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The Letters to the Editor department is intended to be a forum for our readers to express their own opinions and ideas. While we appreciate the many complimentary letters we receive each day, you won't find them on this page. Instead, you will find letters that go beyond or even contradict what we have written, letters that offer a different perspective and provide a different view of science fiction.

— Scott Edelman, Editor-in-Chief

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Got a gripe about something going on in the science fiction world? Want to call attention to an overlooked genre gem? Do you disagree with one of our reviews? Would you like to tell the editor of Science Fiction Weekly what a great job he does? Write a letter to the editor and send it in! You'll have the satisfaction of knowing that your letter will be read by thousands of SF fans. Doubtless, fame and fortune will follow (fame and fortune not guaranteed). If you would like to submit a letter, please use our feedback form or send a message to scifiweekly@scifi.com.


George Pal's Future Was Cut Short

I read Miss Sharon Booker's statement ("Star Wars Wasn't the First") in SF Weekly #336 about Carl Thompson's letter ("Original BSG Ripped Off Star Wars") in SF Weekly #335.

I would like to add something to Miss Booker's informative letter about this that some science fiction fans might not know. The late great film producer and director George Pal, who gave us such successful classic films like Destination Moon, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, etc. was having a tough time getting movie studio executives to go ahead with projects he wanted to do in the 1970s.

Well, the movie Star Wars hit the theaters in 1977, making it the highest grossing film at that time. Now the movie studio executives were practically knocking down George Pal's door asking for anything he could come up for them. George Pal reportly said something to the effect of, "I am very glad that George Lucas' sci-fi epic of Star Wars will make it possible for the field of science fiction filmmaking to go really forward."

From the story I heard, George Pal had arranged to sign a several large movie contracts for a major studio and unfortunately died of a sudden heart attack the day before.

Which is really sad, because one really wonders what the late great George Pal might have had in store for sci-fi fans in the late 1970s, 1980s and beyond.

Alan David Laska
bigal11@ix.netcom.com


Science Fiction Needs New Tomorrows

B en Bova's plug ("Bova Rings Up Saturn") as posted on SCI FI Wire was a revelation on the state of science fiction. The seven-time Hugo winner, former editor of Analog and former fiction editor of Omni, past president of the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the author of more than 100 works of science fact and fiction, spoke to all of us from the apex of SF publishing.

"Saturn is really about a group of 10,000 people who are not exactly exiled, but are encouraged to leave the Earth by the request of [the] government controlling the Earth," said Bova. "They're free-thinkers. They're not given to following orders very well. The novel is about the people in this habitat, going out to Saturn and establishing orbit around the planet. ... And we discover how power in this community plays out."

Am I the only "free-thinker" who sees just how played out this is?

Bova is currently working on Mercury, the next book in the series. A collection, Tales of the Grand Tour, will be published by Tor Books in January. Bova's next novel, The Silent War, is scheduled for May. "It concludes the story behind The Asteroid Wars [and] sets the stage for another move forward in the expansion into the solar system."

And sets science fiction back yet again. This kind of stuff has been done to death since the Golden Age. I can go to Mercury in 10 seconds online and play all the "asteroid wars" I want on a game program.

Doesn't anybody in SF publishing understand? Science fiction is about change. Science-fiction publishing hasn't, but its audience, what's left of it, has. Who's Bova writing for? The teenage boys from last century currently residing in old-age homes and elder hostels?

More than intelligence, imagination and style, successful science fiction requires that the author have something to say. Saturn's message: "People who take no interest in politics usually get the government they deserve. When you get a whole bunch of people who don't care about politics, who don't want to take an active role in their own self-government, you're going to get a dictatorship."

Gee, keep those bulletins coming.

Fiction throughout the ages has enriched and enlightened, inspired and entertained. But it's the works that enflame that last. Science fiction appeals to our imagination and our hopes and our dreams, but at its very core, the best SF reveals and confronts our fears. What scares us in this day and age? AIDS? Anthrax? Third World terrorists? Overpopulation or another asteroid hitting the earth? If that's all there is, then there's no place left for SF to go.

But there has to be. There always has to be, doesn't there?

In 1965, Michael Moorcock, the editor of New Worlds, a long-dead SF magazine, wrote "We need more writers who reflect the pragmatic mood of today, who use images apt for today, who employ symbols gathered from the world of today, who use sophisticated writing techniques of today—who employ characters fitted for the society of today."

(In Fahrenheit 451, [Ray] Bradbury used as his centerpiece, not some super high-tech conceit, but a common fire engine.)

Two generations ago, Kirk/Spock/McCoy spoke to us from hundreds of years in the future and thousands of light years away. More a crusade in the turbulent '60s than episodic space opera, Star Trek gave us characters with attributes and attitudes, challenges and conflicts that made us proud to be sf fans.

In 2001 and Planet of the Apes, HAL and Taylor were emblematic of their times, but reached us on film, not on the page. From the past, present and future, Xena, Buffy, and Ripley were characters audiences identified with. So too were Han Solo and Indiana Jones.

Who has published science fiction produced in the last half century that millions of readers have related to? No one! The best selling SF novel of the last 50 years was Jurassic Park, which featured memorable dinosaurs rather than unforgettable characters. Meanwhile, fantasy has given us a British kid studying to be a wizard which sold five million books in one day.

Not to worry. The SF community is hailing the latest 700-page Dune saga, Arthur C. Clarke's upcoming novel and the recently discovered "lost" Heinlein novel. Living dinosaurs, the lot of them.

Science Fiction Weekly's editor's take on all this: "... In talking about [science fiction] with others who are equally as interested in the genre, I learn to appreciate it more. My thoughts crystallize so that I learn why I love what I love, and why I detest what I detest as well. That intellectual give-and-take is invigorating." ("What I Did on My Summer Vacation")

And what's talked about in these letter pages, the sci-fi forum? Critiques on the Enterprise's fashions and its theme song, the latest canceled or premiering TV series, who will play the newest Batman and which old movie or TV show should or should not be remade. Wow! Talk about "invigorating"!

Maybe I was too hard on Bova. He was right in a way he never suspected. People who take no interest in science fiction usually get the science fiction they deserve. When you get a whole bunch of people who don't care about science fiction, who don't want to take an active role in their own science fiction, you're going to get "sci-fi entertainment."

Robert Heinlein's last work he wanted published was Grumbles from the Grave. Listen up, "sci-fi entertainment" fans. The immortal grandmaster is screaming.

Kevin Ahearn
KEVTOMA@aol.com


Darker Trek Channels Farscape

I have watched every Star Trek series since its beginnings, and have loved them all. I have been concerned about Enterprise, because of all the complaints I kept hearing about it going nowhere, but after watching these last few episodes of the new season, I am quite excited. I immediately noticed that it had taken on a new flavor—kind of a mix between Star Wars and Farscape—darker, more intense and definitely more interesting.

It's great to see all the new aliens they're coming up with. A friend of mine says this was how the series should have started to begin with. The Vulcans had been protesting the readiness of humans to explore space, but an incident like an attack on Earth killing millions of people would have been the perfect reason to launch out into the unknown. I enjoy seeing Jonathan Archer being more aggressive; maybe rash, impulsive. Kirk was like that too—he took a lot of chances, and didn't always play according to the rules—and that's what made him a great character and a great captain. I think this new direction will help Enterprise immensely, as long as they can keep up the good storylines.

And on an additional note, the theme music is much improved with the new arrangement. It's amazing how changing an arrangement to a song can make so much difference.

Dawn Clark
dclark5@bitwisesystems.com


Sexual Encounters Sink Enterprise

S tar Trek's episode this past week—featuring a lesbian rape—has brought the series to the ultimate low. [Producer Rick] Berman has not only degraded women, but treated the serious topic of rape as a plot device on a poorly written show that does nothing to demonstrate the horror of this crime.

In this latest Berman-episode disaster, he has a helpless Vulcan—a species [series creator] Gene [Roddenberry] established in an original Star Trek episode as being 10 times stronger than human. This is the second time T'Pol is raped in two years! This woman seems to have two reactions on every show—either she is in heat or she is being raped!

The guest stars are a series of all female slaves, all who just happen to be beautiful and nearly nude for the attraction of that precious 18 to 35 year old male viewer Berman wants watching the show. And then we have a captain who, last season, charged one of his officers with interfering in another culture for freeing a slave—but allows himself free interaction with the good-looking slaves.

I am ready to start a campaign to pull the plug on Enterprise. (I've decided, for me, it does not deserve the title Star Trek: Enterprise as the only connection to Star Trek is the name of the ship!) This series dishonors Gene, dishonors the loyal fans and dishonors the work of previous writers who created memorible episodes dealing seriously with racism, war, sexual idenity and even life after death.

Berman has shown with "Stigma" and again in another rape-driven episode that he is not interested in quality shows addresses serious topics in a meaningful way for devoted fans. He is not interested in episodes that evoke debate, that raise issues, and that impart a different point of view for consideration.

He wants to use the Star Trek name to attract fans with week after week of T&A (please excuse my language but that is what it is).

Yes, in 1966 Star Trek female crew members wore mini-skirts and yes, Kirk loved lots of beautiful women dressed in varied styles in mini-clothing, but he never, ever, made a joke of rape. Under his command, the Enterprise freed populations from slavery, grew in understanding by listening and learning from new cultures, and respected racial diversity and dignity.

Does anyone believe that the show now being called Star Trek: Enterprise in the commercials, a show dropping like a ship falling out of orbit in the ratings, would ever, ever have attracted the viewer loyalty that resulted in the original series lasting an extra year on the air, growing in popularity in re-runs, attracting fans and conventions worldwide and creating 30 more years of movies and series? If this latest Star Trek series had been the first, it would have disappeared from TV history after two episodes!

I appreciate being allowed to state my opinion and recognize the rights of those who like Berman's "nearly naked women and shoot 'em up cowboys" weekly shows, to disagree. Star Trek is IDIC—with room for all—I only wish Berman would study Gene's work, Gene's world, and bring back some of the quality of the original series into the weekly drama he sends before the public under the name Star Trek.

Heaven forbid, a new generation of viewers, those who did not grow up with the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager, think Enterprise is Star Trek. This would be the worse that could happen to Gene's memory—to be forever connected to Enterprise in the minds of the next generation of viewers.

Gloria Hoffner
Gloriah311@aol.com


Assistant Editor Brian Murphy responds:

Actually, Enterprise hasn't quite been a "show dropping like a ship falling out of orbit in the ratings," as you indicate. In issue #335 of Science Fiction Weekly you will find in the News section (as reported from SCI FI Wire) this item down at the bottom, under the heading "Briefly Noted," regarding Enterprise's premiere episode:

The second third-season episode of UPN's Enterprise, which aired on Sept. 17, saw double-digit ratings growth over last week's season premiere in all key adult male and female demographics, the network announced. The revamped Star Trek prequel remains ahead of its performance last season by 9 percent in total viewers.

As for the quality of the show, which can't be concretely measured: That's for everyone else in this column to debate.

Thanks!

Best,
Brian


Dr. Who's Daleks Will Never Die

T he Daleks were supposedly wiped out in Doctor Who's 25th season opener. But Davros has returned from the dead before. So will the Daleks reappear for the new Doctor Who franchise prepared for 2005? Probably!

The highest-rated Dalek stories as voted by DWIN's 40th anniversary poll are...

For the '60s: "The Evil Of The Daleks"—82.43%
For the '70s: "Genesis Of The Daleks"—86.23%
For the '80s: "Remembrance Of The Daleks"—86.29%
And for the '90s: "Doctor Who: Comic Relief"—71.74%

The Doctor Who movies from the '60s (Doctor Who and the Daleks/Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD) with Peter Cushing in the title role were as successful with the fans as indeed were the original TV epics by Dalek writer Terry Nation that they were based on. And the long-rumored new movie that has been awaited throughout the past decade would have certainly found a place for the giant salt-shakers too.

We know that Davros escaped, yet again, when Sylvester McCoy's 7th Doctor ordered the Hand of Omega to destroy the Dalek forces all the way back to their planet Skaro. So in the new series we can certainly expect "the man in the bath chair" (as portrayed by Michael Wisher, David Gooderson and Terry Molloy) to resurrect Dalekmania to the Whoniverse. A Doctor Who franchise, dare I say it, would ultimately never be the same without one of the scariest alien monsters ever known.

Michael Anthony Basil
mike.basil@sympatico.ca


Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, many of the letters submitted over the past week and a half through the Science Fiction Weekly feedback form were inadvertently lost. We have since corrected the problem; however, this week's Letters column is somewhat abbreviated because of the glitch.

Next week, we hope to have a full-size letters column for you to sink your science-fictional teeth into.

Best,
The Staff of Science Fiction Weekly


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