Monday, December 10, 2007

SF/F Pains for 2007

Reading the Los Angeles Times article on their favorite "SciFi Books of 2007" got me thinking about adding a new annual column to this website. I think it is time that I share with you my top five Science Fiction and Fantasy Pleasures and Pains of the past year. Like most years, it has been a good year to be a SF/F fan, but it that doesn't mean that it hasn't had its pratfalls.

I am optimistic by nature, but I thought I'd get the bad news out of the way first. Tomorrow, I'll write about my SF/F pleasures. That way, you readers out there who decide not to share in my pain can leave and come back tomorrow to find that all is right with the world. I'll do these in a countdown format, from fifth most painful to most painful.

5. The Golden Compass Controversy: If you aren't familiar with the controversy, there is a good list of links over at scificatholic. Is it just me, or are you getting sick of every Fantasy film/book that is released becoming the target of criticism by certain overzealous religious individuals? Let me pause for a moment to preempt any assumptions you might have at this point. First, I am a devout and practicing Catholic. Second, there is no doubt in my mind (nor should there be in yours) that The Golden Compass is a book/movie that is critical of Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular. Third, I enjoyed the book series. Fourth, I think that anyone who describes Pullman's series as a "masterpiece" has low standards. Fifth, the cynical part of me believes the film was released at Christmas specifically to maximize the controversy. That said, some particularly zealous religious people need to take a breath and relax. If your faith is threatened by a film, you've got problems. If you can't respond to the "questions" your children ask you about faith after watching the film, you need to study tradition a little more. Besides, you've shouted about how everything else from Harry Potter to D&D is "heretical" and have lost credibility. You know, like the boy who cried wolf. So stop. Just stop with the cries of oppression. Watch the film and judge it by its spectacle, or lack thereof. Then come over to my house for a game of D&D.

4. Torchwood: The LA Times thought this show was a masterpiece. So, apparently, do a number of other people out there. It isn't. It is downright hard to watch. The "Cyberwoman" episode was laughable. Do you hear me? Laughable. This is the spin-off of the very good new Dr. Who series? Ugh.

3. Robin Hood: Have you seen the old 80s "Robin of Sherwood?" No? Go watch it, and avoid this new "sleaker" telling of the Robin Hood story. Let me tell you a couple of things about the Robin Hood mythos. First, he didn't "steal from the rich to give to the poor." He stole from the Prince John (and the Sheriff) to return unjustly acquired taxes. He was returning to the middle class what was rightfully theres. Second, if you want to do the post-Scott Ivanhoe-ish version of Robin Hood that's fine, but understand that Medieval England was a Catholic place. It is highly unlikely that Robin would think of the crusades as "the Pope's war." Sure, he might be critical of the crusades, possibly because he witnessed them first hand, but he should be a little more period than that. It's great to make topical commentary about today, but try to do it well. You see, the old "Robin of Sherwood" show did a great job of representing the class struggles of, then, modern England by having Robin the embodiment of Saxon justice against Norman tyranny. Now that works, particularly given the ending of the first half of the series. To be honest, you can actually stop watching at that point because it makes for a poignant and sad ending.

2. The announcement of the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons: There's nothing quite like an announcement that makes you look at your bookshelf and realize that it now holds $3-$5k worth of useless paper to bring you down. I'm excited about 4th edition, I even wrote a defense of the 4th edition. I am looking forward to it, but it was definitely painful news.

1. The New Flash Gordon television series: I don't even know what this show is. Can somebody tell me? Can somebody explain why I have been compelled, due to Flash Gordon obsession, to watch something that is patently not Flash Gordon. Dimensional portals? Huh. When did Flash Gordon become Sliders? Limited water supply? So this is Dune? Ming not an evil as $@!^ creep? Who is this guy and what is this show? Somebody please tell me? Where are the rockets? Where are the dinosaurs? Where is the fantastic? Make the pain stop, but also make them make some more Flash Gordon. Just make them make something that is actually Flash Gordon, and not just pain. This is Flash Gordon. This is also Flash Gordon. I don't know what this is.
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