I don’t hate science fiction. Don’t listen to Martialla when she tells you that I do. Actually don’t listen to her at all. I have no movie biases. A good movie is a good movie. Period. Science fiction is a genre that doesn’t produce good films reliably. As a genre sci-fi is under the gun because if you want to have other planets and aliens you need a lot of money to make it look good. And sci-fi doesn’t warrant a lot of money. It’s one of those catch-22s. Sci-fi movies need money to be good but they don’t get money because they don’t have a track record of being good.
End (is that the catch 23?) result is a lot of sci-fi looks like crap. Which is a problem for a genre that leaves heavily on cool visuals. Sci-fi leans on looking cool over things like good actors or dialog or a story by its very nature. There’s a high degree of difficulty and they rarely pull it off.
I wouldn’t pretend a good sci-fi movie was bad because I don’t like sci-fi, but first you’d have to show me a good sci-fi movie first. Star Wars? Laughable. Visually it’s not bad but the writing is intolerable. No one talks like that. Hero’s journey my sweet juicy ass. Star Wars might not even count as sci-fi because I witnessed Martialla almost get into a fist fight once because she says that Star Wars is a “space opera”. Whatever the hell that means. I must have missed all the singing. She needs to cool it. One day her temper is going to get her into some hot water and I won’t be around to bail her out.
Star Trek? Give me a break. Effects are childish, the production design is garbage, the acting is acknowledged even by superfans to be idiotic, the action is slow and awkward, and the stories vacillate wildly between incomprehensible, fantastically boring, and blindingly ham-fisted. There’s a reason that show was cancelled.
Bladerunner? Awful. The Matrix? Some kind of leather fetish Devo music video. ET? Flying space potato. 2001? Literally just a light show for drugged out hippies. Alien? I’ll give you that one, it’s a good movie/rape allegory. But that is the exception that proves my point. I don’t hate science fiction.
What does this have to do with anything? I’m getting there.
In science fiction spaceships generally come in two types. One is the space plane. These are movies where they have WW2 dog-fights in space even though that’s stupid. Take a cool fighter plane and makes it look “futurey” and you’re done.
The second kind of ship is the giant flying slab of metal. Doesn’t look like a vehicle at all, it looks more like a skyscraper turned sideways with some big round things on the end that glow or maybe shoot fire out of them. Unsurprisingly neither of these turns out to be accurate. And the reality is even stupider than you’d expect. Which not surprising. Reality is often disappointing. That’s why we spend three times more money on entertainment than on education.
Once the storm cleared off and we un-transformed our way cool hovercraft back to travel mode I noticed that the heavy rain had washed away a big chunk of plains sludge in a long strip. I think they call that an ephemeral river, which would be a good name for a movie. It’s a comedy of manners story about how all’s fair in love and war between a food critic who hates seafood and a mermaid. Actually that’s a better plot for Splash 3 starring myself and that bland dude from The Object of My Affection. I’ll think of another story for Ephemeral River.
All the sediment being washed out of the gully (or whatever) revealed the flank and the nose of an actual spaceship. It was very disappointing. It looked almost entirely like the space shuttle Endeavour with the addition of a big yellow jackhammer looking thing on the front and some weird black discs on the wings and sides. It looked like something my nephew would make with his Legos and then my sister would get mad at me because didn’t praise him enough for making it. That’s probably why the world ended. Over-praising kids.
We didn’t get too close to the disappointing spacecraft because there were dozens of electric blue eel-leech things on it longer than my leg. They didn’t really seem dangerous, and they weren’t moving fast or anything, but they had a look to them – nobody wanted to get near those things. Still we debated what there might be to loot from a spaceship that had been buried for who knows how long. Martialla and Lucien in particular were interested in the yellow nose thingy – which did have the air of a weapon about it.
“Does that make a lick of sense?” I asked attractively. “Planes flying around in atmosphere don’t shoot at each other directly, it’s all missiles right? A spaceship would be going even faster? What use would a gun be in a space fight?”
Martialla gestured at nothing “A plane was just shooting at us the other day, that’s why we’re here.”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean. Back when planes weren’t MacGyver bamboo and a cement mixer for an engine.”
Before Martialla could accede that I was right Paul of all people spoke up “I think that’s a thermal cannon.”
All eyes swiveled to him and he gulped nervously. I thought he might just shrivel away, like the “touch” of the human eye is to him like salt is to a slug.
I narrowed my eyes at him “How would you know that? You never know anything.”
He looked down at his feet aggressively “I think . . . I remember . . . something about it . . . my dad . . . talked about it. Or maybe I saw it on television. Or maybe it was a toy.”
Before I could say something snarky Martialla asked him in a soothing tone “What’s a thermal cannon Paul? Do you remember?”
He looked at her with wet eyes and a moment and then whispered “Yes . . . superstring theory was rejected . . . but they learned . . . about electromagnetic fields under extreme conditions . . . you, you induce a balanced electromagnetic charge in a solid slug. Then you launch the slug. On impact the electromagnetic bonds is disrupted, unleashing a massive explosion.” His voice changed, like he was reciting something, mimicking someone else “The rate of fire will be slower since each slug needs to be individually primed in the barrel, but the destructive power is formidable.”
I scoffed “What the hell is superstring theory? Sounds made up.”
I looked to Lucien since he’s an engineer but he just shrugged. Martialla had her arm around Paul consoling him like he had just come out of identifying this parent’s bodies after a rabid chimp attack instead of just saying four sentences in a row.
I didn’t have time to learn more at that point though because that’s when the raiders attacked us.