Tags: star trek

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Book titles and implicit promises

This won't be a review, exactly, but rather a note on books' titles and openings and how those affect expectations.

I just finished the Star Trek (TOS) novel Uhura's Song. The first chapter throws us right into a tense situation: a horrible plague is decimating a planet, and Uhura is especially affected because one of her friends is among those suffering the "Long Death" (the disease takes a painfully long time to kill its victims). However she soon realizes that some ancient, taboo songs her friend taught her may hold the key to finding a cure, and the Enterprise is soon off on a desperate mission, using clues in the ancient songs to try to locate a planet they're not even sure exists for a cure they're not sure exists either--but it's the best chance they have.Collapse )
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Star Trek's original Gary Stu

The TOS episode "Requiem for Methuselah" has got to be one of the best examples of giving the designated "smart" character random knowledge for plot purposes. Okay, Spock can play the piano--that's fine. He already plays the Vulcan lute, and it's not uncommon for musically-inclined people to play a second instrument.

But he not only has seen samples of Brahms's handwriting in a museum or electronic archive or wherever, but is good enough at forensic handwriting analysis that he can recognize it, not just as generally "old-style handwriting that kind of looks like that sample of that Brahms score I saw once," but "looks just like Brahms's handwriting, specifically"? And he knows enough about art that he can say that painting doesn't just look kind of stylistically similar, but definitely is an authentic Leonardo da Vinci? Really now.

But you can't really blame the writers of that episode. Just take a look at Spock's skill set, when you look at all the episodes cumulatively:

-Computer programming (super expert)
-Military game/simulation design (Kobayashi Maru test)
-Astrophysics (super expert; can even invent time travel)
-Three-dimensional chess (Grandmaster status in AOS, possibly in TOS)
-Ka’athyra (second best on Vulcan, or at least second-best of non-professional musicians)
-Forensic handwriting analysis (with bonus knowledge of historical figures’ handwriting)
-Art authentication
-Hand-to-hand combat
-Military strategy and tactics
-Management (you just know Kirk leaves most of the paperwork to him, too)
-Warp core repair
-MacGuyvering lasers out of subcutaneous transponders
-Mind-melding (advanced)
-Diplomacy (later in life)
-Emotional control (most of the time)
-Xenolinguistics (in AOS, at a level competent to teach advanced students; unknown whether he studied this in TOS timeline as well)
-Intercultural ethics (in AOS; competent to teach)

And he can quote poetry and Sherlock Holmes. And is sexy and multiple female characters want to get illogical with him. Oh, and he's also longer-lived, needs less sleep, and is just generally harder, faster, better, stronger.

And nobody complains how unrealistic this is.

Not that I'm saying anyone should! Spock is awesome, even if he is also a jerk sometimes because the writers couldn't quite envision a future without lines like "I have never understood the female capacity to avoid a direct answer to any question." I just think it's... interesting that some characters can get away with so much, while other characters get slammed if they so much as play one instrument while being sexy scientist military commanders.

This also is why I don't accuse characters of being Sues just for being ridiculously talented; sometimes, that works! To be Sues, to me, they have to warp the fabric of their fictional universes so badly that my suspension of disbelief snaps and and flings me off the metaphorical bridge.

But mostly, I just find that list of skills hilarious and had to share.

The Paradox of Low Expectations

Inevitably, whenever someone expresses discontent about how a movie/book/TV show had plot holes you could drive a semi truck through, or characters so shallow they evaporated before your eyes, or big ugly smears of sexism/racism/homophobia/the rest of the vile package, someone will pop up and say, “But it’s just a fluffy movie/book/TV show and isn’t meant to be serious! You’re expecting too much!”

Yeah, about that. I have tried lowering my expectations to enjoy things. This is difficult, because I do not actually go into a movie, love it, and then spend three hours afterward thinking of reasons I should actually hate it; my brain automatically notices lots of those problems while I am watching it, without my prompting. (“But wait, head injuries don’t work like that! What happened to Character X, who could have solved this problem in two seconds? Is she taking a nap? Why didn’t they just…?”) But sometimes I manage it, mainly by means of assuming a movie will be absolute shit and then being presently surprised when it has redeeming qualities after all, and it seemed to help… at first.Collapse )

Perhaps fortunately, a couple of my last book club books have been truly horrendous, so I can get my critical mind back into fighting shape and stop clinging to any scraps of non-shittiness a story deigns to throw my way.

Am I unusual in this reaction?

And more importantly, does anyone have recommendations of actually good things to read and watch?


I am convinced that somewhere in the Trekverse, this video actually exists:

Klingon Style

Debates rage as to whether the TOS-era-uniform "sexy lady" butt shots and the portrayal of Klingons are cleverly parodying harmful media tropes or just exploiting them for the LOLs, and Vulcans would like to note that when they said it might be beneficial exercise for children to engage in dance on occasion, that is NOT WHAT THEY MEANT, BY SURAK'S - [statement redacted due to excess emotion].

Sorry to have been mostly radio silent lately - new job and all. I intend for that to change soon!

And then in just one minute you'll be done like Captain Kirk

I swear I was doing homework when I stumbled across Librarians Do Gaga. Totally not expecting the Trek reference! Conan the Librarian asking, "Don't you know the Dewey Decimal System?" is also a nice break for a Thursday morning.

On another topic entirely, Firefox has an addon called Invisible Hand which finds lower prices for you. How can you resist?

How many Vulcans were already off-world during the Battle of Vulcan?

While speculating on Vulcan politics, I mentioned that there were "probably an unknown number of Vulcans who were off-planet at the time, too - merchants, scientists working at off-planet research stations, residents of Nisus, etc." Add to that diplomats, interplanetary business moguls, VSA exploratory vessel crews, the odd Vulcans on vacation (for educational purposes, of course!), and whatever other reasons they might have to be elsewhere.

I left it at that without trying to guess at an actual number. In my head, I fuzzily and arbitrarily added maybe a few tens of thousands, at most. But is that a reasonable guess?

While surfing around, I found a note in fic by startrekfanwriter which explains the reasoning behind a much different guess at the numbers. She says according to her (sources unspecified) research, 1.3% of Americans are abroad at any given time, not counting the military. She halved that and applied it to the Vulcan population of approximately 6 billion, and came up with 39+ million survivors. This is an entirely different situation than "maybe a bit over 10 thousand, maybe even up to 30 thousand." Collapse )

Joanna Russ on Star Wars and Star Trek

How did I not know about this essay? SF and Technology as Mystification.

The following excerpts may be relevant to your interests. Collapse )

To sum up: both have good points, both have bad points, but on the balance, Russ is a Trekkie.

The rest is less fannish and more srs bizness, but interesting. (ETA: for example, "Idiocy is what happens to those who have been told that it's their God-given mission to mend socks, clean toilets, or work in the fields, and nobody will ever let you make the real decisions, anyway." And the giggle-inducing, "I recall a student of mine who said that technology was evil and then hastily excepted his stereo set.")