The one thing that occurs to me about the great, classic science fiction stories is how the writers could tell such complex, thoughtful, exciting stories, and do it in fewer than 200 pages. The Man in the Maze does that to perfection.
It is a story of isolation and social alienation. I know that sounds strange; exciting and social alienation in the same description. The story is about a diplomat named Richard Muller. He is picked to go represent the human race to an Alien race, the first intelligent life humans had discovered. Something happens to him that opens a psychic ability and broadcasts his emotions, and feelings. Unfortunately humans can’t tolerate it and he becomes an outcast amongst his own people. He decides to put himself in isolation on an abandoned planet within a dangerous maze.
The maze is deadly to all who try to get through it, but Muller makes it through to the center where he can live in peace without any interaction with anyone. He sets up shop with supplies he brought as well as the local animals for sustenance. He believes he will live out the rest of his days there in his misery.
This is an extreme look at isolation and can hit a nerve with anyone. We all at one time or another feel isolated and want to be alone. It is strange how we hate the isolated feeling but contrive to be alone at the same time. This book highlights this part of the human condition beautifully.
After nine years Muller’s isolation is interrupted by earth coming a calling. Earth needs him for one more diplomatic mission. Another alien race has discovered them and is trying to enslave them, not knowing humans are thinking, feeling, people. Muller would be proof of that for these new aliens. The drama involved with the decision Muller has to make, coupled with the action of his fellow humans having to run the deadly maze to get to him, makes for a deep, yet action packed ride of a story.
Now I always have loved a good big book. I was excited when I got my last Harry Potter book and it was as monstrous as the previous one. Yet there is a stark beauty to a story with just a few named characters, a relatively simple premise, and galaxy spanning implications, told in a short amount of time. Silverberg manages to pack these weighty themes into an action packed tale with no feeling of rushing the pace. The Man in the Maze is a great piece of art to be enjoyed and cherished.
That’s not Silverberg to the right, just me.
To continue the Sci-Fi theme for this week; let’s talk about Star Trek shall we? I will be sticking to the original series for this post, although feel free to add you own bits on anything relating to Sci-Fi in the comment section. What do think of when you think of the original Star trek? Cheesy acting, stories, and special effects that can be done on a camera phone today? Yeah that is the usual response I get. But think about it for a moment. Those special effects were better than anything else out at the time. 40 years from now people will be scoffing at digital recordings and the current HD. It was the stories in the original series that keeps the Star Trek universe alive today. Those cheesy, moralistic, wonderful stories that proved it could be done. (The first two seasons anyway. I make no allowances for most of the third.) What was “it” that could be done? Real story telling in the Sci-fi genre is “it”.
Sci-Fi books had been doing “it” since the beginning. There is H.G. Wells and Mary Shelly to name just two for now. Even the movies of the day were more stylistic with the writing, but television was a whole other ball of wax. Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits were the big shows and they were fantastic, yet they had different characters and completely different stories every week. Episodic television, in the Sci-Fi genre, was pretty barren. The comparison I am going to use is the old Lost in Space, the show, not the movie.
That show had two things, what could charitably be called the monster of the week, and a kid who was annoying and cutesy. Nothing else was ever accepted by the networks until Star Trek came along and it took Gene Rodenberry, the creator of Star Trek, at trip to several networks and the promise he could do it on the cheap. Once he got it going however, and hired the right writers, he started something that will not end.
Star Trek never had a standard ‘monster of the week”. The monsters on Star Trek were different. In the episode, The Devil in the Dark, there is a monster killing miners. They eventually find out it is called a Horta, and the Horta is killing the miners because the miners are unknowingly killing the Horta’s children. Not a typical monster, you actually start rooting for the Horta by the end. Star Trek created think pieces. An action adventure story in space with moral conundrums buried in the episodes. Roddenberry managed to give the studio action, they did not notice he slipped in something more. Many of the 79 episodes were like this and that is what changed the television landscape forever. Tomorrow I will tell you my thoughts on how I think that happened.
What do you think?
image from fanpop.com
Joss Whedon’s Firefly is arguably one of the most beloved sci-fi shows ever to be broadcast on television. I saw another article yesterday on how it needs to be brought back. People have been writing articles on the subject for years and it has not happened yet. Let’s face it people, however badly we want it; it is not going to happen.
Now fan demands managed to get a movie made, Serenity, yet sadly that did not spark a return of the show. Whedon and the cast have all stated they would love to do it, it is as beloved by them as much as the rest of us fans. Yet it still has not happened. I do not believe that studios are real keen on the idea. It is their loss but we have a long history of studios and their decisions on what stays and what goes and it is a depressing history. It has been almost 12 years since the show went off the air and that presents an even bigger problem.
Joss Whedon has finally been recognized by Hollywood for his genius and that means he is now in very high demand for extremely big money projects. He is getting to create things his way and that has to feel good for him. This also means he is most likely booked solid for the next ten years and fitting in Firefly, which is not of much interest to the studio suites, would be as uphill a battle as ever.
The cast have moved on as well. Nathan Fillion has his show Castle, so even if he would come running when Whedon called, he has contractual obligations. So do others from the original cast. This too makes it highly unlikely that a reboot is possible at this point. They all loved the show but they all have moved on by economic necessity. They cannot be blamed for that any more than the people who want to see it back on the air can be blamed for that desire. It was an amazing show in all respects. I would attempt actual back flips if the show was to come back with all hands on deck. Let’s face it though, it is not coming back, and I won’t be doing flips.
So let us rejoice in the show that was and all the smiles and excitement it brought. Firefly deserves that.
So do us fans.