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Why Charles Stross Hates Star Trek

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the captain-the-tech-is-overteching dept.

Sci-Fi 809

daria42 writes "British sci-fi author Charles Stross has confessed that he has long hated the Star Trek franchise for its relegation of technology as irrelevant to plot and character development — and the same goes for similar shows such as Babylon Five. The problem, according to Stross, is that as Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore has described in a recent speech, the writers of Star Trek would simply 'insert' technology or science into the script whenever needed, without any real regard to its significance; 'then they'd have consultants fill in the appropriate words (aka technobabble) later.'"

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Scalzi on Stross on ST (5, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736673)

I think Scalzi was spot on [scalzi.com] in addressing this. I thought his second point was the best containing a couple great quotes - "At this point in my life (and, really, for the last quarter century at least), I simply make the assumption that film and television science fiction is going to hump the bunk on the 'plausible extrapolation' aspect of their science, and factor that in before I start watching." and "But, yes, when you admit that Star Trek has as much to do with plausibly extrapolated science as The A-Team has to do with a realistic look at the lives of military veterans, life gets easier. "

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736815)

Whachu talkin' 'bout, fool?

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736843)

What the A-Team taught me was that all it takes to build an impregnable armored vehicle is a few empty 50 gallon drums. We'd have this Afghanistan thing wrapped up tomorrow if they could just ship a bunch of vans, empty 50 gal. drums and a welding torch or two over there.

the magic ingredient (4, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737173)

What the A-Team taught me was that all it takes to build an impregnable armored vehicle is a few empty 50 gallon drums. We'd have this Afghanistan thing wrapped up tomorrow if they could just ship a bunch of vans, empty 50 gal. drums and a welding torch or two over there.

50 gallon drums... and Mr. T.

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736817)

No point letting the truth get in the way of a good story....

"Why Charles Stross Hates Star Trek" (3, Insightful)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737035)

Cos he's a contrarian little prick, who can't appreciate Nichelle Nichols flashing a little bit of red panties?

What's not to like, apart from the - easily overlooked - semitophillic and globalist/military world-government metaphor?

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736839)

So essentially, he should repeat to himself "It's just a show, I should really just relax"?

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736873)

To distill his point into two words "NERD RAGE!!!!"

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737041)

So essentially, he should repeat to himself "It's just a show, I should really just relax"?

I think the point was "It's a TV show about something besides the daily life of being a writer for a TV show: odds are it's going to get nearly everything wrong, it's nothing specific to science." Look at CSI: anything. The science AND the justice system in that show only vaguely resemble real forensic science or our real justice system. Or how our cops actually look or act for that matter.

To get even more ridiculous, look at MTV's "real world" and tell me that anything in the actual real world (outside of wherever they're filming) shares anything in common with it.

Anyway, of course the science is going to be an absurd prop in star trek. That said, star trek did often take even bigger liberties with reality than most other shows. I occasionally watched episodes of various star trek series until I saw on Voyager an episode where a virus takes up Klingon growth hormones and suddenly the things are the size of flies flying around, infecting all species with stingers. That oddly was a line too far.

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737105)

Anyway, of course the science is going to be an absurd prop in star trek. That said, star trek did often take even bigger liberties with reality than most other shows. I occasionally watched episodes of various star trek series until I saw on Voyager an episode where a virus takes up Klingon growth hormones and suddenly the things are the size of flies flying around, infecting all species with stingers. That oddly was a line too far.

My contention is that, since Star Trek is in The Future (tm), if it got the science 100% right, then we too would already be in The Future (tm).

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737277)

Fuck that. I want to know how they eat and breathe, dammit!

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737009)

"But, yes, when you admit that Star Trek has as much to do with plausibly extrapolated science as The A-Team has to do with a realistic look at the lives of military veterans, life gets easier. "

One of the things that made the biggest impression on me from the last Star Trek movie was that what once was futuristic devices are now things that we are told to turn off before the movie starts: Watching Mama Kirk talk to Papa Kirk over a commu^H^H^H^H^Hcell phone.

The other thing was how stupid the Red Matter McGuffin was: "So Spock is flying around in a ship that can make black holes of any star when...".

Therefore, I think that guy you quoted was 50% correct, and 50% dumb.

Re:Scalzi on Stross on ST (1)

wiremind (183772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737303)

Yeah, star trek is all sociology, not technology.

Their complete lack of technological usage and development frustrated me until i realized this.

Looking good in those tights (5, Funny)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736711)

Charles is NOT A MERRY MAN!

Re:Looking good in those tights (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737145)

Anonymity fail?

What are three things you CANNOT give a nigger? A fat lip, a black eye, and an education.

See how I ticked "Post Anonymously?" THAT'S HOW YOU DO IT!

Ok.. (0)

Anrego (830717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736723)

So.. is there anything to discuss here?

New age "hard core" sci-fi type writter states opinion regarding epic mainstream sci-fi series... world acknoledges opinion... life continues?

This isn't ground breaking stuff here.. most main-stream sci-fi just uses tech as a backdrop.. but it's been immensly popular. And like anything else immensly popular.. there are people who arn't going to like it.

Re:Ok.. (3, Informative)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736977)

I don't think that was his point.

The biggest weakness of the entire genre is this: the protagonists don't tell us anything interesting about the human condition under science fictional circumstances.

I've been watching a lot of "Outer Limits" on Hulu of late (some of the best episodes aren't available there or on Netflix - only on DVD. What gives?!?). The best stories are about how people interact with aliens, their technology or both or with humans technology and progress. One episode has a plot based on transportation and duplicating folks and how people might deal with it. Or another plot that finds an alien and assumes their hostile only to find out they're friendly and we humans over reacted. Sometimes, it's the reverse. I painted some broad strokes here but I think I'm making my point. Although, some episodes were kind of hokey - the one with Alyssa Milano "Caught in the Act" was so-so, but it was nice seeing her half naked - what a doll!

Many of Star Trek's episodes were nothing but humans dealing with human subjects with a lot of technology around. The Naked Time (and the copy on ST:TNG) episode is a perfect example. It could have happened anywhere at anytime. The fact that it was on a spaceship really didn't add anything to the story other than filler.

Star Wars isn't any better, btw.

Goddam limey (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736747)

He's only jealous because we got to the moon before they did. Plus, he has shit teath.

hmmm (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736749)

The thing that annoyed me the most about Star Trek, and it was most common in the Next Generation, was the idiotic idea of solving a made-up scientific problem with made-up technology. It has no value to a plot; actually it's the opposite of plot, if there is such a thing.

Re:hmmm (1)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736797)

It has no value to a plot; actually it's the opposite of plot, if there is such a thing.

What happens if you mix plot and anti-plot together?!

Re:hmmm (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736881)

What happens if you mix plot and anti-plot together?!

Battlefield Earth.

Re:hmmm (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736933)

OMG. And me without Mod points today.

Kudos, sir. (Or madam.)

Re:hmmm (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737177)

It's actually a Vegan from Vega.

Re:hmmm (1)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736913)

Actually, it is a little-known fact that it is actually the interactions of plot and anti-plot that power TNG's warp core, as opposed to the widely held belief that it is matter and anti-matter. This is an exciting new field of theoretical physics that humans have only just begun to explore.

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736819)

Yes, anti-plot. Very dangerous stuff. It's red and even though it only takes a few drops of anti-plot to take out an entire world, Spock flew around in a ship with enough of it to take out just about every populated planet of significance. 'Cause you just never know when you'll need more anti-plot.

Re:hmmm (5, Informative)

Attaturk (695988) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736867)

The thing that annoyed me the most about Star Trek, and it was most common in the Next Generation, was the idiotic idea of solving a made-up scientific problem with made-up technology. It has no value to a plot; actually it's the opposite of plot, if there is such a thing.

You're thinking of 'deus ex machina' [wikipedia.org] , which is a plot device along the lines of "and suddenly a god-like being appeared and fixed everything". It's the fate of all lazy fiction and, sadly, it's not restricted to sci-fi - although the opportunity to invent suitable technobabble does make it rather easier.

Deux ex machina? (3, Insightful)

Jahws (1655357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737011)

You're thinking of 'deus ex machina' [wikipedia.org] , which is a plot device along the lines of "and suddenly a god-like being appeared and fixed everything"...

You mean Q? Not only did he fix everything, he even caused everything.

Re:Deux ex machina? (4, Interesting)

mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737307)

I know. That was the part that I found most compelling about All Good Things. I think whoever came up with that plot is a genius because he found a way of having Q simultaneously destroy and save the entire universe through the actions of Picard. It was extremely clever along with the added bonus of the whole "How all of the characters drifted apart in the future." arc.

Re:hmmm (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737179)

You're thinking of 'deus ex machina' [wikipedia.org], which is a plot device along the lines of "and suddenly a god-like being appeared and fixed everything".

Yeah, but what's that Q guy got to do with it?

Re:hmmm (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736973)

> The thing that annoyed me the most about Star Trek, and it was most common in the Next Generation, was
> the idiotic idea of solving a made-up scientific problem with made-up technology. It has no value to a
> plot; actually it's the opposite of plot, if there is such a thing.

"contrived" is probably the word you're looking for.

However, how contrived the plot is isn't really the point; the real question is whether or not it makes good TV, and the proof is in the pudding (especially for TNG). TV shows are, after all, entertainment and not great literary works. (Indeed, the two don't frequently go hand-in-hand...)

Regardless, sci-fi generally means made-up technology, and made-up technology problems. Sometimes these can be/are solved by going back to human ingenuity or 'old-school' tech, but sometimes they need to be solved with more made-up technology. That's just kinda how things go. For example, if you had someone hacking your critical (pulling the plug isn't an option) system, you may have to, say, "reconfigure the firewall". If this were the 1920's and computers were made-up technology, then the whole situation would appear contrived, though from our perspective it's not.

Re:hmmm (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737029)

The thing that annoyed me the most about Star Trek, and it was most common in the Next Generation, was the idiotic idea of solving a made-up scientific problem with made-up technology. It has no value to a plot; actually it's the opposite of plot, if there is such a thing.

Different people are satisfied with different levels of explanation. I'm not surprised a sci-fi author is dissatisfied with another sci-fi writer's work. Possibly could explain the great divide between Star Wars and Star Trek fans. Rarely was a hyperdrive or the force explained in great detail in Star Wars but Star Trek seemed to like to take it a couple steps further. And when they got into midichlorians [wikipedia.org] just to measure the force it presented a possible science to the force or an explanation and the fans revolted. I liken it to cheerleaders at football games. From a distance and on TV they look great but if you've ever got up in one of their mugs during a game they are caked -- I mean caked -- with makeup. To a disgusting degree. It's so you can see it from a great distance in the stands but up close they're circus clowns. Similar to this a lot of sci-fi plot devices fall apart upon closer inspection. Those that hold up are allowed deep introspection before the readers/viewer/listener gets upset. Personally I cannot stand the way magic is explained in Harry Potter yet I eat up "The One Power" from the Wheel of Time like a fanboi ready to forgive Robert Jordan for purple prose, "light" oath taking and hair tugging. I guess it's just the way I am and how those authors deliver to me.

Oh, and my biggest beef with Star Trek is the stretched analogies (after I just made one about cheerleaders) in the original series. I feel this has caused a lot of nerds to stretch for analogies when explaining something complicated. That analogy allowed for little explanation to be made and since it was made to something real in real life we were more likely to swallow it. Now, let's say you're trying to explain something complicated in real life and you're a Star Trek fan. You're probably tempted to stretch to an analogy but, in the end, what have you really taught that person? Nothing but a (possibly) problematic association a la Ted Stevens' Tubes.

In the end it's fiction. It gets scrutinized because it's such massively popular fiction. A lot of this criticism is really stupid stuff and nitpicking. My advice is just relax and enjoy it or simply find something else to watch.

Re:hmmm (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737235)

the idiotic idea of solving a made-up scientific problem with made-up technology

As opposed to the more traditional approach (to the extent that term is meaningful) that typically relies on made-up characters engaged in made-up conflicts using made-up approaches to achieve made-up ends?

You might want to consider expanding your notions of drama [wikipedia.org] .

The ST bible (4, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737263)

Roddenberry's bible on the original ST explicitly said that no solution to any plot issue/conflict may ever be resolved by a technological solution -- interpersonal relations/social behavior needed to resolve things.

This was thrown out in TNG, which is why it sucked monkies.

The best science fiction is represented by PKD, not Varley. It's the society and the people and ideas that matter in any fiction, not the gears and details of the tech.

Just the thing (1)

Yergle143 (848772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737297)

The entire Sci Fi field suffers from this --> it's no different from the end of every fantasy movie you've ever seen. Harry Potter waves his magic wand and shoots a green light at the Dark Lord whose red light appears much stronger and is about to engulf poor Harry until, miracle of miracles he believes in himself or whatever. In how many episodes does a magic beam of reverse field tacheons or whatever shoot out of the Enterprise to magically heal the planet or confuse the Borg or yadda yadda yadda? Super science = super natural = BS. Please don't quote back A Clarke back at me. Good sci fi is dirty and broken and messy. I used to say like Star Wars before it was ruined. How about like Alien.

Re:hmmm (1)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737309)

idea of solving a made-up scientific problem with made-up technology.

Isn't science-fiction all about writing about made-up technology? If it wasn't made-up wouldn't that make it no longer science-fiction but science-nonfiction?

thats cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736781)

star wars is gay.

Millions of fans disagree (0)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736783)

ie: Millions of people think Stross is wrong.

There's not much more to say on this.

Re:Millions of fans disagree (5, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736845)

Millions of people are wrong. Or, at least, stupid. I don't need to Godwinize this thread to explain how that might be so.

Stross is right about this. Of course, it is flamebait at an epic scale to attack not just the biggest of fan franchises, but the very logic upon which fan franchises are based: massive narcissistic projection. If SF on TV actually reflected on how our humanity itself would become unrecognizable in the wake of technological change, then fans wouldn't have easy heroes to identify with.

Re:Millions of fans disagree (2, Insightful)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736901)

Millions of people have been wrong before. All I'm saying is, the mob does not necessarily have to be right simply because it's the mob.

Not that it matters, "wrong" or "right" this is Science Fiction and I'm glad the story is based on plot. Star Trek is about overcoming humanities problems, not overcoming technical problems.

Re:Millions of fans disagree (1)

Stephenmg (265369) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736989)

Just because someone watches or even enjoys Star Trek doesn't mean they think Stross is wrong. It just means they don't care enough about his point to base their enjoyment of Star Trek off of.

Re:Millions of fans disagree (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737047)

ie: Millions of people think Stross is wrong.

There's not much more to say on this.

Stross dislikes star trek.
Millions of fans like star trek.

The two are not mutually exclusive. People can have different preferences.

Uh oh, trolls dead ahead... (3, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736811)

Cmdr Taco, more apply more tech to the tech!

And ST is being picked on.... (2, Insightful)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736821)

...why exactly? How is ST any different from any other sci-fi series like BSG or Firefly? It's not as if those show have any less technobabble or are any less characters-first-technology-second.

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (2, Insightful)

larien (5608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736887)

I'll give you a phrase to explain why - "distortion in the space/time continuum". That phrase was used in far more episodes in ST:TNG than it deserved to be used, to the extent it pretty much became a cliché.

It's not unique to ST and Stross doesn't claim it is, but it's probably the worst culprit. It tended to play a kind of Deus ex Machina with $RANDOM_TECH_DEVICE to solve the problem.

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737325)

I'll give you a phrase to explain why - "distortion in the space/time continuum".

I'll give you a word: "reconfigure". It was like the Enterprise was a giant Lego set.

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (4, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736921)

Firefly was awesome. The first televised episode when Mal kicked a guy through the intake of the ships engine I knew that it was going to be substantially different than any sci-fi I'd seen on t.v. in some time. They also did some cool things to help suspend disbelief, which were picked up by BSG. Fortunately BSG for BSG fans, the show got more viewers and lasted longer than Firefly - though I think it owed Firefly a huge debt for the look, tone, etc.

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (3, Informative)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737005)

Fyi, Zoic Studios [wikipedia.org] was responsible for the effects in both Firefly and BSG, which is why they both looked so good :-)

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737073)

Makes sense - thanks for the info. I didn't watch BSG - may do so now that it is done. I did catch the first episode and thought, "Hey that all looks really familiar."

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737099)

Because they don't explain the technostuff, and make up names of stuff that sound like something a kid would name is world of warcraft character. BSG/Firefly/StarGate's technobabble atleast seems reasonable, and is usually based on theories that exist in real life.

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737135)

...why exactly? How is ST any different from any other sci-fi series like BSG or Firefly? It's not as if those show have any less technobabble or are any less characters-first-technology-second.

Have you watched Firefly? It had a lot less technobabble and a lot more sino-babble. But to answer your question: He's picking on Star Trek because it is THE iconic sci-fi show: People who do not watch sci-fi know it despite not watching it; they don't know Firefly, and they don't know BSG..

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737161)

...why exactly? How is ST any different from any other sci-fi series like BSG or Firefly? It's not as if those show have any less technobabble or are any less characters-first-technology-second.

It's simple, Stross is just annoyed that his talk at Mountain View about his book "Halting State" [youtube.com] has received a mere 6,200 views while Leonard Nimoy's toe tapping dance number "Bilbo Baggins" [youtube.com] has garnered more than a million views and taken the country by storm.

Re:And ST is being picked on.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737317)

Firefly was ONLY about the characters.

Just enjoy... (2, Insightful)

future assassin (639396) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736841)

the fucking show for what it is make belief sci-fi/fantasy and if you don't like it why do you keep watching it?

Re:Just enjoy... (1)

Per Wigren (5315) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737133)

Yes, I find that highly illogical.

Re:Just enjoy... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737327)

the fucking show for what it is make belief sci-fi/fantasy and if you don't like it why do you keep watching it?

Most people don't follow that kind of simple, self-evident wisdom. For most people, here is how it works: "it's not good enough that I enjoy the religion/show/method/belief/taste/style of my choice. Everyone else must enjoy it too." There may be reasons for this other than plain insecurity, but if there are other reasons that don't ultimately reduce to insecurity when deconstructed, they are unknown to me.

It's similar in spirit to another quote about a different duality, the attribution of which I have forgotten, that says "the human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."

Works In Congress: +1, Insidious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736865)

1. From Stross

'insert' technology or science into the script whenever needed, without any real regard to its significance; 'then they'd have consultants fill in the appropriate words (aka technobabble) later.'"

2. Copy for OUR INDUSTRY:

insert *** YOUR INDUSTRY *** into the legislation whenever
needed, without any real regard to its significance for people; then they'd have lobbyists fill in the appropriate
words ( aka DEMOCRACYBABBLE , FREEDOMBABBLE ) later.

3. = PROFIT.

Yours In Tashkent,
K. Trout

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736869)

"he has long hated the Star Trek franchise for its relegation of technology as irrelevant to plot and character development" ... has he ever even seen Star Trek? It relies on pure-tech plots more than any other science fiction series.

utopian socialism (1, Troll)

savuporo (658486) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736871)

The one reason to not like Star Trek is its political system. I mean, a socialist utopia. http://colossus.mu.nu/archives/287079.php [colossus.mu.nu] Theres no business, theres no enterpreneurship anymore.

Re:utopian socialism (2, Insightful)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736903)

Quark's Bar [memory-alpha.org] would like a word with you.

Re:utopian socialism (4, Interesting)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737279)

Which was owned by a Ferengie [wikipedia.org] who were not part of the Federation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferengi#Reception [wikipedia.org]

Some have accused the portrayal of the Ferengi of being antisemitic. In the book Religions of Star Trek, Ross S. Kraemer wrote that "Ferengi religion seems almost a parody of traditional Judaism... Critics have pointed out a disturbing correlation between Ferengi attributes (love of profit that overrides communal decency; the large, sexualized head feature, in this case ears) and negative Jewish stereotypes." Commentator Jonah Goldberg wrote that Ferengi were portrayed in The Next Generation as "runaway capitalists with bullwhips who looked like a mix between Nazi caricatures of Jews and the original Nosferatu." The fact that the four most notable Ferengi characters, Quark, Nog, Rom and Zek, are played by Jewish actors Armin Shimerman, Aron Eisenberg, Max Grodénchik and Wallace Shawn contributes to this theory.

Actually the first episode [wikipedia.org] I saw them in the first thing that popped in my mind was that they were bashing republicans or capitalists in general. I guess I wasn't too far off.

Re:utopian socialism (3, Insightful)

flitty (981864) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736999)

Totally. I'd much rather watch the episode where the Enterprise was reposessed due to the military cuts in spending, but because the construction was contracted to several different manufacturers (who then sub-contracted) and nobody really owned the thing, and because thousands of shares of it were sold off, making out who actually owned the thing an impossibility, and nobody knew who to serve the intergalactic summons to.

Oh, and the Klingons were waiting outside of spaceport cloaked the entire episode... waiting for a fair battle.. Good times.

Re:utopian socialism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737045)

Really? Even if it were so, exactly what's wrong with that?

Do you think man should always exploit the other man?
It's not a straw man. This is the crux of the matter. Fairness vs. exploitation. And you, dear smoked reindeer, are on the side of exploitation. Why?

Re:utopian socialism (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737059)

While there can be disagreement as to how practical such a system would be, an economy of abundance where money wasn't the prime motivator for action would be rather appealing. We actually saw very little of the economic system on Earth, since Star Trek focused on the military, so there's rather little to go on.

Regarding the article, using technology as a mere device is entirely sensible, as long as it isn't used for deus ex machina. Stories are about people after all.

Re:utopian socialism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737261)

I don't think you read your link very well. The general deteurocanonical approach to Trek's universe (books and so on, which are not generally considered part of the core universe, although officially licensed--these tend to have a lot more time to pontificate on the details) provides that, lacking profit motivation, people explore the universe and do what they consider fun simply because they'd be bored if they didn't. Functioning society existed before money, and it will exist after money. The difference between the two is that we'll still have the addiction to progress that comes with consumerism, and everything will be a lot better off.

As opposed to Ron Moores method? (1)

bsane (148894) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736875)

As opposed to Ron Moores method, writing a plot, dialog and roles, then randomly assigning characters without regard to anything else.

Seriously BSG is kind of cool, dialog is probably ok, but the plot and character development is among the worst things I've ever seen. I _really_ hope its not the model for new SciFi.

Re:As opposed to Ron Moores method? (1)

Schnoogs (1087081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736907)

Worst you've ever seen? Hyperbole much?

Star Trek, Asimov (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736877)

Star Trek was very good in its time. It opened up sci fi to a new tv audience and was quite cool.
However, as far as quality sci fi goes it's not as good as others even at its best.
The whole, warp core failures super easy, stuff exploding and shorting with regularity makes you question the competence of the Federation.
In contrast an amazingly logical, super goddamn sticking-to-the-plot and really rigidly logical writing with plausible concepts and amazingly entertaining writing, nothing comes close to Asimov. I've read 2000 pages of his novels over the course of 2 months after discovering it recently. It is amazing, if you like Star Trek, go read Asimov. More originality in *any* two books of his than nearly half of TV sci-fi historh.

Given the enduring popularity of Star Trek, et. al (5, Insightful)

mmell (832646) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736889)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Mr. Stross is the one who seems to be missing the point.

If I want education, I'll watch Science/Discovery/History . . . better yet, I'll read a book. When I want entertainment, I want entertainment. Obviously, I'm not alone in feeling that Star Trek/Babylon 5/Firefly et. al. provide that.

Re:Given the enduring popularity of Star Trek, et. (2, Interesting)

kylemonger (686302) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737311)

Star Trek was not science fiction, any more than the Jetsons was science fiction. Once you flip the switch in your head from sf to fantasy, the show doesn't grate on the nerves nearly as much.

The deus ex machina didn't bother me. What bothered me was that we'd never see the introduced technology again. What happened to the water that made you move a thousand times faster? The food that amplified psi talents? What became of the various AI's that Kirk talked to death? The drug that turned crones into beautiful women in a few seconds? These are breakthroughs that would utterly change even a faux-utopia like the Federation, but they vanished without a trace.

Ultratech technobabble I'm okay with, but... (2, Insightful)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736917)

I think that the fact that the science is not the focus of the plot excuses treknobabble, to a degree. It never really bothers me, because it's generally pretty self-aware that it's just making stuff up.

On the other hand, to use a current example, a show like Fringe distorts or flat-out makes up stuff about real world, modern-day science so often that I actually find it distracting, and I don't even have a particularly strong science background. Star Trek is at least in the far future - I can't call them out on making stuff up about dilithium crystals and transwarp mogons or what-have-you.

But if you're going to talk about things that aren't much more advanced than a high school science class, you should at least try not to just make stuff up because you're too lazy to look it up. Not only does it take people out of it who know that it's wrong, it misleads people and perpetuates a poor understanding of science in the general population. I'm not saying fictional programming should be educational, but it should at least make a modicum of effort to not be absurd.

Re:Ultratech technobabble I'm okay with, but... (1)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736949)

I should probably clarify my complaint about Fringe. I'm not saying it's not realistic, because, well, it's a scifi show. I don't expect it to be. I'm saying I don't think you should reference a specific, basic, real-world scientific or technological principal and say it's something other than it is.

Let me get this straight (5, Funny)

deathtopaulw (1032050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736935)

Extremely nerdy hard-science nerdy nerd kings are bitching about old TV shows because they were using almost made-up theoretical science as a plot device to advance the lives and drama of fictional characters for our entertainment...

Here's an article for you: Slashdot member deathtopaulw hates hard science fiction writers because they have no concept of fun and their minds exist only to crunch numbers and dwell on what is and isn't possible in a finite and boring universe.

Look at that, nobody cares either.

Re:Let me get this straight (2, Insightful)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736985)

He's just mad because 100s of millions more people know what Star Trek is than who will ever know or care about him or his works. This is just a way to get publicity.

Moore's approach was the opposite (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736939)

Plot and character development as irrelevant to technology.

Uh, B5 "technobabble"? Hardly... (5, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736945)

B5 was very consistant and deliberately very low on the techno-BABBLE per se.

There was technologies needed for the plot (Hyperspace et al, etc etc etc), but it was established and not really changed.

Re:Uh, B5 "technobabble"? Hardly... (1)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737211)

As much as I love B5, if you're looking for a sciency hard science sci-fi, B5 isn't it. It was about characters and telling a heroic story.
Still, complaining that a story set in the future isn't more focused on extension of RL hard science is a lot like complaining that an Arthurian (in the case of B5 exactly like) story doesn't have more plague.

without star trek where would we be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29736953)

It has fueled the imagination of a generation, attached a human element to the otherwise intangible technology and made it accessible to the average person. Based on those facets alone it is a winner. And to Charles Stross.. You are a great writer but you are addressing a different audience. Judging star trek for you is like an olympic decathalete judging a high school track meet, the rules may apply but there is no comparison in quality of performance, just let it go..

Science Fiction focuses on the fiction (2, Interesting)

imgod2u (812837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29736967)

Go figure. Star Trek used flashy lights to get people's attention but in the words of Joss Whedon, "I don't know much about science but what I do know about science fiction is that flashy lights means....science."

That's about as science-y as it gets. You focus too much on making it within the realm of plausible extrapolation and you end up losing sight of things like interesting story arc, plausible plot turns and characters and you end up randomly writing your characters into roles and ending your series with some cliche reset-button-style let's-just-get-back-to-nature conclusion.

Why yes, I'm still bitter about BSG, why do you ask?

Technology is cool, but... (2, Insightful)

savanik (1090193) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737023)

The thing is, technology is irrelevant to plot and character. If it wasn't, then the stories they'd be telling would be so alien as to be incomprehensible. Stories are about people, not technology. It's something written into just about any guide to writing science fiction you can find: Don't let the technology overshadow the characters!

Yes, lightsabers and teleporters are cool. But the story is about a boy turning into a man and saving the world (Gee, thanks, Wesley). Or a continuing mission through space, etc. The story isn't about the technology. Sure, it'd be nice to have more realistic tech written into the story to begin with - BUT. I will note that the most popular episodes of TNG always revolved around characters. The episodes oriented towards 'how the teleporters actually work' as a plot device didn't fare so well.

Star Trek is Parables (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737057)

Star Trek episodes are philosophical parables, like most good science fiction. Suppose the world has this property. Then how would we behave under those circumstances?

My favorite example is "Brave New World" where technology dehumanizes everyone. People are manufactured on an assembly line, and no one has a mother. In fact, calling someone a "mother" is an insult. There is no central, simple, technology to the story. The society is the story.

Novel not equal TV (4, Insightful)

thethibs (882667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737063)

Charlie conflates SF novels with SF television series. They don't have the same criteria.

Unlike a novel, a good SF series doesn't take itself too seriously. That's what was so good about Star Trek. We expected it to be a little tacky and weren't disappointed. Every so often we'd get the equivalent to one of the characters turning to the audience and saying "this is just fiction, you know." Shattner's "Get a Life" was bang on.

The shows that lost sight of this, BG being the best example, were boring-to-annoying.

Writers aren't tech experts. (1)

vxvxvxvx (745287) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737075)

With the complaint that the writers would just leave "I can't tech the tech core anymore!" kind of language in the script isn't surprising to me, nor am I upset over it. I don't think there are many people who possess the skill to both write an interesting story and come up with realistic-but-yet-nonexistant tech. So if they want to take people who are good at writing stories and have them write a script and then find tech experts to fill in the blanks, good for them. That's one solution the problem and given Star Trek's huge success it's one that worked.

That said, like all TV there's good scifi and bad scifi. Often within the very same TV series. There is some tech in Star Trek that is just so silly sounding it does distract you from the story. "Red Matter" for example...

Dont piss off the Russian. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737083)

" and the same goes for similar shows such as Babylon Five" Ivonova says she has a 200 megawatt pulse cannon in the forward cargo bay that would dissagree with you Mr. Stross.

really slashdot? (1)

Neotrantor (597070) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737087)

this has been front page in reddit/r/scifi for days now. you need to update your model please

So what? (1)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737089)

It's just entertainment and it has entertained millions for decades.. job done.

If you want real science, read a text book.

The new series fixes that! (1)

Tired and Emotional (750842) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737091)

They have remodulated the phase colomators on the prion-antiprion exchange field surrounding the writer's conference room.

Uh, yeah (2, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737103)

Star trek != hard SF. Star Trek = western in space. (Firefly is too, in case you missed the subtle-as-a-brick hint of the horses in the pilot)

Nevertheless, it does manage to sometimes to SF-style exploration of the impact of technology. ST:TNG had a lot on the subject of machine intelligence, obviously. All versions explored contact with alien cultures, and if the aliens were a little more human than one could wish for.. well, the same is true of written SF. Even some of the worst Star Trek episodes explored some SF themes -- "Spock's Brain" explored the degeneration of a culture which relied too much on technology, and "Miri" explored paedophi.. err, no, the danger of genetic engineering.

Re:Uh, yeah (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737245)

Star trek != hard SF. Star Trek = western in space. (Firefly is too, in case you missed the subtle-as-a-brick hint of the horses in the pilot)

Space Cowboys: They litterally moved cattle from one planet to another, that one time.
They just went hatless, I repeat: Hatless.

Oh no he di'int!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29737121)

Talk bad about Star Trek? Now you gone an dun it. Stross might as well point out that Star Trek was not peer reviewed and published through the standard academic process. Perhaps he should note that Star Trek cannot be experimentally confirmed, and moreover isn't Lorentz Invariant. God does not play theater with the cosmos.

Old SF Fan saying... (2, Insightful)

ExRex (47177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737125)

What's the difference between fans and trekkies? Fans read.

Department of Departments (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737185)

There's "fiction" in "science fiction"? Gee, I never noticed that.
       

i think there's room for both approaches (2, Insightful)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737193)

does ALL sci-fi have to be about the technology? is that a requirement?

star trek does a crummy job of predicting plausible technology and its deeper implications on man's place in the universe. but that's like saying Shakespeare's Henry VIII is not very historically informative. it sort of misses the point.

star trek, when it's about something, is primarily about meditations on what it means to be human. the writers would be trying to say something about, i don't know, honor or justice or leadership or whatever. they didn't care about how transporter technology would transform society. they definitely didn't give a crap about scientific principles or bosons or tachyons or whatever.

the science is flawed, and the whole scenario is more than a bit ludicrous.

but i'm ok with that.

is it really a huge problem that the ressikans, a dying culture with limited apparent technology, could build an indestructible, arbitrarily fast probe that could transmit a lifetime of completely real, interactive memories through the enterprise's shields into the brain of picard in a matter of minutes? who cares, that episode rocked.

Imagination (1)

Krystlih (543841) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737199)

While I can understand trying to make things "scientific" and being as accurate as possible, but at the same time it doesn't have to be accurate to inspire imagination. I know I grew up watching Star Trek, both the original series and later TNG. While later I became aware of a lot of the inaccuracies and "techno babble" that was spouted on the show, it did a whole lot to inspire my imagination and get me interested in a lot of areas. I think that was Gene Roddenberry's original plan/goal with the show anyway, to inspire the imagination and reach for the stars. Sometimes us as geeks forget that.

Charles Stross is trolling (4, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737203)

How does BSG not use plot devices? They resurrect characters (Starbuck), do a one shot "stealth" viper to fill a plot hole which is destroyed and never duplicated, Cylon resurrection ship etc.

I still remember the "motivational" speech Adama made when they started their exodus. That they all deserved to die. I was like WTF?! Is this what a motivational speech from a military commander passes for these days?

Then he disses B5. Just all the possibilities, socio-political effects B5 introduced from having telepaths was pretty amazing in of itself. Not to mention motivational speeches actually are motivational in B5...

The tech (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737219)

The tech is a device to allow the viewer to accept that the story happens far away in a different society, so that the underlying social issues can be examined in a way that doesn't threaten the viewer. They're props - they're the functional equivalent of Victorian attire for a vampire movie. The story isn't about the tech, and if it was it wouldn't be any good.

He's right, but so what? (3, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737227)

The problem with the truly advanced technologies that science-fiction stories like to use is that their REAL effects on the world would be so transformative, that the characters in the story would be so different us that the reader wouldn't be able to relate to them at all.

An "accurate" Star Trek story would have people lying in bed all day, being fed through a tube, while they lived out their fantasies in the holodeck. Robotic mining ships would troll the galaxy for dilithium to power everything. Gee, that's interesting.

agreed (2, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737233)

"But, yes, when you admit that Star Trek has as much to do with plausibly extrapolated science as The A-Team has to do with a realistic look at the lives of military veterans, life gets easier. "

That's a nice way of putting it. I always agreed that the way to tell if you're watching or reading a science fiction story is to see if you can pull out the trappings and still be able to tell the story. A movie like the Matrix is clearly scifi since it would be very difficult to tell without the technology angle. I mean you could try and do it but it would end up sucking as much as the sequels.

Something like Star Wars, on the other hand, it's heroic fantasy and you could do a bang-up job with it recasting it in a Tolkein world. The Force is magic, the Jedi are wizard-knights, the Galactic Empire is now more clearly Rome after the fall of the Republic, all the space travel is replaced with sailing around the great frontiers of the empire, the Death Star is downgraded to a city-busting weapon, Darth Vader borrows a spare set of armor from the Witch King of Angmar and swaps out his custom TIE Fighter for a fell beast, etc. Droids could become magical clockwork constructs, aliens are your various demi-human races. Chewbacca becomes a frost giant or a yeti. All of the essential themes of Star Wars work in this context because it's about the hero-quest, betrayal, redemption, and licensing fees.

Babylon 5 was good science fiction because it brought up concepts that would be hard or impossible to tackle in other genres. Yes, the basic idea of the Shadow/Vorlon conflict was accused of being LOTR with the serial numbers filed off but the resemblance I think ends up being superficial, it's the execution that makes the two stories different. Some of the storytelling in B5 was allegorical, just casting current problems in a different setting so that we could actually think clearly about the issues instead of getting worked up with our prior opinions.

The recent BSG was not just poor science fiction, it was poor storytelling. The writers were working without a plan and it showed. I've already gone a few rounds with apologists before and I know I won't convince anyone but the crap that made me stop watching BSG is the same crap that made me stop watching Heroes (and I frickin' lurved the first season of Heroes.) And the only reason I even care is that this genre is right up my alley. I don't complain about the writers ruining House even if they are because I don't care for medical dramas.

Trek died for me around the time B5 came about. What killed it is that there was no longer any drive and vision in the process, it was corporate-driven mung for the sake of making money. There was about as much joy and art put into it as you'd find in a Big Mac at the local McDonalds. So you get bland plots, reset buttons, and massive yawns. There were some good points in TNG even with all that, some people will defend DS9, nobody can defend Voyager and I think we've all agreed that Enterprise happened in Vegas and is staying there.

Quid Pro Quo (4, Interesting)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737241)

Funny, I happen to hate Charles Stross for almost the exact opposite reason. His books are drowning in an obsession with flushing out every angle he can find on the technology, and leave almost no room for anything else.

Ron Moore???? (1, Insightful)

JeffSpudrinski (1310127) | more than 4 years ago | (#29737275)

From description: "...Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore..."

Ron Moore didn't create Battlestar Galactica...he just took a very good pre-existing idea and ruined it.

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