Fans: Not A Fan

Star Trek wasn’t hugely popular right off the bat, or even for a long time. The first series, after all, lasted only three years and had to fight for survival for most of that time. But it did catch on hugely with us fans; many of us fell in love right away.

From an early point even within the fan community, let alone to mundanes, some of us were careful to identify as Trekkers rather than Trekkies. As I used to put it, “Trekkers are grown ups who love science fiction. Trekkies own a pair of Spock ears.”

Then, because of a little movie, named Star Wars, science fiction went mainstream. And so did the divide between two rather different kinds of fans…

Let’s call them Fans and The Fannish and note that the word “fanatic” applies far more to the latter. It’s a key part of the difference.

The other key difference is the degree of self-centered ownership taken by the fannish. This often manifests as outrage when the object of their worship fails to conform to their desires.

A third important aspect of the fannish is exposed by the common nickname “fan boys” — the fannish trend strongly towards young males. (With all the testosterone-fueled idiocy that implies.)


Bustin’ some ghost ass!

One example of the worst of fannish behavior is what happened with the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters.

Firstly, there was a negative reaction to the female cast in general.

Secondly, there was a negative reaction specifically to Leslie Jones, the black female cast member.

The harassment of Ms. Jones resulted in her leaving Twitter for a while. At one point, her personal website was hacked and defaced.

The film was a box office bomb and lost money, but critics were fairly kind. I thought the movie stood on its own pretty well. I enjoyed it and give it a low Ah! rating (at worst a very high Eh! rating).

It bombed, in part, because many of the fannish felt such strong ownership for the original and were offended by the changes. Some of that is perfectly legitimate; one is allowed to resent changes to beloved canon on artistic grounds.

But much of the reaction was racism and sexism rolled into an ugly bludgeon. Mobs often bring out the worst in humanity, and the fannish are no exception. Strength in numbers works for the bad guys, too.

(The legitimate negative response shows one danger of reboots! I’ve always been a little askance at them. See Reboots.)


Another especially egregious example of fannish behavior is well-known in gaming circles: Gamergate.

(More properly, Gamergate controversy, because there’s an ant named a gamergate. As far as I know it doesn’t play computer games.)

I’m not in gamer circles, so have only heard the echoes of a distant thunder. If you’re interested in the details, read the Wiki link, but essentially it was a gender-based war with anti-PC mixed in.

The percentage of “fan boys” among the fannish is especially high when it comes to computer games, and misogyny is apparently rife, not just among fans, but within the industry. (The tech industry in general is predominantly male, which is an important related topic for discussion.)

These two examples illustrate how that third trait of the fannish, the large fraction of young males, is behind some of their uglier aspects. It’s a “young boys” club rather than an old one.


The Doctor is in!

A more recent example of misogynistic fannish stink regards the new season of Doctor Who and the first ever (finally) female The Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker.

As with Ghostbusters, the outraged fannish take issue on two related levels.

Firstly, that Doctor Who has become too much into “social justice warrior” (SJW) issues.

Secondly, The Doctor is a woman!

Perhaps it’s a testament to the overall quality of the new season (or Who in general), or that real life is too distracting right now, but fannish outrage hasn’t been terribly strong this time around. Maybe malcontent Whovians are smart enough to not make too much of this.

There have been some rumblings by various bloggers or vloggers. One (young white male) did a video about the “vandalization” of Doctor Who, which — as much as I could stomach before stopping the video and unfollowing the channel — was directed at the idea of a female The Doctor.

That video came out before the show ever aired a single episode!

Based on trailers and word of mouth, this fannish jackass decided that Doctor Who had been “vandalized.” Makes me embarrassed to be a Whovian.


The fannish in general make me embarrassed to be a science fiction fan, because they make us look bad. But the reality is that I’m, once again, embarrassed by my species. (And by white men in particular.)

I blame Star Wars, because it made science fiction mainstream. Before Lucas (B.L.) science fiction was niche and the purview mostly of the geeky. But Anno Stella Bella, it became big business, a commodity.

I have long believed in the idea that reading (good) fiction makes you a better person; reading lots of good fiction makes you a lots better person; and reading lots of good science fiction makes you a lots better and interesting person!

But most get their SF from movies and TV now, not from books. I think that matters. Perhaps a great deal.

So imagine my dismay about the 2015 Hugo awards, which were polluted by fannish foolishness.

As with Doctor Who, most of the energy was a reaction to perceptions of SJW and reverse bias. In the case of the Hugos, the presumption was that too many “affirmative action” choices were made in selecting nominees.

(I mentioned in my last post how “being PC” has become a negative accusation. Likewise, the accusation of being a “social justice warrior” as if fighting for justice is a bad thing.)

I’m sad that even literary science fiction isn’t immune to the fannish.


“Bold new worlds!” No, wait… “To infinity and beyond!” Still not right… Ah, got it! “Han shot first!”

Not all, or even most, of the fannish stink, by any means!

The line between just being a fan and being one of the fannish isn’t a line at all; one fades into the other. Fans join the fannish.

For many, it goes no further than wearing those Spock ears or dressing up as their favorite Star Wars character to stand in line for the next movie.

That’s good clean fun; more power to’m!

As I will have mentioned in my next post, I’m just not a fan of “dress up” in any of its forms (including tattoos and piercings). My sense of self and originality is entirely based on my mind, not my body or my coverings.

That’s just me. I’m definitely not prescribing it for anyone, but it does bring me to what is actually the main topic of this post.


Which is Bill Maher and his recent viral comment with regard to Stan Lee’s death:

“The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess.”

Now, full disclosure, I can’t stand Bill Maher. I think he’s ignorant, stupid, and a complete jackass. I think his comment, in terms of its timing alone, shows exactly what a fucking jackass he is.

That said, there is a bit of truth behind what he implied.

What he said was stupid. The inspiration Stan Lee afforded fans young and old is vastly greater than the modern Marvel Movies.

Someone recently asked me if I “liked Marvel,” and I had to stop and ask them exactly what they meant.

Marvel movies? Yeah, they’re fun, and nearly all watchable. Some more than others, but there have been some real gems.

Marvel TV shows? Don’t have much experience, but I got tired of Agents of SHIELD and stopped watching it. Agent Carter was pretty good.

Marvel comics (these days)? No clue; don’t read them.

R.I.P. Nuf Sed.

Marvel comics (from the old days)? Ah, now you’re talking! Those I loved!

And those are the key to the greatness of Stan Lee.

For, along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he brought us: Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, and Ant-Man.

What the fuck, I ask you, has Bill fucking Maher ever done to match that?

(Sorry, I really don’t like the guy.)

Now that I have that off my chest, the thing is that Maher had a point, and it’s one I’ve made repeatedly before about the infantilization of our culture.

When challenged by the outraged fannish (and fans), Maher doubled down:

“What I was saying is: A culture that thinks that comic books and comic book movies are profound meditations on the human condition is a dumb f—ing culture. And for people to, like, get mad at that just proves my point.”

And that, I think, is worth discussing.


Comic books have certainly grown up (starting in 1984), and many are explicitly not for kids (because of all the explicitness). Some of them are even quite amazing.

That doesn’t make them the nonpareil of literature, though.

For one thing, they’re nearly as visual as the movies and TV shows that implement them. A few movies (Sin City, Watchmen) seemingly used the comics as storyboards. Which worked very well, because the two mediums have so much in common (any they’ve informed each other).

Where I agree with Maher, especially with regard to the movies and TV shows (and video games), is that placing these things at the center of your world is, yes, pretty infantile (or at least damned childish).

Being a fan is fine, even being a little fannish is fine, but at some point it crosses a line into a fantasy bizarro world, and it’s wrong.

It’s especially wrong when you get your knickers twisted over fictional characters that you didn’t invent in the first place and certainly don’t own.


This has gotten long, but there’s more I would say about it.

I think I’ll hold off until the last episode of this season of Doctor Who airs this Sunday. I’ve been thinking of trying to write an account of the season, and where I’m leaving off here would fit in well there.

Until then.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

27 responses to “Fans: Not A Fan

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    On reboots, I think whoever is doing one needs to carefully consider how close to the original material their reboot will actually be, and whether they’ve reached the point where they should simply do something new.

    Of course, reboots happen because the name recognition provides instant mind share. But this happens because the reboot is a promise, a promise that the reboot will preserve the spirit of the original. The problem is that different people cherish different aspects of the original. To the extent the reboot changes things at all, it will inevitably disappoint some portion of the original fan base.

    Which is why a radical departure from the original should probably just instead be something new. In those cases, keeping the original name becomes a risk.

    It seems like the idea of radical reboots got a boost from the success of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, but it’s worth noting that the fandom of the original was pretty atrophied by the time of the reboot, and that it did in fact disappoint a sizable portion of that old fan base, such as it was. (The dark noir like nature of the reboot originally turned me off, until I stopped thinking of it as a remake of the original BSG and as something to evaluate on its own terms.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “On reboots, I think whoever is doing one needs to carefully consider how close to the original material their reboot will actually be, and whether they’ve reached the point where they should simply do something new.”


      I got more into this in my Reboots post, and you can kind of consider that post an agreeing comment here.

      Two TV reboots I’m watching now are Murphy Brown and Will & Grace.

      They don’t quite compare in that MB ran from 1988–1998, while W&G ran from 1998–2006. Different social eras, and the latter show is a little fresher in people’s minds. They’re also different in CBS versus NBC sitcom sensibility.

      I’m struggling to even like the rebooted Murphy Brown, whereas I’ve enjoyed the actors on W&G do their old schtick again. (Even though it does feel a little well-worn at times.) A lot has to do with how well developed the characters are on W&G.

      Bottom line is, as you say, reboots are fraught with the potential to be disasters.

      “[T]he reboot is a promise, a promise that the reboot will preserve the spirit of the original.”

      That’s a good way to put it.

      My canonical example there is the first Mission: Impossible movie. I loved the TV show, even bought the DVDs of the seasons. It combined two favorite story themes: spies and clever cons. I was expecting the movie to take me back to that.

      Which it totally didn’t, and I hated it until I made myself understand that it wasn’t actually a Mission: Impossible story at all, but some new beast. On that level, I enjoyed the ones that came after just fine. (But I will never forgive making Phelps a traitor. That is an egregious example of breaking a promise.)

      “Which is why a radical departure from the original should probably just instead be something new.”

      Yeah, it’s that whole thing of instant brand recognition versus trying to sell a new story.

      This need to relive past stories often comes off to me as a need for blankie and warm bottle. One of my key asks with stories is that they take me someplace new. I kind of don’t understand the whole nostalgia craze.

      There are so many good SF stories, original SF stories, that would make awesome movies or TV shows. Reading some of them I wonder how it is no one has adopted them, yet. (I used to wonder if I could succeed writing up script treatments introducing movie makers to all those great stories.)

      Just look at what happened with Arrival. Great short story made into a pretty good film.

      Part of the problem, I suppose, is that a film like Arrival lacks all the big CGI and city-wide destruction people seem to love. Comics a few years back began exploring the consequences of all that noise. Superman v. Batman explored it, and I think there was a TV series about bystanders. I find it hard to watch those big spectacle movies anymore without thinking about the cost of all that cinematic destruction for my benefit.

      That actually began as far back as the Lord of the Rings films. Or the Star Wars ones. All those CGI soldiers mowed down for my entertainment (with CGI wives and families waiting at home for them). Or all the innocent engineers and workers on the Death Stars…

      The older I get, the more sensitive it seems I am to mass murder for my entertainment.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On the killing of innocents in stories, I actually remember squirming a bit when I originally read the Lord of the Rings. The automatic assumption that every orc, every member of that species, was evil disturbed me. It’s a sentiment I’ve seen others express over the years, and other fantasy fiction pushed back on. (Although if you read the Silmarillion, you learn that the orcs are descended from captured elves that Morgoth (the devil in Tolkein’s mythology) genetically modified to be as nasty as possible.)

        I also read something years ago where someone actually did statistics on how much killing the good guys inflict vs the bad guys in most movies, at least on screen. It was pretty stark that the “good” guys did the vast majority of the killing. (Although in the case of the original Star Wars, Alderaan does make the baddies far worse.)

        I also saw something recently that pointed out that in the original cut of the first Star Wars movie, the rebels attacked the Death Star without any threat to their base. But it didn’t portray the heroes in a very sympathetic light. So Lucas edited in the Death Star approaching the rebel moon. When I saw this, it explained a lot of oddities I’d always noticed about the attack sequence, such as the rebel leadership not looking alarmed when the Death Star cleared Yavin.

        For a while, after the prequel movies, we actually thought the storm troopers in Star Wars were all clones. That actually made more sense to me and made the overall attitude toward them in the original movies more understandable. (Although not if you watched any of the Clone Wars episodes.) But it turns out the later ones were normal humans and that the movies just masked their humanity (literally) so we wouldn’t sympathize with them when the heroes killed them in the variety of ways they did.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I tried to read The Silmarillion, but I’m not one for that kind of background and history. My SF tastes are highly biased towards hard SF, and it takes some sort of magic sauce to grab me for fantasy.

        Which says something about how highly I regard Sir Terry Prachett’s Discworld series, since I consider it my all-time favorite SF bar none. Kind of a weird exception in my usual reading tastes, but those books are so unique and so rich with ideas.

        Also seriously deconstructive of fantasy tropes and narrative tropes in general. When characters strive to make shooting a dragon truly a “one in a million chance (but it just might work)” situation (by shooting over their shoulder while standing on one leg), because they know their only chance depends on narrative imperatives… I am well and truly hooked.

        “I also read something years ago where someone actually did statistics on how much killing the good guys inflict vs the bad guys in most movies, at least on screen.”

        Oh, that’s hysterical, and I totally believe it! (For some reason it reminds me about how cats wandering around outside are serious killing machines. Cats kill way more birds than wind turbines do.)

        (Although, yeah, there is that whole Alderaan thing. And I didn’t know about the re-cutting!)

        As you probably know, I’m a little conflicted about Star Wars. It’s never ranked that high for me, so I’ve never paid much attention to the world-building (or lack thereof). AIUI, Star Wars novels and comics and even games are considered canon, so there is a lot of world-building over time. (And lots of chances for different authors to differ!)

        I realized a few years ago, about the 50th anniversary, in fact, that I’m over Star Trek.

        It’s partly because Trek has become the same pop SF as most everything else; it’s no longer really Trek. But it’s also because, my god, 50 years of being a fan of something is plenty. I’m just tired of it.

        Lately, Doctor Who has been my favorite TV SF. I now regret not being a fan during the classic era. (As with many, it seemed so silly and low budget that it was easy to overlook the depth of the stories they were telling.)

        I seem to recall you reviewing The Expanse and liking it. The first season somehow didn’t grab me, and I stopped watching, but came back around to see most of the second season. It’s a little grimmer than I can take in my life right now, but I did find it quite engaging. Might be something I’ll stream some day.

        Like I did another SF channel (whatever it’s called now) show, Dark Matter. Did you see that? Kind of a hoot, and the premier episode sure opens with a bang. Reminded me a bit of Firefly.

        Netflix and Hulu have really opened up some nice viewing possibilities, especially with anime, which I’ve always had a soft spot for. Some of it is the weirdest storytelling I’ve ever seen!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The Silmarillion is definitely not for everyone. Honestly, if I were looking at it today, I probably couldn’t stand to read it. But when I was a teenager, Tolkien had cast a spell on me, and I couldn’t get enough of his world. I consumed The Silmarillion, then Unfinished Tales, and several other books, before finally realizing that Tolkien was a very clever literary tease. He conveyed just enough about any thing to whet your appetite, but not enough to satiate it, or to risk revealing how implausible the things he alluded to were. This isn’t a criticism, but a student admiring a master. Still, once I recognized the technique, the spell was finally broken.

        The canon of Star Wars, like any long running franchise, is actually a mess. In truth, the only canon you can count on is the movies. Promises have historically been made about comics, books, TV shows, etc, being part of the canon, but the franchise has never hesitated to blow that stuff away when it becomes inconvenient. They blew away the entire Expanded Universe (renaming it “Classic” something or other) when the new movies started, making me glad that I only lightly invested in it (reading the initial Thrawn books and nothing else).

        I’m with you on Star Trek. My issue is that it’s become more about nostalgia than exploring the future or far out concepts. I think Star Trek lost its soul after Deep Space Nine. There was some inertia into Voyager, but by Enterprise it had become backward looking, no longer a show about the future. Sad. I’m hoping the new Picard show changes that, although I won’t be shocked if it’s just as backward looking as everything else, but at least it’s primed to finally take the timeline forward if nothing else.

        I’m definitely a fan of the Expanse, but I know what you mean about its grim demeanor. For some reason, they make it grimmer than the books. I was unhappy when SyFy cancelled it, but relieved when Amazon picked it up.

        I did like Dark Matter, although a few of the episodes in the last season were bad. Still, I was seriously bummed when it was cancelled. It was a fun show.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “They blew away the entire Expanded Universe (renaming it “Classic” something or other) when the new movies started,”

        Star Trek also has classic and new. So does Doctor Who, for that matter, or Mission: Impossible, or many others.

        I guess that’s just what happens. We’ve changed ancient tales to suit modern tastes. I do somehow find it vaguely disconcerting seeing it happen to more recent stories. Maybe the pace of literary change has accelerated along with the pace of everything else?

        “I think Star Trek lost its soul after Deep Space Nine.”

        I have become increasingly fascinated by the reactions of fans, and in particular how varied those reactions are. Reading the reviews for the latest Doctor Who episodes is quite an eye-opener from that perspective. For everything some fans hate, other fans love it. I saw that a lot reading reviews of HBO’s Westworld, too.

        I think I began noticing that way back when with Star Trek, and DS9 is a particularly good example. Some fans loved it; some fans didn’t. Often for the same reasons, but with different takes.

        I was one who enjoyed DS9 okay, but stopped watching it after four or five seasons. (Many years later, I bought the DVDs and saw the whole series.) I never watched Voyager; didn’t care for it (couldn’t stand the holo-doc or Neelix or, in fact, most of the cast). I did watch Enterprise, but with a lot of raised eyebrows and head-shaking.

        I’m probably going to skip the whole Picard thing. (On some level I’m a little appalled.)

        I’ve got Netflix and Hulu, which I’ve really enjoyed. Looks like I need to get Amazon Prime (and hold my nose over their business practices) before I can cut the cable, although mostly at this point it’s a matter of insuring I can watch baseball next summer. I think Doctor Who is on Amazon, and you just mentioned The Expanse

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On Star Trek, I do know they blew away the animated series, mostly due to licensing issues. (Reportedly they didn’t want to pay royalties to Larry Niven for the Kzin, or others for similar adaptations that were mixed in.) But does the classic canon refer to the non-Kelvin timeline (i.e. the one prior to the timeline alteration in the reboot films)?

        I liked DS9, but I’ll always see it as a ripoff of Babylon 5, and that B5 was almost destroyed because people thought *it* was the ripoff. They started at the same time, and if you know what happens in each season of B5, you can see DS9 responding to them, at least until the later seasons when it charted its own course (possibly because B5 was off the air by then).

        I actually like Amazon Prime best of all the video services. It doesn’t harass you with autoplay like the Netflix one does, and it’s nice that if a movie isn’t included, you can usually rent or buy it on the spot. Amazon’s business practices can be alarming, but I love that they’ve broken the publishing cartels, and AWS has seriously changed the IT industry. (Netflix is actually hosted out of AWS, which is wild.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’d thought (at least originally), anything that aired on TV was considered canon, but nothing else was (including the movies). My memory is awful for stuff like that. I’ve always been aware of how serial story universes build like coral reefs, especially with TV.

        I see lots of good world-building going on in literary works (and TV works that borrow from them), but Trek and many others built episode by episode with only a general writer’s guide.

        That good world-building is what made Bab5 such a masterpiece. I was a huge fan of it, whereas I was just “eh, it’s okay” with DS9 (which I mentioned I eventually stopped watching).

        Poor world-building is what I think made the second season of Westworld on HBO such a disappointment to me. Individual episodes were really good, but the plot arcs were flimsy.

        I think your comment about AWS was the final feather that tipped the scales for me. I just signed up for YouTube TV and I’m going to sign up for Amazon next. Next month I tell Comcast good-bye!

        And, yeah, it’s hysterical how many things are running on AWS. (But I’m getting sick of the MLB channel, and baseball announcers, having to say “brought to you by AWS” every time they show one of those (admittedly awesome) 3D graphics overlays.

        Baseball has always been stats-crazy, and computer-generated graphics have made that lots of fun. I’ve seen some really cool use of Augmented Reality (I think it’s called) — putting CGI into a live scene. Shows the path of the baseball, speed, angle, how far a player ran to catch it, all sorts of neat stuff. (“Brought to you by AWS.”)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think I read somewhere that Gene Roddenberry didn’t consider the movies canon, except perhaps for the first one, which he produced. I definitely think Star Trek, when it excelled, excelled on the TV shows, not in the movies, which were mostly vacuous extravaganzas.

        I didn’t know AWS was advertising in that way, but then I didn’t know that baseball games were getting digitally enhanced. (My friends were amused when I belatedly discovered that the first down markers were now showing up on the screen in football games.)

        What about the worldbuilding on Westworld turned you off? I didn’t find the second season as good as the first, but a lot of it for me was all the (seemingly) pointless time in Samarai world and other random excursions.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Roddenberry didn’t consider the movies canon, except perhaps for the first one,”

        That really rings a bell. Plus, my memory (such as it is; ha!) of what was pronounced canon goes back to early TNG days when Roddenberry was around — as you suggest, it was his pronouncement. I can well imagine that being revised down the road.

        Yeah, the movies were varying degrees of disappointing. First Contact and Voyage Home were a lot of fun, but even those don’t rank high in my esteem.

        “I belatedly discovered that the first down markers were now showing up on the screen in football games.”

        In fact, that’s where it all began for that sort of thing! The 1st & Ten system; the technology behind it is pretty cool (at least to a GFX geek like me).

        Recent technology has seriously advanced what they can do. One of the latest tricks is using the data from multiple fixed cameras to build a 3D model of a snapshot of live action. Within that snapshot, they can place a virtual camera nearly anywhere, including moving it around. The effect is downright Matrix-like.

        I don’t watch football, so I have no idea what graphics are like these days, but probably some advanced stuff, too. I do watch some NASCAR, and that’s really changed, too. Onboard telemetry and cameras add a whole new level. (“Brought to you by AWS!” 😀 )

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “One of the latest tricks is using the data from multiple fixed cameras to build a 3D model of a snapshot of live action.”

        That’s pretty cool. It’s like the camera system builds an understanding of the scene and then makes that understanding available. Sounds like we’re heading to a situation where we’ll get a real time reconstruction of the game rather than the game itself.

        I have seen those onboard camera shots in Nascar and love them! It sometimes gives the whole thing a Road Warrior feel.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “It’s like the camera system builds an understanding of the scene and then makes that understanding available.”

        Yep, exactly. It’s easier if the cameras are in known, fixed positions, but I’ve seen it done with collections of random still photos, too. Amazing the software can figure out the 3D model from a bunch of 2D stills.

        The NASCAR stuff is fun! I haven’t explored this, but I believe there are websites where you can pick the driver and see all the telemetry and camera feeds. Watching ESPN, you get what they show you. Maybe next time I get sucked into watching a race.

        (I can’t understand why I find NASCAR so interesting, but I do. In part it’s because I keep trying to figure the road rules and point system just by watching. One of these days I really should look that stuff up.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “What about the worldbuilding on Westworld turned you off?”

        😀 😀 😀

        Have you got some time?

        Reverse order works best here. The first one (or two (or three)) should answer your question (and then some). You can read the others if you find it at all interesting.

        I kinda got into it. I really loved the first season, and I’d bought the 4K HDR DVD BluRay version of the first season to feast on (with my new 65″ OLED TV) before the second season (and it had been so long)…

        Many individual episodes were outstanding. Even the trip to Shōgun World (ultimately, as you say, a pointless waste) was cute in how it was Sweetwater East (which Maeve teases Lee Sizemore about). But the story arc being told seemed more and more incoherent.

        Not that season one is perfect, but to me it seems considerably more coherent. FWIW, I wrote a lot about season one:

        And a crapload more. There’s a post breaking each season one episode down in detail and unweaving the timelines. And there’s some posts I wrote during or shortly after the first season when a lot of us were trying to guess WTF.

        I’m hoping it was just “sophomore slump” and that they get their act together for season three!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Wow. You really got into that show. Reading that first post, I suddenly realize just how much I’ve forgotten since the season wrapped. But I agree with most of your points.

        One of the things I did like about the show is that they found a good way to make the robot revolt realistic. The hosts were designed to be as human as possible, feeling all the joys, fear, and pain of actual people, and it’s heavily implied that Arnold and Ford snuck in the extra functionality to close any gaps. Much better, at least from my point of view, than your garden variety Terminator type stories.

        Given that the rest of the series won’t actually take place in Westworld, I wonder if they’ll still call it “Westworld”. (If they twist the story to make it actually take place in some new version of the Westworld park, they may lose me.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I really did (get into it). I thought season one was one of the best TV SF series I’d ever seen.

        Definitely way better robots than Terminator (or many other robot stories).

        Maeve and Stubbs (and Charlotte and Sylvester and Felix) are all still on the island, plus there are two parks we don’t even know what they are, yet. At a WAG, maybe Maeve leads a rebellion of “good” robots against Dolores’ “evil” plans to dominate mankind.

        Bernard and Dolores (plus whoever is in Hale’s body now, plus the other four pearls, plus anyone Bernard or Dolores recreates) being on the outside will definitely change the dynamic! I’m not sure that conflicts that much with the name of the show for me. “A rose by any other name?” [shrug]

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I might have to do a re-watch at some point. I totally didn’t remember that all those characters were still on the island.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        A lot to be said about re-watching. In some cases (like The Sixth Sense) it’s like watching two different stories, while it’s subtle in others — you just notice stuff you didn’t before or see the whole thing in a new light. It’s also a pretty good barometer for quality; the good ones bear re-watching.

        I just re-watched Kerblam!, the only episode I’ve re-watched other than the premiere. The episode’s secret is enough to make the difference strong, but even outside that I noticed new things, so well worth it.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I know what you mean about different stories. I had the same experience the second time I watched ‘The Usual Suspects’ or the good Shyamalan movies.

        The problem with re-watching a TV show is the amount of time it takes. Sometimes they’ll come on as reruns and I’ll have them on in the background while I’m doing other things, but I’m rarely willing to commit my full attention for that much time to something I’ve already seen, at least unless it’s been several years since I last saw it.

        That said, studying how master story tellers handle foreshadowing can definitely be worth the time. This will be a lot easier when I get to retirement.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha! Retirement definitely provides more time! The limit now is how long I’m willing to sit and stare at the screen. I find it hard to binge watch a show, too. After five episodes of anything I want (to at least watch) something else.

        The time it takes to re-watch, as you say, is time one could spend watching something new, so it’s something I only do on stuff I really like or on stories (indeed, such as The Usual Suspects) that seem to call for it, where there is such a strong sense of their being two stories.

        I wonder, too, if a background in music and performance — and hence huge familiarity with rehearsal — makes one more prone to consider re-watching valuable? There is a trade-off between learning something entirely new or learning more about something known.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m 18.5 months away from retirement eligibility (not that anyone’s keep track or anything (¬_¬) .

        I think anytime someone has practitioner experience in art or activity, it gives them something additional about it to be interested in as a spectator. I’m more interested in billiards or volleyball when they come on ESPN because I’ve played my share of those games before. And I tend to read news of IT issues with a bit more interest because I’m in the profession.

        And when I started reading about story structure, I looked at movies and books a bit differently. So it makes complete sense to me that someone who’s been involved in film or stage production would be prone to re-watch with an eye on the craft. (Assuming that’s what you meant.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “So it makes complete sense to me that someone who’s been involved in film or stage production would be prone to re-watch with an eye on the craft. (Assuming that’s what you meant.)”

        What you say is very true also, but it wasn’t what I was getting at.

        Musicians, athletes, and people involved in stage production (and to a slightly lesser extent, TV and movies) all have in common a professional life involving lots of rehearsal, of repeating an act over and over in search of perfection and understanding.

        That old saw about insanity being repeating the same act over and over expecting different results seems dead wrong in that context. The whole point of rehearsal is that you do get different results doing the same thing over and over.

        I was getting more at the contrast between the view that repeating something is a waste of time tantamount to insanity versus the view that finds value in repetition and wondering if my background makes me place higher-than-average value in re-reading and re-watching. (There is also a bit of a connection to the short story behind the movie Arrival. The idea that knowing what will happen doesn’t necessarily “ruin” things.)

        Back before Westworld season two aired, I re-watched season one and wrote up a fairly detailed account of each episode (one post per). I also tried to de-tangle the timelines in those posts and later wrote a timeline post.

        Point is, I watched each episode at least four times. Usually once to get it in mind and take rough notes and then immediately again to take more detailed notes. Then a write-up which usually raised points I’d missed, so another viewing or two for little details. (And that’s after having watched the episodes usually twice when they first aired.)

        And maybe I’m just not very good at this review stuff — sometimes I think I’m really not — but I was definitely seeing things I’d missed in previous viewings. (Being a fairly emotional creature, it’s easy for me to get caught up in the story.)

        Some of that is how complex the show is. Almost everything in it ties to something else or has special meaning of some kind. The thought and effort put into that show is really something. (Which makes the issues with season two weird. What happened?)

        Compare it, perhaps, to how much time you might spend going over your fiction writing. The number of times you’ve re-visited a scene or even re-written it. All those visits create a deeper and deeper understanding of the scene.

        The point you made about viewing a subject you know with greater interest is quite true, as well.

        Someone once asked me if knowing how movies were made didn’t ruin them for me. It usually doesn’t, although it can if the production values are particularly poor. It can also redeem something that’s bad in writing or performing if the production values are particularly good.

        (Honestly, a lot of superhero (and SF) movies fall into this category for me: A story that isn’t very interesting or fresh, but a watchable production.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Ah, got it. Thanks. The writing comparison makes me think of Tolkien again. He reworked his stories for decades, constantly fine tuning them, adding new nuances, and producing work that everyone recognizes has extraordinary depth.

        Although I think this can be taken too far. Tolkien’s case is an interesting example. It led to extraordinary work. But his son published early drafts of both his legendarium and LOTR, and I often found some of the earlier versions, while perhaps rougher around the edges, to exude a kind spontaneity and energy less evident in the final versions. (Although in the case of the Silmarillion, separating Tolkien’s vision from his son’s necessarily heavy posthumous editing is problematic.)

        The trick with repetition seems to be finding the right balance, the sweet spot. Although with a complex stage production, I can see the right balance might being a lot higher.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        There is a thing about over-preparing as an actor, which has a lot to do with “going stale” or “becoming robotic,” but can also involve a kind of second-guessing. I read about a study once that found first guesses to be more accurate (in general!) than second guesses. Our first impressions, which we might be inclined to write off as impulsive, turn out to be more thoughtful than we realize.

        It aligns with studies that show we often decide something sub-consciously and then consciously create a story to “explain” our choice. (Which also brings in the whole free will discussion.)

        This second-guessing, versus polishing and refining, is what I think you’re getting at with Tolkien and other writers. I’ve encountered it with my non-fiction writing; one refines and refines until one is no longer sure of what works and what doesn’t.

        And I swear, some of my best writing is the stuff that flowed and which I didn’t go back and edit to death. A typo, a word choice, a missing comma, little stuff, sure, but no re-working paragraphs or mass reconstruction. Posts that get re-worked that heavily often just get deleted, because I obviously didn’t know what I wanted to say.

        Musicians and athletes, repetition in their case is probably better termed “practice” which is quite different from reworking something. Even so, musicians can still go stale or become robotic. I’m not sure about athletes. Certainly practice until exhaustion can be a problem, but maybe they are least prone to problems with over much repetition?

        And I realize we’re actually talking about three different kinds of repetition here. There’s the repetition of practice, which probably suffers least from too muchness. There’s the repetition of reworking something, which can definitely have second-guessing issues. And there’s the repetition of re-watching or re-reading, where we started, where maybe the main issue is the time sink (and how it takes away from something new you could watch… that more than the time issue is what gets me).

        The complex stage production has elements of all. The stage hands who have to enact the complexity probably benefit from as much practice as possible. There can be the reworking sense as the creators figure out how to do certain things. And of course the actors are refining their characters, which comes closest to the writing sense you mentioned, and is prone to sweet spot issues.

  • mwlange

    With regards to infantilization of comic culture, I wonder if it’s trying to have the argument both ways. For example, Maus won a Pulitzer Prize for literature. No other graphic novel has won since because the rules got changed. Maher states this predetermined notion that comics can’t be profound for no particular reason at all, and in spite of some decent works to the contrary.

    I don’t think that fandoms are to blame for the infantilization of culture. At least, I think it’s more complicated than just seeing a bunch of petulant fans screaming every time they don’t get their favorite toy the way they want it. Some of it has to do with Hollywood’s aversion to take risks in an increasingly competitive entertainment market. Some of it also has to do with toxic fans being able to organize like never before.

    My hope is that the toxic members of fan culture are just being unfairly inflated here. Like alt-righters and social injustice warriors (see what I did there?), the things they say make for great abuse of social media algorithms and sensationalist journalism. They’ve existed for a while (check out Mallrats; Stan Lee made a cameo in it, too).

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “Maher states this predetermined notion that comics can’t be profound for no particular reason at all, and in spite of some decent works to the contrary.”

      I think, too, Maher is focusing on the movies, which have the same relation to their source material as any movie adaptation has to its source. (Although a few have really honored their source. I’m a big fan of both the original Watchmen and the movie version.)

      There’s no doubt some graphic stories are as good as anything you’d find in storytelling, but the huge bulk is turned out almost assembly line fashion. A fair comparison might be pop music or basic sitcoms — well explored ground and usually not all that interesting to begin with. But then someone with real talent and skill comes along and takes the medium to new heights.

      “I don’t think that fandoms are to blame for the infantilization of culture.”

      I quite agree it’s much more complicated! The infantilization of culture is much bigger than any fan issues or choices Hollywood makes. At its root, I think it’s a reaction to modern technology and globalization. People are confused and scared (FUD!), so they seek security and certainty in mental “comfort food” such as video games, superheroes, and fantasies with dragons. Or robots.

      Hollywood is indeed a big chicken. Admittedly the stakes are high, and they’re confounded by never knowing what the fickle public will go for. So we get bland safe stuff.

      And, yeah, the ability the interweb gives fringe groups to gain strength through numbers is definitely one of the unintended consequences! It’s gotten to be, as you say, a real problem.

      I’m a pretty big Kevin Smith fan (although Jersey Girl showed his limits). Do love the Jay and Silent Bob stuff, and Mallrats, which I found a lot of fun, is often under-rated by fans. Dogma is my favorite, though.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    In retrospect, it’s sad that the controversy over a female The Doctor made serious discussion about how bad the writing was almost impossible. Any attempt to criticize the writing was taken as criticism of actors or casting.

    This has happened again with the She-Hulk TV series and the Amazon Lord of the Rings prequel. Sadly, in all three cases, the writing deserves serious criticizing. But that’s lost in the controversy.

  • Friday Notes (Sep 23, 2022) | Logos con carne

    […] than the sociopolitical channels. Frankly, a lot of SF fans give science fiction a bad name. [See: Fans: Not a Fan] The inability to abide different opinions, and the ugly personal attacks that follow, are […]

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