Doug Naylor on his own produced two series of people making wisecracks in space, and we never really explored the potential of some feminine energy poking holes in the laddishness of the cast.
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Worst of all, Kristine's addition was to replace the departing Rimmer, and without the anchor of Rimmerishness, the show was cast adrift like a broken down Starbug in a nebula. Though I haven't yet seen the two most recent series produced by DAVE TV, I was optimistic because Rob Grant was coming back to the team, but a little sad because Kristine would never get a chance to crackle with the same energy of the characters at the Grant Naylor apex.
Red Dwarf back to it's roots or at least the heydays of Series One of the most remarkable aspects is that you genuinely forget very quickly how old the actors are. I would strongly recommend you watch it. I'd say the third phase is Pratchett the moral philosopher--no longer simply lampooning the failings and foibles of modern Western humanity but suggesting ways in which we might do better. There are hints at least as early as Hogfather, but it's in full force by Night Watch.
Stopping by Red Dwarf for a moment: The thing is, basically, do "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" and episodes like them suffer for having more emphasis on the science fiction parts than on the comedy ones? Also, Terry Pratchett is my idol for serious he's so great. I love Terry Pratchett's sense of humor I'm not sure you can draw a hard-and-fast line; I mean, The Light Fantastic has its deconstructionist barbarian hero a much more interesting one than the straightforward parody Hrun in the first book, IMO and some obvious Lovecraftian elements, but I'm not sure I'd call it a parody as such, whereas Wyrd Sisters is quite definitely a parody of Macbeth and Hamlet.
I wouldn't say Pratchett is ever only lampooning the failings of modern Western humanity. Pratchett likes his characters, or at least all of his characters that aren't outright villains. He has a fairly decided set of positive values - cleverness, niceness, messiness, and respect for the people who are at the bottom of the heap. The reason I got into a description of Pratchett's career is that I think he's a clear example, outside Doctor Who, of someone exploring how a frock aesthetic can be simultaneously both funny and also serious with emotional weight.
I second Spacewarp's recommendation of X. So far it's been great, very much like the old show. However, 'Back To Earth' was absolutely dire. Stay far far away. As far as I'm aware, however, Rob Grant was not involved in either. He gets "created by" co-credit but that's it.
That's the thing about Pterry - he places enormous, enormous emphasis on character, for humor, for plot, and for theme. SF Debris did a good analysis of Red Dwarf season by season or series if you will. Which pointed out something that both Red Dwarf and Discworld, unlike some really bad sitcoms and sci-fi, have in common. The fact that the characters change and evolve. This is a very topical post, particularly for me. I haven't seen any of season 10 yet, because I am currently running through the series in order with my children.
We've caught up with Dave now, so are halfway through season 6 - and it's reminded me just how much more I liked the first five seasons than those that came later, though there are still some delightful moments. I also regularly read Terry Pratchett books to them at night. Currently we're halfway through Reaper Man, recently mentioned in connection with Human Nature.
How old are your children? Time has moved on, and we live in a different, more sweary world. But SF writers have an ability to pick out some odd new notion and set up a thought experiment. Excuse me, shall I extrapolate that for you? The most entertaining fantasy and SF writers have a rage to extrapolate; a zest for seeking the gnarl.
Note on “A Transrealist Manifesto”
Wit involves describing the world as it actually is. And you experience a release of tension when the elephant in the living room is finally named. The least-aware kinds of literature take society entirely at face value, numbly acquiescing in the myths and mores laid down by the powerful. These forms are dead, too cold. At the other extreme, we have the chaotic forms of social commentary where everything under the sun becomes questionable and a subject for mockery. This said, laughing like a crazy hyena can be fun.
This was something I picked up from the works of Philip K. In the gnarly zone, we have fiction that extrapolates social conventions to the point where the inherent contradictions become overt enough to provoke the shock of recognition and the concomitant release of laughter. At the low end of this gnarly zone we have observational commentary on the order of stand-up comedy. And at the higher end we get inspired satire. Good fiction is never preachy. It tells its truth only by inference and analogy. It uses the specific detail as its building block rather than the vague generalization.
I have a genetic predisposition for dialectic thinking. We can parse cyberpunk as a synthesizing form. Discuss the ongoing global merger between humans and machines. Get in there and spray graffiti all over the corporate future. When I moved to California in , I fell in with the editors of the high-tech psychedelic magazine Mondo , and they began referring to themselves as cyberpunks as well.
Our society is made up of gnarly processes, and gnarly processes are inherently unpredictable. Rules like this can generate wonderfully seething chaos. But whatever richness comes out of a model is the result of a gnarly computationwhich can occur in the very simplest of systems. There are no tidy, handy-dandy rubrics for predicting or controlling emergent social processes like elections, the stock market, or consumer demand.
Like a cellular automaton, society is a parallel computation, that is, a society is made up of individuals leading their own lives. Each ant is driven by its own responses to the surrounding cloud of communication pheromones.
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But how to reconcile the computational beauty of a gnarly, decentralized economy with the fact that many of those who advocate such a system are greedy plutocrats bent on screwing the middle class? I think the problem is that, in practice, the multiple agents in a free-market economy are not of consummate size. Certain groups of agents clump together into powerful meta-agents. Think of a river of slushy nearly-frozen water. As long as the pieces of ice are of about the same size, the river will move in natural, efficient paths.
But suppose that large ice floes form. The awkward motions of the floes disrupt any smooth currents, and, with their long borders, the floes have a propensity to grow larger and larger, reducing the responsiveness of the river still more. In the same way, wealthy individuals or corporations can take on undue influence in a free market economy, acting as, in effect, unelected local governments.
And this is where the watchdog role of a central government can be of use. The central government can act as a stick that reaches in to pound on the floes and break them into less disruptive sizes. When functioning properly, the government beats their cartels and puppet-parties to pieces. Science fiction plays a role here. SF is one of the most trenchant present-day forms of satire. Harsh truths about our present-day society can be too inflammatory to express outright. Backing up a little, it will have occurred to alert readers that a government that functions as a beating stick is nevertheless corruptible.
It may well break up only certain kinds of organizations, and turn a blind eye to those with the proper connections. Indeed this state of affairs is essentially inevitable given the vicissitudes of human nature. Jumping up a level, we find this perennial consolation on the political front: any regime eventually falls.
A faction may think it rules a nation, but this is always an illusion. Some loops of this nature have lasted my entire adult life. But whether the problem is from a single regime or from a constellation of international relationships, one can remain confident that at some point gnarl will win out. Every pattern will break, every nightmare will end. Here is another place where SF has an influence.
One dramatic lesson we draw from SF simulations is that the most wide-ranging and extreme alterations can result from seemingly small changes. This means that, inevitably, very large cataclysms will occasionally occur.
Buchanan draws some conclusions about the flow of history that dovetail nicely with the notion of gnarly computation. History could in principle be like the growth of a tree and follow a simple progression towards a mature and stable endpoint, as both Hegel and Karl Marx thought. In this case, wars and other tumultuous social events should grow less and less frequent as humanity approaches the stable society at the End of History. Or history might be like the movement of the Moon around the Earth, and be cyclic, as the historian Arnold Toynbee once suggested.
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