Space Ramblings

Category Archives: Scifi

Did Lester Del Rey’s First Story in 1938 Predict Hiroshima?

“I, too, went out to war, driving a plane built for my people, over the cities of the Rising Star Empire. The tiny atomic bombs fell from my ship on houses, on farms”

The Faithful, 1938, Lester Del Rey

Astounding-Science-Fiction-38-04Lester Del Rey wrote his first story to win a bet with his girlfriend. She claimed he had no right to criticize writers as a fan since he couldn’t do what they did. He proved her wrong by selling a story to John Campbell’s Astounding.

The Faithful isn’t a very good story. It’s about genetically engineered dogs trying to work with genetically engineered apes to replace man in a world where humanity is extinct. The writing is worse than the idea.

But there, early in a 1938 story, is Hiroshima.

It’s obviously not WW2. There are genetically engineered dogs flying planes in the future. But Rising Star is an obvious substitute for Rising Sun. And atomic bombs dropped on Japan eventually lead to the extinction of mankind.

That a bored fan living in a tiny three dollar a day room, working research projects, wrote to prove a bet to his girlfriend.

In 1938.

The Hugo Awards are Dead Because Fandom and Science Fiction are Dead

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For the last ten years, the Hugo Awards didn’t have much in common with what they used to be. They weren’t fan awards. They were the Nebula Awards with a different name.

So last night everyone made it official.

And by everyone, I mean the dwindling number of people who care. A lot of voters flooded into the Hugos to support political factions, not Science Fiction.

This isn’t passion over the field. It’s inside baseball and culture wars.

But what field is there to be passionate about? Is anyone supposed to seriously debate the merits of John Scalzi and Kevin J. Anderson?

This is a field whose dominant authors are writing upgraded fanfic. What is left of its fandom is a fossil of angry shriveled old women and doughy middle aged men who threw a tantrum last night. Tor defeated Sad Puppies. A bunch of aging hacks got cheered for defending their cozy clubhouse. And everyone lost.

Fantasy is doing well, but Science Fiction is mostly dead. The social justice warriors get some of the blame. But it’s not that simple. The genre just lost its energy. A lot of writers decided they had more room to play in fantasy.

No Award should have been the Hugo each year because there isn’t much worth reading in Science Fiction. You can blame that on the readers who screen out everything that someone who isn’t a thirty-something woman who would rather be reading urban fantasy might want to read. You can blame publishing houses who don’t employ anyone who gets Science Fiction. You can blame writers who find fantasy more profitable and more fun.

But the existence of steampunk as a thing says it all. Science Fiction isn’t dead, but it’s not far from it.

Fandom is a shrunken fossil whose only youthful energy comes from settling political scores. That says it all too.

How many millenials do you see at conventions when they aren’t there for the media stuff? What’s the average age of a hardcover SF purchaser? Softcover purchaser? Magazine subscriber?

Both sides of fandom will get their way. The Hugo Awards will be renamed after Octavia Butler and the rest will set up their own awards. Probably named after Heinlein. There will be an annual pissing contest with fewer attendees. No one will actually read or buy the books everyone is fighting about.

Ten years from now the Octavia Awards will be held in the back room of a Holiday Inn in between sets by a terrible cover band. The attendees will all be on scooters except for a few younger PhDs in social justice there to document the history of resistance against the patriarchy in Science Fiction.

The End

George R.R. Martin’s Comments on the Hugos/Sad Puppies Don’t Endorse SJWs

Humpty Dumpty By Aravindan Rajasingham

Humpty Dumpty
By Aravindan Rajasingham

Papers that can’t be bothered with knowing anything about SF have gotten their pullquote on the Hugos/Sad Puppies situation from George R.R. Martin, the one living SF/F writer non-SF people actually know.

The Hugos have been broken. They’ve fallen and can’t get back up again. That’s what GRM said. Commence the SAD PUPPIES BROKE THE HUGOS FOREVER stories.

Just completely ignore his larger range of commentary across three blog posts in which he

1. Fails to call the Sad Puppies slate racists, sexists and cis scum and warns others who agree with him to refrain from doing so. The same sites and scribes quoting him to support an accusation that he rejects.

[[Once again, comments and dissent are welcome, but I expect courtesy from all parties. And yes, that means those of you who are on “my side” as well. Let’s not throw around insults, or charges of misogyny and racism, please.

And he tosses out the SJW tone policing argument

There’s a thing out there on the internet called “the Tone Argument.” Supposedly this is a bad, bad thing to do. In online discussions, one must never use the Tone Argument.

The way I have seen it work, dozens of times now, is that a debate or discussion starts out as a reasonable exchange of ideas, but then grows heated. Tempers fray, names are called, the posts get uglier and angrier… and someone, or maybe a bunch of someones, steps over the line and says something truly cruel or hurtful or just nasty. And the target, or maybe a bystander, objects and says, “no call for language like that” or “can’t we all calm down” or something along that line… whereupon a loud cry of “Tone Argument, Tone Argument, Tone Argument” goes up, and person who called for calm is shouted down or torn apart.

The essence of the trope seems to be that if you’re on my side, you can say anything you like, no matter how vicious or unkind or inflammatory, and I will defend not only your argument but your “right” to be as nasty as you want. If you’re on the other side, of course, well, that’s a whole different story. Then you might get silenced or moderated or banned.

There’s also a lot of rhetoric about kicking down and punching up and the like.

I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.

I am against punching and kicking. Up, down, or sideways. No punching here, please.

I applaud the Tone Argument. The Tone Argument is valid. Yay for the Tone Argument.

Martin just shut down a major SJW tactic.

Why does Martin think Sad Puppies broke the Hugos? Context.

The Sad Puppies did not invent Hugo campaigning, by any means. But they escalated it, just as that magazine/publisher partnership did way back when. They turned it up to eleven. Their slate was more effective that anyone could ever have dreamed, so effective that they drowned out pretty much all the other voices. They ran the best organized, most focused, and most effective awards campaign in the history of our genre, and showed everyone else how it’s done.

The lesson will be learned. The Sad Puppies have already announced that they intend to do it again next year. Which means that other factions in fandom will have to do it as well. Just as happened with the “let me tell you about my eligible works,” the rest of the field is going to need to field slates of their own in self-defense.

I don’t look forward to that. It cheapens the Hugos. Will future winners actually be the best books or stories? Or only the books and stories that ran the best campaigns?

Martin is taking issue with the effectiveness of the Sad Puppies slate. He admits with some caveats that campaigning always existed, but that it’s going to scale up. He criticizes Sad Puppies for controlling the outcome, but the outcome was already being controlled for a while before Sad Puppies got into the mix.

He ought to know that.

George R.R. Martin makes other objections, mostly cultural stuff that pigeonholes the Sad Puppies guys and girls as military SF fans who should stay out of WorldCon (someone should have told Heinlein that) because it’s not really theirs. That’s Trufan stuff I’m not going to bother parsing. I have issues with the SP people, but they’re truer fans than the Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon fangirls who took a field defined by Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein and tried to turn it into a bad emo graphic novel.

The objections are weak and he recognizes that. They’re Get Off My Lawn stuff.

An honest sum of Martin’s posts is that he thinks that things are changing in ways that he doesn’t like, and he directs some of the blame at Sad Puppies, people he doesn’t seem too familiar with and doesn’t like, but that he admits were happening anyway.

He’s complaining because a good type of campaigning (insiders trading votes) got traded for a bad type of campaigning (online faction slates out in the open).

I’m not a fan of Martin or Sad Puppies, but I can see their good sides. I see nothing good about the current rotten system. It was a comfortable state of affairs in Martin’s day and some writers lost out but the overall quality was high. The overall quality is terrible now and Science Fiction is losing out.

Hugo Awards Still a Politicized Pile of Shit

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If you’re paying attention, you know you’re supposed to be outraged because Kevin J. Anderson got nominated for a Hugo instead of Random Tor Discovery of the Month Writer.

And I would be outraged, really, if the Hugo Awards hadn’t devolved into a pile of politicized worthless shit that gave awards to worthless writers. Kevin J. Anderson sucks. So does John Scalzi.

If I have to live in a world in which Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and China Mieville get awards for just showing up (at least they can actually write) and in which John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow get nominations for just being around (they can’t write, not on that level) then don’t expect me to care about Kevin J. Anderson and Vox Day ending up there.

Sad Puppies didn’t nuke the fridge. John Scalzi did with a Hugo for Redshirts. The last time the Hugo Best Novel award wasn’t a joke was 2007 with Vinge and Rainbow’s End. It’s been a shitshow ever since.

I can’t even say if 2015 is worse than 2011 – 2014 when everyone stopped pretending that this was anything except insider blowjobs.

Finally the Hugos will be entertaining. We’ll get to see which slate recruits enough people to give a Hugo to Charlie Stross or Vox Day, Ted Chiang or Brad Torgensen, Mira Grant or whoever. We can stop pretending this has anything to do with merit and just watch the hair-pulling and name-calling.

The Hugos have a messy history, but there’s never been an ongoing shitshow like this when worthless writers are promoted because of politics, e.g. Ted Chiang, John Scalzi, N.K. Jemsin, and when insiders create the myth that a few of their darlings are the only ones worth watching.

If fandom is going to be an adjunct of The Onion’s A/R or The Mary Sue, then let’s just kill it now. It’ll be a mercy killing.

And say what you will about Sad Puppies, any list of short stories on which John C. Wright appears and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” doesn’t is a major improvement in the genre.

 

Social Justice Warrior Writes About Science Fiction, Shows How Dumb He Is

"This man, he knows nothing of my work."

“This man, he knows nothing of my work.”

If you want to see the consequences of idiots who know a lot about how to analyze everything in racial terms, but don’t know the subject, writing about anything, you could do worse than look at this Noah Berlatsky essay on Science Fiction and Colonialism in the Atlantic.

But not much worse.

The link between colonialism and science-fiction is every bit as old as the link between science-fiction and the future. John Rieder in his eye-opening book Colonialism and the Emergence of Science-Fiction notes that most scholars believe that science fiction coalesced “in the period of the most fervid imperialist expansion in the late nineteenth century.” Sci-fi “comes into visibility,” he argues, “first in those countries most heavily involved in imperialist projects—France and England” and then gradually gains a foothold in Germany and the U.S. as those countries too move to obtain colonies and gain imperial conquests.

Also toasters. And detective novels which are probably also a metaphor for Western colonialism.

Science Fiction also dates back, in various forms, thousands of years. But whatever, circle drawn. If you define the parameters your way, you can turn correlation into causation. And look, it’s a college essay.

In such stories, sci-fi is about “them” (a non-white, foreign civilization) doing to us (Western, largely white powers) as we did to them. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness, for example, imagine a non-white antagonist who preaches the colonial ideology of eugenic culling against the less biologically perfect, Western-ish protagonists.

Wait… what?

I haven’t seen the latest Abrams Trek, but its star is a white British guy. The actual Khan viewed the Enterprise crew as inferiors, but wasn’t spending his time calling for the extermination of inferior races. He even married a biologically ordinary woman.

So Berlatsky probably isn’t familiar with the subject matter, but…

Take Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil, about a totalitarian Britain conquered and occupied by Germany, in which native English people are second-class citizens.

Wait… what?

Did Berlatsky confuse Brazil with The Boys of Brazil? Did he even see the movie?

From Brazil, it’s only a brief hop to 1984, which, as I’ve pointed out here at The Atlantic, can also read as a reverse colonial parable.

Noah Berlatsky can also be read as a parable of what happens when an idiot gets a column. What does he think INGSOC stands for?

But going by his comments on Star Trek and Brazil, he’s just randomly pulling stuff together he never read or saw.

Even the Terminator films fit pretty easily into a colonial narrative.

And what about Alien? Colonization of the body. And Alf. And Jaws. The shark is a metaphor for the British Empire.

So what to make of this colonial obsession?

“Hey doc,” says the patient looking at the Rorschach inkblots, “What’s up with all the dirty pictures?”

Reverse colonial sci-fi don’t always have to be anti-imperialist, though. Ender’s Game, both film and book, use the invasion of the superior aliens not as a critique of Western expansion and genocide, but as an excuse for those things. The bugs invade human worlds, and the consequence is that the humans must utterly annihilate the alien enemy, even if Ender feels kind of bad about it. Olympus Has Fallen runs on the same script, as a North Korea with impossibly advanced weapons technology lays sci-fi siege to the White House, giving our hero the go-ahead for torture, murder, and generalized carnage.

Olympus has Fallen? It’s the best SciFi movie since Die Hard. Or Rambo. Which is a parable of colonialism.

See?

In Terminator, as well, the fact that the robots are treating us as inhumanly as we treated them doesn’t exactly create any sympathy. Instead, the paranoid fear of servants overthrowing masters just becomes a spur to uberviolence (as shown in Linda Hamilton’s transformation from naïve good girl to paramilitary extremist). The one heroic reprogrammed Terminator, who must do everything John Connor tells him even unto hopping on one leg, doesn’t inspire a broader sympathy for SkyNet. Instead, Schwarzenegger is good because he identifies with the humans totally, sacrificing himself to destroy his own people. Terminator II is, in a lot of ways, a retelling of Gunga Din.

Finally. An article sympathetic to a genocidal computer. Sarah Connor should have rethought her biological privilege.

But give Noah Berlatsky some credit. At least he actually seems to have watched Terminator 2. Unlike Star Trek or Brazil.

Also he watched Olympus has Fallen. He’s such a Science Fiction nerd.

This is what happens when you don’t know what you’re talking about, but you get by with the same college bullshittery of comparing everything to colonialism.

The Atlantic. It’s like college never ended.

Is Science Fiction Fandom Hopelessly Polarized?

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This isn’t just about Larry Correia and Vox Day. Or Jonathan Ross. Or Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Or Mick Resnick. Or all the rest of it. The bitter accusations and counter-accusations. The outrage and counter-outrage and counter-outrage-outrage.

Science Fiction, like a lot of publishing, rests on more than ever on writers marketing themselves over social media. That’s why we pretend that Scalzi is a good writer, when he’s actually a bad writer and an entertaining blogger.

It’s what he has in common with some other recent big names.

We have less of a fandom of writing now and more of a fandom of writers and causes. Followings of writers who are the best at online presence because they polarize and mobilize.

The Hugos have been worthless for a while, but the 2014 finalist list shows how easy it is to rig them. After Vox Day’s appearance on the list, I don’t see why any writer would even want to be associated with them.

But it’s all about the marketing. And the marketing is now all about the politics.

It’s easier to market yourself as a writer if you have controversial political views. It’s much harder if your views are ordinary, boring or if you don’t have any.

A bad writer with an entertaining and controversial online presence. A dramatic online presence. Beats a good writer with little online presence.

In a fractured marketplace where that same audience is buying movies, video game and a dozen other things, politics pulls people together. Fandoms built around writers with a commanding online presence have more power because fandom is a pale twisted shadow of what it once was.

Science Fiction is polarized because that’s what stands out in a crowded and mediocre marketplace. You can’t set yourself apart from the latest 40 urban fantasy series or Martin imitators who are growing out their beards, but you can set yourself apart by being loud and obnoxious.

Maybe this is what’s happening with our politics, but it is what’s happening with our Science Fiction. And then everyone is outraged and outraged by the outraged and no one can hear themselves talking because they’re screaming talking points at each other.

And you pick a side, any side, join in, because that’s fandom now.

Existence by David Brin book review

FinalExistenceBanner

Every now and then, David Brin pops out with an overstuffed novel full of characters and ideas set in a near-distant future. Existence is built on the same template as Earth, but the Kiln novel tag is appropriate since it feels unfinished.

Existence reads like a first draft of a promising novel. There are a lot of brilliant ideas, but the novel is unfinished in ways that become obvious once the final third jumps years into the future, becomes truly interesting and collapses in a tangle of plot elements.

Its basic premise of an intelligent alien chain letter powered by the manipulative agendas of the consciousness of countless species propagating themselves like a virus is brilliant and ought to have made for a much better novel than this one, but Brin pads that out with a lot of unnecessary human characters and plots and then abruptly fast forwards it to the future discarding a lot of the excess elements. And then he does it again.

Applying the insane logic of internet wars and social collapse on an interstellar scale with spammers and botnets stretching across stars and civilizations, trolls and hackers passing themselves along through copies that are sent among the stars, is a great idea. And someone ought to do something with it.

There are echoes of Vernon Vinge’s brilliant Rainbow’s End and Fred Pohl’s Gateway series in Existence, but Brin’s future is less grounded and less ambitious, a splintered society whose celebrity journalists and their online information posses are plausible and dry, as are the battles between different factions whose motives and even agendas are poorly sketched in.

A lot of Existence’s plot involves a best-selling luddite novelist working for a cause whose renunciation agenda is never properly clarified. The same thing happens again when we reach outer space to encounter different alien robot factions fighting each other only to once again be left without an explanation for what the factions stand for and what the agenda of the alien probe narrator is.

A big chunk of Existence’s plot threads involve a rich playboy who survives a water landing with the help of dolphins and then never figures in the rest of the story except as a possible call forward to Brin’s Uplift stuff.

Things like these make Existence feel unfinished. The novel wavers between a handful of brilliant ideas that aren’t expanded and a lot of dry material that goes nowhere.

If Brin had the sense to embrace his ideas and build a novel around them instead of relying on the same tired old formula of trying to use a handful of diverse characters to sketch out a future world, Existence could have been a bold and brilliant novel.

Instead it’s a pile of literary rubble with some very interest things glittering in the ruins.

The End of Star Trek and Star Wars

One day Paramount and Disney might meet up in a bar, go back to their penthouse for a one night stand and then hook up for good in an obscene squishy merger that will put Star Trek and Star Wars under the same corporate roof. And it won’t matter much by then because the rivalry is over and everyone lost.

Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas had their faults, and they were big ones too, but they were individuals trying to tell a story. 417px-Enterprise_destructionWith the sale of Star Wars and the end of the Star Trek franchise, those days are over. Star Wars and Star Trek are both IP’s. There’s no more stories, plots, visions or anything like that. Just a marketing opportunity.

Ten years from now, even if Paramount and Disney don’t corporately boink their balance sheets together, it will be hard to tell Star Trek and Star Wars apart. Ask a teenager now what the difference is and he won’t be able to tell you. And how could he. Maybe he’ll say that Star Wars is for kids, because he associates it with Phantom Menace and the Clone Wars series and that Star Trek is for teens because he associates it with the Abrams movie.

And he’ll be right.

Star Wars now fills the Tween niche and Star Trek hits the 17 year old target audience that every blockbuster does. Two eccentric bits of 60’s and 70’s mystic space-as-metaphor-f0r-conciousness franchises are reduced to the status of Transformer and every other IP waiting to be rolled off into theaters, consoles and app stores.

It’s amazing that Star Trek survived intact as long as it did in its gated franchise overseen by Rick Berman and his flying monkeys. It might even be alive today if Berman and his monkeys weren’t so dumb and arrogant that they killed the golden goose. UPN died and the leftovers got rebooted into a teen girl network. Star Trek fetched up on the shores of a mysterious island whose dorky overlord saw it as an exit strategy to the big time. Bigger even than Mission Impossible 3.

The rest is history, or will be when one of his movies fails, and Star Trek gets rebooted over and over again. Maybe one day it will even be a series again. Not, you know, a series, but it’ll be on TV for a while, things will blow up a lot, the writers will work out their angst, there will be a mystic arc, lots of postmodern storytelling and then SciFi or SyFy will cancel it and life will go on.

Star Trek and Star Wars were nice, but they’re dead now, Jim.

Gene Roddenberry didn’t get the chance to strangle his own franchise to death by turning it into complete crap. Everyone got lucky that he made TNG work as a concept, and as a set of characters, but wasn’t able to retain control of it. George Lucas did retain control of his franchise and killed it. But even their failures were personal. The new wave is impersonal IP’s milked like cash cows on Rodeo Drive until there’s nothing left.

Examining Female Role Models in Pop and Geek Culture

female role models pop vs geek

Variations of this infographic have been making the rounds for a while. It’s comforting for “geeks” to believe this is true, but it could just as easily be switched around to look like this.

female role models pop vs geek real

If I wanted to rub it in, I could swap out the Pop section with Adele and a few better role models. Which do exist. Just as they exist in geek culture. They’re just not that representative. Just like they aren’t in geek culture.

Here’s the thing about geek culture.

 

1. Geek culture is mostly not made by geeks.

Not if you take the examples of TV shows as representative. Even on the rare occasion when a TV show is created by someone you can claim as a geek, getting it to the air is the work of producers who are not geeks and who treat it like any other product.

 

2. Geek culture is representative of the culture as a whole.

Big shock. You can call the general culture Mundanes and call geeks Slans or any of the other names that pretend there’s a fundamental boundary, but geek culture comes out of and then influences pop culture. There’s no forcefield or magic barrier here. And even if there were, the same attitudes and drives would still influence both. And that includes is attitude toward women.

 

3. Geek culture is mostly not meant for geeks

Most geek culture, and I don’t mean the people who cynically pander to that narrow demographic like John Scalzi or Cory Doctorow, is not intended specifically for the consumption of a special group of people. The cult hits are usually the things that failed to reach a wider audience. Think of Star Trek or Firefly.

The ones that hit that audience, like Star Wars, shook off the geek crowd and thumbed its noses at them. Remember Shatner on Saturday Night Live. He didn’t need the geek crowd and he told them that. Then he decided he needed them again. Remember Nimoy, “I Am Not Spock”, “I Am Spock.”

 

4. Even when Geek culture is aimed at geeks, its creators have no idea what geeks want

Star Trek Voyager producers thought that fans wanted an emotionally dead woman in a silver catsuit. And they did the same thing with Star Trek Enterprise. Take a look at all the booth babes.

Geek culture is not created by geeks. It’s mostly created by people who have stereotypes of it and who program in terms of those stereotypes. And those stereotypes are a mark of contempt. Not just toward women, but the entire audience.

 

So that was quite a few things. But here’s the punchline.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are heroic narratives. So there are going to be more male and female role models in the mix. Heroes are heroic and even if there are 200 women in skimpy clothes whose only job is to cling to the hero while begging him to save them, there are going to be some heroines. And there are going to be more than a few heroines, because writing the other kind of female character is boring even to the most sexist writers.

That also means Science Fiction and Fantasy will have more heroines than pop culture, which isn’t running on a heroic narrative. It will happen to have more role models, not because it set out to create them, but because it’s adventure oriented. That may be why it’s better for boys and girls. Not because it’s progressive, but because it’s adventurous and adventures summon characters who have to be better than average, who can face challenges and overcome them.

Science Fiction and Fantasy will have characters of all races and genders doing amazing things, not because it set out to create role models, but because it tells stories about people beating the odds, traveling to other worlds, slaying dragons and saving the planet. And those people can be anyone. They’re likely to be like the people telling the story but that’s human egotism. And enough of them aren’t that geek culture is better than pop culture, not because it’s made by better people for a better audience, but because it tells a different kind of story. A story that used to be common until it got replaced by the story of people getting famous and screwing up their lives.

Star Trek and the Intergalactic Asshole

The Intergalactic Asshole is a staple of Science Fiction. Back from the pulp days to more modern versions like Poul Anderson’s Nicholas Van Rijn or George R.R. Martin’s Haviland Tuft or Star Trek. The Intergalactic Asshole travels around the galaxy, visiting new planets all the time and manipulating their society for his own purposes. Usually he takes an existing conflict or imbalance and forces the people and their leaders to rearrange their society to do things his way.

Sometimes the Intergalactic Asshole is an exploiter looking to cash in, like Van Rijn, often he’s looking to enforce his own idea of human captain kirkrights, like Captain Kirk, or animal rights, like Haviland Tuft. The Intergalactic Asshole has his own idea of how society should work. There’s often a determinism based on a simplistic idea of biology or economics or the environment which he believes makes people the way they are. What the Intergalactic Asshole does is rely on that idea to understand the aliens, their problems and turn their conflict on its head and impose a solution on them.

The Prime Directive of the Federation explicitly ruled out Intergalactic Asshole behavior, because it was a staple of galactic adventure tales. But Captain Kirk still played Intergalactic Asshole with a starship behind often enough for the Prime Directive to be an afterthought. With TNG the Intergalactic Asshole quota went down. Captain Picard would still occasionally play Intergalactic Asshole, but he was more likely to leave with a lecture and a disappointed look. Bad Science Fiction had plenty of stories in which aliens would arrive on earth only to decide that we were too primitive and violent to be worth including in their federation. In TNG we were the advanced aliens, visiting other races and punishing them with our disappointment. The alien visitors whose standards we couldn’t meet represented gods. With TNG we became the gods who were too good for them.

With Janeway the Intergalactic Asshole syndrome came roaring back. But Janeway was much more erratic than Kirk. Captain Kirk usually intervened because there were clear abuses going on. Janeway interfered randomly. Sometimes she walked away from oppression, other times she helped the oppressors. Sometimes she intervened, just because. She allied with the Borg, gave the Hirogen, holodeck technology and allied with them against the holograms. Archer stuck to the Intergalactic Asshole way, even though he didn’t have the firepower to back it up. He yelled at Vulcans and Andorians, either of whom could have swatted him like a fly. Because the habit was there from Voyager.

How viewers or readers react to the Intergalactic Asshole has less to do with the issue at hand and more to do with the character. Van Rijn nicholas van rijjn poul andersongot away with awful things, because he was entertaining and he sold his own libertarian spin on any issue. Haviland Tuft and his environmentalism appealed to an audience at the opposite political spectrum. But both were eccentrics who got a pass from both sides because they were more human, more personable, than their adversaries.

Captain Kirk could drag audiences into his Intergalactic Asshole approach to problems, because he seemed to really care and because he had senior officers who often disagreed with him and whose perspectives he took seriously. No Captain after him had that. Picard, Janeway and Archer did things their way and rarely bothered listening to anyone’s advice.

The Intergalactic Asshole is a power fantasy. He does the things that audiences would like to do. He’s a one man dictator setting societies to right by being smarter and tactically more powerful than them. He’s Batman with a starship, except he actually solves problems for good. He’s the authorial voice made omnipotent, lecturing, hectoring and telling readers how the world should be run.

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