Tag Archives: tv series

Game of Thrones great on tv, even better in print

19 May

Robert Frost may not have been able to decide whether the world would end in fire or ice, but George R. R. Martin has: and the answer is… both!  And I’m with him all the way (even if he is in a Twitter war with Damon Lindelof).

I love you Tyrion Lannister.

HBO’s new series Game of Thrones, starring Sean Bean as Boromir (sorry, Ned Stark), that creepy guy from The Wire, and Liz Lemon’s almost-boyfriend is currently at the top of my weekly Megavideo viewing list.  Bored by The Borgias and determined not to study for finals, I watched the premiere about a month ago–and loved it immediately.  So much so, in fact, that I felt compelled to check out the crypto-medieval fantasy series it’s based off of, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

Martin isn’t called the American Tolkien for no reason, and I can’t praise the series enough.  Every three or four years, when science fiction starts to get a little tedious (cue gasp) I go back and re-read The Lord of the Rings for a taste of epic fantasy.  I have a feeling that it’ll be Martin’s books with the place of honor on my bookshelf from now on.  Or at least they would if I weren’t reading everything on the Kindle.  Alas, alack.

I started the series on April 27, the night of the dreadful Tuscaloosa, AL tornado, and am already on book three (which is saying something, considering each installment goes past 20,000 locations–or 1,000+ pages in print).  And so far, Martin seems not to have gotten the memo that successful authors can coast on sequels.  A Clash of Kings was possibly better than A Game of Thrones.

It makes sense, actually, that the series only keeps ramping up as it continues.  George R. R. Martin himself may hold the throne as the king of characterization–with each successive sentence, chapter, novel, his heroes and villains become ever more highly developed and multi-dimensional (so much so that I couldn’t name one individual I could pigeonhole as hero or villain).

Here’s the book blurb for Game of Thrones.  I highly recommend it, especially if you, like me, are determined not to study for the GRE either:

In a world where the approaching winter will last four decades, kings and queens, knights and renegades struggle for control of a throne. Some fight with sword and mace, others with magic and poison. Beyond the Wall to the north, meanwhile, the Others are preparing their army of the dead to march south as the warmth of summer drains from the land.

Although conventional in form, the book stands out from similar work by Eddings, Brooks and others by virtue of its superbly developed characters, accomplished prose and sheer bloody-mindedness. Although the romance of chivalry is central to the culture of the Seven Kingdoms, and tournaments, derring-do and handsome knights abound, these trappings merely give cover to dangerous men and women who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

When Lord Stark of Winterfell, an honest man, comes south to act as the King’s chief councilor, no amount of heroism or good intentions can keep the realm under control. It is fascinating to watch Martin’s characters mature and grow, particularly Stark’s children, who stand at the center of the book.

Bloody-mindedness–that’s the word I was looking for: prepare for battles in A Clash of Kings as epic as Helm’s Deep.

Availability: Game of Thrones is $8.99 as an ebook on Amazon.  And catch it on the small screen Sundays on HBO.

Valar morghulis!

LOST Kill Count

1 May

Some statistical analysis for the Losties out there.  Kind of.

For the last six months, I’ve been re-watching LOST (yes, all of it), and recently finished up season five.  Meanwhile, two astonishingly illegible post-its have been taped to my desk.  Their purpose?  Tracking the violent acts of characters in the show.  Here’s what I have so far–I typed out the numbers because even my tallies are hard to read (let’s remember I literally failed handwriting in 2nd grade):

Wait… Jack killed someone?  Saint Jack Shephard?  Son of Christian Shepherd (oy vey, what a name)?  It’s okay Jack fans, whatever strange folks you must be, don’t freak out–it was way back in Season 1 when Sawyer shot the marshal and… well… kind of missed and Jack had to smother him out.  As you can see, Sawyer became a much better shot as time went on.

No surprise that Sayid is one of the deadliest castaways–he almost never fails.  But then, he’s a trained assassin, or, as Hurley famously says: “He is my friend. Be he also has this double life where he does crazy ninja moves and spy stuff.”  I can’t even remember who that 1 attempted kill was, but the tallies don’t lie.

The rest of the numbers hold few surprises either–Juliet’s a cold fish; Keamy’s friggin terrifying; Smokey’s a monster, literally; Sawyer’s a badass, and Eko too.  The beard cutting thing, though, that was a little weird.

But probably you’ve already noticed the most glaring exception from the list, by far the most dangerous individual on the Island.  That’s right, it’s–

And let’s not forget that this is just seasons 1 through 5; I’m pretty sure Ben gets some more kills in season 6 (Widmore, for example).  Pretty much the only way you can escape Ben Linus is to be a kid (Charlie Hume), have a kid (Penny Widmore, Danielle Rousseau), or stay out of his way.  And stay away from Juliet.  This count doesn’t even include the deaths he masterminded.  Anyone remember Goodwin?  I didn’t think so.

Word to the wise.

General John Locke? (“Harsh Realm” tv series)

7 Mar

So, apparently, before he was telling people they can’t tell him what he can’t do, Terry O’Quinn had a starring role in the 1999 sci-fi series “Harsh Realm.”  I haven’t actually watched more than the youtube clip from the pilot below, but I was kind of put off by… well, you’ll see:

This was brought to my attention by a fellow Lostie.  I’ll have to wait until next time I see him to find out what he thinks of the series as a whole–I was too busy laughing at a mustachioed O’Quinn playing a character named “General Omar Santiago.”

Don’t get me wrong–he’s a brilliant actor (and got robbed at the Emmys after LOST’s final season).  And still… I don’t think I’ll ever stop laughing.

Kindle TV (review: Miscorrection series)

25 Dec

I always say that LOST is a lifestyle, but maybe it’s a writing style too.

I don’t watch movies.  Unless they’re musicals.  Or feature Matthew Broderick.  Or both.  The point is–two hours isn’t long enough to tell a really good story–three hours was barely enough to satisfy us Tolkien fans back in the Ohs.  Television programs, on the other hand, if they’re not cancelled before their time (*cough, Firefly, cough*), don’t have that limitation.  A good tv series is like a novel–eventually, it has to end, but going episode by episode is much more like chapter by chapter.  Read: LOST.

My dearly beloved older sister Kate the Lostie gave me a beautiful shirt with Benjamin Linus’s face plastered on the front for Christmas today–a testament to just how much I love (present tense!) the show.  I don’t know if he has any LOST apparel in the closet, or an awesome Dharma Kindle like mine, but author B.C. Young does confess being a part of the perfervid fandom:

I’m a huge LOST and J.J. Abrams fan. The type of storytelling from LOST and Abrams is what I am aspiring to write. These are short stories, but overall, they tell a much bigger story.

His short stories “Miscorrection: Sunrise” and “Miscorrection: Arrogation” were released in sequence in May and July 2010 (part 3 is forthcoming)–like the short story serials of the Victorian era, or better yet, like episodes in a tv series.

Each story is between 400 and 500 locations on the Kindle–which, I’d estimate, would be 40 or so pages in the physical world.  In any case, it’s 45 minutes tops for each, exactly the amount of time I’d spend on Hulu catching up on Fringe.  And with technological terrorists, mysterious “events,” and internal power coups, the plot’s kind of reminiscent of that Abrams show too.

B.C. Young prefaces each story with a mild-mannered caveat emptor:

I think it’s fair to let you know that I am not a writer.  I have no degrees in English or real training in writing techniques.  With that being said, I do have a story to tell.  Over the past three to four years, I had developed a story in my mind.  Finally, I decided to write it down.  Fortunately, Amazon has allowed for someone like me to self publish.

Caveat unnecessary.  I know English majors–and trust me, a degree doesn’t guarantee talent.  The cultural snobbery toward self-published authors, in fact, is probably the work of creatively frustrated English majors themselves.  We don’t need no artistic aristocracy.

The Internet’s proving to be increasingly democratic: digital self-publishing lets self-effacing (maybe too self-effacing in Young’s case) new writers to tell stories.    There’s nothing like starting a new book.  Except, maybe, starting a new tv series.  Thanks to Internet self-publishing, we can do both at the same time.  With authors like B.C. Young writing in serial, Amazon’s something like the Hulu of science fiction.  If you don’t love that, get thee to an English department–and stay there.

B.C. Young may call himself an amateur, but he writes in  clear, uncluttered first-person prose.  In “Sunrise,” Young begins to set the stage for the unfolding story arc–slowly revealing aspects of society and its dangers on one of humanity’s six colonized planets.  In “Arrogation,” the pace builds and we get inside the head and headquarters of one of the leaders of the mysterious Karhath zealots and their sinister schemes for the solar system.  Now I’m just waiting for the next installment: I joined the Miscorrection fan page on Facebook for updates.

“Miscorrection: Sunrise” and “Miscorrection: Arrogation” are available for $0.99 as ebooks on Amazon.  Not bad, considering I paid $1.99 an episode to watch The Walking Dead with Amazon Video on Demand this fall.

“Sunrise” on Amazon

“Arrogation” on Amazon

Oh, and Merry Christmas–even if the Christians did steal the pagan Winter Solstice.

Flashback to FlashForward (finale recap)

31 May

Despite all the hype as a potential successor to ABC’s cult science fiction drama LOST, the infant FlashForward ended up airing its series finale just days after LOST’s own.

Irony’s a bitch.

Like LOSTFlashForward presented viewers with a Byzantine plot, philosophical puzzles, and Dominic Monaghan.  Unlike LOST—and the reason why, I’m convinced, FlashForward didn’t get another season—it wasn’t a character-driven show.  However engaging the storyline and mysterious the subject matter, a show still has to hook us on an emotional level, something Mark Benford and his lackluster FBI cohorts just didn’t manage to do.

The series did have some high points, however.

Physicists, it seems, are hot in contemporary science fiction (you can make anything plausible with reference to quantum mechanics).  Losties got twitchy Daniel Faraday with his endearingly spasmodic hand movements, inevitable skinny tie, and at-times-inaudible science-speak mumbling.  FlashForward brought us Lloyd Simcoe and Simon Campos—the first one being as romantic as Faraday but considerably less socially awkward, and the latter being absolutely effing terrifying.  The most engaging subplots of the show generally involved these two—Simcoe and his relationship with Olivia, and Campos’s teeter-tottering between sociopathic scheming and genuine inner turmoil.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these were the most emotionally fraught storylines, either.

In the penultimate episode The Countdown (1.21), in fact, Lloyd and Olivia have a short phone conversation that might just sum up the entire reason FlashForward failed.  When Olivia decides to drive off with Charlie the night of the blackout to get away from Lloyd (who desperately needs her to be with him at her house, mainly so he can solve an important equation he was supposed to write in lipstick on her bedroom mirror), we get this:

Lloyd: Certain conditions have to be met!

Olivia: Don’t make this about fate, don’t make this about free will.

In other words, make it about the characters.

Well alas alack, it’s a trifle late for that now.  But since the show has gone the way of other sadly misbegotten science fiction (see Dollhouse and Firefly), at the very least a series recap is in order for FlashForward to rest in peace.

The Countdown brought up an interesting idea that probably would have been expanded upon if the series were to have continued: two people having mutually exclusive flash forwards about each other.

After enduring a lengthy speech from global blackout mastermind and sharp dresser Hellinger, Mark seemed to have resigned himself to his own death.  And after being thrown out of the FBI for snapping and beating the crap out of the interrogee turned interrogator, Mark laughs like an hysterial madman when he shows up at a “Flash Forward Day” party (ironic, isn’t it?) and gets a flask pushed on him by another man who’d seen himself quitting drinking.  At this point, Mark’s thoroughly frustrated by his own impotence.  And yet, he can’t entirely give himself up to The Universe.  As Hellinger says:

All of this is so futile, but your faith is admirable.  That board in your office—how much time have you spent on it?  How much time have you spent looking at it, all on faith.  But deep down you must know what that board really is—it’s nothing but a scrapbook of your failures.  A freed Nazi, a failed trip to Somalia, dead birds—but you keep believing, you keep fighting, because that’s what you do.

All this in a condescendingly contemptuous tone, naturally, made all the worse by an upper-crust British accent.  British accents always make me feel inferior.

So when a stranger in a bar says that his flash forward involved talking to Mark—a major departure from Mark seeing masked men with rifles searching him out in his office—the strain might have been just a little too much.  Benford snaps and beats the crap out of his second guy in forty-two minutes.  And gets thrown in jail.

As for everyone else—

At the end of the second-to-last episode, some futures are coming true and some have already shattered:

Nicole starts feeling guilty for hiding her information about Keiko’s whereabouts from Bryce (and thus fears getting drowned and liking it), so she confesses; Bryce, naturally, is angry and shocked, and rushes off to find his illegal immigrant lover.

Aaron’s saved his daughter Tracy from Jericho and learned from a captured Jericho interrogator (Aaron can do some serious Jack Bauer strategic finger-jabbing) that the private defense firm hadn’t killed anyone—as Tracy had thought.  It had been yet more blackout beta-testing, and Tracy was a target because she’d been in the radius but remained awake.  Except, since she did die after all, I guess we’ll never know why she was important (kind of like Walt and the Others…).

Olivia and Charlie are ditching the physicist and his son, the latter two of which are understandably pissed.

Demetri admits to his fiancé that he slept with Janis so she could get pregnant—while he though we was about to get murdered—and then has the gall to ask, “Please marry me.”  Zoey stalks off to Hawaii with her parents.  There goes one escape from the inevitable.  So the once-again-fatalistic Demetri teams up with a guilt-ridden Janis and a vengeful Simon Campos to sneak into the particle accelerator and see if they can figure out whatever crazy system Hellinger used to cause the first blackout—and so stop the next.

End act one.

Future Shock (1.22), the season/series finale, opens with just an hour and eighteen minutes to the time seen in the blackout: April 29th, 10:00 pm.

Let’s start with the good news—Tracy’s alive after all!  That was sure unexpected, and it might even be touching… if I actually cared about her and Aaron.  Bryce meets Keiko as hoped for, and Nicole, though she was drowning, isn’t actually murdered but saved y the sinister man above the watery abyss.  Janis’s baby’s still healthy, and a boy And from Lloyd, another great scientist pick-up line: “You’re part of the equation, and I can’t do it without you.”  (That equation on the mirror, by the way, is Dillan’s.)

Meanwhile, in a creepy octagonal (or something) room filled with large computers and flashing panels, Simon tries in vain to find a file on the computer before the time on the clock runs out and the electromagnetism is released from the Swan hatch and—

Sorry, more flashbacks.

In any case, because of Simon’s physicist inside jokes and because Olivia agrees to recreate the circumstances of the flash forward and ends up looking deep into Lloyd Simcoe’s eyes—“I fought it, and resisted it, and… the future happened,” she explains—Lloyd solves his math problem and discovers that the next blackout is… sometime in the next two days.  In fact, it’s in twelve minutes. Which is shockingly convenient, considering the episode needs to wrap up the entire series and answer that pressing question of another blackout in, at this point, thirteen minutes too.

But there’s worse—Hellinger’s been messing with Mark the whole time.  As it turns out, he has men on the inside (besides Janis), and they’re all ready to shoot up a re-instated Mark Benford just as he figures out the time of the new blackout and channels Jack Bauer in a super intense gunfight.

During all this, Hellinger’s cronies–presumably–activate the accelerator in secret.  Remember all those doomsday predictions about the LHC back in September?  It’s like that.

And just like that, Simon gets a conscience as he tries to shut down the hackers—“I’m not going to let them do this to me—to use my mind, my machine!  Millions of people, Demetri!  Millions of people don’t deserve to die,” he says at gunpoint, in an impassioned tone (see image above).  It would be redemption for the evil scientist… if it were a little less hurried.

In fact, it’s not even clear whether Simon did turn into a good guy at all.  Back a couple episodes, Simon Campos and Hellinger had a major battle of British accents in a seedy hotel room.  But while Simon does demonstrate his contempt for the men he’s been unwittingly working for his entire life, we never do actually hear him answer the Big Guy’s ultimatum: Join us and finish your great scientific work, or die in ignominy.

The finale includes a pretty long scene with Simon hacking into the mainframe–and the only assurance that it’s Hellinger’s men comes from… Simon.  No corroborating evidence (no wonder Demetri’s so close to shooting him).  If he really was not working for the enemy, he failed to stop the blackout with all his rapid keyboard pounding.  Personally, I think he wanted to fire that NLAP particle accelerator up again.  He warned Demetri to take a seat for his safety, and despite his talk of saving millions of lives, his first words were–“I’m not going to let them do this to me—to use my mind, my machine!”  They could be Benford and co.  “I,” “me,” and “my” are pretty self-explanatory.  He values his mind and his work.

Maybe he was still working for the enemy. Simon Campos has a good track record for lying, anyway.

And so the second blackout does happen, though with ten minutes forewarning to world governments, which, I guess, saved a couple million.  The flights that couldn’t be grounded in time, however, might end up on a mysterious island run by the mysterious Hurley and his ambassador Ben.

As for our protagonist—Mark Benford is last scene running toward a window (fourth story at least, I’d guess) in the exploding Los Angeles FBI hq.  His daughter, however, comes full circle with her flash forward: while first she saw her father being reported dead, on April 29, 2010 Charlie sees a much older self (in 2015) telling someone, “They found him.”

All in all, FlashForward gave us a neater tying-up of ends than LOST and a pinch of ambiguity in the end, but neither the story the creators intended, nor the depth of its older sibling, nor nearly as much sobbing by fans.

Though, I will miss that kangaroo.

Love and War (V 1.11, “Fruition”)

12 May

To recap—last night on V, the “Lizard Princess” got Nancy Kerriganed by mommy dearest and ended up beginning to build a relationship (equally manipulative) with Tyler’s mommy as well, Fifth Column High Commander Erica Evans.

All quite apropos, because “Fruition” was an episode all about Vs acting like humans, humans acting like Vs, and, picking up on last week’s title, the battle between “Hearts and Minds.”

When Agent Evans got the call about a violent attack on a V, she rushed to the hospital to find—much to her surprise—that the victim was Tyler’s girlfriend Lisa (however bruised and battered the poor girl may have been, Erica certainly would have recognized the red bra and panties Lisa was sporting the first time they met).  But while Erica had known about the hidden cameras in the peace ambassador uniforms (and her son’s naivete), she’d broken her own rule trusting him even a little bit—and now got the biggest shock a parent could possibly have: my son is dating a reptile.

Of course, in characteristic low-key, low-voiced Elizabeth Mitchell fashion, Erica’s conversation at the end of the episode was a little less dramatic than the situation might have called for.

Tyler: I just wanted to make sure you’re okay with me… dating a V.

EE: It’s a little weird—not gonna lie.

Yes, yes it is a little weird.  But human teens lying to their parents isn’t so weird as parents ordering their kid’s legs broken and face slashed open to make good theater for a press conference.  Even before Erica found out that Anna was behind the attack, she saw the look of all-consuming terror on Lisa’s face when her mother came to take Erica’s place comforting her at the hospital.  Even Erica in her shock had been genuinely horrified, and stayed by Lisa’s bedside even while the girl was sleeping—brushing her hair back from her face and holding her warmly.  When Anna hugged her daughter, she smiled as sinisterly as only an evil alien queen can do, and Lisa, stiff, looked wide-eyed at Erica.

The two mother’s couldn’t have been much more different.  While Lisa told doctor Joshua “My son’s in love with a V,” Anna thought she was being convincingly sincere when she told Erica—“Lisa is very fond of Tyler.”

Touching.

But Lisa, as Joshua realized and told Erica later in this episode, is more than just “fond” of Tyler-of-the-vacant-expression (am I going to ship Lisa/Joshua one of these days?  Quite possibly).  She’s beginning to develop human emotions—which makes her perfect material for the Fifth Column.  Or at least, for manipulation by the Fifth Column.

It’s interesting to note here that Erica and Anna might have more in common than they think.  Anna, as we’ve known for a couple weeks now, has some nefarious plan involving Tyler—the details of which are still unknown.  And though Erica’s compassion score is probably off the charts (exceeded only by Father Jack, who’s passed compassion and edged into the betazoid empath zone), she’s quite happy to use someone else’s kid too.  Quoth Evans: “If she’s going to use my son then I’m sure as hell going to use her daughter.”

But Erica drew the line at involving her own Tyler.  When Hobbes suggested (supported by Ryan) that they might bring the boy into the Fifth Column quadrilateral of trust, Erica adamantly refused.  Consideration for her son’s safety?  Ostensibly.  But Tyler, they know now, is already in danger, and the only added danger that might come from telling her son about her secret life as a terrorist might be to the Fifthers themselves.

Tyler loved Lisa.  That’s pretty well-established.  And she, it seems, loves him back.  From a strategic standpoint, there’s no reason to put anything between that mutual trust—especially when Lisa’s human emotions nearly had her confessing to her mother’s scheme in framing Hobbes and climatologist Lawrence Parker for her attack.

Erica recognizes the value in teen love toward the end of the episode.  After Tyler apologizes for lying and calls her “my hero” for catching the man who (says Anna) attacked Lisa, Erica responds with this warm peace offering: “Tyler, I was wrong about the Visitors—you were right.  I’d like to get to know Lisa better, and Anna too, if that’s all right with you.”

Erica’s qualms, it appears, don’t lie with using Tyler—but with giving him more information than he needs to know.  She’s manipulating her son just as surely as Anna is her daughter.  Though, to Erica’s credit, she’d probably never take a crowbar to Tyler’s kneecaps.

Kyle Hobbes is another Fifther to reveal some suspiciously V-like tactics in “Fruition.”  But whereas Erica wants to promote the rebel cause by encouraging the development of Lisa’s empathy, Hobbes prefers eliminating emotions.

Ryan’s been sporting a relatively flat affect for the past couple weeks, even since Val found out his true identity and the fact that her baby’s some sort of hybrid (Val might want to consider checking out Splice in theaters for useful parenting tips).  On a stakeout outside Parker’s Chinatown apartment, Ryan confessed to Father Jack that he didn’t think he could continue fighting without Val, and the love she’d supported him with.

Jack Landry gives the conventional priestly response— have faith.

Kyle Hobbes’s advice is a little different.  In the Fifth Column bunker, surrounded by his spy gear and stolen hard drives, he gives us this gem of personal insight:

“When special ops soldiers go to war, they don’t carry any family mementos, no photos, nothing.  You know why?  Because they can be taken from you and used against you.  In war, emotions can get you killed.  Leave your feelings for her behind—burn any trace of them out of your heart.”

It’s an interesting comment, considering that Erica, just minutes before, gave Lisa a picture of her son to carry with her—“for strength.”

Hobbes is, in effect, teaching Ryan how to be a V.  Because while Anna kills those who fail the empathy test (failure meaning showing empathy), Hobbes’s ruthless pragmatism would make him a perfect lieutenant.

And so, with this insight into the mind of a mercenary, we learn that Hobbes really doesn’t have too much emotional attachment to… anything (there goes my Hobbes/Even theory).  That is, anything except himself and his own interests.

Anna’s minions framed Hobbes and Larry Parker for the supposed Fifth Column attack on Lisa.  Of course, Hobbes was too busy blowing shuttles out of the sky to possibly be involved—and Parker was a chubby academic with thick glasses and a twitchy demeanor (but to be fair, being on a V hit list might do that to anyone).  The reason Parker was a target stems from his research on global warming.  Apparently, he and a team of scientists developed a compound that would help reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, the compound had a dangerous side-effect—it produced fish, amphibian, and reptile-killing algae.

No wonder the Vs wanted him gone.  What’s more confusing is why Hobbes would steal his hard drive without telling his Fifth Column compatriots that he had potentially the most important weapon against the Visitors in his possession.

Answer: Because Hobbes isn’t as human as the rest of them.

Meeting with Marcus in a dark alley, Hobbes makes a deal to trade the research for a fat bank account and a “clean slate,” or, “everything the Vs have on me.”  Which begs the question—what exactly do the Vs have one him?

Likely they don’t know he’s Fifth Column.  They do know that he very likely murdered five helpless scientists (Parker’s fellow researchers, who had all “disappeared” in the previous months).  They also framed him twice, and got him on the FBI’s most wanted list.

That’s a pretty dirty slate—and if he can be cleared with the human authorities, he won’t have to shave his sinister (and quite recognizable) mustache and goatee—but Hobbes’s betrayal makes it entirely possible there’s a whole lot more.

Ryan asked him, “Since when do you worry about anyone else but yourself?”  After this week, we can pretty safely say the answer is—never.  And in another case of human/V crossover, Hobbes’s characterization is starting to parallel Anna’s more and more.  As Joshua said to Erica, when she couldn’t believe Anna would injure her own daughter: “She’s not human.  She will do anything to get what she wants.”

That’s the problem for the Fifth Column these days.  Will stopping the Vs make them like their enemies?  Father Jack raised the question last week in “Hearts and Minds,” but the debate raged on and came to (get ready for it) “Fruition” last Tuesday.  With the season coming to a close, we’ll find out soon.

On a lighter note, Anna’s eggs are about to hatch and Lisa’s considering fratricide (that’s what human emotions bring—love for Tyler and the desire to kill thousands of babies).  And Anna, I’m pretty sure, was reading off a Kindle.

This has been the one-year anniversary post of the Scattering’s birth.  Happy birthday blog!

God Emperor of Quantum Physics

7 May

The universe wants what the universe wants.

I think I started reading Frank Herbert’s Dune series sophomore year of high school—I’m pretty sure it was sophomore year because freshman year I was obsessed with Watership Down for some reason I can’t quite remember, but ended up using the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear as my senior yearbook quote (a decision I shall never regret).  So it was between year one and four, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t three as year three I was keeping a Word document of Algernon Charles Swinburne poems.

But that’s not really relevant.

What’s relevant is that next Tuesday the Scattering will one year old, and in celebration a return to the beginning is in order.

Shockingly, this blog does not derive it’s name from the scattered nature of my thoughts and the tangents that posts often go off on [see first paragraph].  “The Scattering” is actually a far-future event that takes place at the end of the fourth book in Frank Herbert’s famous series—God Emperor of Dune.  It’s a species-wide diaspora of sorts, with human beings spreading out across the universe after the (spoiler alert) murder of Leto Atreides II, half-human/half-sandworm dictator.

— begin tangent –

Whenever I hear Bozz Scaggs’s “Lido Shuffle” (and I hear it quite a bit when my iPod’s on shuffle), I subtly change the lyrics to pay tribute to said God Emperor’s death:

Leto (woah-oah), he’s for the money, he’s for the show—drowning in the Idaho-o-o-o-o.

— end tangent –

The Scattering was the ultimate end of Leto’s Golden Path, a prescient vision that turned into a guide for all the horrible choices he had to make in his 3,000+ year creepy hybrid life—the only path that would prevent the total destruction of homo sapiens sapiens.  Essentially, if humans scattered to the millions of planets and billions of stars, no force (not even themselves) could ever destroy them all.

And thus, Leto II saved humanity.

But the most interesting part of the series, for me, was Herbert’s idea that simply seeing the future made the future.  When Leto’s father Paul (a messiah himself, if not a god) had his visions, he was tormented by the terrible things he saw.  And yet, the very fact that he saw them predisposed him to follow the paths he’d glimpsed—for all he knew, the alternatives he was blind to could be worse.  But Paul couldn’t take the pressure, and left his son to choose the devil he knew.

But after watching the most recent episode of FlashForward (“Course Correction”), I’ve begun to wonder whether Herbert’s ideas weren’t entirely science fiction.

For those of you who aren’t watching ABC’s new series in the hopes that it can fill the void that LOST will leave in just a few weeks, FlashForward is a science fiction drama focused on an event known as The Blackout—a couple minutes of time when the whole world went unconscious, or rather: the whole world shifted consciousness and mentally traveled six months into the future.  Everyone glimpsed what would happen (or not happen—if they’d be dead) to them on a particular day in April, and everyone freaked out.  Free will versus destiny debates broke out everywhere, and philosophy professors all over the country saw a sudden spike in their research grants.  (Well that last part’s speculation, but I’m pretty sure ABC has it in backstory somewhere.)

Central to the mystery of the blackout are Simon Campos as Lloyd Simcoe, two quantum physicists whose experiments may or may not have had something to do with the world-changing event.  In any case, they’re experts now, making talk show appearances and working with the FBI.  And in “Course Correction,” Simcoe makes a particularly interesting statement about what happens when people see the future.  To avoid butchering science, I’ll leave explanation to the experts—

From a 1998 Science Daily article:

One of the most bizarre premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.

In a study reported in the February 26 issue of Nature (Vol. 391, pp. 871-874), researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have now conducted a highly controlled experiment demonstrating how a beam of electrons is affected by the act of being observed. The experiment revealed that the greater the amount of “watching,” the greater the observer’s influence on what actually takes place.

When a quantum “observer” is watching Quantum mechanics states that particles can also behave as waves. This can be true for electrons at the submicron level, i.e., at distances measuring less than one micron, or one thousandth of a millimeter. When behaving as waves, they can simultaneously pass through several openings in a barrier and then meet again at the other side of the barrier. This “meeting” is known as interference.

Strange as it may sound, interference can only occur when no one is watching. Once an observer begins to watch the particles going through the openings, the picture changes dramatically: if a particle can be seen going through one opening, then it’s clear it didn’t go through another. In other words, when under observation, electrons are being “forced” to behave like particles and not like waves. Thus the mere act of observation affects the experimental findings.

(today in 2010, this premise is generally accepted among the physics in-crowd)

And so, to oversimplify in every way: once you see something, you make it real.  Or as Lloyd Simcoe explained, the universe wants it to happen—and if you try to thwart your [fate], the universe will “course correct.”

This doesn’t only apply to the visions seen by all the poor denizens of FlashFoward world, but Paul and Leto of the Duniverse as well.

Paul Atreides saw the Golden Path, but found it too horrifying to comprehend—he didn’t find the idea of millennia of sandtrout cilia invading his privy organs terribly appealing.  By not following his vision, Paul should have changed the future, but the Duniverse course corrected through Leto.  From Children of Dune:

Already he could feel how far he’d drifted from something recognizably human. Seduced by the spice which he gulped from every trace he found, the membrane which covered him no longer was sandtrout, just as he was no longer human. Cilia had crept into his flesh, forming a new creature which would seek its own metamorphosis in the eons ahead. You saw this, father, and rejected it, he thought. It was a thing too terrible to face. Leto knew what was believed of his father, and why. Muad’Dib died of prescience. But Paul Atreides had passed from the universe of reality into the alam al-mythal while still alive, fleeing from this thing which his son had dared.

My advice: think twice before you let the spice flow.