A Little Bit Louder And A Little Bit Worse…!

OKAY, WE’RE BACK…!

To the world of great original science-fiction TV shows set in SPACE.  Let me tell you, thus far it’s gone really well…we’ve had everything from the idea that “Space Is Canadian”, to Andersonian future space, to a second run at John Varley doing a second run at Robert Heinlein, by way of Battlestar Galactica…to Barry N. Malzberg crossed with Gerry Anderson, to Pure Dr. Who, to a Larry Nivenoid Space: 1999, to weird crazy-ass Van Vogt/ T.J. Bass/ Ellisonian Medea stuff…

…But now’s the time of the trick, clever people.

I need another submission from everyone who’s made an (amazing!) first one…and I want it to be even better.  Matthew, this is going to be a trick and a half for you…my advice is to make your space even more Canadian. Andrew Hickey:  you will have to write more pseudo-Dr. Who (hint:  study “Psychohistorical Crisis”).  All others:  pull up your socks, this is the death-match.  Prizes for the winners, waking nightmares for the losers!  The shades will be drawn!  The veils will be lifted!  The neutronium skies will send down their grey destructive rain!

The full truth will be revealed!

(But, um, the prizes are just books…right?  Everyone understands that?)

SO LET THE CONTEST BEGIN!

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19 responses to “A Little Bit Louder And A Little Bit Worse…!

  1. So what is the idea; we take our previous entry and elaborate on it? Or come up with something different but related? Or completely different? Or what?

  2. For you, Matthew, since you left so much room to move in yours, you don’t have to make up another one if you don’t want to: just explore what’s already there, but make it Can-Con. Or make up something else if you like…but your character matrixes are so damn good, I’d encourage you to explore what’s there, blow it up huge.

    And Andrew is probably going to do Dr. Who even if I tell him not to…

    So that’s your special latitude, the two of you.

    Everybody else has to make up something new! Although the floor is still open to brand-new participants, too…but they’d have to work mighty hard for it.

  3. The Airtight Garage.

    It’s a huge planetoid, hollowed out and filled with different habitats inside its own pocket universe. The creator of the Garage, Major Grubert, orbits outside in his spaceship with his wife. Every so often the Major goes inside to see how things are developing, like a writer checking on the progress of a story he started long ago but left to finish by itself. The pith helmet-wearing Major is never recognized by the inhabitants of his Garage as the creator of their universe.

    But we don’t know any of that. What we see is various inhabitants of the worlds inside caught up in a mysterious quest to locate “the Airtight Garage” not realizing they’re all inside it. It’s like Nasrudin travelling everywhere on his donkey, unable to find his missing donkey. Or that Two Stupid Dogs cartoon where the little dog can’t find his bone because it’s on top of his head for safekeeping. The mystery unfolds something like The Prisoner, something like Lost. Anything can happen inside the Garage, nothing needs to make sense.

    It really should be called “The Hermetic Garage” — a more direct transliteration of the title from Metal Hurlant keeping the double meaning of “hermetic.” But Marvel fucked that up. It’s sad that Epic did so badly by it, since the serial was Moebius’ love letter to old American comics. The Moorcock reference in the original French title turns out to be semi-irrelevant. In the Nineties it was going to be filmed by Kurosawa.

    Because I’m feeling lazy, you can read more about it here.

  4. Well, shoot, you never said when we had to come up with a second idea that it had to be *better*.

    Well, this is what you get. Second entry is called THE WHALE.

    Twenty-second century: For the past 100 years or so, we have been tracking what appears to be an approaching spaceship. It’s been given the nickname of The Whale because it looks a bit like a baleen – relatively flat on the top, curved on the underside – and is roughly the size of Manhattan Island. It’s on a course to pass Earth at a reasonable enough distance that we could go check this thing out. A crew of 512 will rendezvous with the ship via one of our own spacecraft (a saucer referred to as The Disc) as it approaches, conduct a lengthy investigation/contact with any occupants, and disembark before it moves out of range and continues on its way out of our solar system.

    The crew boards and makes the following discoveries: it is indeed a spaceship (made of metal, indecipherable controls nobody want to touch, has corridors and doors that are all bizarrely and uncomfortably out of scale – there’s a lot of ducking and climbing), it seems to be abandoned (shoot, there goes First Contact), gravity is stable at exactly 1 G for some reason and – get this – there’s breathable air inside.

    The air’s a result of the wildest discovery of all: a large portion of the ship is devoted to an enormous closed ecological system that contains a surprisingly Earthlike jungle environment, including oxygen-producing plants, edible fruit, and water that goes through a recycling system.

    Once we’ve got that established, there’s a flash of light and missing time, and when it’s over, the Earth is nowhere to be seen, and the astronomers are not recognizing any of these stars, you guys. And what’s more, how long did this journey take? Was it just the instant of that flash of light, or was that some sort of stasis field and it’s really millions or billions of years later? (That might explain why they don’t seem to recognize these stars.)

    So it’s kind of your standard “castaways trying to get home” show (“Lost”…in space?) except instead of a small number of survivors, you’ve got hundreds, and they have no clue where or when “home” is. But the jungle appears able to sustain them indefinitely (although they’re all going to have to become vegetarian). There’s no mission profile for this. What do you do?

    Right off the bat, a dozen people lose it and commit suicide. A few days later, about a quarter of the crew can’t be found anymore, and everyone assumes they’re more suicides until it’s discovered they’ve holed themselves up in a different part of the ship and have become a community of total pleasure-seekers (hey, no way home, no mission, but all your survival needs are provided? Some of them see it as just being trapped in paradise). It’s all sex, food and fun, and because of the limited entertainment available on board, they eventually form a burgeoning artistic community, producing some utterly bizarre and innovative amateur drama to perform for each other.

    Another group gets together and comes up with a sort of Judeo-Christian “Chariot of the Gods?” Is the jungle the Garden of Eden? Did Man come from the spaceship, and are they the forerunners of the Next Creation? They throw themselves on the mercy of their Mystery Lord, start drawing lots for who should start having sex to produce the new Adam and Eve, and basically try desperately to invent a coherent religion on the fly with no input from the divine.

    Doctor Kingdom, the project supervisor and our series lead (no age/sex/ethnicity specified – we’ll cast for whoever gives the right sense of *authority*), is ever the professional and organizes the crew members who haven’t split off into any factions into exploratory parties (they’ve got cubic mile after cubic mile of ship to look into, you know). They can still take The Disc and smaller spacecraft out and explore planets that they pass, none of which are inhabited. It’s bleak because nothing they find supplies any answers as to what they’re doing there or how to get home. Every day they lose at least one person to the pleasure-seekers or the Church of the Next Creation.

    Doc Birmingham, the greatest mechanical engineer of her day, remains extremely level-headed about the whole thing. “Okay, I’ll get to work trying to understand how this ship functions, and then I’ll just have it turn around and take us back to Earth. Don’t worry guys, I got this.” She’s either coping very well or in insane levels of denial.

    Professor Yes, the world’s leading theorist on extraterrestrial life, has his private project. He actually *does* make First Contact – they find a globulous yellow waxy entity with fine hair, two stubby tentacles, and four black eyes, which displays no obvious intelligence or communication capability of any sort. This is eventually dubbed The Alien, and is a pretty big disappointment to everybody. And Yes’ll tell you The Alien is nothing more than a fungus with motor functions, except a bunch of crew members *swear* they’ve seen Yes having what appears to be one-sided conversations with it.

    There’s a peacekeeping force on board (they went along with the scientists in case First Contact got ugly) that assists Dr. Kingdom’s projects, but most importantly, they’re in charge of keeping the jungle safe and accessible to everyone on board (those Next Creationers sometimes grumble that maybe not everyone *deserves* the lifegiving benefits of the jungle).

    So the main thrust of the first season is watching a unified crew split into different factions and alliances, coping through various means to varying degrees of success. Also, Dr. Kingdom’s team comes across new and interesting things in the ship and on their journeys that make for some good adventure stories. Rescuing lost crewmembers and whathaveyou. It all might sound a bit Star Trek: Voyager, but I want the tone to be more like The Original Series, only everyone’s sweaty and strung out and terrified and depressed and desperate and on the verge of snapping entirely (except for those pleasure-seekers; everything’s absolutely *great* for them!). Very nervy viewing, hopefully.

    Dr. Kingdom is trying to hold it all together, because s/he is still the project supervisor, and what these people need is strong leadership, dammit. “Everybody but me is going crazy, because I can’t afford to,” though s/he’s becoming increasingly paranoid that the head of the peacekeeping force is going to stage a coup. But when Kingdom strikes up a close bond with Birmingham, s/he confides to her that s/he’s got another reason for soldiering on like this beyond just devotion to duty.

    Kingdom is paranoid about something else. This whole premise is a little too convenient. The Earth-normal conditions, the unfamiliar territory. S/he believes they are being *tested*. Come on, the Big Dumb Object, the Shaggy God story with the Garden of Eden, the fragmenting, the formation of new societies…this is all a bit too science fiction to be real life! It’s got to be a setup, whether it’s by aliens, or God, or some insanely elaborate conspiracy by their government for some unknown reason.

    But, no matter who is responsible for this, Kingdom is determined to pass that test.

    • Holy hand grenade, Justin — that show could be made immediately, and needs to be!

      The only thing I would change is taking out that reference to exploring other planets. It would only detract from the main premise to have them pass other planets at all, and it lessens the plausibility a great deal. Lose that idea and instead keep them aboard the Whale at all times, and you’re cooking with gas.

  5. Really gorgeous, Justin! Although I must disagree slightly with my mischievous friend the Sean Witzke impersonator (I’m afraid you tipped your hand with the TCJ link, RAB!), in that I think the other planets would be perfect…but I don’t think they should go.

    Because what if the Whale (I love this reference, Justin! Oh, and the names too) took off again, and left the explorers behind? Clearly the only people who would in the end even contemplate going would be the Kingdomites, but if they go what happens to the other folks they came with? Maybe it’s part of THE test…or maybe it isn’t, but it’s still some sort of test anyway, and it’d make a terrific episode to explore that dilemma. The drama’s leaping right out at me through the screen, I tellya.

    Fantastic stuff!

  6. Thankee kindly for the compliments.

    Good points about the planets, though … it was only an afterthought of an idea, but now I’m thinking about which would be better – no planets or the planet you’re hesitant to leave the ship for. Hm.

    The other thing that I’d failed to consider but thought of later (but that ends up providing more DRAMA!) is that “all your survival needs are provided” only if you’re in good health. If you need insulin, or medications or chemotherapy or anything, once you run out of what you brought aboard for a two-week mission, you’re pretty well screwed (unless you can find something in the jungle that serves as medicine, I’m sure someone would look). I suppose you might join the new religion out of hope.

    I’m also fond of the term “Kingdomites” and I could see it catching on because it’d irritate Dr. Kingdom: “It makes us sound like some sort of breakaway faction. We’re just doing the job we’re supposed to be doing. It’s EVERYBODY ELSE that’s broken away.”

  7. You mentioned Varley, Plok, didn’t you?

    Boss Tweed, with his hat in his hand: he’s a tough customer even so. I’m not entirely crazy about Varley. He’s good on the pledge, excellent on the turn, but when it comes to the prestige he does little more than paint his readers into corners, and then magically paint them out again. HEY! It’s not that much of a trick; easy Heinleinian transcendence of the problem, you just dump a bucket of glitter on a mule and then call it the great horse SILLL-VERRR! Everything just…falls into place, a little too readily.

    So let’s break it up!

    TITAN, as a TV show.

    It’s no good, naturally. Perhaps because it doesn’t have a proper beginning, this plot doesn’t have a proper ending: it’s just a romp. Cirocco Jones is drafted as a Hero, becomes a Wizard, eventually a Demon, but in the end it’s just orchestration, orchestration, orchestration, and nothing happens except A Certain Thing…but we never know the why of it, and we never really get to see what happens. So this thing will need a little compression for the small screen, take out some of that rambling romper room and replace it with proper living quarters for character.

    To begin with: why Titan?

    Well here’s the deal, we want to know if we’re Alone. It’s a tough problem, and to know its answer is to know a lot of things about the ubiquity of life. Which we can find out quite a lot about in our own Inner System, but that doesn’t really complete the job, does it? Mars, Earth, even Venus, are all so close together that they can’t prove, not really prove, anything about Ubiquity. No; only out on the fringes of the solar system can we ever expect to make an authoritative test of life’s universality … good old Titan, like Earth in slow motion, organic molecules swimming like the Esther Williams Ensemble through a soup of freezing methane. If you call find life there, very far indeed from the madding crowd, you’ll know there’s life everywhere.

    So we might’ve sent a couple unmanned space probes there, they found it, and it’s biologically complex, it overwhelms the molecular assay chips, it has a history. “We gotta know!” say the cigar-chomping bosses, because it’s strange life, it’s peculiar and unsettling life, there’s something wrong with it that the big brains aren’t saying. So finally here goes a manned mission. In, let’s say, 2104. 2116? 2192? I dunno, in real life we’re figuring out the complexities … it’s not gonna be easy to launch a mission like that. We need a fully-functional Moonbase first. We need a comprehensive exobiological survey of the Martian landscape first. But then again, this isn’t dead Mars, and isn’t even mad Venus, this is Titan: this is A Different Earth! This means Life Is Everywhere! We think the LHC is a big deal, a couple of infrared and X-Ray orbital observatories: huh. 22nd Century physicists are still mucking about with neutrino observation and proton decay. But Titan is Big, this actually Matters. The twentieth century’s ironic End of Science anomie is at and end … the curtain over the Big Picture is just waiting to be drawn aside, and it may well frighten us, to know that the human future is about to be the most urgent one we can imagine!

    No way over it, no way around it, gotta go through it. Viewers ought to be unsettled by the near-religious engagement of the explorers, they have drunk of the Big Picture Kool-Aid. Friends, I’ve seen the future, and it’s utterly without self-deprecation! It is not ironically self-questioning! Rather it is terrifyingly mature, a world of grownup anti-zombies, where things to care about litter the ground like emeralds, and we cannot turn away.

    “Hold me, Sarge, I’m scared!”

    “Hey, we’re all scared, kid. But that mission is going.”

    So we have the tone, and we smartly set about building the suspense right into the crew psychodynamics.

    Psychologists comb the convolutions of the brain like a school nurse combs her students’ hair for lice: brisk and unapologetic, efficient, purposeful. Here’s how it will go. With the most high-tech propulsion systems in human history at their command, the crew will be in space together for six years going, six years coming back, and three years in orbit. Now that’s a long time, and a lot of stress. Whoever the crew start out as — and you gotta pick ’em young — they won’t be the same people when they get to where they’re going. Take a lesson from biology: steel is strong stuff, but it’s rigid. A human body made out of steel would fall apart in its twentieth year. No matter how you balance toughness and hardness, if you’re stuck with what you start out with, it’s a no-go. But look at bone: it’s not nearly as tough, not nearly as hard, but its very friability makes it the stuff of the proverbial threescore-and-ten. A million microfractures at every step, always knitting themselves back up. The strength of this stuff is that it’s made to break: breaking’s in the programme. Breaking’s the plan. Of all people, it was Gene Roddenberry who identified it first: make the weaknesses the strength, and you go farther. Now that’s an adult attitude, my friends…

    And the boffins of the real twenty-second century aren’t afraid to design for it. Here’s the crew, a troubled tearaway, a mellow flake, a superbly-skilled misanthrope, an obsessive problem-solver, two insular geniuses, and as Captain only one possibility: a Bitch. They’re meant to break rules, have sex, fight … and over time, they’re meant to compactify. Every step of physical distance is also a carefully-plotted step in emotional distance: we’re talking a crew assembled by Second Foundationers, a comic book superhero-team crew. And the Bitch is the violent irritant like a pebble in a shoe, the killjoy peacemaker, the managed tension-breaker who sets people up and then knocks them down. Deep in the neocortex is the fear of the Scary Grandmother, modulating responses and respect: not quite what we think of when we think of power. But Captain America himself couldn’t stop a mutiny when there’s no point, no escape, and the microgravity bone loss is eating away bodies month-to-month. Hell, he’d rebel against himself. But not against the Bitch.

    Not if they pick her just right. So here’s Cirocco Jones (that’s actually what they call her, what insolence!), here’s her mercurial astronomer/planetologist, here’s her ostentatiously chilled-out doctor/biologist, here’s her bad-boy pilot/cyberneticist, here’s her detached engineer/mathematician who relates to machines better than to people, here’s her spooky chemist/physicist twins….and you know what? If you thought these were the most mature and centred individuals the space program could find to do this job, you’d be exactly wrong. We may be urgent, honest, responsible people by the late 2100s, but we build our crew like Rodenberry built his cast — for calculated psychodrama. These people are throwbacks to an earlier age. And as they set off, the world watches them.

    The whole thing’s filmed, and beamed back.

    So there’s your first season. The crew goes off, breaks down, builds up, crashes and then copes. The world watches as they fight over the current state of science, the state of the world, and the state of their own childish selves. The psychological programme is carried out in perfect order, and the crisis moment comes just when it’s supposed to: in the Jovian system, last stop, last chance to turn around. Checking out the low-percentage mystery moons like Ganymede and Europa and Mimas for signs of amino-acid-bearing meteor crashes or indeed weird extremophile life … but here is also reaction mass, here is also oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon in abundance. This is where the crew falls apart, as they know they will. This is where Cirocco forges them into a real team at last, as they know she must. And she does. It has to be a real nail-biter, a stupendous triumph, a moment for the ages

    And then Europa somehow drags them down into its ocean. Strange forces they can’t fight cause them to plummet into its crinkling frozen crust. They break its surface and just like that, they’re gone.

    End Season One?

  8. And start Season Two. Cirocco has no way of knowing how long it takes, but eventually she comes back to life, vomited forth into a new world. The ship, plunging deep into that most unfamiliar of oceans, passed across some membrane or other, some violent thermocline…this, at any rate, she remembers. And then she remembers, quite clearly, dying.

    And yet here she is.

    Inside Europa, in a weird Pellucidarian realm of fecund alien life, fauna and flora, kingdoms and oceans and gods. If you liked Ellen Ripley on the Nostromo, folks, you’ll love her when she gets to Oz, know what I mean? You have to ask yourself what’s the last thing you’d be expecting, what’s capable of taking all your advanced scientific reasoning about the alien life that might be growing in your own backyard, and making it all a blind alley? That’s no moon; that’s a space station. Well, you know that, and I know that, but it’s going to take a while for Ripley … sorry, I mean Cirocco … to figure it out. Right now it looks like somebody crossed Oz with Hades with the cantina in Mos Eisley … it just doesn’t look right. Cirocco wakes up alone, in a very strange Munchkinland indeed, populated by what one could really only call Homeric My Little Pony centaur-creatures with Mr. Potato Head sex organs…friendly enough, but dangerous as hell. And they know all about Cirocco. They’ve been waiting for her. Somebody already gave them the word.

    She’s become a part of their reproductive cycle. Without her, they’ll all die out.

    And so the story starts to become clearer: the space they’re in, called “Gaea” by its inhabitants in a rough translation, is divided into twelve sections, each section ruled and watched over by a local God. Or, Titan? This one Cirocco decides to call “Rhea”, and She’s one of the nicer ones: this is Gaea’s version of the Shire, all green lawns and safe woods…but there are other places Cirocco might have ended up. Where the rest of her crew has ended up. She goes on a trek to see the local oracle of the My Little Ponies…and what a strange bunch they are, alien in a way Cirocco could never in a million years have anticipated! Shockingly intimate aliens, cute with their big blue eyes and long lashes, tremulous around her, tenderly aroused…and seething in their tragic souls from the indignity of it all, until they clash violently with one another, in duels and border wars. Toys; fakes. That’s how they look to Cirocco, how they cannot help but look. But the problem is, that’s also how they look to themselves. “As flies to wanton boys, so are we to the Gods…”

    Eventually the lair of the oracle-horsie is reached, and it’s revealed that each of Cirocco’s crew has landed in a different sub-region of Gaea’s vast expanse; and has become tied to the local life there, in much the same way Cirocco’s biology has become a part of the local life in Rhea. Well, that’s just how it works, when one enters Gaea! Because Gaea is a living system: there can be no “aliens” inside Her.

    And now Gaea, speaking through Rhea, speaking through the Oracle, has an offer for Cirocco: hey, go and do this quest for me, gather twelve special stones for me from each of the regions, and bring them to the North Polar Region where My central core is kept…and I’ll operate on you in such a way as to return the My Little Ponies to how they were before you arrived – no longer dependent upon you for their next generation. And along the way you can pick up your friends, and I’ll fix them too. And then I’ll make a new spaceship for you, and you can all leave. Because I don’t really want you here, you were brought in accidentally … millenia ago, a rare large meteor impact damaged Me, and now some of my sub-regional processors have gone schismatic, functions that used to be voluntary have defaulted to automatic, all external communications are disabled, defence functions are running wild, some subregions I can’t even speak through, Rhea’s the one in best working order that’s left, wherever they are your friends will be much more plugged-in to the local ecology than I am…and the “special stones” are the regional computer cores that I need to reprogram Myself to get everything working properly again.

    Sounds simple, right?

    Yeah…that’s what Cirocco thinks too. But does she have any other choices? Not really.

    So off she goes to find her friends, and it turns out the mellow biologist has bonded with voiceless blimp-creatures that roam Gaea’s skies, only touching down to die and to mate…it turns out one of the twins has bonded with a predatory avian species, it turns out the other has bonded to an underwater one…the engineer’s bonded to some charismatic plant-life, the pilot’s bonded with desert scavengers to whom water is deadly poison, and the astronomer has come out in a “dead” region of Gaea and has thus bonded to nothing. Except, perhaps, Cirocco herself. Thus, she’s the only member of the crew without a wildly different agenda from the one they came here with – the bone loss reversed, the genetic damage from radiation no longer a concern, all that meticulously plotted team-building gone in an instant, as they all wake to new lives, and new connections.

    Gaby, the basket-case astronomer, is now the voice of sanity…but no one listens except the Captain. Everybody else has become distant, occasionally dangerous, by normal standards “damaged” because altered in fundamental ways…as far as they’re concerned there is no mission anymore, and they don’t want to be returned to it. Plus all those carefully-designed flaws and tensions, in this new environment do not cause the group to compactify but to sizzle with resentments instead: outside the cage of their ship, with the chain of command fatally disrupted, the past is all provocation and no peace.

    But one thing’s the same: Cirocco’s still the Bitch. And so she makes them help her, and as in Season One we are treated to the expert assessment of the science of exotic life, the formulation of a clear set of theories about where they are, what’s it all for, how does it work, etc. Even as the crew inevitably acts out and falls apart, as it all goes a bit Two Towers and there are fractures and disasters and attacks and abandonments, until only Cirocco and Gaby are left. Still relatively sane, at least by the standards they started out with…and between themselves concocting something like a Desperate Plan. The slope of Pellucidar rises as they make their way “north” to the Central Core, visiting Gaea’s ever more strange sub-brains along the way…and when they finally get to where they’re going?

    The big secret is, Gaea’s crazy, has been going crazy for about 200,000 years, and many of her sub-brains are rebelling against Her…while she in Her turn is trying to wipe them out and replace them. She never intended to return Cirocco’s crew to space, it was all a ploy – she’s become addicted to the transmissions she receives from Earth, she treats her entire environment as a movie studio, a toy-manufacturing company, it’s all about Her own entertainment, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! Grab the convenient aliens from outside, mess them up internally so they’ll do what’s desired, give Ripley a Quest and a Sidekick and along the way prep her companions to take over the Titanic regional functions. What she plans to do, is offer Cirocco is a deal: permanent Hero status, Gaea’a own body as a pleasure-resort for disaffected Earthpeople, with Cirocco as liaison-troubleshooter … middle management, with exciting new powers. Trade with Earth, from Gaea’s vast technological cornucopia, and Cirocco as its Commissioner.

    You see where it all breaks down.

    Well, so do Cirocco and Gaby; by the time they get to the Big Reveal, it’s already old news to them, and they’re unimpressed. Because here’s what they’ve figured out, along their way: that what the big brains on Earth discovered about life on Titan (remember Titan?) was that it was far too suspiciously like Inner System life where it shouldn’t have been…that’s what Cirocco and Co. were sent out to investigate the cause of, and that cause is just what they’ve found. Gaea is the biggest and most complex biomechanical organism anybody’s ever dreamt of, but what is she really? Gaby theorizes an ancient alien culture that sent out panspermic accelerators into the Galactic disc, vast biological factory-stations that sampled Darwinian life, absorbed it, tinkered with it randomly, re-released it…waited a few million years and then rinsed and repeated until Life had been given an appropriate boost. And then shut itself down, waiting for life to one day find it. And that’s why Titan’s life-fingerprint is so uncannily similar to Earth’s.

    But Gaea has been damaged, just as she said, and the system just went on running … and running and running, with total lack of imagination. Gaea’s a media-junkie because all She knows how to do is cut-and-paste; the organisms inside her are toylike because toys are all Gaea knows how to make – hard Darwinian life is innovative, but the panspermic programme is not, and that’s Gaea’s great weakness. And her great threat: because this bio-factory technology is dangerous to Life if left running long enough, this is pre-Life technology only, and it is not meant to fall into our hands.

    But now it has. So, what to do about it? There’s only one answer.

    Gaea must die.

    End Season Two.

  9. AND START SEASON THREE?!? Oh my goodness, now this is rather odd, Jonathan…it’s been a long time since I read Titan, but one thing I do remember quite clearly is that the characters didn’t have relationships so much as they simply had sex, in the slightly unsettling Niven/Heinlein mode…but you bring it into pleasingly sharp relief here: “non-Darwinian” Gaea confuses sex with complex relationships, is in essence a piss-poor scriptwriter.

    Some metacommentary in here, perhaps?

    I think what I like best here is the idea that their toy-like nature and hypercontrolling sexuality is an affront to the poor creatures Gaea has made…true prisoners of genetics, the Sisyphean overtones here make it apparent that this is the story, the dumb and borderline-evil bio-collage Gaea cooks up in the first place…

    Whoops, game’s on! More in a tick. Marvellous reimagining here!

  10. Look, sometime I’m going to fill out my pet rant, Why Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the Most Profound Science Fiction Movie Ever. Summary: Why? Because it proposes that romantic love is a common — because mutual — value term between selves of organic and mechanical origins, which is available when analysis and preconception have failed to spark a really truly I-Thou connection. Each other is the sexual pronoun.

    You can read Season Two as Gaea trying to open communications by getting in the aliens’ pants. A natural thing for her to do, because what is a lively package of bio-information more likely to be than a spermatzoon? I didn’t have the guts to make my pitch a love story overtly, but I think Season Three ought to broach the question, as in ST:TMP, Has this explorer been swallowed alive, or is he/she shacking up?

  11. Hmm, well, that’s…

    …Actually a bit more Varleyan than I remember Titan being, actually!

    Gonna have to sit down and think about this one a bit!

  12. I can’t squeeze any more out of “Phosphorescent Beetles” than I already have, but I have another space-is-Canadian idea I might as well throw out here. Not very well-developed, but I think it’s kind of cool.

    Let’s say that it’s the future. A century or two in the future. Civilization is well-established in space, and our main characters (on one level) are little kids in space-elementary school on a space station. (This is a kids show we’re dealing with here.) Every episode, they go to the space-library for space-storytime, and the space-librarian tells them a folk-tale about how Big Joe Mufferaw, Sam Slick, and Gunpowder Gertie (the Pirate Queen of the Kootenays) hijacked the Chaleur Phantom and steered it up Reversing Falls to become the first people in space, and about all the wild things they did there. (You can search for all that stuff online if you’ve never heard of it.)

    They dug the Spiral Canyons on Arcturus-3; they (accidentally!) knocked over the Glittering Towers on Dubhe-6, creating the Salt Plains; they got hungry for timortens one day and baked the Pleiades Torus. They’re the first ones to make friends with the ver’Sher’ver, and the first ones to run afoul of the Xxa!pic (when Big Joe beats Tricky Rick Xxa!pic in an arm-wrestling match). And so on; you get the idea. I don’t see it as a particularly rigorous sci-fi show; more on the level of Rocket Robin Hood or something. But there’s still room for subtlety here, as you can imply a lot of complex stuff about the kind of society the kids live in from the stories being told to them.

  13. HA!!

    I assume the personalities/appearances of the kids are intermixed with the fantasy Space-Canadians they hear stories about? I could so easily see this as a show on YTV. This is actually much sweeter stuff than I think it appears, Matthew: a folk-story pantheon full of fake Paul Bunyans and Thors and Johnny Appleseeds, somewhat reminiscent of what Kim Stanley Robinson did in Red Mars…with an almost unforgivably patriotic slant I can’t help but really love. Also you betray your Legion-adoring background here too, if I don’t miss my guess? Or at least “Amazing Tales Of Krypton”?

    You didn’t flesh it out with the personalities of the kids, but I can imagine them anyway, so I love it. It’s incredibly perfect. See, I knew you had one more in you! Bravo!

  14. fake Paul Bunyans

    Interesting you should say that, since Paul Bunyan was invented by an ad agency someplace, or something like that, and Joseph Montferrand was a real guy.

    I assume the personalities/appearances of the kids are intermixed with the fantasy Space-Canadians they hear stories about?

    Uh… Sure! Why not?

    Also you betray your Legion-adoring background here too, if I don’t miss my guess? Or at least “Amazing Tales Of Krypton”?

    Actually one thing I kinda had in mind was the JLA issue from the late satellite era, drawn by Infantino, where some kid goes to the Space Museum and hears the story of how the JLA beats Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast.

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

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