Hard, Soft, or Sparkly?


I have a tendency to watch TV series after they’re long over–everyone else has moved on to new and shiny, and I’m over here SO EXCITED about something that was on “real” TV a decade or two ago. One case in point: Stargate SG-1. I finally got around to watching the first season of that in…hm, maybe 2013? It launched in 1997, so…yeah, I was a bit behind. It was kind of a shock to notice how styles had changed. Hey, wait, I had glasses a lot like Daniel Jackson’s back in 1997! Were they really that gargantuan and dorky? Holy cow.

Anyway, I enjoyed SG-1, for the most part, but I got kind of burned out on it. Didn’t finish the last few seasons. It just got to be more and more of the same things over and over, and the characters I’d first fallen for dropped out, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care anymore. I never got around to the spinoffs.

But Friday evening, I was bored, and I stumbled across Stargate SGU in the Prime free options on Amazon, and I started watching it.

So far, I like it. It’s very different in feel from the original series. That series, to me, always had a sense of being larger-than-life, like a comic book, everything just a bit skewed and exaggerated and not to be taken seriously.

SGU, on the other hand, is almost Stargate-meets-Battlestar Gallactica. It’s darker, for one. Oh, there’s a fair amount of humor. Eli’s primary role is comic relief (plus, perhaps, a that-could-be-me for all of us nerds), and there are light moments. But overall, the stakes are higher, the realism is greater.

And the threat is on-going. There is no cyclical “we go out, we face danger, we arrive home safely and triumphantly and all is well.”

But–and this is where my point finally gets thrown into this mishmash!–there is still a fair amount of what’s essentially magic.

One thing which, as a writer, I’ve always sort of envied about the Stargate universe is that you can pretty much dream up whatever sort of object with whatever sort of purpose or function you can imagine, dub it Ancient, and you don’t have to explain it. Little round stone looking things with no visible power source which somehow let you speak to someone on the other side of the universe with no time lag or distortion? Sure! How does it work? We don’t know–it’s Ancient technology, and they’re so far advanced our puny brains can’t even contain that knowledge.

It’s brilliant. You totally get to sidestep any pseudo-scientific rationalization. And you get total creative freedom.

When it comes right down to it, Stargate–like Star Wars, if you ignore (as you should) the prequels, which try to get all sciencey–is really just fantasy set in space. Oh, there’s a little bit of sci-fi, but mostly it’s jamming myths and magic into a space setting. And…I admit, I rather like that.

I do like pure sci-fi. But I admit, I tend to like the softer stuff, where technology isn’t practically a protagonist all by itself, and where aliens don’t have to have a clear evolutionary path and space travel doesn’t have to jibe with real physics. A lot of my favorites wander into this blurred territory where sci-fi and fantasy kiss. It’s kind of fun when the explanations can go by the wayside and anything goes. C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy has a lot of fantastical elements. Some Andre Norton could go here, too. I’m sure there are others that will occur to me once I’ve had a bit of time to think about it.

This year’s NaNoWriMo story may just be a sparkly sci-fi-ish fantasy-ish something. Let me let that rattle around a bit.


3 thoughts on “Hard, Soft, or Sparkly?

  1. I know people who want to throw things at me for not being lovingly committed to Firefly. It just never grabbed me, while it was on. And, I knew it was on, because I would catch the tail-end of episodes… as I tuned in to watch SG-1.

    Due to my limited obsessions, I had no idea who Morena Baccarin was when Adria was introduced to SG-1 in 2006. The depth of her character may have kept me watching, in spite of the decidedly Buddhist slant the show had taken. From a Christian perspective, those last couple seasons were definitely getting a bit weird.

    When my ex left, she took our entire collection of SG-1 DVDs and my cat. I miss the Sci-Fi show. I miss my cat. I do not miss my ex.

    My taste in science fiction does involve a factor of plausibility. The science can be “sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic” as long as it’s clear that everything makes sense at some level. Space ships should not run on paranormal energy. Burnt ectoplasm smells terrible and it gums up the plasma conduits.

    For my ill-advised NaNoWriMo project, this year, I think I’m going the other direction: solid, cast-iron, steam-powered reality.


    1. Oh, man…I had totally forgotten the whackadoodle religious stuff in the last few seasons of SG-1. Yeah, definitely got weird.


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