As some of you may know, the gang at SFSignal have a regular feature called Mind Meld in which they posit a question to an assortment of movers and shakers in the field of scifi field – and, lately, for some unfathomable reason, have even included me. The last installment asked the following:

Q: Although science fiction was born on paper, sci-fi presented through visual media (film and television) has significantly higher audiences. Which medium, then, is the driving force behind what science fiction is and where it’s headed, and who is driving it?

My response:

Off the top of your head, name your Top 10 favorite SF authors. Okay, now name your Top 10 favorite SF scriptwriters. I rest my case.

Sci-fi presented through visual media (film and television) has significantly higher audiences because, quite frankly, a lot of it demands little more from its audience than a couple of hours and the ability to focus. Reading, on the other hand, is a much more involved and time-consuming commitment that, unfortunately, appears to be losing its appeal among many SF consumers. Which is a damn shame because it is, without a doubt, the medium that is the driving force behind what the genre is and where it is headed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that film and television don’t provide a forum for inventive science fiction ideas. They can and do. And they’ve certainly made great strides in the visual representations of possible futures. But the realities of film and television production work against them being a pioneering force whereas the literary arena allows for vaster, more daring, creator-driven initiatives. The reasons are threefold:

1. What was the last truly great science fiction movie you saw? That wasn’t based on a literary property? Yes, it’s been a while, and whatever title you come up with, I’m sure I can counter with a novel or short story that did it first. Sadly, creator-driven works are few and far between in film and television. Studios are far more interested in backing a proven winner which is why sequels and established properties are de rigueur. That said, great SF movies occasionally do get made. Children of Men comes to mind. “But wait!” many will argue. “The movie was very different from the book.” All well and good and some may even prefer the movie over the book, but there’s no denying the fact that the driving force behind both came from author P.D. James’ original vision. Yes, every so often, SF fans can rejoice with the release of a Star Wars (the original) or a Firefly but, sadly, these are exceptions to the rule.

2. Literary writers are limited only by the power of their imaginations (and, on occasion, their editors). Scriptwriters, on the other hand, are limited by things like the unlikelihood of their script ever getting made and the costs associated with film and television production. Getting published is tough; getting produced even more so. Especially if you’re a newbie looking to get an original concept off the ground. In the event you do buck the odds and manage to get it greenlit, there are a vast number of things that can go wrong and kill your prospective movie or television series before it goes to camera. And if lightning happens to strike twice and it does go into production, chances are good that the final product will bear only a passing resemblance to your original vision. Why? Well…

3. Writing a science fiction novel can be an incredibly lonely process and yet, at the end of the day, the entirety of the work – its vision, depth, and execution – belongs to one person. In the case of a movie or a television series, however, many players can lay partial claim to the end-product (or be part of the stampede to disassociate themselves from it if things go sideways). All that rests between that original concept and its big (or small screen) execution are the producers, studio/network executives, directors, and actors who will weigh in with their suggestions on how to improve things. More often than not, said improvements will run contrary to the author’s original vision and, when push comes to shove, it’s the writers that get the shove – right off the project if they prove uncooperative and unwilling to compromise. SF is expensive! Given the kind of money at stake, studios consider it bad business not to exercise some creative control over their investments. Publishers, on the other hand, can afford to take a gamble on the new, the different, and the challenging.

All that said – despite the odds, the visual medium is capable of producing new, different, and challenging SF ideas, although you’re more likely to see it happen on television where the scriptwriters are afforded the opportunity to exercise more creative control over their scripts, as opposed to the world of theatrical features where the screenwriter is more of a hired gun and is lucky if he/she gets invited to set once filming begins (An aside: I know someone who wrote the script for a 100+million dollar feature. On his first day on set, he was introduced to the female lead. According to my buddy, upon hearing he was the scriptwriter, she looked at him “like something she’d found on the bottom of her shoe.” Ah, show business). Still, the freedom enjoyed by writers of prose fiction is hard to beat. But the professional scriptwriter can take solace in the bigger paychecks.

So who’s driving SF today? Hey, for every established author I could name, there are dozens of up-and-comers out there just waiting to break big.

As for where SF is headed? Damned if I, or anyone else, knows. And that’s the beauty of it.

Agree? Disagree? For other far more informed opinions on the same topic from the likes John Scalzi, Lou Anders, and Mike Resnick among others head on over to:

Today’s video: Whispers forest retreat. Click on the link.¤t=Forestretreat2.flv


Or if google deigns to allow the video to play…

64 thoughts on “June 3, 2008: Ferret Wins Spelling Bee

  1. Hey Joe!

    I enjoyed your well-informed answer to that question. It definitely makes one think. And do I sense a bit of resentment, just a tad? Ahh, its okay, we still enjoy what you write. By the way, I have a bit of a request. My brother, Nathaneal, is having his 22nd birthday tomorrow and I was wondering if you could perhaps dedicate tomorrows post to him, or at least send some birthday wishes. Thanks!

  2. And as an added note, wonderful video there! Its not too often we see behind the scenes videos of actual filming. I enjoyed it.

  3. Hey Joe,
    Thanks for the article and video… isn’t that Joe F in the video???


  4. As for where SF is headed? Damned if I, or anyone else, knows. And that’s the beauty of it.
    that’s true of any genre IMHO.

    BTW i missed where my b-day blog dedication was for today. *looks again* nope, not there.
    well either 1 of 2 thing happened;

    1. the request comment didn’t take
    2. you decided not to, your blog & all. maybe i was too critical of your food choices. maybe next year 😉

  5. Yay! I give you a hundred million dollars for mentioning Firefly!* You rock all the rocks out of the rock park!

    *hundred million dollars payable upon never.

  6. First, nice video. Thank you for giving us another metaphorical drop of water to hold us over till season five starts.
    Next, VERY impressive answer to the question. I liked your opening counter-question, and it really drove home your point. Other than the SG writers, I could only come up with 2 other SF scriptwriters, and those after great thought. With the authors it was a matter of sorting out “favorite” from “I’ve read”. And out of the other responces elicited, only Lou Anders and his snow on the mountaintop compared in quality to the responce. How long did you have to consider your answer before providing it? I checked into the blog this evening thinking to get a light “brain snack” before bed. Instead, I’ve been given a Fuel sized 7 course meal to digest. And I don’t regret for an instant the effort it will take to savor and properly digest proffered dishes. If there is such a thing as a literary chef, you certainly are one.

  7. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the link to the scifi signal website! Thats a very good question. One for which I shall think about.

    Love the “Whispers” clip. I can’t wait to see the episode.

    Ferrett wins spelling bee! Now! There a picture you have put into my head! Haha!

    If you didn’t live in Canada & you were given the choice to live anywhere in the world where would you live?

    Take care & happiness always!


  8. In response to this exchange:

    Squeakiep writes: “You’ve been careful not to photograph or mention Joe Flanigan during this part of the filmng season. Hoping everything is OK and that he still works on SGA.”

    Answer: I think so. I’m pretty sure I see him around.

    and today’s video, I think we can safely say: Joe’s Alive!! Can’t mistake that hair. And thanks for the video!

    An aside: I know someone who wrote the script for a 100+million dollar feature. On his first day on set, he was introduced to the female lead. According to my buddy, upon hearing he was the scriptwriter, she looked at him “like something she’d found on the bottom of her shoe.”

    I can’t understand that. Scriptwriters are some of my favorite people ever. Nowadays, I follow favorite scriptwriters as much as my favorite actors. (For example, I have seen every single thing Aaron Sorkin has ever written.)

  9. Does sheppard still have some of that wraith dna inside of him or is it completly gone?

  10. Hi, Joe.

    Thank you for the video clip from Whispers.

    SF Signal is a lovely site — great to see your participation with the site.

    Best wishes, Morjana

  11. Hi Joe!

    Great post about sci-fi writers! 🙂 It still amazes me how many people are involved with a movie or TV show, and how at each step things can go right or very, very wrong.

    Also, love the fog vid from yesterday and swooning over today’s vid. Spooky forest! Guns! Shep and McKay (I think)!!!

    Didja get the name of the bee-winning ferret?


  12. I would have to agree with you, you never know.

    I will add that I found SF through TV. As someone who doesn’t read often (time being a major factor), television introduced me to the genre. Now, with help from your book reviews, and the allure of the television excitement, I am thinking about getting my first SF book.

    I feel those who begin their SF experience with books don’t seem as fulfilled with what television can offer in terms of the story and will perhaps watch television SF but always have it fall short of their expectations.

    So, one could argue that the media SF attracts more people into the genre. However, it seems that those that prefer the paper form of SF are the ones who actually go out and create the film and television versions of it. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems like most of the SF shows out there were created by those who actually grew up reading SF to begin with.

  13. A Quote from David Hewlett on the MGM Website:

    “Lorne is just the opposite of McKay. Lorne’s this no complaints, do-the-job, sturdy soldier type, versus McKay who makes a meal out of everything. It is quite a fun dynamic, so hopefully they’ll pursue that a bit more.”

    I agree and also hope it is not too late to have more interaction between Lorne and McKay in Season 5 beyond the season opener.


  14. How about the movie Sunshine? Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh…

  15. The more clips you post, the more I just cannot wait for Whispers! When will Whispers air?

    I agree with you totally on written vs visual sf. I can’t even think of any SF movie I’ve loved in the past decade or more that wasn’t at least loosely based on a literary work. Visual sf may be exposed to more people, but written sf has the bigger overall impact precisely because it demands more of the ‘consumer’.

    I got into SF from television, and started reading books by the people who wrote my favorite episodes of original trek (Harlan Ellison, James Blish, Theodore Sturgeon). TV sf was my entre into the field because when I was a kid there wasn’t much good sf on the big screen. Pretty much it was 2001, and Planet of the Apes, and that was it. Now I have 7 bookshelves in my house, and way more sf books than sf dvds.

  16. Very well said. Unfortunately I agree that reading isn’t as popular as it once was now that we do have movies and television to explain to us the entire story in a matter of an hour or two rather than spending the few days it takes to read a book. I prefer to read books before I see the movies based on them, but there have been times where I chose to see the movie first and then read the book and there have been a few where I like the movie better than the book, but very few. Now I just got into SciFi about 6 years ago and haven’t had the chance to read very many SciFi novels yet, but I am slowly introducing them into my library and I thank you for your BOTM to give me ideas in what I might like. However, I haven’t had the chance to really read any of the books because I can’t afford to buy any books at the moment since I’m losing my job in a few weeks and haven’t found another job. Once I do get my financial situation under control, I will be buying the books you suggest and will always have a book on my so long as I can still read. There are people who think I’m nuts because they find out that I read about three books at once and have done that since I noticed that reading helps with my dyslexia. I always encourage more and more people to spend at least one day a week to find someplace where you can be alone and absorb yourself in a good book, just to help you unwind from a long and possibly stressful week.

  17. Is it sad that I was able to list more SciFi scriptwriters than authors? (for me, before I discovered this blog and the BoTM, my knowledge of SciFi authors extended to three people: Michael Crichton, Madeline L’Engle, and Ursula K. LeGuin!)

    But, having said that, all three points are excellent! I think it’s more fun to be able to create a world in your head than to be given one!!! Agreed on all counts!!!

    I think another great question would be: does scientific development form around the original ideas of SciFi, or does SciFi merely take existing science and project it into the future? Do you think SciFi inspires scientists? Or vice versa?

    The link to what everyone else said made me laugh, mostly because of the short descriptions underneath the names. Scalzi is the motherf****ng princess? Hehe that man takes himself too seriously!!!

    Loved today’s video, thanks… can’t wait to see Whispers!!!

  18. Hey Joe thanks for the article, and the video. Sorry I haven’t been commenting much been quite busy around here between fighting the doctors over the midget, and the goats popping out babies left and right. Thankfully the last, and sadly most annoying one was born Sunday rather unexpectedly. *sighs and shakes head* all she does is carry on and on. I’m nicknaming her carter since it went so well for McKay last year. 😀 😉 😀 😛

    So now for my QOTD- are you for or against funerals? (or other forms of celebrations of life?)

  19. Dear Mr. Mallozzi,

    Your post sparked an interesting thought for me.

    In that in regards to SGA, I’m wondering if, in the past, the Wraith viewed humans the same way we are viewing dolphins.

    With dolphins being obviously intelligent, but so unlike humans that we can’t tell how much so, because their psychology and perception is completely different, due to how their environment. And that experimental projects to prove their sentience by seeing if dolphins could be cultured to our level of intelligence would be unfunded and suppressed. It could be that dolphins (and whales) are just very primitive, being craft and technologically incapable. It’s hard to create any sort of complex tools when the only thing one has to manipulate objects is one’s mouth.

    I think a lot of the experiments are also inherently flawed. A lot of the interactive objects (balls, hoops) are naturally alien to dolphins. It’s the equivalent to how humans from many thousands of years ago would see TV. That it’s magic.

    I suspect that if evidence does prove that dolphins are intelligent, sentient, and sapient, the information will be oppressed. Especially by the countries with whaling industries. (Whaling industries also hunt dolphins, not just whales.)

    And so I’m wondering if we humans are to dolphins, as Wraith are to Pegasus humans. In that many of the natives used to see Wraiths as otherworldly, incomprehensible except that they kill, and unstoppable. And that Wraiths were willfully not acknowledging human sentience as something to respect. Up until the Ancients showed up to disprove all that of course. Which makes me hope Todd is doing something change the Wraith’s dietary situation.

    I know it’s Wikipedia, but there’s enough there that makes me think the information is true and can be verified.

  20. Beautifully articulated Joe.

    Following, is a lot of text that is not.

    This is just my perspective from where I’m sitting on this patch of dusty land. And I apologise in advance that this is a bit long.

    Sci Fi shows are a great entry point into the Sci Fi genre.
    You can tend to fool someone into watching a Sci Fi show for an hour in the hope that they a) learn something and b) develop an unhealthy obsession so you have someone to watch your favourite shows with and talk in general to about the questions that Sci Fi raises.

    Giving someone a book and hoping they read it and become interested is a much more challenging task. You can try and substitute their “Engines, Chicks and Man Stuff” magazine for some Douglas Adams, but they generally catch on pretty quickly. It’s all the text that gives it away..

    So while I definitely think that the written Sci Fi is better, just because there is no budget on your imagination, I believe that the screen is a fantastic entry point into the much bigger world that is the Sci Fi genre.

    It’s also great to sit there and let your brain drain out of your ears on a Friday night. Watching Sci Fi is fun, because you have done all the work for us. We’re just lazy.

    Some backstory to my opinion.
    I’ve always loved Sci Fi shows without consciously thinking “I love Sci Fi shows”. A hint that something was going on was when the ads started on Foxtel for the new Sci Fi channel a couple of years ago. Each preview of a show that was going to be on the new channel had me sounding like a chimp as I let out “ooh, ooh” noises while pointing at the TV bouncing up and down.

    Reading Sci Fi was just a place I never thought I would go. I had the misconception that Sci Fi books were Fantasy. I pictured in my head that Sci Fi books were about women half dressed in loin cloths and armour, with little inhibition, hanging off the leg of the male heroine reminding them of how manly they are and how much they want to …. yeah, well, not my idea of a great portrayal of women. So I stayed clear. It was my ignorance, and my fault. With no other Sci Fi orientated people around me, there was no one to set me straight.

    Then, I found your blog. The talk of the Sci Fi books really piqued my interest. Yes, I did want to hear someone else’s take on time travel and the associated paradox(es?), what could happen with nanotechnology so I started picking up books here and there and now I’m hooked.

    My interest in Sci Fi has been increased because of the people! I’ve found the community amazing. In general everyone is extremely friendly and respectful of opinions. It’s a great place to exchange ideas and have everyone think you are a nutcase that needs psychological help, but not be judged. That’s nice.

    Enough of my ramblings.
    Have a great night everyone.

  21. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that film and television don’t provide a forum for inventive science fiction ideas. They can and do. And they’ve certainly made great strides in the visual representations of possible futures. But the realities of film and television production work against them being a pioneering force whereas the literary arena allows for vaster, more daring, creator-driven initiatives.

    Agree here. A film is the child of many, whereas a novel is the child of just one, one person with the freedom to create whatever he so desires, no need to answer to anyone else. However…

    I am a very visual person – black words on white paper bore me to tears. But images – ‘moving pictures’, the fictional come to life – THAT grabs my attention. So, even though I know there is more creativity (in the long run) in the written word, I still prefer to watch.

    This should not be frowned upon by ‘readers’. At one time – before the written word – all stories were told through the use of pictures or fanciful reenactments. And even when tales such as Gilgamesh were put down in writing, it did not end the appeal of the theater. True, eventually books became quite popular, but they never replaced the visual. From stage to silent film to talkies, visual entertainment has always had a great influence on the masses. It is nothing new.

    And the masses? They’re the ones with the money – and money equals influence.

    So – although it may be true that books are the ‘driving force behind what the genre is about and where it is headed’ quality-wise – that matters little if few people are reading them. On the other hand, film can reach those who don’t read sci fi…in fact, it can reach those who don’t even watch sci fi. My mother is a good example…she dislikes science fiction – neither reading the novels nor watching the shows – but she is still familiar with Captain Kirk, and with Darth Vader. Just by its nature, film has a far greater influence on pop culture – both among fans and non-fans alike – and it’s that influence that ultimately impacts the genre and the direction in which it is headed.

    The key, it would seem, is to bring the two together, incorporate the best of both worlds. Bring the quality – the innovation and freedom – of the written word into film. This, of course, would take some doing, considering how many fingers are in the filmmaking pie. But it would help to ensure the longevity and appeal of the genre by giving people what they want (fresh, unadulterated stories), while continuing to improve the end product (film). And one must take into consideration what the people want because, although books may have a great influence on the genre itself, it is film that continues to affect the masses. And, ultimately, it is the masses – and their money – who are in control. After all, you cannot sell an idea – on film or on page – if there is no one to buy it, and right now, those buying are buying tickets, not books.

    (Side point – John Huston found success with The Maltese Falcon by remaining totally faithful to Hammett’s story – proof that it can be done, despite all those meddling fingers trying to prove otherwise)


  22. Panna Cotta said: In that in regards to SGA, I’m wondering if, in the past, the Wraith viewed humans the same way we are viewing dolphins.

    The only difference is that we can theoretically hold a conversation with a Wraith and explain to them that we would rather not be on their lunch menu, ta very muchly and articulate clearly and precisely (possibly with a side order of arm flailing and pants wetting) that we are a sentient beings and on par with them intelligence wise. Dolphins can only look cute and make squeaking noises as they get harpooned. Plus the Ancients ‘invented’ the Wraith, so it’s probably more like that they’re angry, angry teenagers who are running around literally eating their parents out of house and home. It could also explain their dress sense. It’s a stage.

  23. Very insightful and well-said. Thank you for sharing. So much of Hollywood is based upon feeding off of established audiences that it’s a miracle anything new gets funded. I’ve been working lately within Indian (First Nation) film and talk about a struggle! I interviewed director Chris Eyre and he mentioned that every time he tries to get a film made he has to reference “Smoke Signals” as proof that there’s a viable audience. Native cinema is, obviously, very different from SF and its history, however they’re similar in the sense that, in many regards, they’re bogged down by their stereotypes (historic dramas for Indians, epic space battles and aliens for SF). In order to get funding, a Native or SF artist has to cater to the audience and write to stereotypes that have been proven to make money, leaving little to no room for “advancement” or novelty in either cinematic genre for the sacrifice of (hopefully) being a lucrative investment.

    So what should be done? I say you stick a Native character in the Atlantis expedition since it is supposed to represent the world population. I mean, I’m no expert, but you might be the first to put an Indian character in space!

  24. Hey Joe!
    Just spent the last 45 minutes catching up on missed entries. I’ve been busy with finals and what not, glad they’re finally over. I was saddened to hear about your pugs’ hip condition. Jelly, was it?
    My old dog BJ, a Saint Bernard, was outside when a storm hit and as we were calling him in, he just sat there in the rain. My dad managed to get him in after about 10 minutes of coaxing and a bit of careful lifting. 3 days later we had him put down. Afterwards my parents thought 2 dogs could make up for our one big missing family member, so we took a puppy from the pound and one from a family found in the sewers. Everything was fine until we found out one of our dogs, Jesse, has the same hip thingy majig BJ had. It’s gone from bad to worse in the past 3 years, to the point where she can hardly even get to her favorite spot on the couch. We’ve been giving her meds and all that, but they seem to have little if any effect at all. Sometimes I can put her pain out of my mind and just hang around her like there’s nothing going on, but you can just see it in her eyes. Pushes me to the verge of tears everytime. I know all living things pass on eventually, but that knowledge certainly doesn’t help ease the anticipation any.
    Sorry for going on like that. Just had to get all that off my chest. Best wishes to your family and Jelly.

  25. Yes. I whole-heartedly agree with your response. It’s the authors who are getting to push the envelope in scifi.

    But I also think it’s the scriptwriters who have the chance to link viewers back over to the books that inspire them.

    One of the coolest things that Star Wars did for me was to start me looking at the authors who wrote their novelizations. And that just kept me going.

    Now you get to use this forum to get us interested in the folks who have inspired you.

    Let’s all sing The Circle of Life…. 🙂

  26. Confounded pain killers! I’ve got a bit to say about that topic, so I hope you’ll forgive the typing under the influence. From what I’ve observed, it’s the written word that breaks all of the boundaries and makes a person think deeply and say with an awed and breathless voice, “Wow!” and “Oh…my!

    Television has a long way to go to catch up to the written word. The ‘Gate franchise, the earlier Trek franchise (Original series through DS9) and Babylon5 are the few SF works on the Screen (large or small) that are purely original and which broach some interesting ideas, but to nowhere near the extent that hard core science fiction books do (and even many books in the fantasy genre). The only television series I can think of that pressed the boundaries to any extent at all was Babylon5, and the networks (Fox and TNT, as I recall) played merry havoc with their time slotting, so that it could never gain the large, loyal following that the series warranted, though there were many of us who at least regularly taped it, no matter what strange time slot they had moved it to for that week).

    It’s unfortunate, but the networks just are not willing to put it all out there and take the chance to properly nurture a truly good Science Fiction series and let it go where it needs to go. They’re all too wrapped up in ratings main streaming the stories to bring in those advertising dollars targeted toward the 18-24yo male demographic. It takes time and effort to develop an audience for a truly good science fiction series, but they’re not willing to take that chance and have a very bad tendency to cancel a series as soon as it has settled in and can begin to get down to the business of producing honest to goodness science fiction rather than a weekly dramedy set in a sci-fi scenario. Even if the show makes it past the setup period, the networks never seem to want to allow the production to push the envelope into true, hardcore Science Fiction, because they’re afraid it won’t pull the ratings from the target audience they want (18-24yo males). And that’s a crying shame, because the audience for the really good science fiction is actually very broad and runs the gamut from teenagers through octogenarians.

    Atlantis has begun to get into the territory of good, hard core science fiction in the past season, which makes me worry about it’s future with Skiffy, because they don’t have the greatest track record in my opinion. But, I’m keeping my fingers (and everything else crossed) that they will renew the Atlantis for season six and beyond and start letting you guys push the envelope. *sigh* Yeah, I know I’ve got better chances of hitting the lottery, but I really hope they do.

    And boy, that got rambly. :-p Anyway, to get entirely back on topic, I definitely think it is the authors of the written word who are the movers and shakers of the science fiction genre.

    Sorry if that got to ranty and long winded. *looks a bit sheepish* I’m gonna go and fall over now. Thank you for hosting such a fun and, at times, thought provoking blog, Joe!

  27. Ooops…I forgot to add “Firefly” to that short list of excellent original science fiction programming.

    WordPress really needs an edit function!

  28. Hi Joe,

    I know you don’t read fanfic (I don’t either) but do you ever check out the fan music videos on

    I stay away from the contrived storytelling/shipping and sappy/sad ones myself.

    I prefer the well edited music/clips ones:

    Or the just fun one:

    And of course for those who can’t get enough of their favorite actor/character mentioned in someone’s blog it’s a quick way to get a concentrated dose:

  29. Hey Joe,

    I’m back after saying “good-bye” to my grandfather. 🙁 It was sad, of course. Never the fun part of life. We did laugh a lot about how funny (crazy?) our family is. Allie came and was a real trooper. I won’t depress you anymore and will change the subject to something much more fun!

    I think you are an excellent choice for Mind Meld. I love your answer.

    I would have said, “Well, I guess it’s the big explosions, amazing CGI creatures and environments, and quite possibly (or maybe even mostly) the eye-candy that make movies (and certain tv shows) the driving force behind sci-fi today.”

    Deep, right? 😛

    Trish 😀

  30. Hey thanks very much I see a certain Lt Col!! Can’t mistake the way he runs away. Or ducks down under cover fire. 😉

    As a lifelong reader, lover & amateur creator of it, absolutely I think science fiction’s future continues to primarily lie with literature, and I think you give great reasons. I still envision someday getting my stories transmitted to a thin reusable book-sized flexi-screen (that isn’t branded with Amazon’s name). Current Ebook readers and audio files aren’t acceptable replacements for me, I still want paper books & magazines, preferably printed on recycled. When I read a book, I want to imagine the “voice”. (ie when I read a Stargate novel I love reading Shep’s parts in his accent, and McKay, O’Neill, Jackson, Teal’c etc etc) I can and do read stories on websites but I would rather be able to download a book’s text and print it out myself- actually, I think of that as a kind of art form in itself when I get to control the visual & tactile appeal (type of paper and font used, pictures optional). Cool.

  31. Hey Joe, I always been a big reader, but like most woman I started out with romances. I have slowly expanded my taste for books, I just finished Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and will be starting his, Lost World. I can have up to 10 books going at the same time, I’ll get board with one and will pick up another, but I will always come back to the original. What are some good beginner SCI-FI books? You know, to ease me into the genre?

  32. Well said, JM. One thing you forgot to mention about the difference between scifi novels and scifi film: we readers of novels and stories more or less make our own movies in our heads as we read, whereas the filmed version is laid out before our eyes by others. While I adore well-made scifi movies and television (and Atlantis is still my favorite by far), nothing beats a really good book. But that’s just me.

  33. Bonjour M. Malozzi,

    un mot pour vous dire que je lis votre blog tous les matins. Cela m’aide à patienter avant la mise en vente de la saison 4 de SGA le 9 juillet prochain au Québec.!!

    Je suis d’accord avec votre réponse de ce jour à l’effet que le livre est un meilleur moyen de développer et de créer des histoires de sci-fi. Attention, je parle d’un mélange de science, d’aventures dans l’espace et de fiction et non pas de vampires, d’esprits, de fantômes et de morts-vivants ce qui n’est pas de la sci-fi selon moi.

    Mais il est vrai que je n’aime pas lire de la sci-fi. Et je ne saurais dire si c’est par paresse intellectuelle dû au fait que notre imagination est plus sollicitée par ce genre. Mais je préfère nettement voir de la sci-fi.

    Cela peut s’expliquer du fait que le lecteur n’a que deux portes d’entrée dans une histoire de sci-fi: son imagination et le talent de l’auteur. Sa propre expérience avec ses 5 risque de lui être moins utiles pour imaginer les lieux, les atmosphères, les sensations des mondes étranges et inexplorés décrits dans ces romans; ce qui est peut-être un handicap pour se laisser emporter par l’intrigue.

    Par contre, le grand écran ou la TV comblent en partie cette difficulté en fournissant des images et des sons permettant d’embarquer plus facilement dans l’histoire. C’est un peu comme la différence entre lire les règlements au hockey et regarder un match de la LNH. !

  34. Hear Hear! this very subject came up in discussion with a couple of friends only the other night, great minds..yada yada.
    Saying that, of course, I am not in any way anticpating muchly the arrival of our new ultra huge flat LCD TV on friday. Better for watching Atlantis WHOO-HOO!

  35. Joe,

    Have finally had a day to catch up! We’ve been busy at our local RenFaire for the past 3 weekends. Needless to say, I’m completely wiped out.

    First, let me agree with you about the book thing. I love the feel of a book in my hands, as opposed to something so cold like a reader.

    Second, our son (who’s in college) received a Garmin GPS unit for Christmas and it has saved him more times than we can count. He had to drive to New Orleans for a wedding (from school in northern Louisiana), then onto Chattanooga for summer stock tryouts. Just this past weekend, he drove from St. Louis to way up in northwestern Nebraska (in the middle of freakin’ nowhere) for his summer stock job. He loves it, and we’ll be adding one to our travel gear before we go see him in July. I’d HIGHLY recommend you pick one up as well.

    Fair warning, though…my brother insists that–although very cool and helpful–GPS units can make you quite stupid. ;-D


  36. Great entry and video today Joe! I loved your opinions on SF writing in literature vs. film. Also, enjoyed the video! Keep em coming.

    Last thing, please thank Alan for a great interview for Gateworld!

  37. Hey Joe,
    I agree with Boomer Goodheart, a GPS is the way to go. When I moved to the Puget Sound region last year from Philly, I found it invaluable. With today’s high prices for gas, I have no doubt that it has saved me a lot. You don’t get lost and it saves time, when you don’t want to take the highway due to traffic congestion. In the Seattle area the side streets are the way to go! I hardly ever get on the highways here. I have a Magellan, 800 Road Mate for $127.00 (refurbished), which plugs into your car lighter. No need to buy a new one, the refurbished are just as good. It so easy to use, I did not even have to read the directions. You just turn it on, select the country and put in the address you want to go to and Bob’s your uncle, it gives you blow by blow turns, with distance to travel and the estimate time it will take to get there! It is an amazing gift for the directionally challenged! Like me!!! It doesn’t have to be built in, when you can get it a plug in for your car.


  38. That was a very good answer to the question SFsignal posed to you Joe, you sure know how to put the words to the paper, guess thats why you are the writer and I am not. Good JOB!!.
    I enjoy reading, different type books, watching different type shows/movies, I have chosen a few of my books from your BOTM, so thank you. Not everyone is going to like sf or mystery or romance, etc., can’t make ’em read, just teach them how.
    I think of the Twilight Zone episode where the man who hid to read(really thick pop-bottle glasses)books and he was in a vault,(I think) and everything got destroyed(end of the world,kinda thing) and then he broke his glasses, so even though he had all the time in the world to read, alas no glasses… not sure what had to do with this,,but had to do with books and reading,,. 😳

  39. Sander said:

    like most women I started out with romances

    Really? I started my insatiable reading (in second grade, no less!) with mystery novels.

    What are some good beginner SCI-FI books?

    Well, what got me into SciFi at first was Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. She has written a whole bunch of books with characters from that novel, as well, if you like it. But they are YA Sci-Fi (I think I first read them in 5th grade?) which you might not like. I personally still enjoy them, but I guess I’m still technically a young adult =)

    Crichton is a great place to start as well. He, too, has quite the collection of novels. I recommend Jurassic Park, Timeline, Terminal Man, Prey, Andromeda Strain, The Lost World, and his global warming novel State of Fear. I haven’t read his newest, but, IMHO, those are probably the best of everything else.

    And as I have mentioned before, my knowledge of SciFi has been, until recently, limited to a mere three authors (though each has an extensive collection of books!), so of course my recommendations are very limited!!!

  40. shiningwit said;

    “Am I the only person on the planet that doesn’t watch Lost?”

    Nope, I don’t watch it (unless you count half an hour of one episode when I’d been flicking channels and ended up staring at the screen, trying to remember where I’d seen one of the actresses before.. and failed to remember!).

    Strange thing is, even though friends say how great it is “You really must watch it”, it’s never appealed. Now when I try to get them to give Atlantis a go, they never seem to want to try either – maybe I’ll sit through a whole episode if I can get them to do the same with SGA…..! Brilliant idea eh?

    Sorry, that kinda got away from me.. was only supposed to be a two-line response *blush*

  41. Hey Joe. I’m not sure if you’ve been asked this already, but I’ll ask anyway…

    Why doesn’t EVERYONE on Atlantis get injected with the Ancient gene? Then those who don’t have it wouldn’t be dependant on the people who DO have it.

    Nice video as well…was that Joe F. in the video?…it really looked like him.

    Sorry, but I have one more question (This one is most important)… In S5, will Woolsey get the Ancient Gene Therapy? I could just imagine him trying to fly a Jumper 🙂

    Thanks Joe!

  42. Speaking of script writing, I just submitted my script for consideration in the NY TV Festival’s original comedy pilot contest… Wish me luck!

    Oh yeah…the winner gets a deal with Fox Broadcasting, so even if I win, I’ll be looking for work when they cancel the show after three episodes, so I’ll need some extra luck to set aside for that…

  43. hi, joe,

    in a very recent blog, you said this: “We’re hoping to have Sam back for at least one episode in the back half.”

    is that ‘one’ episode guaranteed at least?

    sally =)

  44. Hey there, Joe,

    After season 5, will we know more about the organic material Wraith Ships/Outposts have? Eg. information on how it came to be?

    Just another silly random question, I know. ^^

    I hope your day went well, and the wife and dogs are okay!

    Which reminds me of my brother’s Presa Canario Dog Jack who had his ears cropped last Friday. I hope he’s okay…


  45. Thanks for sharing your SF Signal Mind Meld comment with us. On one hand I think you have a very good point when it comes to writers of print scifi and visual scifi, but on the other hand a lot of people I know who are into scifi go to the effort of learning the names of the people writing good film/tv scifi. I can name ten favourites for each, but I would have to consider my answers more carefully for print because there are a lot more (to be fair, I have read more scifi).

    I have to say I strongly disagree with Scalzi’s view (although I appreciate his acknowledgement of talking widely about the issue). I think both print and visual scifi are about speculation and spectacle. I just watched a scifi film (based on a book I haven’t read yet) which I didn’t like because I felt it would work better if the images weren’t presented to us so solidly. Sometimes it’s good to imagine things, rather than have them presented for you. It may have been because the film was an adaptation that I felt this way, but my sister, who had read the book, said she really liked both.

    There is a reason the supergenre, speculative fiction includes film, tv, novels, short stories, graphic novels etc – because all of them can have similar causes and effects. At first glance literature may be more likely to lead to speculation, but there are films like Bladerunner and shows like Stargate: Atlantis, Dark Angel and even Jeremiah that have generated a lot of speculation after an episode had finished. And there are books, like 1984 or Dune or Fastforward 1 which have amazed me with their imagery. In my opinion both mediums can be about spectacle and speculation.

    The difference, I think, is that print can be limited by one’s imagination, whereas visual is limited by other factors – funding, visual effects, resources, the amount of people involved in a production etc. Which may be why so many scifi films are based on scifi literature. It can seem much simpler to create a movie or tv show based on an already established story because you don’t have to come up with the idea, and the producers, financiers know there will be an already established fan network. Whether or not it is easier is questionable, especially when you think of how many of those fans will expect to hate the movie because of the limitations.

    Ok, that’s about all the thinking I can do for now, but thanks for asking for our thoughts Joe.

  46. I prefer books to the movies based on the books. Not just because I am a librarian and I would rather have people read the books but I find there are soooo many things you can do with words that just never translate well onto screen. Some things are just too fantastical and people are rarely happy when they see their favorite books on screen. As they read, at least for me, one gets their own idea of how something should look and it is not always the same as what they end up seeing.
    Thanks for the great video. I am chewing my nails off in anticipation of the next season.

  47. Dear Joe M.
    Sorry I wanted to post earlier, but I actually went back to work today, YEA! after nearly two weeks of being frantically ill (sniffle achoo—still ill). Anyhoo, let’s see where to begin…“the medium IS the message” I’m sure you’ve heard this to death. Although I totally agree with McLuhan on understanding culture by examining it’s popular language, now for instance the age of the computer, I think the book which is more relevant to the questions you posted lies with Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”:
    What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one…Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley marked in “Brave New World Revisited”, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions…In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.” For my part I prefer “The Space Merchants” Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth pub. in 1953, over both these books. If you’ve never read it, you should. It’s a quick read, and you would be shocked at how accurate its predictions are on modern culture, aside from being outrageously funny.


    You like being a slob?….It’s called being organic (conversations with my man)

  48. Do you think we will ever see Ben Cotton back on SGA?
    I get a kick out of Kavanagh. He’s got “weasel” down to a T.

  49. Mr. M
    As an aside I love posts/questions like these! Stuff I can sink my maw into, besides various flavours of Tostitos. Anyway, yesterday while sitting on the throne (strangely I have all my eureka moments there) I was thinking of this very issue, the difference between the screen writers of sci fi vs the classic novel/graphic novel writers of the stuff (I must me psychic). Traditionally sci fi has never been critically well received as a genre. I imagine because for the most part it does not fit into a “canonized” idea of literature, yet it attracts some of the most frenzied and vociferous readers/viewers/fans out there: check out the recent discussion at the WDC (it boarders on absolute neurosis, psychopathic nerdom!! Ha ha). Screen writers almost have the role that artisans had in ancient Greece: although the potters and sculptors created some of the worlds most memorable art, they never (as a rule) put their name to their work. This had nothing to do with the pride they took in their creation—often it was an act of worship. However, because of how the culture viewed the skill of these people, no one ever considered putting their “John Henry” in the corner. They were artisans, tradesmen and skilled labourers never “artists”. It wasn’t until the renaissance that anything to do with genius was associated with works of art, under which creative writing in all its forms falls into. The idea of genius, literally “genie”, touched by god(s) started to manifest itself in popular culture as a talent that could not be quantified conventionally. At this point it was appropriate for “artists” to pen their names to all their work—why not be known as a genius? Thus artist can also be esteemed along with the genius of Michelangelo and Da Vincci. Screen writers, I suppose because of their corporate associations are artisans not artists. Part and parcel with “art” culture is that one sacrifices for the muse of one’s work, not for something as tactile and ignominious as money. Commercial artists suffer the same disregard, though there is nothing ignoble, in fact it is quite honourable, about having a steady income from one’s art. As you mentioned with the lead actress and the screen writer, the art of acting can also be divided the same way: those who sacrifice everything for their art and those who have more “earthly” obligations. If you want to be an actor and make a living at it, you can, it really isn’t “that” difficult, if you want to be “famous” on the other hand (and I’ve have met a few up and coming actors who confuse the two, and can’t understand why they’re not getting the work “they deserve”)is almost the same as wanting to be a genius: you either it get/haveit or you don’t. I really believe that working artists, in all their many facets know the value of good “art” whether it is popularly acknowledged or not. There really isn’t a great deal of room for ego, you get burnt out of it when you’ve put your heart on the line again and again; then you get impatient with those who still struggle with ego and those who worship those who struggle with ego. It’s also a pleasure to work with people who are burnt out of the ego. They’re usually brilliant and quite humble. Two actors I can think of that are like this David Nykl and Chris Heyerdahl.

    Well, my favourite sci fi tv show in recent memory that hasn’t started off as a book or novelette or whatever written first: Stargate Atlantis (ha ha ha ha). There’s also Babylon Five, Farscape I know all the Dr. Who and Red Dwarf episodes were later made into a novels, but didn’t start out that way. There’s also Battle Star Craptica and Andromeda, my favourite all time is Buffy of course but that’s not sci fi—why doesn’t Fire Fly count again?


    You like being a slob?….It’s called being organic (conversations with my man)

  50. Hi, Joe.

    My ten favorite SF scriptwriters are: Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Martin Gero, Peter DeLuise, Jonathan Glassner, Alan McCullough, Christopher Judge and Carl Binder.

    There are more, but you only asked for ten.



  51. shiningwit said,

    “Am I the only person on the planet that doesn’t watch Lost?

    It looks like at least two people (you and Looby) don’t watch LOST. I do. They had me from the first five minutes of S1 Ep1. Weird cuz I don’t usually watch shows that are popular with the mainstream. I tend to fall for a show and then find out later it’s a big hit.

    eddy the Pop Culture Clueless Chick

  52. I prefer reading my scifi – even the best fx can’t capture what the mind can imagine. On the flip side, I’ll argue that translating some scifi books to screen is difficult -since a lot of the classics such as “The Time Machine,” “War of the Worlds” and a lot of Philip K. Dick’s work was very political in nature and intent, which kind of get glossed over in the attempt to make an mass market entertainment.

  53. 3 things-
    1. thought on book vs media debate—2001 a space odyssey. a book and movie written and made at almost the same time. i really only understood the movie when i read the book AND the accompanying behind-the-scene book. it had deleted chapters and they explained stuff. still think the movie was dead slow and boring, but most people seem to think different.
    2. what can happen to good/great sci-fi books when made to movies, i agree with you. what immediately popped into my head was James P Hogans book, “Inherit the Stars”. 50 yrs in the future, man living on the moon in small numbers, mostly science related. and one day, a science team looks into one more moon crater and finds a dead body in a space suit. but no one is missing. who can it be? after extensive examination and testing, they realize that the body is over 50,000 yrs old. start of the incredibly Ganymean series. but as a movie, it would be called something like, CSI: Farside of the Moon. yech.
    3. u wrote the u had read joe haldemans book, “Forever War”. (incredibly inventive, original and meaningful!) he had 2 sequels and altho i have read Forever Free, i dont understand it. it was great to come back to the original characters from the first book and check in with them, but what happens at the end was so bewildering, mystifying, down right baffling, puzzling, unfathomable to me, that while trying to explain the story to my brother recently, I couldn’t. failed completely. (he had read the first and hadnt known about the sequels). did YOU understand it?

  54. also congrats
    amazon last night reporting that of the most popular selling dvds – all dvds – are #13 continuum, and, tah-da!! #28 sga 4th season.

    beat out indie jones complete set, fifth element (great movie, and i dont think it was based on a book?),lost s4, and grey’s anatomy. i hope that the PTB take into account dvd sales when thinking of renewing a show.

    sga was also #1 in sci fi.

  55. Hello, Joe!

    Been working crazy hours again but love this question and couldn’t resist…

    1. Love your answer, obviously passionate and well thought out. And a fascinating debate. One that encompasses often not just Sci-Fi, but, honestly, the media themselves as opposed to the content being delivered.

    2. But I respectfully disagree! Many here said parts of what I feel (dasndanger, Narelle, AMZ), and here is a hopefully succinct personal conclusion.

    3. Sci-Fi is a genre, is content, is a story. Books, TV, Film are the media on which it can be delivered and should not be compared, as each and every one of us learn, enjoy and absorb the story differently. And, each medium can be a driving creative force for this genre. How the stories are told should not be compared…if they are told WELL is ultimately the issue is it not?

    4. I work in the TV and film industry (full disclosure) but am a lifelong reader who reads an average of about 3-5 books a week. Of all genres. Right now my bookcase is crammed with sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, detective, supernatural, romance, comedy, and non-fiction biography (film related).

    5. I truly believe that the literature field is experiencing a bit of a creative Renaissance and that Sci-fi has more exposure now and new readers (due to our generation growing up on amazingly cool sci0fi and wanting more!!) than ever before. Now this one I do not have marketing numbers for but would really be interested if my gut instinct is true…I am going to check it out on some research.

    6. I also believe (and know for a fact thru mktng numbers) that TV is pushing and exploring more creative boundaries than it ever has before. The number of campaigns I have been able to do that I would NEVER have been able to pitch even 5 years ago is completely due to the new group of people in charge who are willing to try new ideas, listen to new pitches, etc.

    7. And, then there is online, my field. It simply blows open many of our options…I am currently working on an Alternate Reality Campaign there is no way I could have pitched a year ago.

    I could go on and on but I honestly feel that our horizons are SO much broader now and that our opportunities are better for Sci-fi. Now, I have been accused of being the eternal optimist, but, hey it’s worked for me so far!


    Jenny S.

  56. @ shiningwit – Technically, I don’t watch Lost…but hubby does and we have a small house, so I do hear parts of it, and kinda sorta know what’s going on. But I don’t like the show at all…too depressing for me. I DO, however, watch the Desmond parts. He’s the best thing in the show, and I can’t resist taking a peek at the screen whenever I hear his sweet, melodious voice.

    Yes, yes, yes…I only watch the Hot Scot scenes…I am THAT shallow!! 😀


  57. Novels vs Movies – I think you covered everything. 🙂 Besides how the reader might bound off and interpret things in their own way, books are definitely a more immediate relationship between the writer and reader, because as you say in movies/tv everything gets filtered through the Director, set designers, costumers etc and screenwriters are in part about making the actors look good, heh.

    We’re definitely more visual though – I know that even though books are more involved, if I go back and think about them it’s more along the lines of concepts and the overall plot, but with movies it might be a particular scene that resonates – I guess it’s just easier on the old memory to replay something you’ve seen.

    It’s funny that you mention Children of Men and Serenity though. Children of Men was definitely a character driven piece (and they managed to pick up some excellent actors that don’t come with a hefty price tag) and possibly had a broader appeal because of this, and also the drama/thriller elements. Serentiy had Joss Whedon’s name attached and had huge dvd sales for the tv programme and also an ardent fanbase in the wings to provide the studio with a free internet campaign – a big price tag genre and studios that seem to emphasise more and more the business in show business and want bigger and bigger returns – it’s definitely a pity. Eh, sorry if none of that made any sense, blame it on the head cold. 🙂

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