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June 16 2008

Watch Firefly and Buffy to save the world. Remember this SciFi Channel 'Visions For Tomorrow' poll? Well the results are in and Firefly got voted the most powerful work of sci-fi telly. Buffy came 10th so it's all good.

I'm a bit surprised that three series that I think of as particularly "world saving" (namely The Prisoner, Blake's 7 and Dark Angel) aren't there at all, when Stargate SG-1 gets on the list.

There are a few other dubious choices. Healthy eating doesn't seem like a very "world-saving" step (though eating less meat is). Jurassic Park seems a bit dodgy as well, as does The Time Machine, at least in comparison to the other more socially relevant titles on the lists.

Otherwise, from what I can see, these choices seem pretty good.
Am I the only one irked by the fact that, on both lists, Heroes is above Buffy? This isn't about which show is better, this is about which show is more... capable of world saving. With Heroes, I don't think saving the cheerleader will actually save the world. Buffy, on the other hand, has got some good messages in there, things that can help people live better lives. Things like, uhh... don't misuse magic. I think if we all don't misuse magic, the world will be a much better place.

Aside from that, good list.
I actually think that Jurassic Park is an understandable pick, as it's most definitely a cautionary tale about screwing with the natural order of things. Plus, Jeff Goldblum. Enough said. Now for books, I think that Andromeda Strain is a bit iffy, especially since other authors including Robin Cook have written simliar books (though Crichton's are far superior in terms of plot and writing).

As for 2001: A Space Odyssey, I can see why it's important, but I could never get into that movie. It was kind of a yawner for me, though I did stick it out, and I allude to it often. It's interesting that SciFi picked A Clockwork Orange, but that the viewers didn't. Now that's a great book that stays relevant due to the way things are in the world.

I think it's cool that the viewers consider reading to be the most important thing, and that they have Firefly as #1 and still have BtVS. SciFi had Buffy at #8, but no Firefly. Hrumph. The viewers have mostly good taste, although it's weird to me that they didn't pick "fight discrimination" as one of the things people can do to improve the world.

The one that was a forehead-smacker for me was Armageddon. Really? I'll give them Day After Tomorrow, especially for that scene where the Mexicans aren't letting the fleeing Americans in, but Armageddon? Shoot, if we're stretching that far, throw in V for Vendetta. Too bad The Watchmen isn't made, although that should have been one of the books chosen...

And I'm with Supersymmetrical over the whole Heroes/Buffy thing. After all, we've learned a lot from Buffy that we haven't learned from Heroes. Things like: fire bad, tree pretty; beer=foamy; nobody deserves a mime; and not to speak Latin in front of the books.
Plus (because I felt the need to actually be serious for a second), all of those apocalypses with the great metaphors that directly correllate to most people's lives, like the whole magic/drugs thing.
Heroes is too new to be on any kind of list yet. Especially after the less than fascinating second season. (Kristen Bell was the only plus.)
The tv list is ok. It doesn't really read all that differently from any other favorite scifi series list though. It bothers me that the part where you stand up, speak out, and get involved in communities is not on the "to do" list. I guess the presence of more environmental stuff is a plus, even though it's disappointing to see only recycling and not reusing or using less stuff in the first place.
I find it interesting that in the poll results, the first place is "Read", the third one is "register to vote" and the fifth is "be kind". Makes me believe more in the general good of people again, you know, that warm, fuzzy feeling.
(SciFi's results look a bit different with "read" at 7 and "be kind" at no. 10...)
How will watching 2001 help us save the world? I believe Day After Tomorrow, Day the Earth Stood Still, and Children of Men should be at the top of that list.
This list is somewhat corrupted by having Armageddon anywhere near it, although my hat's off to them for getting 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 on the list. You need all three to really save the world.*

I think this is really a classic example of the poll results being corrupted by the contents of the ballot. Armageddon shouldn't even have been offered as a choice.

* My mother has a theory that we've been careful to steer clear of the 1984 dystopia, only to fall into the Brave New World dystopia instead. This is why you need the trifecta.
I dunno, ManEnough, I think that we've got a healthy balance of 1984 and Brave New World going (at least in America, IMO). After all, we've still got fun things like the Patriot Act, and Fox News is much like our daily hate, or whatever they call it. (It's been 6 years since I've read the book.)

Bleh. I also just have issues with Brave New World because I thought it was a great read until the ending. I thought it ruined the book. As for Fahrenheit-451, I hated that book as a sophomore in high school and have yet to pick it up again, though the play was palatable. 1984 is my favorite dystopia, with Clockwork Orange second and Shade's Children (a YA book by Garth Nix, an Australian author) third. Then there's room in my heart for a little long as one can afFord the time. *rimshot*

And I think that Catch-22 should be on any and all book lists, regardless of genre, because of how unbelievably awesome it is.
Well, Catch-22 isn't really sci-fi. If they're going to throw it open to all genres then Due South should be near the top of their TV list.

Catch-22 is next on my to-read list.
Well, Catch-22 isn't really sci-fi.

Nope, not at all (not even in the "Not really but you can see why some people think it" way that Buffy qualifies ;). If I had to pick a single book though, I think 'Catch-22' would contend strongly for my favourite novel of all time (so far). I'm not a huge re-reader (because the number of books out there that I won't have time to read even once already depresses me ;) but i've read 'Catch-22' about 10 or 12 times and every time I ask myself why it's taken me this long to read it again. Funny, warm, humane, brilliant and a book about a better future inasmuch as it reminds us of the absurdities of the past and of what makes the present worth living in ('Slaughterhouse 5' - also brilliant - has a lot of the same themes and probably qualifies as sci-fi).

And any world that calls dead children 'collateral damage', enters into wars without end and tells people that've lost their livelihoods that they've been "downsized" already has way too much of '1984' in it I reckon.

Not a bad couple of lists, some puzzles ('The Andromeda Strain', 'Armageddon' ?? Not convinced about 'Heroes' either) but that's the nature of these things.
I liked that SciFi put Dr. Strangelove on their list and I find it strange and depressing that it wasn't on the fan's list.

I have a huge problem with The Stand being on the fan's list. People believing that the end of the world as we know it can be averted by a religious intervention, that the world can be "saved" in that way, is part of our world's problem,IMO.

Of all the omissions, I'd have loved to see John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar on the "to read" list. Because it speaks to the issue of over-population as the bottom-line cause of the destruction of the natural world and the creation of a tiny, privileged elite while the vast majority falls through the cracks, in the struggle to survive the consequences of our own actions and choices.
Which is also my reason for believing that Children of Men doesn't belong anywhere near this list.

Aldous Huxley: I think The Island belongs on the list over Brave New World.

And a little gem called Mockingbird (can't recall the author at the moment) is the best ever cautionary tale on the subject of drugging (as opposed to 1984's brainwashing)a population into not questioning mandated-by-law conformity.

No Firefly on SciFi's list but Lost as theit #2 and Heros .... well,anywhere, except on a list of over-rated TV shows?? BAD, SciFi.
But kudo's for putting BSG in the #1 spot. :)
* My mother has a theory that we've been careful to steer clear of the 1984 dystopia, only to fall into the Brave New World dystopia instead. This is why you need the trifecta.

I dunno. Clear Skies and Healthy Forests, among other things, have recently startled me out of my once-held belief that the publication and popularity of 1984 steered us away from the key elements of that particular scenario.
Okay, so goodspeak is making a comeback. But the big trouble is, I think, is that people can get riled up about tyranny and fight back, whereas it's a lot harder to get riled up and fight back against stultifying pleasure.

I mean, we're all here because we watched TV. Good TV, I'll grant you, but still!
Well, Catch-22 isn't really sci-fi.

Absolutely, it's not sci-fi. Hence my words regardless of genre. I'm just saying that Catch-22 should be on all lists of awesomeness because it is just that awesome and everyone should read it multiple times.

Saje, I've read that book at least 20 times since the first time I read it for school--4 years ago. I'm always making references to it that I then have to explain, like when my friend was telling me about her time in Malta and I asked her if she bought eggs. :)

I think that something like Ender's Game, which has some very thought-provoking elements, belongs on the list more than Andromeda Strain. And I'll toss in my Armageddon disbelief one more time because of how dumbfounding that was!

As for Mockingbird (which sounds interesting; I looked it up on Amazon), I think that the whole drugging the populace cautionary tale can be totally occupied by Brave New World. I'd argue that 1984 should belong there and not Fahrenheit-451, because it emcompasses so much more than just censorship, but that's just me. And I hate, hate, hate Bradbury. He should be trapped in room 101.

I mean, we're all here because we watched TV. Good TV, I'll grant you, but still!
It's doubleplusgood TV, if you ask me! And I think that it's actually better to watch quality TV that makes you think and has important messages than reading (for example) a Danielle Steele novel, which is dreck. Reading is good, and I'm a huge advocate of reading books over watching movie adaptations, but there are some movies and TV shows that are absolute quality and deserve to be up there with classic literature in terms of importance.

Then again, people just laugh at me when I compare Joss Whedon today to Charles Dickens in his time. They'll see.
Relatedly, here is another list of the top 10 sci-fi shows. Firefly is #6, Buffy is #4. (BSG is #1.) I'm thinking this doesn't need to go on the front page, since we've got this thread.

I'm not pleased that he used a Buffy/Dracula screencap for the picture; I think it doesn't accurately represent the show visually or thematically.
Ok, I've given in. After months of hearing everyone speak the virtues of Firefly and Serenity, I gave in and decided to watch the series. AMAZING! I agree with the writer--Buffy and Firefly definitely belong on a list. World saving? I'm not sure what that means, but I'm hooked. Too bad I didn't hear about Firefly when it first came on; I would've watched. :-)
Glad to have another Browncoat in the midst, ricetxpeaches! Now, you can watch Serenity as it's meant to be seen...on the big screen. And give money to charity and meet super-cool people like us. Thus, the beauty of CSTS is realized.

It is your duty, young Grasshopper.
I'll be there on July 13!
Ah, one more link related to this (right before it slides off the front page :)

A thingy in Wired.
I think that something like Ender's Game, which has some very thought-provoking elements, belongs on the list more than Andromeda Strain.

Yeah I agree, though i'd actually say 'Speaker for the Dead' belongs even more than Ender's, he might as well have subtitled it "How to Be Good" (had a pretty profound effect on me when I first read it, which was *gulps* just over 20 years ago).

And indeed, lists of awesome should either feature 'Catch-22' or have a disclaimer at the top saying "Please mentally include 'Catch-22'. Obviously." ;).
Then again, people just laugh at me when I compare Joss Whedon today to Charles Dickens in his time. They'll see.
BandofBuggered | June 17, 22:02 CET

I couldn't agree more, with your entire post. I'd go so far as to say that quality TV is becoming the literature of the twenty-first century.
The quality of novels available today, genre or not, is just appalling. A lot of that is IMO because (in the U.S. anyhow), it's almost impossible to get published unless you're an "already established" name, preferably with a franchise of potboilers.

Publishing houses no longer accept unsolicited (fiction) manuscripts. The majority of new authors get started by self-publishing through something like Vantage Press, a process that costs thousands of dollars, for everything from printing, binding, publicizing and distributing (and yes, I speak from bitter experience).
So in addition to having created a publishing system that discriminates against unknown names, there is a system of discrimination against those aspiring first time authors who would actually be willing to pay for first time self publishing, but can't afford it.

So the sorry state of new, quality fiction in book form is IMO, feeding into the "quality TV as the new literature" paradigm.
90% of everything is crap as they say, I think that's as true (but no truer) now as it ever was.

TV has become more literary though I reckon (even if literature is still the literature of the 21st century IMO ;). Publishing has changed too, there's less of a "mid-list" these days, probably because books are feeling the pinch of more varied entertainment options as much as TV or film. I think that may mean less variety but personally i've not noticed a marked downturn in the average quality of novels and there're still plenty of first-time novelists being given chances (i've no idea how UK publishing compares to the US though, maybe that's not the case over the pond).

Course, a lot of best-sellers are pretty badly written IMO but 'twas ever thus (and that's not necessarily a condemnation BTW, I like the odd trashy pot-boiler as much as the next person).
Course, a lot of best-sellers are pretty badly written IMO but 'twas ever thus (and that's not necessarily a condemnation BTW, I like the odd trashy pot-boiler as much as the next person).
Saje | June 18, 13:46 CET

I guess by that standard, I'm a total snob, as I can't tolerate the trashy potboiler. Maybe it's because I started reading adult novels at age twelve, read about a gazillion of them before I was twenty, and so my trashy potboiler tolerance limit was surpassed long ago.
And I totally cop to being a TV snob. I sample a fair amount of new shows but seldom get past one mediocre ep, and even less often find one I fall in love with and care enough about to follow religiously.
Such as BSG, about which someone's silence is so perplexing and curious making. Just sayin'??
Well, i'm not touching the snob thing again, once bitten ... ;-).

Re: reading, me too BTW. Lived abroad (I mean more abroad than England ;) off and on between ages 9 and 11 in places that didn't have much in the way of children's (English) book shops. Consequently, I read whatever was available, largely my Dad's books and so was chucking down Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Colin Forbes, John Le Carré, Leslie Thomas, Tom Sharp (semi-sneakily cos they're a bit bawdy ;), history, politics etc. at the age of 10.

I've always had pretty broad tastes though (I like moulles mariniere and mince and tatties, they're not mutually exclusive ;). Love Buffy for instance but can also happily watch stuff like 'NCIS' without feeling in the least bit above it or contemptuous of it. They work on different levels but then, so do we, right ? I've got layers me ;).

(re: BSG, d'ya mean me ? I've actually only just started watching it. I'm really not cool with the break until 2009 thing, that seems ages off after waiting so long, so was waiting to see if Sky One would play the whole run through like they have with Stargate in the past. Turns out, apparently not and I didn't fancy waiting another year to watch any of season 4. So far, I must admit, i'm slightly underwhelmed but i'm only on ep 4, still feeling out the "shape" of the season)
Then again, people just laugh at me when I compare Joss Whedon today to Charles Dickens in his time. They'll see.

I suspect that's Jo Rowling, myself.
Love Buffy for instance but can also happily watch stuff like 'NCIS' without feeling in the least bit above it or contemptuous of it.

Just for the record, I don't feel contemptuous or above the stuff I don't like, it's just my personal taste. And hey .... there's the Charmed thing, and I did watch three seasons of Grey's Anatomy & still occasionally indulge. :)

(I like moulles mariniere and mince and tatties, they're not mutually exclusive ;).

"mince and tatties"? I'm seriously afraid to ask. :-)

Re. BSG ... do you mean you've just started watching season 1? Or you haven't watched it from the beginning but you're 4 eps into season 4? Because this show must be watched from the very beginning.
*repeats mantra:"resist the urge to proselytize, resist the urge to proselytize".*
It's only the greatest SciFi show in the history of ever and one of the best shows ever on TV, genre aside. But of course that's just IMHO. ;-)
Oh no, no, no, i've been following it (keenly) since the mini-series first aired over here. I'm 4 eps into season four. Right now it just feels a bit ... off, kind of like some of the season 3 episodes IMO - flashes of greatness but not quite the whole shebang. Early days yet though.

(and it's just minced meat - usually beef - and potatoes, I mentioned it because over here "meat and two veg" is pretty much the most bog standard of all bog standard meals. Though "meat and two veg" - unlike "mince and tatties" - actually is also slang for something else, which I leave as an exercise for the reader ;)
As long as it's not bubble and squeak, Saje. I'm not a fan of the cabbage, though I do like potatoes. I likes me some bangers and mash from time to time.

Re books/TV: I am a huge reader of books, both quality and not-so-quality. For example, I read books like Wuthering Heights or Count of Monte Cristo; I've read Bridget Jones's Diary at least 20 times as well, and I love it (though not the sequel, which was...interesting). When I was a kid, I read those horrible R.L. Stein books, but I also read Enid Blyton, Lois Lowry and L. Frank Baum. And Fannie Flagg, 'cause she rocks.
For TV, I absolutely love BtVS more than anything, but I also own on DVD The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

I just mean that if someone is looking for a story with quality plot, characters, dialogue, message, metaphor, etc. than books aren't necessarily better.

Sunfire, the reason I compare Joss to Dickens is because their stories are both told in a serialized format (one episode/chapter at a time) and are both very much part of popular culture in their times. I could also go into this whole thing about bildungsromans and BtVS/Great Expectations, but I'll leave that for another time, especially as that's the many-paged thesis I'm writing. :)

For Jo Rowling, I think that there is no comparison. Maybe Tolkien and LOTR, a comparison which has been done oodles of times, but that's all I can think of. I don't think that anything quite like Harry Potter has ever been done before, and I doubt it will happen again. (Don't get me started on Eragon, which reads like a 15 year-old's creative writing assignment.)

Ironically, though I consider Harry Potter literature because of the story, the allusions, the metaphors, quality of storytelling, characters, etc. the writing is not "perfect." The dialogue tags, for example, aren't great. Then again, she's her, and I'm me, and I'm a broke college kid and she's richer than the Queen. And I love her books and the re-reading count is well into the 20s.

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