Tue Apr 12 22:53:05 PDT 2011

wherein I didn't like the ending of battlestar galactica

(This rather dated post brought to you by bbot writing a draft and then forgetting about it for three months.)

Recently, I was linked to a delightful Register piece on a PCIe cache card with a heafty 4000% markup on parts, turning $1000 worth of flash memory into a $40,000 Permformance Accelerator Module.

Humorous, but of little interest outside of the two hundred people who care deeply about enterprise disk arrays. But bouncing around la Reg, I discovered something truly horrendous. An interview with the science advisor for Battlestar Galactica. It's bad. Oh boy, it's bad.

First off, let's get this straight. Science fiction, broadly, is when you take a piece of new technology, and see what it does to society. What does cheap life extension do? What does strong AI do? What does a really complete physics textbook do?

Science fiction is about technology and it's effect on humans. In science fiction, the details are really absolutely critically important, since they are the point of the fucking story. If the details are different, then you end up with a different story.

When the Star Trek Technical Manual says the red bits on the warp nacelles are actually Bussard Ramscoops, this is an amusing bit of trivia, but utterly pointless, since this has absolutely no effect on the story. They never run out of power because the concentration of interstellar hydrogen is too low, their collosal external magnetic fields never have unexpected effects on the anomoly of the week. They don't matter, they are trivial in the most literal sense of the word.

Star Trek, remember, is the show where "warp factor" is pointless. It has no fixed canonical speed the show can agree on for more than one episode. Depending on what you cite, Warp 3 is either 39 ly/hr, or 487 ly/hr. The Enterprise literally travels at the speed of plot. The Stardate at the beginning of every captain's log? It's not an actual date. The numbers aren't even consecuative. It's pointless. It's a random number the writers make up for every episode.

The Enterprise doesn't care about physics. They didn't design the ship to limit surface area, or calculate the loads on the girders to the pylons. It's designed by a producer telling an art major to design a cool looking spaceship, the art major saying "sure thing", and then making a whole lot of shit up.

As Charles Stross, actual science fiction author,[1] famously pointed out in a blog post almost as vitrolic as this one, the Star Trek writers used their "science advisor" as a macro expander. Geordi would say, "We can't leave the anomaly because TECH TECH, and we need TECH TECH TECH to fix it" and they'd pass on the script to the "science advisor" and he would fill in the blanks with bullshit.

This is bad. Star Trek is a bad show because of it.

However, noting down this one single flaw, paying off La Reg to do a piece of PR puffery about it, triumphantly crowing about how much better you are than Star Trek, and proceeding to make every single other mistake, is not actually any better.

Battlestar Galactica is, and I am being very, very generous here, magical realism.

This is because the origin story of the Cylons is so magnifcently retarded, so utterly, monumentally stupid, that I cannot believe it is supposed to be taken literally. If the last episode was supposed to be taken seriously, then I am forced to conclude that the lead writer is a drooling moron who penned the script in green crayon in his padded cell while watching Bill O'Reilly and voting for Sarah Palin.

Fuck everything!

1: Extended aside: I am what you could chairitibly describe as a fan of Charles Stross. I read A Colder War for free, online; then Accelerando for free, online; then proceeded to buy every single one of his books, one of them twice, thanks to a lapse of memory.

You might incorrectly attribute this to the free book, though it would make the Creative Commons people happy, the real reason is that Stross appears to be me from twenty years in the future, and he writes like he's got a direct line to the inside of my skull, except he knows what the fuck he is doing.

But even a world-class badass like Stross stumbles occasionally. Case in point: The Merchants War, which is a remarkably shitty book.

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