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Monday, October 19, 2009

Charlie Stross Hates Star Trek

I just have a few things to say about this rant by Charlie Stross who says that he hates Star Trek. Why? Because they hate science. Instead of coming up with legitimate technology, they just have a consultant insert technobabble where appropriate and that drives the plots and pushes obstacles.

Stross hates this because it's poor story writing, in his opinion. His take is that first, he sets up a culture in the future. Then he creates characters that would be consequences of that culture (for example, cell phones and sexting). Star Trek is not like that - the future is background. The situation could take place in any time zone by substituting technological words. It could take place in the century of sailing ships. And the bottom line is that Star Trek (and its ilk) tells us nothing about the human condition under science fictional environments. I guess that would imply that his mission in life is to use science fiction as its own character and create a story based on the environment rather than the characters. It's a noble purpose, and I can understand why Stross wants to drive his science-fiction with exploring humanity on a reality that the author conceives.

That's great... for you.

But the last time I checked, everyone had heard of Star Trek. There are six series, eleven movies, countless spin-off novels, warehouses full of merchandise, and gobs of cash flowing, all flowing towards one man's vision of "Wagon Train to the Stars" which resulted in a small-time TV series. Star Trek is immortal - it's not going away, it's in the history books forever and it's got as much staying power as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Star Trek is going to be remembered.

Meanwhile, I could ask any one of my family members if they heard of Charlie Stross, and they'll say "who?" Hugo nominations? Sure, you have them. And I've never been published, so I'm hardly one to talk. But just because you're the "best" doesn't get you success. How many authors do you hear about who were never successful in their lifetime? Will you even get that much recognition? The fact is you can rant and rant about your art form and what blah, blah, blah should be doing and "YOUR VISION", but unless you're, at some level, writing commercially, you may as well shout into the wind. (BTW, for being so concerned about science and tech, your website sure doesn't have a lot, especially given your history as a programmer).

Bottom line - Star Trek did something right, and I'm still waiting for you to achieve that level of success. Star Trek may not care much about the science behind its science fiction, but people don't care about that. I think you have a skewed view of what the audience wants. How else do you explain Twilight? (although I'd rather die obscure than be known for writing Twilight) Storytelling is not about byproducts of culture, and I'd hate to read a story that's in so far removed a universe from me that I can't relate. The best stories are driven by character, not environment or situation. Maybe by getting it wrong, they're getting it right... in a way.

P.S. In your defense, the more I hear about Ron Moore, the less I like him.
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