Sunday, October 18, 2009

So what if Charles Stross hates Star Trek?

SF fans have been, well, agitated about Charles Stross' blog post where he declares that he hates Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica. Doesn't seem to matter that he admits to have never seen the latter two or maybe that's just the first warning sign that while he has a point, he's taking it to ridiculous lengths. Yep, Star Trek has a lot of technobabble and usually ill-disguised t.b. at that. And yep most incarnations of Star Trek are mediocre at best, the original included. But it looks like Stross just wants to whine a bit. Just look at his comment 197 where he says B5 is a "FAIL" because each alien race has its own culture while humans have thousands. But does he really expect the show (or a novel even) to display maybe 15 cultures, giving three per race. Or should that be 1015 adding in the humans? Not really and clearly he's just letting his argument get away from him.

But where he's missing the point is that unicultured aliens and technobabble don't necessarily invalidate the story, even as SF. Just think of non-SF novels about culture clashes such as White Teeth or The American or Midnight's Children. They work just fine portraying just two or three cultures. And isn't all the nautical terms in, say, Moby-Dick or an Aubrey-Maturin novel just technobabble? Admittedly based on actual technology but for the vast majority of readers no different from dilithium crystals and actually far more confusing (and therefore a hinderance to the story).

There's no point reading too much into a blog post that Stross probably didn't spend much effort writing but he doesn't back away from it. The bigger issue that apparently eluded him almost entirely is that film & TV aren't the most effective media for SF, that they date so much faster than written SF but more importantly those forms of storytelling tend to downplay the very elements that make SF into SF.