If you can read this, congratulations on making it through The Year Of The Bastard! History books will be indebted to Warren Ellis for this phrase. Anyhoo, we begin the new cycle with cold takes on TV, books, & a film retrospective that’s essentially a clip show. I’m not even starting out the new year fresh! At least my hyperlinks are almost the Pantone Color of the Year?
I’m quite perturbed they waited until after my Netflix subscription lapsed to finally release Black Mirror series four at 2017’s tail end. Thanks to my pals, Jack & Korey, however, I was able to spend New Year’s Day watching it. This show has such a stupendous batting average! Now I’m going to predominantly SPOIL “USS Callister.”
That first episode is so good that it even boosted my enjoyment of the solid successive episodes. (“Crocodile” was disappointingly non-literal; it should’ve been named “Murder Pringles.”) It’s a perfect pairing of (legally distinct enough from) original Star Trek aesthetics with modern production values.
Meth Damon Jesse Plemons as “Captain” Robert Daly runs his Space Fleet simulation like a live action version of TMNT’s Space Heroes (which exists in the ’87 dimension). He does a better Captain Kirk than Chris Pine (whose non-impression feels more suited to John Crichton). As Nanette Cole, Cristin Milioti (one of many superb leading ladies this series) has the perfect expressive eyes to recoil in horror at his Anthony Fremont-like abuse of coding power. Michaela Coel was previously a stewardess in “Nosedive,” a potential continuity error unless she changed professions or has an identical twin. Kirsten Dunst could be Gillian from Marketing. Co-written by Charlie Brooker & William Bridges, it’s also got a fair amount of Galaxy Quest type humor to balance its Twilight Zone horror. It even has a rare upbeat conclusion.
Daly digitizes his co-workers into his personal version of the presumably licensed Callister game by taking their discarded DNA (not literally be a crime stateside) & running it through a 3-D to digital scanner. Daly’s device is the kind of revolutionary doohickey that would make him a mint if he patented it (providing it’s his own invention). He could buy out his company & fire his oppressive partner! Even as a mere shortcut to creating game avatars, it’s mindbogglingly advanced. It even transfers memories, which is something that could break your disbelief suspension. I know this is sci-fi, but that isn’t how cloning works. “Black Museum” has devices that specifically transfer consciousness that look primitive by comparison. Couldn’t he have just ported over his co-worker’s stats & likenesses from personnel files?
His crew lack genitals & excretory functions, which is supposedly a choice by Daly to maintain the wholesomeness of his homage given that everything else is copied faithfully. (Thanks to superfluous top-to-skirt straps, we’re unclear whether navels exist either.) Daly may also be impotent or just not want to cross the virtual rape Rubicon. They acquire them once the ship travels through the wormhole patch into the J.J.Abrams-esque online edition. So is the mass market version going to have MMORPG sex as a feature? Or do they now have anatomical advantages over regular players?
Much like Blade Runner 2049, this episode gets you to root for beings that are arguably not real. To Daly, torturing his crew is blowing off steam in a fantasy after being frustrated at work, but to them it’s reality. In real life he’s compartmentalized his sadism, whereas his partner is the one who seems most likely to create an unsafe work environment. His co-workers are not harmed at all by Daly’s private games (until Nanette’s digital doppleganger blackmails her into crime to save them). Gamer culture can be toxic through interactions with other humans, but Daly’s victims are not legally people. Does the digital clones having their counterparts’ memories make a difference? Does advanced code deserve rights if it’s a simulacra of sentience? (These were created without direct input from their inspirations’ minds.) Unlike most other morality tale episodes, this one warns against thinking bad thoughts instead of doing bad deeds (like murdering a bunch a people to get rid of witnesses or torturing a wrongly convicted man after he’s legally dead for profit). A mutiny by your own self-insert fan fiction is kind of like a vegetarian discovering tofu burgers are sapient.
Not much has happened in 2018 yet, so let’s review some 2017 metrics. Readership was down compared to 2016, probably due to me not finishing my difficult second novel & plans to republish The Dolorous Adventure Of Brother Banenose falling through. (I know a guy that can get you a signed first edition.) Also the imdb message boards closed down & I got banned from SpoilerTV, so less outlets to flog my wares. Story of my life. Thankfully audience engagement was well above my first year levels.
The most read 2017 blog was “Great Disturbances In The Force.” Whenever I would write about a blog under preforming, I’d feel silly when it suddenly became relevant & popular after a month or so. That said, “Preacher Season 2: Heretic Boogaloo” remains the least read post of last year. I’m really not sure why since it was timely & had a snappy descriptive title. Maybe it’s because I misspelled “discreetly” the first time? (Uh, was I supposed to acknowledge that?) Incidentally, both were posted a week apart. I’m never certain whether I should concentrate on getting the numbers on my under-read blogs up to average or try to get the well performing ones to crack records.
I’ve seen enough movies at the cinema last year to fill out a top ten list! Logan aside (which wasn’t a bad movie per se), I enjoyed all of them. So either the filmmaking quality was up across the board last year, or I’m better at avoiding movies that don’t fit my confirmation bias. Bonus shout out to Heaven Is Now, which was in very limited release. So now that the year is dead, I can officially present a Top Ten Movies I Saw In Theaters In 2017 listicle. As someone who thinks best of the year listicles are dumb, the ranking is kind of arbitrary.
3) Wonder Woman
Hey, remember when I used to write about books here? I should probably get back to that. In the meantime, here’s some non-fiction I bought from the basement of my local library that may count as research for my next novel: This Book Is Overdue! (libraries), Dry Store Room No. 1 (The British Natural History Museum), Abominable Science! (cryptozoology), Charlatan (quackery), Stuff Matters (matter), & Banana (um … bananas?). They were very educational & delightful reads!
If I survive this “bomb cyclone” (well that doesn’t sound good), I hope to sense your presence next week.