The previous posts avoided spoilers and talked about HBO’s Westworld in general terms of its themes and characters — stuff that is apparent just from the trailers and basic setup. This post isn’t like that! Do not read this post unless you’ve seen all of season one!
Or unless you really like spoilers or just don’t care about the series. But if you do, you should trust me on this: You do not want this spoiled! It may even be all the better if you avoid any interweb discussion … the fans really did figure out some of the secrets before their big reveal. (On the other hand, the show’s creators have made it clear the truth was always in plain view. And so it was.)
Here are my questions and observations about the last episode and the season as a whole. I think we all have a few questions…
In the previous post I wrote about some of the general themes I saw in HBO’s Westworld. Such big picture topics are inherent in the basic description of the series — intelligent robots used as playthings — and don’t require spoiling plot points or character revelations. Everything I wrote about in the last post is part of the general context of the show.
In this post I want to look more closely at things that struck me in particular, but it requires exposing certain aspects of character or implementation that could count as spoilers if one is very strictly trying to avoid knowing anything about the show.
But if you have some idea about what’s going on, maybe just from trailers, this post shouldn’t spoil anything for you. I won’t give away any of the big secrets or reveals.
Way back in 1958, science fiction author and critic Theodore Sturgeon coined the term Sturgeon’s Revelation. Which is that “90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.” This became known as Sturgeon’s Law while Theodore’s actual law (from a 1956 story) — that “nothing is always absolutely so” — is forgotten. (Philosopher Daniel Dennett expanded the Law to say that 90% of everything is crap!)
I’ve always found this applies especially to science fiction TV. And in this Anno Stella Bella era, there is a lot of SF TV, so naturally there is a lot of crap. (Honestly, I don’t even pay attention to the SyFy channel anymore.)
Happily: HBO’s Westworld … not crap! In fact, it’s a gem that offers many facets worthy of (non-spoiler) thought and discussion…
So,… I finally saw the most recent Star Wars movie the other night (it has already made its way to cable; meanwhile, I’m still waiting for Interstellar and Ex Machina to show up). Those who know my value system with regard to science fiction, with regard to movies, and especially with regard to science fiction movies, warned me I that I probably wouldn’t like it very much.
But I already knew that was likely just because of who directed it (same guy who nailed the Star Trek coffin shut), so I approached watching it with very low expectations and without any oxen to gore (since I was never really a fan and never really got into the characters or story).
And even so I still really disliked it. A whole bunch.
A long time ago (nearly four years!) I wrote a post about my high school English teacher, Mrs. McGee (see The Love Connection) and a short story I’d written in her class. I complained in my post that she’d given me a low grade on the story because she objected to its conclusion.
Turns out my memory about the objection is correct, but she give me an ‘A’ on the paper anyway. (In fact, she compared the writing to Chekhov’s The Seagull … kinda sorta.)
I wanted to share it years ago, but didn’t know where it was. I found it just last week, and here it is:
Blessed be the Force!
As long as I’ve been picking my own reading material, a huge fraction of it has science fiction. I’ve been doing that picking since about 1963-ish, so let’s just call it 50+ years. Up until around the mid 1990s, it would have been hard to name a science fiction book or movie I didn’t know (and in many cases, own).
But somewhere near the end of the last century science fiction became a full-fledged mass-produced commodity that through sheer over-exposure became dull and uninteresting. In a way, I blame George Lucas and Star Wars, so I split SF into two eras:
Before Lucas (B.L.) and Anno Stella Bella (ASB).
It’s been a wait of almost a year (the last episode of season 8 aired in November 2014), but The Doctor is finally back! The best science fiction show ever on TV continues to deliver with a gripping and engaging cliffhanger first episode for season nine.
You may know about the Drake Equation, which is an attempt to quantify the number of intelligent species that evolve in a galaxy. Depending on how you set the parameters, the answer varies from “lots!” to “almost none.” The first answer leads to Fermi’s Paradox: Okay, if there are lots of aliens… where are they? So far we’ve seen no signs (pardon the reference).
If you read science fiction you may also be familiar with the idea of Ancient Alien Ancestors (AAA) who are now long gone leaving only a legend. Sometimes there are The Ancients (now long absent), the current Elder Races (powerful, not always wise, not always kind), and the Younger Races (which Earthlings invariably belong to).
But what if we are those Ancient Ancestors?
As a memorial to the loss of my favorite voice in fiction, I’ve been doing a Sir Terry Pratchett Discworld memorial read. I’d been planning to read the Witches novels again anyway, so I did that and then went on to read the Rincewind novels. Now I’m working my way through the rest in chronological order. I just finished Hogfather.
This time, as I go, I’m leaving tape flags behind to mark bits I especially liked and plan to share (and record) here. Part of what is so engaging about the Discworld novels is how intelligent and perceptive the writing is. Pratchett was a brilliant writer. After reading these books many times I’m still learning to appreciate his genius.
Today I thought I’d share some of those flagged bits with you.
Movies, for a variety of reasons, are hard to make. They’re even harder to get right. Science fiction and fantasy are also hard to get right — in addition to all the other challenges of storytelling, they require much more imagination and invention than fiction based on reality or history. This, in large part, accounts for the truth of Sturgeon’s Law.
So it’s not often that a science fiction movie gets all the notes exactly right. Many are lucky if they have just a few good ones that make the film worth seeing. A very rare few get enough right to make an SF film notable. (For my money, Elysium and Oblivion are recent good examples, and Ender’s Game and Edge of Tomorrow weren’t bad.)
And once in a blue moon a film gets it so right that the horse sings.