Month: October 2017

Review of First Two Seasons of Sliders (9/10 Stars)

Sliders was a 90’s TV show, the first two seasons are what I am going to review, the rest…was not good, the network took control and made it into a bad action adventure show, introducing magic of all things. I suggest you just watch the first two seasons and maybe a couple of the third for closure.

Sliders was about four people who were sliding from one alternate reality to another.
Before I go further I will talk about the characters

Quinn Mallory: Brilliant graduate physics student. He invented sliding.

Wade Wells: She worked in a computer store and studies literature and poetry. She believes in the supernatural. A close friend of Quinn, she in fact has a crush on him that he does not know about.

Professor Maximillian P. Arturo: He is one of Quinn’s teachers. Contrary to what he thought Quinn had a lot of respect for him. He is a very learned man and believes in science and reason above all else.
He is not someone who could easily make breakthroughs, or who was known to be great from the get go. He spent many many years studying and learning, part of him becomes resentful of Quinn because of this (but to his credit it does not show often)

Rembrandt Brown: The only slider who did not choose to start sliding, a singer who was once in a successful band but left before they made it big and he did not. He was on his way to sing the national anthem at a stadium when he got sucked up.

Most of the episodes have the sliders arriving on a world that differs from ours in some way, with a certain amount of time before they can open the wormhole again. Each wormhole takes them to a random world. This is because they had to mess with the sliding device to get off the first world safely and lack the equipment to reset it and get them home, if they miss the window the timer will become useless.

Most of the worlds are alternate history’s where one thing is different.
For example, what if the USSR had won the cold war? What would cause that and what effect would it have? What if antibiotics were never discovered? What if we became obsessed with keeping our population low?
In this show you have what very much feel like real people, just watching them chew the scenery is fun. Sliders is the kind of thing I think when someone says good classic sci-fi.


Too High Tech

One problem that high fantasy and science fiction share is that its easy to introduce so much magic/ new technology that it can be hard to have real problems. The is particularly the case if you really do think out and explore all the uses of new technology.
For example replicators from Star Trek. With those you can’t easily have famine as a plot line, even having poor people would be a stretch. A shortage of anything vital would be hard to believe.

This is one of the reasons you don’t see much science fiction sent in the very far future, its hard to show technology progress a thousand years and still have relatable problems.
There are two ways around this, the first is to make sure the new technology has enough limits that you can still have problems, even if they come at you from a different direction. For example if your replicator is the only way anyone makes food and it takes massive power then a power outage could cause starvation. It also might require a network connection to get the computing power needed to do its job.

The other way is to introduce new problems. A star blowing up, or the galaxy being invaded or something.
This can be done but it does take work to make people care. If I tell someone that I can only afford to eat once a day then they feel sorry for me and many would know how I feel. If you say you can only afford two internal processors and your thinking is too swampy then you need to first establish what those are and work hard on making the reader care.

FTL Travel

There are several common ways that authors have FTL work, they all have disadvantages and advantages. As always the limitations such drives have are just as important as their strengths, if not more so.

The first is the jump drive. This allows a ship to teleport itself, not passing through the space between at all.
In the Foundation series this is how FTL works, it is limited only by star charts and how fast the pilot/computer can do the math for the next jump.
In some books that use this system the points in space that can be jump from are the limitation.
In order for this drive to not just bulldoze all your plot away you do need to use limits to your using this one.

The second is hyperspace. This means the ship travels though a different dimension, bypassing the laws of physics by going someplace the speed of light is not a limitation.
Babylon five used this method, the ships would enter hyperspace then travel using their normal drives. Then exit when they got to the point in hyperspace that corresponded to the point in normal space they wanted to be.

The third is the warp drive. This drive allows travel faster then light through our universe. This normally involves warping or creating space. Unlike the others this one can allow tracking and interception by people not traveling FTL.

All three of these have been used effectively, and it’s quite rare to find an author who uses a method that does not fall under one of those three above.
However what is more important is what limitations the drives have. In Dark Matter the blink drive can go anywhere in one jump. In the foundation series it could take days to do the math for a single jump and that jump can only take the ship so far.

I would spend more time trying to come up with interesting limitations for one of the three above then trying to think of a new way to travel faster then light. If you can come up with one, awesome use it. But don’t beat yourself up over not being able to come up with a whole new system.

Blade Runner 2049 (3/10 stars)

Blade runner was not an enjoyable movie for me.
People are praising the atmosphere. They are correct to do so, however there is more to a movie then atmosphere.

The movie was really slow, even boring. I think it really comes down to three things. The atmosphere was dark and depressing, the plot was very slow to develop, the main character was unemotional.
Any one of those things, or even two and it could still have worked, but with all three makes the movie slow and plodding.
And that is besides the fact that the thing the bad guy was after just did not make sense, and they covered it up by making him not wholly rational even though he was a CEO of one of the largest companies on Earth.

The original movie was good in large part because of the gray, because of the unknowns in it. Were Replicants machines or not? Was Decker a Replicant or not? Was what he was doing right or not?
The new one has a more cookie cutter plot, there are bad guys and good guys and they make clear early on that the Replicants are human.