Saturday, May 14, 2005

What's your favorite first contact story?

So we're watching Alien Planet* on the Discovery Channel, and I'm asking myself: how do you take such an intrinsically interesting subject and make it boring? Here are the problems, dramaturgically speaking: 1. No protags. In Alien Planet, what passes for protags are two robotic probes, 'Ike' Newton and 'Leo' (Galileo). They're cute bots, but they're not human. Not even close. 2. No plot. Funny thing, a lot of SF novels suffer from that same problem: as if exploration alone were enough to drive the story forward. I had that problem with Ringworld, for example. 3. Few new ideas. Many of these critters look alike: roughly mammalian, with tiny heads (or no heads), and no discernible eyes. They have a few birds, too, but these look like flying versions of the mammalian critters. Their heart is in the right place. They're trying to teach terrestrial biology in a new and interesting way, and they're also attempting to depict such an expedition in a scientifically reasonable manner. In the real world, you would explore such worlds robotically; in the real world, you wouldn't have much more of a plot than 'let's go out there and see what we find.' But that doesn't necessarily make for good entertainment. What's your favorite first contact story? I'm not sure which one I would choose, but here's an old, but not-half-bad list I found on the web. Lots of novels I haven't read here.
Jake's Medford pediatrician called me late yesterday to give me the LP results: no meningitis. We're back to square one, a presumptive diagnosis of 'chronic tension-type headache', with little left to do but try him out on Elavil and -- get this -- biofeedback. Karen and Jake came back this afternoon. Jake has a sore throat, upset stomach, and headache, making me wonder whether he caught a virus at the hospital. I pushed the fluids and he rallied enough to eat some dinner. The apple pie turned out okay. Store-bought puff pastry is about as good as it sounds (not). My bottom crust, a galette from Baking with Julia, was far better than my puff pastry top crust. Live and learn. I may be a foodie, but I'm not nuts enough (yet) to make my own puff pastry. D. *If you missed this program, here's the idea. A manned mission to an Earth-like planet, Darwin IV, encounters one new organism after another.


Blogger etryer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/16/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Some dumb-ass spammed me a link to his porn site. Now, the question was, "What's your favorite first contact story?" NOT, "What's your favorite one hundred-and-first contact story?"


5/17/2005 08:55:00 PM  
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