Wherein We’ll Catch The Conscience Of The MEME!


Bloggers, thank God you’re here!  We’ve got a serious problem!  The Captain set the autodestruct sequence in motion, and then passed out, and ALL OF THE SEASONED SCIENCE-FICTION WRITERS WHO USED TO DO T.V. WORK ARE RETIRED…!

I think there have been a couple of great Space Fiction (let’s just call it that, shall we?) series put out there in the last twenty years.  I do.  I’m not complaining;  I’ve gotten some great material.  But is it so wrong for me to want MORE?  Real science-fiction, real gripping stuff:  Bloggers, I want anything, absolutely anything, so long as it’s set in SPACE, you know?

RAB is going to (BOOO-RING!) tell me I should let a hundred flowers bloom.  But as it happens I need to get rid of some fairly cool comic-related material I can’t sell.  So it develops I will have to just buy it myself, and then dispose of it.  So, private geniuses of mine…

…Won’t you please lend a hand?

Science fiction.  TV series.  Set in space.  And as with the Time-Travel Meme I will put a stealth entry in there under somebody else’s name…and as with the Time-Travel meme, I’m excited as hell to see what you come up with.

Okay?  Fair enough?

Oh God I am looking forward to this.

33 responses to “Wherein We’ll Catch The Conscience Of The MEME!

  1. See, there’s so much that’s already been done. And there’s so much that’s already been done, but not in space, that could be done in space, but that’s not something I want to explore. And there’s so much that could be done that already belongs to someone else.

    Like, if there were to be a live-action Legion of Super-Heroes series. Obviously I’d watch that. Or, and I’ve talked this up a lot, even though I wasn’t the one who came up with the idea, a Princess Projectra cartoon. Or…

    But what I need is to come up with an idea that’s my idea.

  2. Speaking of memes, how come, in all the opportunities for it that we’ve had in the history of this blog, nobody ever suggested that Howard Chaykin do a Booster Gold comic?


    Above an alien world wrapped in red clouds, clusters of bizarre looking space stations float. The stations spin slowly, making a tranquil scene. This peace ends when a flash of white light in nearby space spits out a small starship. Weapon pods on the outside of the space stations activate and point at the undersized ship.

    A communication blasts out. “This is Captain Lopez of the USS Rihla. We come in peace from the Terran Confederation and seek to make contact with your people.”

    Dead silence.

    Then a return communication: “;;;ALD9CVN34R 98FD#*VN 3490GNDF!!!KDF=AD SD2 3UJIR^21

    Inside the Rihla, Captain Lopez scratches his head, turns off his microphone, and looks at his six crewmen. He sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. Communications Officer Trottier makes an adjustment to a computer and says, “Okay, lemme try another one. Translation algorithm Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot enabled.”

    Captain Lopez repeats his greeting.

    Cascades of orange light stream from the stations’ weapon pods. The ship’s pilot, Frances, kicks the ship into evasive action, and the Rihla swims between pulsating weapon blasts.

    Lopez yells, “WRONG ALGORITHM!”

    Welcome to the year 2311. The Great Age of Exploration is at hand. Hundreds of exploration ships fly throughout the arm of the galaxy, searching for other civilizations and discovering the wonders of the cosmos. Terrans are becoming citizens of the Milky Way, in their stumbling way.

    Allegedly unified under the Terran Confederation, several factions of humans are conducting their own exploratory missions. The goals of the humans’ missions are many: exploration, trade, the formation of alliances, and so forth. Each Terran faction hopes to gain a decisive advantage over the others by forming the most powerful alliance, or securing the best trade route, or acquiring the most powerful alien technology.

    SILK ROAD follows the crew of the USS Rihla, an exploratory ship with a crew compliment of seven and a mission to advance the interests of its faction, the Columbics. The human race has no idea what’s out there. Our Heroes are going to find out.

    The driver of the series is “what the hell is going on this week?” The crew is in alien circumstances over and over, and each time it’s a struggle to figure out which end is up. The tension for the audience comes from the mystery of each situation.

    Also, the nature of the alien races will vary considerably, creating societies that are, well, alien. Our Heroes have to navigate them and establish contact as best they can. The humans don’t know the political situations, and learn about the larger universe with the audience. There are alliances, grievances, shifting mayhem, and a half-dozen wars within the immediate galactic vicinity. The crew of the Rihla will be heroes, villains, explorers, pawns, and kingmakers as they stumble through space. They’ll also run across other humans once in a great while, and the legacy of other humans’ visits more often than they’d like.

    The show will operate in short arcs of three or four episodes, with one-offs between arcs, and a thin thread unifying the season. The first season will end with a Big Damn Heroes moment, where the crew will pull off a spectacular bit of awesomeness against hideous odds to save…well, something. Earth, another ship, a friendly alien race, something.

    The show will have an action component. The Rihla is not a warship, but does have weaponry. Compared to some alien civilizations’ ships, it’s an unstoppable man-of-war. Compared to others, it’s a dinghy with a slingshot. Also, the ship has two suits of “gravity armor,” powered exoskeletons (rendered with CGI) that keep crew members from being crushed in high-gravity environments. The armor can be fitted with weapons, so SILK ROAD will have powered armor stunts and battles in it once in a while.

    The crew will have degrees of interpersonal conflict, and there is no Designated Hero. Captain Lopez is not terribly daring or dashing. The first officer/navigator is a bit of a selfish tool. The communications officer is a meathead. The engineer is a diffident nerd. And so forth. Thus, different crewmembers will rise to different occasions, reflecting on their strengths and the situations.

    The show is more action-oriented and pulpier than “Star Trek,” though more thoughtful than a straight action show. Soapy action with the crew will be kept light. They get along decently well, with no intra-crew romances. The mood of the show will be fairly light as well, in part because it heightens the tension and drama when the big storms hit, and in part because it’ll feel more real if the crew is a little jocular and faces problems with a touch of humor rather than constantly gritting their teeth and lamenting their fates. Also, let’s not underestimate the value of charm, folks.

    The alien races will be genuinely alien. No “Planet of the Cowboys” or “Planet of the Thinly Veiled Allegory about Modern America” here. This stuff needs to be weird. Writers will be encouraged to dig into the trippier realms of SF literature and think broadly. (How alien the aliens look will be determined by budget, of course, but we’ll try to do better than “dude with glob of Silly Putty on his nose” levels of makeup.)

    Over time, the crew of the Rihla will learn about the Empire of the Thousand Suns, the War of the Never-Ending Nebulae, and why it’s never wise to accept a favor from a Znoz, especially when his third snout is whistling.

  4. For SILK ROAD to work, it’ll all boil down to the crew and their interactions with one another. That’s the recurring piece, and that’s the human interest, and that’s the charm. Not sure what the character styles are, but they’re vital. That’s where I’d have my writers break their heads when working on the pilot and “series bible.” Setting up the universe can be done in a day. Setting up a good character web will take weeks.

    Thinking it over, yeah, SILK ROAD is basically STAR TREK with a modern flavor. The Kirk-Spock-McCoy interactions that made the original fun will have counterparts, and just as STAR TREK recycled the SF tropes of Ye Olden Tymes because nobody’d ever put them on teevee before, SILK ROAD will recycle the SF tropes of the New Wave and later SF, because I don’t think they’ve been used much on teevee.

    Plus, powered armor battles. Hell to the yeah. When the crew’s dweeby guy puts on the Gravity Armor with full weapon attachments and suicide-assaults a space fortress to save his friends, the audience should be freaking the hell out.

  5. Pingback: Linkblogging For 30/03/10 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!·

  6. Wait, what am I going to tell you and why am I telling you that? I have no doubt you’re correct, but I’m slower than you are and sometimes I get confused trying to keep up.

  7. I Love You, Venus No.17 – neon disco Leiji Matsumoto-style take Barbarella with money shots, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga playing the entire time. Robot sidekick. Ships shaped like Giger sex organs. Goofy Moebius and Adam Warren design stuff. Pink hair. 20 clones of pop-star-space-sex-deity, accidentally destroying entire planets every time she plays a show. Looks like this http://i713.photobucket.com/albums/ww135/sean_witzke/venus/20100108.jpg

    (I am a cheater)

  8. Dominic Flandry

    Poul Anderson’s series of books adapted as a seven-series TV show. Flandry is a cynical-but-reasonably-loyal agent in a collapsing Galactic Empire enduring emperors who range from competent to mad. Early on he gets cursed to never keep the woman he loves, which gives space for loads of womanising without any happy endings. There’ll be space brothels, nukes, drugged custard, huge rebellions, an enemy alien agent who shadows Flandry his whole life and loads of planets with cool CGI-able habitats.

    Best of all, the Empire gets more sh itty with each passing year until the whole Earth ends up looking like Middlesbrough.

  9. I must note my lack of scientific background before anyone reads this. Take it as sci-fi science, not real science.

    “Dark Matter”

    Some things, man was not meant to know, but don’t tell that to Dr. Pierce.

    After centuries of study, mankind is to closer to understanding the true nature of the universe than it is today. The theory that there is an unknown, perhaps unknowable, kind of matter making up a quarter of the universe is widely accepted. Dr. Pierce has been obsessed with understanding this dark matter his whole life. After all, there can’t just be random discrepencies in the measurement of the universe. This dark matter has to be *something.* He has to be the one to find out what.

    Nobody on the science vessel Zwicky really likes Dr. Pierce. The captain, Alan Frank, is wondering who he pissed off to land this assignment. Pierce is fussy, aloof, wrapped up in his own head. His demands are frequent and often absurd. Capt. Frank can’t argue that he gets results, though. Eventually.

    Then comes the day Dr. Pierce finds what he is looking for: evidence of dark matter. Unknown elements are detected, and Dr. Pierce couldn’t be happier. He sends out a specially designed probe to poke and prod, scan, and collect. Given the nature of dark matter, the other researchers are shocked when Pierce brings some back.

    That’s when the lights go out.

    Emergency power kicks in. The captain and crew get damage reports (none) and demand answers.

    That’s when the alien ship arrives.

    While they establish a mutual frequency for their communicators, neither group can understand the language of the other. This leads to the aliens firing on the Zwicky. The Zwicky escapes with its tail intact, thanks to some deft manuvering by Capt. Frank. Meanwhile, they take the dark matter to the nearest space station.

    From there, the viewer sees what happens when the rest of the local galaxy gets wind of the Zwicky’s transgression. You don’t take dark matter away from its rightful place. Why? Well, there’s a reason this stuff kind of fills in and distorts measurements… anyway, the earth and its allies finds itself plunged into war with an enemy whose motivations become clear over the course of the series.

    Dr. Pierce & Co, meanwhile, gradually get to the secrets of the dark matter. It can be coverted into a high-performance energy source (so why hasn’t anyone done that yet?), it constantly replenishes itself, but only so that the amount of dark matter in the universe remains constant, and it is there to prevent dimensional barriers from being breached, as Pierce finds out when some godawful cthonic terror makes its way through.

    The show writers have to resolve the war(s), figure out how to reclose the dimensional barriers, and make Pierce a hero in the end. The show is a mix of space opera, mad scientist yarn, and horror. The writers explore the nature of war and communication throughout the series. I onjly mentioned 2 characters, but other scientists, crew members, aliens, and bystanders would be regulars.

  10. Whew, oh my God folks, I just had this terrifying dream where instead of working on stuff I’m supposed to be doing I drank a whole boatload of really cheap disgusting lager and ended up blogging a whole bunch of disjointed…


    Well, shit. Goddamn footprints in the snow, why do they keep following me like this…

    Worth it for some of the neat stuff here, though! Mike’s got something with (if I’m not mistaken) a faintly “Rose For Ecclesistes” flair to it, the tyrannical specialist who causes practical headaches for his crew…and yet, the hero. Which is something a bit lacking in your basic militaristic-model space-opera: not the renegade who must overcome the machinery of rank and authority to do what’s right, nor yet the seasoned professional who has to restrain subordinates in order to make measured decisions…and not even the wolf in the fold, but the old-fashioned Civilian Scientist Hero, and why don’t we run into this guy more often outside the pages of books? Perhaps because he’s of necessity a much more subversive figure when he’s out of the paperback ghetto: too much of a reminder that civilians aren’t Saviour Geeks Ascendent, nor are they People Who Have No Business On The Bridge, but in reality they are who we’ve chosen to be the Folks In Charge, because we like our chains of command to be something less than perfectly, righteously self-justifying. Guns and badges and The Army Way are just a little too philosophically complacent for us, in the real world! But in movies and TV that complacency is comforting enough to have many advocates. So it’s nice to have a protagonist who can successfully advocate for something else…

    …Which I think is also what Harvey’s getting at in Silk Road, with his fragmented quasi-governmental interests and somewhat diffident crew. Is it just me, or do they scream Nostromo, just a little bit? Dallas and his malcontents without the horror vibe, Moya’s crew without the prosthetics and the melodramatic introspection. But, the same “Tortured Space” around them…and say, whatever did happen to the vexed individualists of SF’s New-Wave-and-After, when it came to the TV and the movies? Jarheads, jarheads everywhere, falling into their typical antagonisms…Chaykin’s Booster Gold and Anderson’s Dominic Flandry seem equally refreshing as antidotes to it all: the really big levels of external organization and external authority all gotta collapse and implode eventually, having irrelevance thrust upon them by the realities of the Big Dark Empty…

    …Anyway, that’s what I’m hearing, here! And I must say it’s getting me curious…

    More, please!

  11. How pleasant this is! The Timetravel TV meme was where I came in here, and it’s been a trip.

    I want to offer something that would take a pile of CGI, but would stay close to actual technology. I love Babylon 5’s mythologizing, and I think Stargate Atlantis is the best adventure playground ever devised; and part of what makes them good is that when they’re really doing space, they have a pretty good sense of physics. But I would like to do something that’s closer to what we believe in real life. And so …


    The premise is this. Train up astonauts to their mid-20s, and send them out. They’ll be able to acclimatize to weightlessness reasonably well, but they will need to take things carefully and deliberately. Sudden changes will leave them improvising poorly. Children raised in zero gee might learn better space skills, but they have all sorts of bone and vascular problems, and won’t be able to handle Earth gravity. So no giving birth in space, not until rotational gravity is available everywhere. But there is a sudden economic demand for space workers.

    Compromise solution: send up teenagers, with their growth spurts behind them, but flexible enough to adapt to variable gravities. Study the hell out of them, because they’re the raw data for a whole new field of space medicine. Give them the best in education, give them the inside track on space technology. And cross your fingers, because you really don’t know how they’ll turn out.

    Well the result is, although they’re dead keen and conscious of their opportunities, yes sir, they are sick and tired of being observed and poked and lectured at, and having no phase of their lives that hasn’t been planned to death by nervous nutritionists. They want something of their own.

    What emerges, from training exercises, locker-room brawls and dare-you-tos, is a secret culture of zero gee sports. You string bungee straps across a fuel tank and play catch. You fasten trampolines around the walls of a cylinder, start it spinning and play basketball under conditions of severe inner-ear derangement. (Vomitball, man.) And in the course of some real grudge fights you develop the elements of zero gee martial arts, and start to play matches.

    Naturally this meets with horror and prohibition when the grownups find out; but it gives the space medicine specialists a data stream they wouldn’t get any other way. With reluctance, the program deans institutionize the games.

    But it’s already on YouTube. By the time the first official cosmathlon is announced, the fanbase is in the millions. Big bets are being made. Roundabout criminal schemes are being worked out to funnel money to winners on their legal maturity. Applications to join the program are skyrocketing. And several new spacefaring powers are starting their own programs. Inevitably, challenges will be issued.

    The kids are out there on the presumption that they’ll be building stuff, wrangling robotics, piloting tugboats etc. A natural step is that they’ll be playing their sports in spacesuits, with life-support packs which might be dummies, or, since working in vacuum is part of what they’re training for, might not be. So we escalate to volleyball with luminous balls, in spandex and helmets, with rocket packs. Will the cooler heads manage to keep this safe?

    Where there is space industry, there is a need for space security. A lot of adults are watching the techniques the kids are pioneering. Nobody has done this stuff before. There are Lunar and asteroid installations out of reach of rescue, or law enforcement: places where, as a private firm, you might want to place some guards for a while. That’s especially after the first instances of sabotage and extortion. Graduation and legal maturity are coming on fast. Some kids and their parents are getting quiet and very generous offers.

    • Okay, I have a favorite now.

      No offense meant to the others — there isn’t a single bad entry here, and I’d go out of my way to watch any of them were they to air — but Jonathan is the first to submit an entry one can imagine as a series that could actually get approved by television executives, and be produced, and find someone to air it, and be shown to the public, and appeal to a real world audience. And the premise is open enough to accommodate more than one type of story, and offers flexibility to allow for someone leaving the show or a breakout star emerging. And all that without being the least bit dumb! It hardly seems possible…

  12. Frankly, I would just do a narrative version of “The Madness of Mission 6” (Google it if you don’t know it; it took my breath away the first time I saw it, this one perfect, info-rich image), but the challenge was to do something original, was it not?

    Science disclaimer: Do not stop to think about the feasibility and mechanics of what I’m about to lay out, because *I* sure as hell haven’t. Either we’d get a guy on staff to think of it, or just let it go as being not important, because it’s not, really.

    Right. This show is called LIGHTHOUSE.

    Way The Hell In The Future, we’ve colonized the whole solar system, but we had us a civil war, and we’ve conveniently separated into two factions: Solar Federation has the inner planets, Outer Alliance has the outers (mostly Jupiter and Saturn’s moons, but they’re trying to do something with Pluto).

    Solar Federation figures they got the better deal out of it. They’ve got Mars and Venus totally terraformed, they’ve got Mercury plated in solar collectors for limitless energy, they’ve got a smaller, denser, centralized territory, and they’ve got the cache of having control of what’s left of Earth, the ol’ homeworld. Because of this, the culture is, at its worst, decadent, haughty, self-satisfied, self-righteous, self-absorbed.

    Living in Outer Alliance territory is a harder life, because they’re all spread out and it turns out terraforming Europa and all those other satellites isn’t as easy as they’d originally thought it’d be. They’ve developed a powerful work-ethic, and their perpetual underdog status has made them just as self-righteous as the SF, but in a different way. At their worst, they’re distrustful, bitter, and ruthless. The ends always justify the means.

    The asteroid belt serves as the border between the two territories, and it’s monitored by a sophisticated network of electronic fields. With tensions always high, this job is way too important to be trusted to fallible humans, so it’s completely automated. HOWEVER, both sides are too paranoid to leave it completely up to a computer; there could be a malfunction, someone could tamper with it, and so on.

    So the rule established by treaty is, the heart of the operation, called Lighthouse, is crewed at all times by five OA military personnel and five SF military personnel, but because their only function is extremely simple maintenance and just making sure the other side’s not screwing with the system, they’re basically sitting around a tiny space station with nothing to do.

    That sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Well, those ten people would COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU. Everybody knows it’s a pointless assignment – each side just needs five warm bodies – so the post is often a punishment. You get the disorderly and lazy dregs in the Lighthouse, but once in a while you get someone who’s been put there unjustly – maybe you saw something you weren’t supposed to, maybe your superior JUST DIDN’T LIKE YOU.

    So the whole show takes place in this cramped, claustrophobic environment. In theory it should be about political intrigue, but these men and women don’t really have the wherewithal or the inclination for that sort of thing – really it’s about conflicts of personality and culture. It would be a bit funny at times – “a bunch of people in close quarters who hate each other” is a good sitcom setup, after all. People fight, they fall in love, they talk about their differences, they re-evalutate their positions (which are sometimes challenged, sometimes re-enforced), they sit around and talk about what they did to deserve getting put on Lighthouse Keeper Duty. ‘Cos there’s nothing else to do, you know?

    What does it all mean? I don’t know; it’s totally illogical but could be interesting, and I’m hoping that’s all that matters. And relatively inexpensive to boot!

  13. RAB, you are not supposed to have a favourite yet!

    Although that is some sweet, sweet, crazy stuff Jonathan just laid down.

    But I like Justin’s — it reminds me of an old TV script I wrote. Jesus, and here’s the twist: if some higher-up chose a person not to like who was TOTALLY SERIOUS about getting a leg up on the “other side” — not a malingerer for once but a fucking SQUARE-JAWED HERO TYPE! The other folks on the station would have to stop him from doing “covert ops”, until they could convert him. And the person who sent him there, I mean usually the folks who send people they don’t like there are okay, but THIS guy: total fucking heatscore, and the person who sent him would probably get sent himself a week later.


  14. Also, Sean: CHEATER! Make up a new one now for this specific task, or I am gonna…well, I don’t know WHAT I’ll do!

    Also, RAB: your objection is to the prize-giving. You feel it cheapens the exercise. You would much rather let a hundred flowers bloom in freedom.

    Also, Matthew: the idea of a Chaykin Booster Gold is good enough to get you a pass, here. BRILLIANT! Now do another! But FUCK if I know how you’re going to beat that one!

    Also, Bill: come on, man, you can’t give a title that good and then bail out. Get on the stick, damn you!

  15. I didn’t even mean the Chaykin thing to apply to this meme; it was supposed to be an answer to all the previous memes you’ve had where we assign different writers to different projects in incongruous ways. I only posted it because I had been reading a bit of American Flagg! and thought, “You know what would work…” But Booster isn’t a space hero anyway; he works best earthbound.

    I do have an idea for this meme, but it’s a long one and I have no idea how long it’s going to take to type it up.

  16. Here’s my idea. It’s called “Phosphorescent Beetles,” the significance of which I will touch on later.

    We’re a decade or two in the future, and the political situation in North America has gotten worse. President ABC/Disney has defeated the

    incumbent President Starbucks in the most recent U.S. election (corporations now being legal people), and a lot of people are emigrating to

    space to get away from all that.

    It’s quite a crowd up there in space: ex-Tea Party members, kids who are on the run from the RIAA hit squads after being caught downloading

    a song, science-fiction fans, losers, eccentrics, invalids who could do with a little less gravity… lots of people who couldn’t make it

    work on Earth, all arranged in a pointillistic representation of a Dyson Sphere around the Sun, Mercury, and Venus. (The science-fiction

    fans in this group refer to their society as the Trans-Cytherean Orchestra.) (Actually, it’s not a full sphere yet; there’s still lots of

    room up in space!) (The location of the sphere, or rather its radius I guess you’d say, was chosen so as to be as close to the sun as

    people’s radiation-shielding gear (new technology!) could handle. Which means somewhere between Earth and Venus.)

    What are they doing up there? They’re farming energy. They all have a patch of this sphere assigned to them, see, and they live in their

    spaceships behind the sun-facing facet of their block. They all have drones that float on the sun-face of their “property”, soak up solar

    energy, and transmit it (new technology here! quantum!) to a central collector in their spaceship. They use some of it to run their own

    systems, and transmit the rest to a central collector in one of the twelve stations that lie on the line of the sphere that parallels

    Earth’s orbit. Every month, Earth passes near one of these stations, and the station transmits all the energy it’s saved up over the past

    year down to a receiver on Earth.

    (Plot hole: why not just have robots doing all this energy collection? I bet it’s because the drones and energy-transmitters are new

    technology, and finicky, and not radiation-shielded by its nature, and needs a lot of personal attention to keep it running right!)

    Our cast is the crew of April Station. The stations are run by a Canadian corporation called Calendar Power Inc.; they’re the ones who came

    up with a lot of the key tech. Unlike most of the energy farmers, the station crew gets to go home after their tour of duty. The station

    crew is responsible for keeping the power-transmission equipment working, for monitoring the neighbourhood for meteors, asteroids, and

    comets (and destroying them, if necessary), for supplying the farmers with staples, creature comforts, spare parts, and so on. If there’s a

    community of Earthlings up in space, it’s maintained through the stations. (Obviously, farmers with blocks near the “poles” of this sphere

    have less access to the stations than do those near the “equator”…)

    They’ve also had to become a First Contact Team. Several shipsful of alien refugees, enough to make up a significant percentage of the

    population up here, have settled in and started their own energy farms. Nice guys, mostly, and recognizably humanoid (although they don’t want to settle on Earth; too much nitrogen and crap in the atmosphere), but Calendar is giving

    them a raw deal on the equipment; they’re buying energy from the aliens at an embarrassingly low price while the aliens pay off the drones

    and transmission equipment. Resentment! Class conflict! Plus, the aliens (let’s call them the Prygui) have some personal habits that some

    Earthlings can’t handle: their heterosexual birthrate is so high, and features so many multiple births, that their society has developed a

    kind of a four-way marriage to handle this. Two males, two females, and who’s with who depends on whether they can stand to have any more

    kids at the moment. (Their contraceptive technology is good enough that this isn’t such a concern anymore, but this kind of marriage was

    developed in their prehistory, so it’s not going anywhere.)

    What’s a typical episode of this show like? It’s about a problem that threatens the community in some way (see list below), and the efforts

    of our heroes to solve it. The point is this: space is an environment where rugged individualism just isn’t going to work. You need to

    cooperate, you need to get along with people, you need to work together, you need to share. This is a lesson that is difficult for the

    (predominantly American and some kind of extremist) energy farmers to take in from the (predominantly Canadian) station crew.

    See, my idea is that space is Canadian. There’s a lot of it, it can get real cold, you’re far enough from your neighbours that you can’t assimilate them but close enough that you have to get along with them, and you have to bring your own food. It’s easy to be a

    rugged individualist when you’re building a log cabin on a mountaintop in Tennessee or wherever; the weather is not going to kill you and there’s stuff to eat all over the place. But I

    took the title of this show from an Alden Nowlan poem called “Canadian January Night” (scroll down), the significance of

    which I’m sure will not escape you. (Also note, I like this touch, the word “phosphorescent”. The planet Venus used to be called Phosphorus

    by the Greeks.)

    At this point I wanted to list a bunch of characters the way I did for the time travel meme, but in fact I don’t have any ideas for who those characters would be, exactly. Station crew, Prygui, energy farmers, United Nations representatives, nosey parkers from various governments and from Calendar, scientists, rich tourists…

    I can do a list of what the problems are facing this group, some of which would bubble through the series and some of which could be dealt with on an episode-by-episode basis:

    – asteroid damages someone’s spaceship and scatters their drones; have to rescue them and salvage their equipment
    – energy storage problems in the station threaten to blow the thing up; can we fix it in time?
    – farmers stealing and reprogramming each others’ drones
    – gang war between Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans
    – friction between humans and Prygui, of course
    – lawyers from Earth trying to repossess the spaceship of some energy-farming Star Wars fan who had his ship done up like the Millennium Falcon
    – solar flare
    – who are the Prygui running from? Be tricky if they showed up!
    – energy farmers near the “poles” start having visions. Are they just crazy, or do those seven symbols mean anything?
    – some Argentinean tourists have been asking questions about those reclusive families who have a strip of farms southeast of April Station. Is the witness protection program sending people up here?

    And so on.

  17. HyperSpace, or Mind Traders of the Milky Way.

    The problem with space, right, is it’s too big and too empty to do much in the way of fightin space dragons and saving green-skinned princesses, unless you can travel at ftl speeds. It also requires a bunch of expensive CGI and lots of sound-track only bits where there are no actors on screen, which might scare away the execs. What we need is a way to deliver Star Wars Cantina sequences without making a promise to also deliver a blowing up the Death Star sequence.

    So let’s say instead of a conveniently antiseptic train set tunneling through the universe and taking us from planet teaser to planet first act, hyperspace is more like Faerie, or the Dreamtime as shown in western fantasy: a place apart from time, space and logic, where ideas are made flesh and the fundamental basis of reality are unstable, localised story threads.

    Earth’s first contact with alien life, under this set-up, comes in the form of a set of instructions for building a psychic machine. Whether the first psychonauts recieved an elaborate prayer, an abstract labyrinth, a set of synthetic herbs or a cluster of nerves in need of stimulation is a matter of some disagreement between our heroes. In any case what they saw was that the aliens have *always* been here, scurrying around behind the sets having their kinky non-euclidian way with our gods and messing with our memes. And of course, everyone decides it’s all the *other* people’s ideas that have been planted by lizardmen from beyond the stars.

    The chaotic civil war into which humanity descends is only ended by the emergence of a paranoid Orwellian state, which maintains the local ideaspace around humanity as a kind of dull Twilight-Zone fortress, viciously stamping out creativity, culture and any kind of invention in thought which might fragment the dreamtime, and so leave humanity vulnerable to alien sabateurs. Only the walled port cities are allowed to experiment with novelty, providing a sort of laboratory in which the outer universe may place it’s seeds, each to be studied and tested for possible incorporation into the culture.

    Our heroes are a merchant house on the outer rim, and each is a standard narrator sort, which off the top of my head means we have: a hard boiled detective; an irrepressible 20-something who draws trite, often contradictorary morals from everything; a melodramatic, moralistic thespian who describes everything in archaic terms; a wry cynical goofball; and Morgan Freeman. They take turns to deliver episodes, with a level of narrative commentary and viewpoint manipulation at least equal to, say, How I Met Your Mother, or the “we just watched Rashomon” episode of [insert show here].

    Episode plots are provided by the character’s idea-trading, as the characters meet new alien species or gain new insights on old ones, trading a variety of rare intangibles or arts (maintained by the library planet of Babel-5, a world of hermit scholars under psychic quarantine) for alien ideas which they can, after thorough CNT-NUET inspection, copyright and sell to an appropriate state company. All of which requires a great deal of espionage, elaborate cons, and trippy animated sequences. Long term arcs deal with the firm’s links to subversive groups within the empire, and it’s gradual shift from black market reformism to situationist terrorism.

    • Ah I knew I forgot one narrator: the scientist/explorer. So say she’s volunteered to the trading post to investigate the trade in ideas, along with an ex-assassin whose decommissioning sentence (for excessive brooding) was commuted to windwipe and exile by a sympathetic superior. One of her otherwise nameless staff appears to be the flamboyant shapeshifting cat-burglar and onieroterrorist Loki.

      They join a merchant house ruled by an ancient witch, her daughter the irrepressible poet and her son the revolutionary poet, both of whom cling to half understood scraps of our culture to comic effect: he gets Marx and Mohammed confused, she thinks Bach was a Beatle, and so on.

      And you know I think I got a little confused about the trading post: it’s primary purpose is as a dreamport, an accesible spot for traders to bring alien goods into the human empire. But our solar system is pretty central to a few places, so became something of a trading hub, and so the black market in ideas cropped up. The human empire’s in trouble and they’re having to contemplate learning from other species, hence the expedition lead by our good doctor.

      Oh and I figure everyone in the port speaks in rhyming slang. It’s good for a laugh and helps slip shit past the censors. Think that’s everything.

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  20. Hang on, I got one more coming. A real one. It’s called SEVENTH SON. I’ll get it in soon.

  21. This is so messed up, now.

    Kieran, I know I told RAB not to have a favourite, but I’m coming close to saying “Mind-Traders Of The Milky Way” is mine…it’s so much like if Elijah Snow went down to the bottom of the universe on psilocybin and found — ta-daa! — Gerry Anderson there. Totally phuqued. Space-Goddamn-Opera, for real. My compliments.

    Matthew, you’ve taken your usual intensively-drawn character-orbits and SF-externalized them into the farmers on the energy-sphere with the Space-Canadians trying their best to shepherd them…and I don’t care if it appeals to me on that cheap patriotic basis, I want to know more, or as the Mindless would say MOAR. So let’s have some of that stuff you’ve been thinking of in the shower about it lately! I know you, you don’t just throw out stuff like “oh, a bunch of alien races blah blah blah” without looking yourself in the shaving mirror for a week thinking “yes…and what if one of the insectile species was like the Hutterites, only telepathic

    Whip up a Grand Canadian Business with it, damn you! The “Timmins” aliens, the “Edmonton” aliens! The fanciest part of the North Shore of Vancouver, “the British Properties”, has a very large Persian population now…

    …You know it was not long ago I was in a cab with an old Iranian man, and I asked him: was that “Persian” thing your idea? You came here in like ’77, ’78…?

    He said: “Thanks very much, it was in fact the idea of me and my friends who also had children…we could see what was happening there, and it didn’t look good, we had letters and phone calls from Iran, it was a pretty frightening time. Before the hostages, we all got together and said ‘Persian…like Persian carpets, white people like Persian carpets’…but I joke with you my friend, no my generation of immigrants really DID come up with the “Persian” thing, but it wasn’t so mercenary, honestly we weren’t happy with the Shah either, so many scandals…we just wanted our kids to be able to have some legitimate pride in their heritage. But then yes, after Khomenini and the hostage-taking, I’ll admit we looked like geniuses.”

    I’ll just say that old Persian-Canadian men, when they call you “my friend”, they mean it…it’s weird for me, because when I was a kid I worked for Greeks and Koreans and Vietnamese and Sikhs, and when they called you “my friend” it meant that they were pissed off with you. When they called you a rude name in their own language it meant you were doing a good job, but “my friend”…(shudder)…means you screwed up. Old Persian dudes, though: “my friend” means “okay, we can talk now, so let’s talk”. And always they’re philosophers, talking about the moon and the stars.

    God bless Official Multiculturalism, Matthew. Is all I can say.

    Now get to work SMILEYFACE EMOTICON! 32 Short Films About The Legion, go on. Also, great title, great link.

    Finally for today, Jonathan…Jonno, you do it again, that is absolutely a crazy way to go with that gorgeous old Heinlein story! Yeah, what if they break their bones…but yeah, what can we learn from them breaking their BONES… Incredibly evil, my hat’s off. It even recalls the Patrick Macnee double-episode of Battlestar Galactica, oh why oh why do you always hit me where I live.

    Folks, I want a second one from everybody!

    Seriously, I need to hide my contribution in somebody’s idea, but so far all these ideas are just too, too YOU for anyone to be fooled.

    Take a couple of days! I will contact my stalking-horse by email. Of course that probably means the person who bounces back fastest will be me…or will they

    The only person I don’t think I’d be able to copy is RAB…he’s too polished-silver for me to fake, everything’s all nicely-rounded-edges with him…

    Damn it, he’s not taking the bait. Come on, guys, somebody’s got to have something on him…!

    And by the way, Andrew’s chosen to put his entry on his own blog…I’ll be over there to comment in a minute or so.

    • The astonishing thing is that — and I swear this is absolutely true — not four hours before I saw this I was saying to someone, “I wanted that to sound as if plok had written it, but I simply couldn’t pull it off. He’s just too strong a writer, and I absolutely couldn’t match him so I had to give up the whole idea.”

      I also said to someone within the past day, “I’d love to be on Twitter but I’d be useless at it. I can just see myself accumulating a file of tweets in progress, working on them and refining the word choices until they were absolutely right, going six weeks between each tweet…”

  22. I’m feeling so…traditional…compared to these other posters. Ah, well.


    The recording helmet settles on Charles Kittridge’s head. He swallows and squirms a little. A collection of technicians surround him, paying little attention. They putter around the small white laboratory. Kittridge coughs and closes his eyes. “So, um, this is going to feel like—“

    A flash.

    Kittridge croaks out, “-what, exactly?” He opens his eyes. The techs are gone. He is in a room that is enormous and empty, its walls green and equipment badly worn down. Kittridge stands up, afraid. He is naked. Strange noises come from outside the room. A door slides open, and a creature half-man, half-thing, shuffles towards him, the human parts of its face distorted by hunger and rage. The lips of its circular mouth curl back and rows of needle-shaped silver fangs ripple outward.

    Charles Kittridge is now alone, ten and a half light years away and five centuries after the world he knew.

    SEVENTH SON takes place on Epsilon Eridani IV, a planet dubbed “Shaushka,” a mostly Earthlike world 10.5 light years from Earth that orbits an orange sun. Shaushka has the right levels of gravity and warmth, and plenty of surface water, the first such planet discovered. The atmosphere is semi-breathable and amenable to basic terraforming technologies. Five centuries ago, a huge colony ship, the Esperance, was launched to terraform the planet.

    The Esperance had a crew of zero. Given the distances involved and the perils of a “generation ship,” the designers decided that the ship should contain no life at all. It was a drone ship that carried ten robot “reconstruction unit” drop-ships. The drop-ships contained the recorded biological data of thousands of plants, animals, and people, along with a vat of undifferentiated biological goo and machines that could build any life from the goo and the data.

    The Esperance deployed the ten drop-ships from orbit, dispersing them across Shaushka. Each one deployed on landing, creating an terraformed site of roughly 100 square kilometers, in a circle sixteen kilometers across. The terraforming machines each sealed off their areas from the slightly poisonous atmosphere with energy fields, then began to process the air and undertake the brute-force aspects of terraforming. Once an area reached an adequate level of livability, the bio-replicators kick into action, reconstructing terran lifeforms and setting them loose to create a habitable and comfortable biosphere.

    Humans are the last to be recreated, so they will be “born” into terraformed zones stocked with plants and animals. The cloned humans not only replicate people from a long-ago Earth, they have the memories of their counterparts written into their brains, so the humans can immediately begin work.

    Charles Kittridge, a low-level computer tech, was part of the seventh and final wave of humans to be reconstructed, a wave of final-touch support staff who would follow the farmers, the engineers, and the maintenance crews in Terraform Zone 7 that would make the basics of life possible. They would tweak the details and make the place more pleasant. Colonization did not proceed according to this sensible plan.

    Kittridge is the only human in Zone 7, so he’s in a lot of trouble. He also discovers that the terraforming plan had a few flaws. For example, unbeknownst to everyone, Shaushka has indigenous life beyond its red grasses, and that life has penetrated into the terraformed zones. Also, the bio-replicators have gone insane and some of the terraforming equipment didn’t perform to specifications either, for reasons unknown.

    Early story seeds include:
    –Kittridge trying to stay alive, which means finding food and not being eaten;
    –Kittridge’s contact with Shauskha’s indigenous life;
    –Discovering what created the chimera human-Shaushka creatures;
    –Determining if Kittridge himself is fully human or a subtle chimera;
    –What went wrong with the whole terraforming business;
    –Kittridge bonding with a few of the hybrids;
    –Discovering that other alien races tried to colonize the planet millenia ago, and the relics of those attempts are still around, including colonists;
    –Trying to contact the other nine terraformed zones;
    –What the hell happened in the other nine zones;
    –The exquisite weirdness of being a clone of a man who died centuries ago on a far-distant world;
    –The fate of the Esperance;
    –What the hell is going on back on Earth;
    –Trying to keep the terraforming equipment from collapsing; and
    –Using the reconstruction machines to try to recreate other humans.

  23. Kittridge?

    Esperance? Seventh son?

    I sense backmatter…

    Hard not to like this one quite a lot — so many standard bits of SF business that in books are just that: business. But getting to see a character legitimately go through them, as a main focus of the story, would be wonderful. The question of whether or not Kittridge himself is a chimera is instantly gripping in this sense — who wouldn’t want to see the ramifications of that idea seeping into a person’s head? Not to mention that it really is ripped from today’s headlines…at least, the science headlines.

    There’s something strangely familiar about this, something a little bit obscure, I can’t quite put my finger on it but it has to do with this flexible-or-substitute-self business…and I don’t think it’s been much of a touchstone in SF, though I think it’s moderately well-known…it isn’t T.J. Bass, though it recalls him…but it’s a little bit more modern, a physically-mutable self rather than an informationally-decentred one, something to do with memory tapes, changelings, alien landscapes…


    It’s John Varley, I think. Bit of a “raw feel” there, too, which is always a good sign…this one’s got a lot of genuine TV-specific appeal, in my opinion: like The Starlost with better character focus, the efforts to cope with the environment are not just parallel with the efforts to cope with identity issues, but actually identical with them…a neat trick indeed, Harvey, and beyond the reach of many!

    Hmm, I think I’d better start being a little less lacksadaisical about all this, clearly there’s a lot to unpack around here. Expect stricter thinking to begin tomorrow…

  24. I suppose no one’s going to suggest “Galactic Effectuator”? Actually I can think of a few Jack Vance-isms that might translate to TV in an interesting way…

    Sorry, supposed to be thinking! But just had to get that in there…

  25. I am astounded by the imaginative power that shows up here, Pillock. Like Mr. Burns, I first showed up here for the time-travel meme, and have been away lo these many years. I came to this entry with skeptism: what, I thought, was left to do with a space-based series that hasn’t already been done. Lots of things, it turns out. So much to say.

    I think we may need to put “Space is Canadian” on a bumper sticker–it’s a metaphor that stays with you.

    I would tune in to watch any of these.

    I have nothing to offer myself, except to state my affection for the legion of superheroes/guardians of the galaxy conceit that human adaptation to alien environments is a surefire way of creating super beings. This has been done to death in the comics but less so on TV, and using it explains why, as on Star Trek, all the “alien-looking” beings are obviously mainly human in appearance.

    So in this colonized future, each branch of our descendants–the massive Jovians, fireproof Mercurians,etc.–would probably tend to keep to their own kind, even if the distances between them weren’t an issue. Fish people see no appeal in visiting Planet Frying-Pan. But they work together and communicate remotely. I suppose they’re Facebook Friends. To get a series going, there needs to be a reason for a team of these diverse beings to come together with some important mission–a mission that takes them, over the course of the series, to various colonies…

    And preferably, they’d be led by Matter-Eater Lad. Yes.

  26. Pingback: CHOCOLATE-COVERED COTTON…! « A Trout In The Milk·

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