Tor.com content by

Ryan Britt

6 Genre Fiction Icons Who Hung Out with the Muppets

Does the entire canon of the Muppets fall into the genre of science fiction? When you consider the various alternate universes the Muppets seem to inhabit, the answer might be yes. If meta-fiction is the handmaiden of science fiction, then there are certainly some SF sensibilities pervading our favorite gang of witty and colorful creatures. Throughout the years, this sensibility has been somewhat acknowledged by the Muppet-verse via specific crossovers from science fiction celebrities. Here are six instances of science fiction icons with the Muppets!

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7 Surprising Facts About the Making Of Battlestar Galactica

Fans of serious science fiction might debate about the various merits of Star Trek versus Star Wars—but there’s another big space franchise that nearly everyone agrees is just as awesome as it is smart. The 2003-2009 SyFy Channel version of Battlestar Galactica is not only a beloved contemporary genre series but also considered by many to be the best sci-fi show of all time. Aficionados know this is a minor miracle simply because the critically acclaimed reboot show was based on a 1978 show with a dubious legacy and mixed reputation among fans of the genre.

But what do you really know about the making of both this modern sci-fi classic and its cheesy progenitor? If the answer is not frakking very much, then pop culture historians and long-time science fiction journalists Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman are here to help!

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So Say We All Proves Battlestar Galactica Is the Nicest Sci-Fi Franchise Of All

Behind-the-scenes books on beloved TV shows or films have a tendency to suddenly turn innocent geeky fun into raunchy tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The late Carrie Fisher’s last memoir of Star Wars, The Princess Diarist, dropped the bombshell about the sexual affair she had with Harrison Ford in 1976. And if you read the oral history of Star Trek, The Fifty Year Mission, then you would know there was a lot of crazy shit that went on behind the scenes on literally every version of that franchise.

Ed Gross and Mark A. Altman, the authors of The Fifty Year Mission, have turned their excellent journalistic sensibilities to the real story behind Battlestar Galactica. And guess what? Turns out most of the people who worked with each other on Galactica liked each other a lot. In fact, if there’s one huge takeaway So Say We All, it’s that the struggles of both versions of Battlestar Galactica mirrored the premises of both series. The actors and writers faced more adversity from without than within and were constantly in danger of being shut down by tyrannical forces hell-bent on their destruction.

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Should the New Picard Star Trek TV Series Be Set on a Starship?

On Saturday, at the 2018 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, Sir Patrick Stewart revealed that he will star in a new Star Trek series centered on the life of Captain Picard, set 20 years after the events of Star Trek Nemesis. For Trek aficionados, this series represents the first time since 2002’s Nemesis that a new Trek will actually move forward in time, which itself is a cause for celebration.

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Watching the Best Episodes of Star Trek Makes It Feel as Dark as Black Mirror

Supposedly, the sunny universe of Star Trek is all about exploring outer space, meeting interesting alien cultures, and coming up with peaceful, contemplative solutions to important problems, usually while sitting in a comfortable chair. But, if you only look at the very best episodes of Star Trek, it’s very clear the franchise isn’t about strange new worlds, but instead, exploring screwed up terrible ones. Stand-out episodes of all versions of Trek tend to create trippy scenarios that would make the weirdest Black Mirror episode blush. In other words, the best episodes of Star Trek are almost always exceptions to the supposed rule that Trek is a hopeful vision of the future full of people holding hands and loving each other even if they are a space hedgehog named Neelix.

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Harlan Ellison, Grand Master of Science Fiction & Fantasy, 1934-2018

“For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

Harlan Ellison, author, screenwriter, and grand master of science fiction and fantasy, has passed on June 28th, 2018 at the age of 84. Via legal representative and photographer Christine Valada:

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7 SFF Martyrs Who Give Saint Valentine a Run for His Money

In many ways the conception of Valentine’s Day feels a bit like a science fiction thing, or at the very least, an urban legend. Unlike Saint Patrick, who totally, for real, drove snakes out of Ireland (maybe), details about exactly what Saint Valentine did are dubiously muddled and/or non-existent. The essential fact is this: at some point there was a Saint Valentine who was certainly a martyr, so it might as well be for love!

But when you stop to reflect on it, science fiction and fantasy is lousy with martyrs, and we probably know much more about them than we’ll ever know about Saint Valentine. Here are seven martyrs who keep sci-fi and fantasy going, mostly because they seem to always come back after they’ve died!

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The Fifty-Year Mission is the People’s History of Star Trek

In 1967 when Gene Roddenberry was accused of personally organizing scores of protesting fans who physically demonstrated in front of NBC Studios to keep Star Trek on the air he said “That’s very flattering, because if I could start demonstrations around the country from this desk, I’d get the hell out of science fiction and into politics.” This quote is one of thousands found in the new book, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. It’s the first volume of two, and like that Roddenberry quip; the entire text shines a bright light on the chasm between what you think you know about the history of Star Trek and what the history of Star Trek really was.

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Get Ready to Love Mark Gatiss

“Can we just sit here and watch this Spider-Man cartoon?” Mark Gatiss smiles slyly but it’s not clear if he’s completely kidding. We’re sitting on a couch in The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York where a small retro-TV is playing an appropriately retro episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. “I love cartoons,” Gatiss tells me. “Did you ever see the old Star Trek cartoon? It’s brilliant. It’s basically like season four.”

The guy sitting next to me might look like Mycroft Holmes, but he barely sounds like him at all. This guy is softer, more childlike, more down to talk about whatever, so long as those things are James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, superheroes, Star Trek… In short, if you meet Mark Gatiss, you want to be best friends with him instantly.

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Harlan Ellison Taught Me How to Be Interesting

In the 1990s I was watching a promo documentary about Babylon 5—likely playing out its 5th season on TNT at the time—and in it J. Michael Straczynski related the best piece of writing advice his friend Harlan Ellison ever gave him, which was something to the effect of “stop sucking.” This might be one of those fuzzy memories where the meaning I derived from it is more real than the actual quote, but it stuck with me. Harlan Ellison inspired a lot of writers and provided a gateway for many of us into New Wave science fiction. And he did it with a lot of personality.

Today is his 81st birthday, and I’m sending him this birthday card.

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Series: On This Day

Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate

Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it’s almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it’s definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?

[It seems likely!]

Han Solo Has Always Been the Lead of Star Wars

We’ll never really know if it was the money or a mind-trick that convinced Han Solo to ferry Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids to Alderaan, and the riddle of the actor who played Solo for three movies is equally unclear. Fittingly, or jarringly, Harrison Ford’s relationship with Star Wars is exactly like his character; always picking “Should I Stay our Should I Go,” by the Clash as his karaoke song with one boot out the door. Ford almost wasn’t in The Empire Strikes Back and wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. And now that he’s in Episode VII, flippant rumors are circulating that he’s the co-lead, along with two of the younger actors.

But none of this should come as any surprise, because Han Solo has always been the lead of the classic Star Wars films.

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Series: Star Wars on Tor.com

Full Frontal Frankenstein: Penny Dreadful Premieres with “Night Work”

Like bad pennies always turning up, idioms are totally the most pervasive things, possibly, ever. Here’s one that frustrates me: it does what it says on the tin. I dislike this idiom because it probably reminds me of that Monty Python sketch in which I learned “tinny” words were bad, but more importantly because when used in reference to fictional narratives, it feels silly. Saying a whodunit is a whodunit or a rom-com is a rom-com is no defense (nor praise) of writing, storytelling, or creation of pop art. And yet, here is Penny Dreadful, showing up on cable and doing exactly what it says on the tin: being dreadful and doing it cheaply.

[Light spoilers for Penny Dreadful’s “Night Work”]

Science Fiction Saves the Dictionary: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Hands up now if you think lexicographers and/or their visual artist daughters make great protagonists of action-packed novels. Nobody? Okay, what about a book about slimy tech-start up young-jerkface whipper-snappers who unleash a virus on the entire world because they want to make money fast; does that sound awesome?

If I’ve lost your interest in either of the above, then you’re probably not going to like the new novel The Word Exchange. But if you’re like me and the notion of dictionary lovers as heroes and smarmy new-media guys as villains sounds great to you, then this is our book of the year.

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Series: Genre in the Mainstream

Working Class Star Wars Comics Were Something to See: Rogue Squadron

Teenaged Ryan often felt it was in everyone’s best interests to let the people at Dark Horse Comics know how they were doing with the Star Wars property, and after having a letter published in the fourth issue of the original run of Shadows of the Empire—in which I complained that the dialogue from Rogue Squadron was unrealistic—I felt I had to make amends. The first issue of Rogue Squadron: The Warrior Princess published a letter from me in which I mentioned, in essence, that in terms of the portrayal of the rogues, these comics were way better.

Which is insane of course, because teenagers never know how good they have it, and I was no exception. Like the novels they were related to, the Rogue Squadron comics were an unprecedented, risky, and unique Star Wars which we all should run back and reread right now.

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Series: Star Wars on Tor.com

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