Skip to main content

Thirty-six views of a starship

Katsushika Hokusai, a ukiyo-e  painter in 19th century Japan created a series of intensely detailed and colorful prints collectively titled the "Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji." From either near or far, each print showed some view of that volcano from a variety of angles and distances. Mount Fuji,  serving as a symbol of immortality and divinity, had a profound spiritual significance in Japanese culture. By placing the mountain in the background of every image, the painter seemed to suggest that the mountain was too big, too complicated, to ever be captured from one single perspective.

After completing seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, wading through the good, bad, and ugly, following the Enterprise and her crew from one end of the universe to the other, I have a similar reaction. This was the first time I've ever watched the show from start to finish and I have to say, the experience really affected me. More than I thought it would.

This was my show when I was growing up, the first one that really seemed to belong to me, rather than to my parents. Parts of this show sunk deep within my subconscious, leaving permanent marks on my expectation of what science fiction should look like and how the people of the future should behave. This was hard for me to understand until I'd read enough science fiction on my own to appreciate just what a particular vision Star Trek represented.

As a utopian statement, the show gave us a ship and crew produced by a society we're informed is largely free of disease, poverty, and mental pathologies. This is a society of clear hierarchies, Picard the captain, Riker the "number one," everyone else's place as easy to discern as counting the number pips on a collar. And yet, Star Trek spends an inordinate amount of time following the crew members on their less structured pursuits. Data gradually learns painting and poetry, Riker practices jazz, and Dr. Crusher directs community plays. Even in a society as structured and ordered as a quasi military star ship, the overall story of the community couldn't be told without checking in with all of the other crew members. I'm not sure if everyone had this reaction growing up with this show, but honestly I assumed that this was what the future would be like. The purpose of life would be joining a community of talented individuals committed to the explorations of the possible.

Does that sound hopelessly naive? Perhaps, but maybe that's the real charm of this show. Sentiments that seem daft or impractical when written down felt inevitable, even when filtered through the waves of static on Fox Channel 31. Even when I accepted the implausibility of warp drives, teleporters and replicators, it's still hard to shake the authority of the show's perspective.

If you want good, perceptive reviews of each Next Gen episode, I'd suggest either Keith DiCandido's exhaustive Tor rewatch notes or  Jammer's somewhat more thematic reviews. I will spotlight a handful of episodes that particularly stuck with me for good, bad, or as examples of an major theme of the show or a reason why I think the show, even a quarter of a century later, remains relevant.


Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 

SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

"A Breath from the Sky" Story Announcement!

I am thrilled to share the news my story, "Promontory," will appear in an upcoming anthology of unusual possession stories published by the incredible Martian Migraine Press. The anthology, "A Breath from the Sky,"puts together a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and twenty other atypical stories of possession. Judging from the cover and the list of impressive authors, I'm anticipating pure awesomeness. "Promontory" is a possession story and one of my more overtly horror tales, so I'm overjoyed that it found a host, er, home here. I am sharing the Table of Contents below, as well as a link to the announcement on the Martian Migraine website to provide a sense of what this collection will be about. The cover is amazing, the other authors selected for the collection are amazing, and I have to say, having a story appear alongside a classic tale like HP's "Colour Out of Space," feels pretty darn amazing. I hope to provide more information abou…

In Defense of Brevity

As a writer of short speculative fiction, I am also a reader. I was a reader first and my love of the genre leads me to want to write short fiction. I think one of the most important things a writer can do is read contemporary's work. If nothing else, you're likely to be entertained - there's a great amount of stupendous short fiction available out there for exactly nothing. But it also tends to helps to develop craft. 
Long-time readers of this blog know I write up recommendations of a few short stories each month I really enjoyed. "Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper by Carl Wiens" was my favorite story of the year. The first line of this story pretty much sums it up: "The time traveler set up a studio apartment in Abraham Lincoln’s skull in the frozen moment before Booth’s bullet burst through and rewired history," but I also enjoyed "The Girl Who Escaped from Hell" By Rahul Kanakia and "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies," by Brooke Bol…