Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-seven - Prophets of Science Fiction: Robert Heinlein, "Fascism, Communism, Revolution... but barely a mention of Free Love!"

As promised, I came back to The Science Channel's Prophets of Science Fiction in order to hear what they had to say about my favorite Sci-Fi author, Robert Heinlein. After the silly docudramas intercut with scientist and author interviews that they did on Phillip K. Dick that I watched a while ago, I wasn't sure that I really wanted to see how they treated him... but a promise is a promise.

I think that it is safe to say that they definitely toned down the community theater inbetweeners, focusing more on the works themselves, along with small animations of their book covers and the predicted technologies found within their pages. Honestly, the episode was so much better for it... but still not great.

While it does jump back and forth a little in his personal history in covering the inventions and emerging technologies that he dreamt up, for the most part the episode is a chronological look at both his work and his life, going from a jobless veteran just before the second world war to one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of the century.

I find it interesting that the origin story the episode weaves fails to mention that the story he wrote for his first contest was actually sold to a different magazine, but it's a half hour show and they were more worried, I think, about the future tech in his full-sized novels than a short story.

Also, while I understand the point of the series is to show how prescient authors and creators can be when it comes to their fictions becoming future's reality, I still wish there was more time spent on the meaning of the works themselves as opposed to the dream science that happened to come true years later. They barely covered the interpersonal and societal issues that Heinlein put forth in his books even while acknowledging that he was at the forefront of Social Sci-Fi.

Heck, they didn't even touch his later novels like Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond The Sunset.

But, it is their show, after all... and, while it's sort of entertaining to see the tech made real, watching the prototype moon habitats be credited to Heinlein is a bit of a conceptual betrayal of his work. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress didn't feature inflatable shelters... everyone lived underground in tunnels. They would've been better off to talk about the computer work and the sentient AI, Mike, or the rail gun mass driver catapult.

Oh well.

The show is bare bones and disappointing, though not as much as the previous episode I've watched for the blog. I'd say, at best, it's something for middle and high school literature teachers to throw on when there's a substitute. As for true fans of either the author or the genre, I wouldn't recommend it.

One good thing, though... it gave me the name of one of Heinlein's novels that I'd never heard of. I'll have to head on down to the library and check it out (if they have it).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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