far)! And mysterious, seemingly senseless abduction! And it’s in SPACE.

 

 I like all three of those shows. And, in fact, I would LOVE the place where all three of those met.  What a powerhouse of a fiction that would be. If it were executed well.

 

 I don’t hate this show altogether. Like I said, I’m mostly angry about watching it under false pretenses (screw you, Wikipedia), so I’m biased against it. It’s fairly well paced, once you get past the first episode, which is just drab, obvious, ‘what the hell is going on” set up. Only one of the actors, the male lead, is terrible. And gosh is he terrible. He is unconvincing, with delivery that is forcibly “loose”. His dialogue is agonizing too. He’s from the 50’s, and he constantly calls the female lead “babe”. It’s just annoying. Even if it’s period appropriate, which I’m not sure of, it would be incredibly annoying. The rest of the dialogue isn’t great, but at least isn’t agonized.  And the mystery and tension is pretty well executed and established.

 

The show’s biggest saving grace is the set design. It’s stunning as hell. It’s not just decrepit spaceship like it could have been; there is apparent thought put into the structure of things. In the last scene of the series, we get a pan of the ship. It’s magnificent. It kind of resembles a jelly fish tree flying through space. Uh, or something.

 

Don’t bother if you’re expecting to see The Starlost executed well. Do if you are not at all upset about The Starlost being butchered by everyone who didn’t know what was going on, and would like some decent, poorly acted, and incomplete sci-fi.

 

Er, so don’t bother, most likely.

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So, a long while back, over a year ago, I got a copy of a godawful book for free. This book was called Low Red Moon and it was a cheapo Twilight rip-off. Girl falls in love with Werewolf who may have killed her parents, but it turns out that he’s a prosecuted minority and – okay, that sounds a hell of a lot better than the book actually was.

 

In any case, reading this awful book gave me an idea for a blog. I would find books for less than $2, and read them, and review them. Every book that I got for free or almost no money, I would devour, and pick apart, and mock, in the hopes of getting Internets Famous, or at least of making someone laugh. (This would, of course, exclude books that I got for free because they were gifts, or ARCs. Low Red Moon was a copy that was damaged out by my place of employment, partly because they hadn’t ordered it, and partly because no one wanted to buy it.) So I went out to used bookstores and raided their discount racks for anything under $2. I found a couple of truly bewildering treasures – I still have to read the double novel by none other than Ed Wood. But much to my chagrin, I found that many of the books I got were actually…  Good.

 

Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Edward Bryant is a brilliant book. The book is in fairly good condition. There are notes scribbled in a lot of the margins – illegible, inane notes, which, when readable, are only stating “this is what happen son this page.” But the cover is intact; the words are all readable.  The cover price is 95 cents, and I got it for a dollar. I feel like I should have had to pay more for it. Price variance over time is weird.

 

Phoenix Without Ashes was written by Edward Bryant, based on the pilot of the same name for a television show called The Starlost. The Starlost was meant to be a sprawling television series headed by Harlan Ellison. But between the network executives’ meddling and a writer’s guild strike, the project fell to pieces. The book opens with a vitriol and bile filled essay by Ellison about the whole experience, which is at least on par with the novel itself in entertainment/interest value.

 

The basic idea behind The Starlost was defined as the “enclosed universe”. It was about this huge spaceship with all of these individual bubble-worlds populated by particular cultures and sub-cultures. It was an ark, carrying the cultures away from a doomed Earth. They had communication with each other, up until some point 500 years before the story starts, when a disaster separated them, leading them all to, over the generations, forget that they had once been a space-faring civilization who lived on an actual planet.  The pocket worlds each think that they are the entirety of the world (though, with so many of them, I’m sure a number would have known the truth). The ship is also doomed to destruction in 5 years.  The show would have been about the efforts of those who accidentally came upon the truth to save the ship. They would have made contact with other pocket worlds, tried to convince them of the truth, and explored the ship.

 

Since the show only produced one reportedly terrible season, all we really have to go on of this original vision is this solitary book. (And, apparently, a graphic novel of the same name and plot released last March by IDW). And let me tell you, the show should have been amazing. It should have been LOST, except in space, and with actual plot-destinations in mind throughout the whole thing. It should have been the perfect sci-fi series. As soon as I had finished reading the book – whose prose is excellent, but overall unremarkable – I wanted to know so much more about the universe. When I found out that there were no more books in the series, I actually considered finding the television show, just to have a taste of the world Ellison had built. I’ll doubtless buy the graphic novel soon enough.  I want to know more about these characters. What side did Garth end up on? What were the other Enclosed Worlds on the ark? Where was the plot going to end up?

 

It’s not fair that such a brilliant concept got cut down the way it did. I had a little rant about how desperately I wanted more of The Starlost, but when looking for the links to populate this post with, I discovered something beautiful. Something killer. Ark, a 9-episode web remake on Hulu. Tears, guys. I have tears. The Starlost rose from its ashes, to produce a Phoenix.

 

I’ll watch it tomorrow.

A while back, a friend asked everyone for lists of 5 books they should read. I kind of went a little overboard in making my choices and explaining them, and ended up with a list of the 5 books which had the biggest impact on making me who I am. This is basically the same list, though with a lot more explanation. It also took me about 3 months to write, so, ugh, dopey.   Spoilers follow, but I probably got a lot of details wrong. I only returned to the texts and Wikipedia articles to find names and such; In the process, I discovered that I got quite a few things wrong about some of them. I didn’t bother to fix those errors, because I feel like they reflect me best!

So in any case, here’s the short form list for those curious who don’t want to risk spoilers:

The Plague by Albert Camus

Nausea by Sartre

At Swim-Two Birds by Flann o’Brien

Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett

 

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