Why all the hate for Star Trek: Discovery?

As one of the people who really isn’t a fan of Star Trek: Discovery I thought I might articulate why I dislike the show so much. It has come up in a number of different forums so it seems like it is worth saying.

So lets start with something positive. I think Discovery looks gorgeous, the effects are top notch, the costuming and the makeup is likewise very well done. Everything just looks beautiful. I get why people may not like the Klingons and the changes that were made, but in terms of makeup and costuming for them, it really is well done. I cannot fault them for going the distance on making it look gorgeous.

The problem is that they took this and then wasted it on bad writing and poor direction. I would really like to know which person thought long stilted sections of subtitled Klingon was a good idea. Every scene in the show with long sections of subtitled Klingon just drives me up the wall. Why they didn’t just subtitle first couple of lines and then do the usual “Klingon English” they have always done (Normal English with “Qapla!” and the like thrown in every so often) is a mystery to me. The Klingon scenes would be much more enjoyable if they had done this and they wouldn’t drag like they do.

The other major complaint I have is with the writing. The show is slow, and I like old school B&W Twilight zone and Outer Limits, so my tolerance for slow is fairly high, but this show is paced like treacle. On top of that, the characters are inconsistent and badly so. There are two examples from the two part pilot that illustrate the problem.
In the pilot Captain Georgiou, and First Officer Burnham come to blows over how to deal with the Klingons and this sets off a series of events that hilight just how awful the writing is. At first Burnham has credible evidence that attacking the Klingons is the right course of action, a punch in the nose to demonstrate Starfleet is not a push over. Georgiou reacts with horror at the suggestion of shooting first, going so far as to say that Starfleet would never do that. Even though there is good evidence to suggest that the Klingons will treat this as an act of weakness and start hostilities as a result. She puts her principles and commitment to nonaggression above the safety of her crew. This is a principle she thinks it is worth sacrificing her life to uphold. Whether you agree with the choice or not, the Captain has been setup as a character who values her honour and integrity above even her own life.

Next we have First Officer Burnham who tries to stage a mutiny in an effort to stop the Captain making a tragic mistake. She is literally trying to prevent a war and is willing to risk everything, her career, her life and her friendship with the Captain to do it. She likewise has been setup as a character who is willing to sacrifice everything she holds dear in an effort to prevent a preventable war.

I can respect both characters commitment to doing what they believe is right even to the point of sacrificing everything they hold dear. Then the writers have these two characters engage in wildly out of character behaviour. The Capitan, the women who would risk her like and the lives of her crew to uphold a principle of non-aggression engages in something that when done on earth is regarded as a particularly dishonourable and heinous war crime. She booby-traps a dead Klingon to gain a tactical advantage. First Officer Burnham likewise says it is absolutely imperative they not kill the Klingon leader but capture him, or else they will turn him into a martyr and make the war worse. Then Burnham, after stressing the need not to harm him, goes and deliberately switches her phaser to kill and shoots him.

I can believe a character would not fire first on principle and I can believe a character would bobby trap the dead as an action of desperation when their back is to the wall in an effort to survive. I can believe a character would throw away everything dear to her in an effort to prevent a war and save lives, and I can believe a character would kill an enemy who murdered her friend even knowing it would start a war. But in both cases, I cannot believe the same character would do such wildly different things in each case though. If Captain Georgiou was willing to risk everybody’s lives in an effort to do the honourable thing and not fire first, she wouldn’t do one of the most dishonourable things, desecrating war dead. If First Officer Burnham would throw away everything to prevent a war, she would not then throw that away in a moment of anger.

At this point in the conversation I’m usually told, “Well just don’t watch it then” but it isn’t that simple. I grew up on Star Trek The Next Generation, I’ve watched all 28 Seasons of live action Star Trek plus all 13 movies and enjoyed it all (Mostly, nothing is perfect but overall the experience was positive). I’ve also watched a lot of the fan made continuing material and have found that to often be excellent. So I really wanted Star Trek Discovery to be good. I keep watching it hoping they will turn it around and in the end I will look back and go “Wow … this is the best series of Star Trek ever!” even just, “Hey that was fun, I would watch it again.” I keep wanting the writing to justify the effects budget.

But more than that, I don’t want it to descend into a morass of heavy-handed social justice nonsense like Marvel comics have. Marvel has degenerated into pushing the fashionable nonsense of the week and this is done at the expense of story telling. Star Trek has often been preachy in the past, and rarely in a direction I liked, but I still enjoyed the show because good storytelling can over come that. I dont want it to become tainted with such nonsense because it will ruin all of it. All of it will become infected as a result and that will be tragic. The legacy of Star Trek will be damaged and it will all become less enjoyable because you know where it ended and how it was ruined.

So I keep watching hoping I will be proved wrong, that my fears will not be realised, because the day I turn it off and say “i’m done with this, its garbage” will be the day Star Trek as a whole will be dimished for me and all of it will be made less enjoyable knowing how it ended. I really wanted it to be amazing and hope it will turn around and that disappointment is what drives the hate for what has been produced, because it should have been amazing.

Astounding Frontiers Issue #4 is out now!

In Astounding Frontiers Issue 4 we bring you more of the pulpy goodness with stories from Julie Frost and Brian Niemeier as well as continuing serials from Ben Wheeler and Corey McCleery. We also have a new pulp serial, Hard Moon from David Hallquist as well as an article by Pulp expert Jeffro Johnson.

Please join us in travelling to Astounding Frontiers!

Why do lady SF writers suck?

Before you seek to lynch me, let me clarify the title slightly. Not all female SF writers are bad and I work with a number of very talented ones. What I am wondering is, why do places like Escape Pod and others think they are so dreadful?

Jon Del Arroz has been doing some interesting investigative journalism and has discovered that the long running Science Fiction podcast Escape Pod has a policy of giving preference to female writers over male ones. There is also the phenomena of regular anthologies and magazine issues that are women authors only (or some other “minority”).

The question I have about all this is, Why? Are female writers of science fiction really so terribly unreadable that they can’t actually get published without needing to rely on someone taking pity on them? The long history of science fiction publishing would suggest otherwise with many female authors writing under male pseudonyms and have successful careers, not to mention the large number of female authors who do just fine without needing one. I’ve bought stories as editor of Sci Phi Journal and as editor of Astounding Frontiers. The last thing I care about when purchasing stories is the sex of the writer, all that matters is that the story is good.

Usually when I say things like this someone will articulate concepts like “structural oppression”, “unconscious misogyny” or some other political buzz phrase to excuse why they need to make excuses for bad female writing but I find this unconvincing. The reality that a woman can submit under an obviously male pseudonym means that the barrier doesn’t really exist, they can always bypass the gate keeper (if he exists) in such a fashion. Is there any research today that shows a large number of stories submitted to different magazines using different names of both sexes, that get accepted at different rates based on the sex of the author? I realise such research would be difficult to conduct because you can’t just submit the same story to the same editor with different pseudonyms and expect a useful result, but the same author (or group of authors) could easily submit under many different names, a large number of different stories, and then get some statistically useful results. At least then there would be evidence of this bias should it exist.

My guess is that they would discover that female writers get bought more often than male authors in certain markets and in other markets there would be no meaningful difference. They did a similar experiment in Australia where they degendered resumes and used voice disguising technology to conduct candidate interviews. In such environments the men did better than the women, and in a sexed environment they actually did worse. They ended up needing to discontinue the practice because it got the “wrong” answer.

So what is the answer? Should places like Escape Pod be giving women a helping hand when buying stories? Such a patronising practice is not going to do the women authors any real favours. A publishing credit with Escape Pod for a woman will now unavoidably seen as some sort of participation prize for a crappy author. Who can have any idea how good an female author is, if when she is published in Escape Pod the bar has been artificially lowered? Maybe she is a good writer but there is no way to tell because it isn’t a level playing field. [easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B01M23YOS4″ cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51w3Xe9B7kL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”superversivesf-20″ width=”113″] The Product by Marina Fontaine[/easyazon_image]

At Superversive Press, we have published the wonderful Dystopian story,The Product by Marina Fontaine. Why did we publish it? Because it is a great story of the struggle for freedom in a nightmare future. Read it today and see what a good lady SF writer looks like. Marina has no need of an artificial helping hand because she is talented and I would never want to suggest she was a lesser writer that needed such a leg up.

The real solution to the “problem” of “under representation” is not to lower the bar for crappy author but to encourage them to become better writers and to encourage them to persevere in the face of setbacks. Ladies if you want to succeed, then suck less and persevere more. It really is that simple.

First Day at Dragon Con!

So after the long flight from Sydney I can report that the first day at Dragon Con was a blast and I got to meet many of the people i’ve only ever chatted to via email. It was great to L. Jagi Lamplighter, April Freeman, Peirce Okuna, Declan Finn, Dawn Witzke, Ben Zwycky, Marina Fontain and J. Alfred Goodwin in the flesh.

We kicked off the day seeing Marina Fontaine do her first panel appearance on Dystopias and she put on a great show with her co-panelists despite my best efforts to make her nervous beforehand.

After that we wandered around, I got to see Bill, Frank and Trace of Mystery Science Theatere 3000 fame do a panel. I didn’t make it to any other panels that day although I did play Alien Frontiers (This is one of my favourite games, although we call it Space Yahtzee).

I also got to meet Larry Correia which was great when he was doing a book signing. I thought we were going to have to sedate April. After that we went on to dinner and finished at the night with an space improve with Larry Correia, Chuck Gannon and others and it was a blast.

There is also a plan to do a post Dragon Award live stream to discuss the results, more details to follow when we have an exact time sorted out.

Here are some pictures I took today, I promise to take many more tomorrow. Some fun cosplayers, me and Larry and Ben, The Wright Boys and myself playing Astounding Frontiers.