‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 finale not terribly shocking

If you haven’t seen the Season 6 finale of “Game of Thrones,” you may want to come back after you’ve seen it. This is your spoiler warning.

Let’s talk about Cersei’s industrial goth dress. I’m guessing someone in the costume department has seen the “Hellraiser” movies way too many times, because I feel like I’m watching Clive Barker’s “Game of Thrones.” Let’s not forget the Night King looking like Pinhead’s distant cousin:

Everything is happening, and it’s about time. We knew Cersei was planning something sinister, but who knew how big it would be? That wildfire explosion was crazy. One thing I didn’t see coming was the end of Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell. But I was happy to see those pesky Sparrows go down.

Walder Frey also had it coming to him, after the carnage of the Red Wedding. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Arya apparently believes it’s a dish best served with one’s sons baked inside. Gross.

The truth of Jon Snow’s parentage was figured out by readers of the books some time ago, so last night’s “shocker” wasn’t much of a revelation, but it was satisfying to see it finally play out on screen, even if we knew all along Jon wasn’t Ned’s bastard son. I think Ned would be proud of the man his nephew has become. “The King in the North!”

Daenerys’ scenes – some of my favorites in the first few seasons – have lately been a batch of fries sitting under a heat lamp while the other stories catch up, so it’s nice that she’s finally going somewhere. The part where she dumps her boyfriend was blah, but it’s so darn touching when she names Tyrion the Hand of the Queen, it almost makes up for it.

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It’s nice that we got to see a little bit of everyone, since it’s the last episode we will get until 2017. But come on, that was not enough of Sam and Gilly. (Cool library! And then we move on.)

I think the most unexpected and breathtaking moment of the finale was Tommen’s suicide. But the most heartbreaking was Davos confronting Melisandre about Shireen’s murder. “I loved that girl like she was my own,” he tells her. “She was good, she was kind, and you killed her!” (Stop making me cry, Onion Knight!)

I love GoT, and I’m going to miss it while it’s gone. Until next year.

In other news

I’m reading Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic “Wool” series (which is awesome – go read it right now if you haven’t), and hopefully I will have more news to report about this soon – “Guardians of the Galaxy” writer Nicole Perlman has reportedly been hired to re-write “Wool” for 20th Century Fox and producers Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian.

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“Wool” began as a stand-alone novella, which Howey published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. Interesting note: Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” also was based on a self-published book. Self-publishing seems to be gaining more respect.

Maybe anyone can write a novel. Maybe even … robots? Yes, as Hugh Howey himself predicted, a novel has recently been written by artificial intelligence. The AI had some help from humans, so writers aren’t obsolete just yet. The novel, a team effort led by Hitoshi Matsubara, a professor at Future University Hakodate, was an attempt to win Japan’s Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award. The novel, “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel,” didn’t win, but it passed the first round of screening.

The idea of robots taking over the world is just science fiction, though. Right? Well, not if you believe in a theory known as “technological singularity.” Singularity theorists say that superintelligent machines will one day overtake humans. Of course, there have been multiple books, movies and TV shows about cyborgs, androids, robots, or machines overthrowing humans. Most of them seem too far-fetched to come true, but some of them (“Ex Machina” and “Her”) seem eerily possible.

Moving on to a more scientifically plausible prediction about non-human intelligence, a Cornell student recently estimated that Earth won’t contact alien life for another 1,500 years. This might sound like a wild guess, but it’s based on math: Evan Solomonides and professor Yervant Terzian presented a paper earlier this month, at the American Astronomical Society meeting, which explains that because we have only been sending signals to space for 80 years, we’ve reached less than one percent of the galaxy. We shouldn’t expect to make contact until we’ve reached at least half of the solar systems in the Milky Way.

The astronomers address what’s known as the Fermi Paradox, which asks: “There must be other planets like Earth, so why have we not heard from them yet?” Solomonides’ answer is a good one, but I will offer up another possibility: Maybe the aliens are just waiting to see if this Trump thing blows over before they decide if we are worth talking to.

“Game of Thrones photos,” HBO. 

 

 

News & musings: ‘Expanse,’ ‘Oddfits,’ ‘Ready Player One’

I have been wanting to write about the new Syfy series “The Expanse,” but it took me a while to process my thoughts and feelings about it. I was wary at first, as the show was being compared to my all-time favorite TV series, “Battlestar Galactica.” How can anything live up to that hype? And I found the name distracting because the entire third season of “Star Trek: Enterprise” is set in the Delphic Expanse, which was usually referred to as “the Expanse.”

But I gave it a try. I needed a good show to tide me over while “Game of Thrones,” “Orphan Black,” “Vikings” and “The Last Kingdom” are on hiatus.

I found the first couple episodes of “The Expanse” confusing, and I wondered if the books (which I haven’t read) were just not translating well to the screen – something seemed to be missing. Or at least, I felt I was missing something. I’m hearing impaired and use closed-captioning, and sometimes get lost when the action and/or dialogue are fast-paced, so that might have had something to do with it.

But I was intrigued enough to stick with it, and I reminded myself new series sometimes take a few episodes to hit their stride.

Here’s what you need to know: In the future, mankind has colonized the solar system, and there are three groups at odds with each other – Earthers (from Earth, duh), Martians (people who have settled Mars – not little green men), and the oppressed, working class “Belters” – people born in the asteroid belt. It gets more complicated than that, but I don’t want to give it all away.

Once I figured out what was going on, I was hooked. There’s all sorts of stuff going on in this show – mystery, political drama, and outer space action/adventure. (I will also confess that I like some comic relief in my science fiction. They had me at “donkey balls.”)

I love the complex characters, there’s a talented cast, and the special effects are amazing. The two-hour finale was crazy, in a good way, and left me feeling sad that the season is already over.

If you haven’t been watching, I recommend you check out season one (you can watch on syfy.com or Hulu). If you have been watching, I would love to hear what you think! Comment here or on the Earth to Shawna facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Earth-to-Shawna-1476049362698628/?fref=ts

Books

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately (see my last blog post, in which I reviewed Jessica Chiarella’s “And Again” and Kate Mulgrew’s memoir “Born with Teeth”).

I just started “The Oddfits,” by Tiffany Tsao. It’s about this misfit kid named Murgatroyd Floyd (how cool is that name?) and there’s this huge freezer called the Great Freezer, which contains 736  flavors of ice cream, including Sunset, Quiet, Darkness, Rainbow, and Stars (shown on the book cover above), which tastes like violets, chocolate, warm honeyed peaches, coconut milk, and the sensation that the universe is a very vast place. (If magic ice cream doesn’t make you want to read this book, nothing will.)

I’m picking up hints of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Doctor Who,” “Twilight Zone,” and also something new that I can’t quite identify … but so far, I find it very palatable.

What are your favorite new sci fi titles?

‘Ready Player One’

Speaking of books, I’m super excited about the new, Spielberg-directed film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel “Ready Player One,” to be released in April 2018. (The film was previously slated for December 2017, but it was announced Tuesday that it has been pushed back – to avoid a box office clash with the next “Star Wars” movie.)

I loved the book, about a futuristic, ’80s-themed competition. The winner inherits the fortune of the contest’s creator, who has been dead for five years.

Olivia Cooke has been cast as Art3mis. (Cooke played Rachel in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” – an excellent movie. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.) Ben Mendelsohn is reportedly in talks for the lead villain, and Nick Robinson is reportedly a favorite for the role of Parzival.

The film has launched a worldwide casting call for three of the main roles: Wade, Shoto, and Daito. The deadline is Feb. 16, so if you’re an aspiring actor who fits the part, you have five days to upload an audition:

http://www.readyplayeronemoviecasting.com

When the book was released, Cline announced that the book contained an Easter egg, a clue which formed the first part of a series of staged video game tests, similar to the plot of the novel. A DeLorean was awarded to the contest’s winner. I wouldn’t be surprised if another contest will be announced when the movie is released, so keep your eye out!

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Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) has been cast as the female lead in Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel “Ready Player One.”

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New Star Trek series

It has been announced that the showrunner for the upcoming Star Trek series (which is not related to the 2016 film) will be Bryan Fuller, who wrote “Pushing Daisies, “Hannibal,” “Dead Like Me,” and “Wonderfalls.” He has also written for “Voyager” and “Deep Space Nine” so he’s no stranger to the Star Trek franchise.

In a 2013 Den of Geek interview, Fuller said he would love to see Angela Bassett as captain and Rosario Dawson as first officer. How cool would that be? Of course, that was three years ago, and the series has not yet been cast, so I’ll try not to get my hopes up.

The new show is set to premiere in January 2017 on CBS before moving to All Access.

‘Battlestar Galactica’ 

And last, but definitely not least, my fav show ever may be turning into a feature film! Let’s not get too excited – this might be a case of “all of this has happened before and will happen again.” (Yes, that’s a BSG quote.)

The newest news on the matter involves producer Michael DeLuca (“The Social Network”), Bluegrass Films (“Battleship”), and Universal Pictures. Nothing else has been announced thus far, but stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.

 

Clones and starship captains: New books for sci fi lovers

If you had a chance to have a new body, would you take it? To have your memories transferred to a body cloned from your cells and given growth hormones to age the new body from infancy to your current age? A healthy body, free from disease, injury, scars, or wrinkles?

If you’re one of the characters in Jessica Chiarella’s debut novel, “And Again,” you would do it. The four main characters are suffering from injury or disease, and are among the first to undergo the new procedure.

It is a fascinating concept, and inspires questions like, How much of our memories are in our brain, and how much is in our bodies? Is it muscle memory that enables my fingers to type these words?

One of the characters, Hannah, is an artist, and she finds her gift is lost when she receives her new body. She also finds she misses her scars and tattoos. We may not realize how much of our body’s history is a part of our personal identity.

So much of others’ behavior toward us is a response to our physical appearance, which was evident in Connie’s story. As a former actress suffering from AIDS, she was treated like a pariah, but when she gets her beautiful, new body, the attention she receives is a double-edged sword. It is rather telling that her only friend – before and after the procedure – is a blind man.

The other clones, a woman paralyzed in a car accident, and a corrupt Congressman, also struggle. David seems to think he can wipe the slate clean with his new body, and be a better man, but old habits die hard. Linda, on the other hand, may as well be a complete stranger, as far as her children are concerned. She had lain in a hospital bed for eight years, while her husband and children have gone on with their lives without her.

The patients meet regularly in a support group to discuss their experiences, as no one else understands what they are going through, but when two of the clones have an affair, and David’s shady dealings threaten the future of the SUBlife program, all hell breaks loose. I won’t say any more than that; you will have to read it yourself.

‘Born with Teeth’

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For me – a lover of juicy memoirs AND Star Trek – Kate Mulgrew’s book, “Born with Teeth,” was a special treat.

I have only seen Mulgrew as the indomitable Capt. Janeway of “Star Trek: Voyager,” so I didn’t know much about her life or her career before that, but I was hooked from the first page, when Mulgrew was, literally, born with teeth. Her mother decides Shakespeare would have a field day with that, and thus is planted the seed of Kate’s career.

Mulgrew, from a big, free-spirited Irish Catholic family in Iowa, participated in a poetry contest in fifth grade. Her mother, invited to hear Kate recite her poetry at the contest, instructed her daughter to also read “The White Cliffs,” by Alice Duer Miller. Her own poetry elicits only polite applause, but when Kate finishes her dramatic reading of “The White Cliffs,” the audience is moved to tears.

On the way home after the contest, her mother tells her, “You know, Kitten, I watched you today, and it dawned on me that you can either be a mediocre poet or a great actress. Now, which do you think you’d rather be?”

Kate throws herself into acting, and through the many hardships life throws at her, she clings to her work, and not only survives, but thrives, through determination and grit. It’s no wonder she won the part of the fearless leader of the “Voyager” crew.

Mulgrew has led an amazing life, but I won’t give it all away and ruin it for you. Suffice it to say, I knew she was a wonderful actress, but I was pleasantly surprised to find she is also a great writer, and as I read her exciting, and sometimes heartbreaking, life story, I discovered that Kate is not only talented, but courageous and passionate as well.

 

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“And Again”
By Jessica Chiarella
Touchstone; January 2016

 

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“Born with Teeth”
By Kate Mulgrew
Trade paper
Back Bay Books; Reprint edition; January 2016

 

Award winner ‘Station Eleven’ is a haunting, addictive novel

I read “Station Eleven,” Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel, in just a couple of days. It’s one of those books you can’t put down. I have a thing for post-apocalyptic tales, and I love novels like this one, in which the narrative takes the reader back and forth through time. This one connects the events from the pre-collapse past with those in the desolate place the world has become 20 years after the “Georgia Flu” pandemic wipes out most of the planet’s population.

I hear you saying “Another disease-wipes-out-most-of-humanity story?” You think you have heard this story before, but you haven’t.

A traveling symphony/Shakespearean troupe caravans through what is left of the Midwest – tiny communities that have formed in the wake of the pandemic. (Replace bands of marauding Indians with religious cults, and covered wagons with old pickup trucks, and it’s almost the Wild West.)

The lead caravan has written on it the words “Survival is insufficient” (taken from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager). And indeed, survival is not enough, which is why the troupe brings music and Shakespeare to the survivors of the apocalypse.

The Star Trek quote is also tattooed on one of the actor’s arms. Kirsten, who was a child when the flu hit, is mocked for having among her few belongings a glass paperweight. But she treasures it for its beauty. Also among her prized possessions are two issues of a rare graphic novel called “Station Eleven,” about a scientist living aboard a space station.

The story of Station Eleven parallels the main narrative, reminiscent of Tales of the Black Freighter, the comic within the comic book “Watchmen.” It’s interesting to see the comic book tale unfold, and how it relates to the plot.

Kirsten is my favorite character, sort of a tough, Katniss-like heroine, but Kirsten is only one of five  main characters. My one complaint is that I wish the book were longer, so that there would be more time to get to know the interesting characters whose stories are woven together in this carefully crafted, plot-driven story.

Mandel is a gifted writer. This is one of those books that I love but also hate because I will never be able to write something as beautiful as this haunting story about what it means to be part of the human race: “We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie … it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.”

It’s true we don’t realize how much we take for granted until it’s gone – things like running water, electricity, antibiotics, but also family, familiarity, the simple pleasures of art, music, and good food.

“What would you miss?” the inside cover of the paperback asks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was reading this novel late into the night, grateful for my sleeping family, for the electricity that made it possible for me to read in the darkness, and for every little thing that is part of our daily lives that we often don’t give a second thought.

“Station Eleven” was a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award, and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015. A film adaptation is being developed.

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“Station Eleven”
By Emily St. John Mandel
Trade paper
Vintage, June 2015

Dark Horse’s time-bending ride ‘Ei8ht’ ends too soon

I love dystopian science fiction, and time-travel stories too, so Dark Horse’s new graphic novel “Ei8ht,” which began as a webcomic by Rafael Albuquerque, is right up my alley.

“The past is green,” the intro reads, “the present is purple, the future is blue – the Meld is something else entirely.” From the start, we see this is not your average time-travel tale, if there is such a thing.

The colors match up to the scenes in the story. If a panel is illustrated in purple, we know we are seeing the future; the past is in green, etc. I’m not sure the color guide is necessary, but I guess it helps if you’re easily confused.

The first chapter is a bit vague, as our hero’s trip to the Meld leaves his memory fuzzy. I get a “12 Monkeys” vibe, though, as Joshua seems to have been sent there in an attempt to find a cure to a plague that is wiping out people in the present time. Or in the future. (Maybe I do need that color code after all.)

“Ei8ht” takes a Mad Max-ian turn when we see what kind of place Joshua ended up in. The first person Joshua meets in the Meld is a Tank Girl type, armed with a bow. She and her buddies seem like the same kind of characters you might run into in “Fury Road.”

It’s an inhospitable desert dimension that is not a nice place to be. Think of it as a sort of Bermuda Triangle, which factors into the plot, in Chapter 2.

The story is compelling and the art is haunting. I definitely got sucked into the story.  Of course there is the page-turning element of mystery – who is Joshua and why is he stuck here? But it’s also exciting to discover new worlds in science fiction, and the Meld certainly qualifies.

Albuquerque has described the Meld as a “temporal trash can,” a place in time where everything that’s ever been or will be on Earth can coexist – including dinosaurs and Nazis.

I initially liked the fast pace of the comic – don’t you hate it when a story arc drags on and on? But then in Chapter 5 I wondered if it wasn’t moving too quickly. Is this a miniseries?

If it’s over, then it’s a bit of a letdown. It’s too short to be a complete story, and there is so much wasted potential if this is the end. But the graphic novel (which collects comics 1 through 5) is called “Volume 1,” which leads me to believe there is more in store for these characters. I hope so.

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“Ei8ht, Volume 1: Outcast”
By Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson
Dark Horse Books; October 2015

 

 

‘Limitless,’ ‘Last Man on Earth’ pose intriguing questions

There have been lots of movies about people who suddenly become smarter, or who use the part of their brain that normally goes “unused”: John Travolta’s character in “Phenomenon,” Scarlett Johansson as “Lucy,” and Bradley Cooper in “Limitless.”

These movies operate from the premise that humans use only 10% of our brains, and what would happen if we used all of it? This is actually a myth. But the idea that we could take a pill that would give us a photographic memory, and the ability to learn and analyze at a superhuman rate is intriguing, and inspiring.

I love these movies, and the idea that we are all capable of so much more – that we all have untapped potential.

We may not be wasting our brain power, but many of us do waste time. Maybe I could learn how to play the cello or speak Chinese, if I spent less time watching movies and TV. But that’s not going to happen. So let’s talk about the show:

“Limitless,” the TV spinoff of the film, passes the higher intellect torch to Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), who gets a job working for the FBI after taking the brain-enhancing drug NZT.

It’s a great hook, but I’m not sure it will be enough to hold onto viewers. It’s slipping rather quickly into the formulaic crime show category, which is what happened to the “Minority Report” spinoff. We want sci fi, not another “CSI.” Talk about untapped potential.

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“I swim in it, I drink out of it. There’s really no wrong way to use a margarita pool.”

The Last Man on Earth

“The Last Man on Earth” poses a different what-if scenario: What would you do if the world’s population succumbed to a massive epidemic and you were the last person left?

If you were Phil Miller (played by Will Forte) you would steal art and artifacts from museums and use them to decorate your new mansion. You would have an inflatable pool filled with tequila and margarita mix.

And you would become so lonely for company you would make friends with volleyballs à la “Cast Away” and get so desperate for love that you end up hitting on a mannequin.

This very funny post-apocalyptic comedy hits just the right notes of loneliness and hilarity to keep me coming back for more, even if the title no longer rings true (it turns out he’s not really the last man).

Now in its second season, I was a bit skeptical of its ability to maintain its momentum. It seems like the premise could run out of steam at any moment, but “Last Man” always has another trick up its sleeve.

In one moment it’s a comedy with heart, and in the next it’s completely heartless. It’s stupid and brilliant at the same time. It turns out it’s not about the end of the world at all, but about the human condition and our vulnerability.

(Photos: Limitless, CBS; and The Last Man on Earth, FOX)

Check out graphic novels ‘Nimona,’ ‘Descender’

I’ve been on a bit of a comic book kick lately. I especially like graphic novels, as they’re easier to get my hands on and take longer to read than individual issues.

“Nimona,” Noelle Stevenson’s graphic novel debut, began as a web comic. A fun read, the comic is set in the time of knights and dragons, but with convenient anachronisms like computers, TVs, and plasma cannons.

Nimona is a shapeshifter who shows up at villain Ballister Blackheart’s lair, looking to be his new sidekick. She can’t wait to do revenge! And science! She is an impatient teenager and she wants to overthrow the government – NOW!

Blackheart is methodical, though, and has plans, and he doesn’t want Nimona going berserk. Of course she does anyway, and chaos ensues, etc.

I love that “Nimona” subverts the traditional role of heroes and villains. It’s unpredictable and it has heart.

Stevenson also co-writes the comic “Lumberjanes,” about a Girl Scout-like troop who get much more than they bargained for when they explore the wilderness.

Plans for both “Nimona” and “Lumberjanes” to be adapted for the big screen are in the works.

Descender

Entertainment Weekly says, “Your new sci-fi obsession is here,” in the blurb on the cover of the graphic novel “Descender, Volume 1,” by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. A bold statement which would seem a bit presumptuous if it wasn’t such a great comic.

A collection of issues 1-6, “Descender, Volume 1” definitely left me wanting more, and I can’t wait to see what happens next to Tim-21, an android child who survived the robot culls that followed the destruction of billions of humans by huge robots called Harvesters.

Tim was created by a scientist named Dr. Jin Quon, and then shipped to a mining colony, where his function was to provide companionship to a child of one of the miners.

I don’t want to give the whole story away. It’s dark, intense, and heartbreaking, and is also being made into a movie. Check it out.

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson; HarperTeen

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Descender, by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, Image Comics, Rated Mature

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Ten times real life reminds me of science fiction

Do you ever ask your husband or wife, “When is second breakfast?” Or wish you could “beam up” to your destination when you’re stuck in traffic? I often find myself thinking of science fiction in my ordinary life. Here are a few examples.

  1. Whenever I have déjà vu, I wonder if it means something, like in “The Matrix” when Keanu Reeves sees that cat again and says “Whoa. Déjà vu.” I love it that everyone takes him seriously, because in real life no one cares if you have déjà vu. They also don’t want to hear about the weird dream you had last night.
  2. Every time my First World existence isn’t quite cushy enough, I wish for one of the nifty gadgets in science fiction, like the holodeck or the medical tricorder on Star Trek. And the food replicator. Pretty much anything on Star Trek.
  3. When I’m delirious from lack of sleep, I sometimes wonder if the world as I know it is a replica, manufactured to trick me, and that my life is really being broadcast all over the world. What if everyone can see me obsessively overplucking my eyebrows, or hear me talking to myself? And it is then that I wish I’d never seen “The Truman Show.”
  4. Lately, I’ve been thinking about Jadzia from Deep Space Nine. She was a Trill: an alien species who serves as a host to a symbiont called Dax. Jadzia retains all the skills and memories from the previous hosts. When I look back on my life 20 years ago, or even just five years ago, it hardly seems like I’m the same person, like I’m a Trill or something.
  5. Admit it – sometimes you wish you had a time machine so you could have do-overs, like in the completely nonsensical “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” “After the report, we’ll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad’s keys and leave them here. … How about behind that sign? That way, when we get here now, they’ll be waiting for us!”
  6. A lot of us spend a lot of time online. Our world seems to be becoming more and more like that movie “Surrogates,” in which people in the future live in front of their computers, controlling robotic avatars who stand in for them in the real world.
  7. When I see news stories about scientists trying to recreate the woolly mammoth, or selling genetically modified pet pigs, or abusing science in some other similar asinine fashion, I think of Jeff Goldblum’s character in “Jurassic Park,” Dr. Malcolm, who said the scientists were “so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
  8. When I’m feeling lazy, I think maybe I should do some pull-ups, or learn how to drive a motorcycle, or hotwire a car, in case there’s some future emergency and I need to be strong and fast and skilled. Like, for instance, what if a cyborg from the future is sent to kill me? Oh wait, that’s the plot of “Terminator 2.”  Which is mostly unlikely to happen.
  9. As my kids get older, I am reminded of Sil from “Species,” who ages 12 years in like, three months. I keep doing double takes at my son, like, “Weren’t you a toddler a few minutes ago?”
  10. We all have our favorite movie quotes that we use conversationally. Most of the movies my husband and I quote to each other are from sci-fi/fantasy movies: “Aziz, light!” “Do or do not. There is no try.” “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” “You keep saying that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” “I am altering the deal; pray I don’t alter it any further.” “My precious!” And my favorite faux curse word, “Frak!”

‘The Martian’ celebrates teamwork, optimism

You might think that if you were stranded on Mars, you would feel hopeless and depressed. Well, you wouldn’t if you were Mark Watney, the protagonist of Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestseller “The Martian.”

And who else could pull off a smiling, cheery astronaut, even as he is dying on Mars, but Matt Damon? Watney rarely allows himself to let his situation get him down. He’s much too busy calculating mathematical equations to figure out how he’s going to survive until NASA figures out that he’s alive and sends someone to rescue him.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Damon recently played another astronaut stranded on a planet, in last year’s epic space adventure “Interstellar.” (Jessica Chastain was also in both movies.)

I keep hearing this movie described as “a love letter to NASA,” and it absolutely celebrates the camaraderie, teamwork, and sense of adventure for which the space agency is known. But more than that, it is a testimony to the ingenuity and determination of one man who refuses to give up.

Throughout the movie, I couldn’t help thinking, “I would never have thought of that” and “Well, that would be the last straw for me.” I clearly don’t have the knowledge base or mental stability required to be a space explorer. I kept waiting for him to crack, but I guess they weed out all the sissies from the space program with psychological testing.

I also kept waiting for some flashback scenes of Watney with his loved ones back on Earth. They never mention a girlfriend, only his parents, and even though there are brief scenes with the other astronauts’ families, we never see Watney’s parents, even though he mentions them a couple times.

Perhaps this was to show us that Watney wants to live for the sake of living, because he has a zest for life, not because he wants to see his children grow up or because he’s made a promise to a girlfriend that he would come back, which is how this is usually done.

Or maybe, this just isn’t a movie about family. Not the blood-related kind, anyway. It’s more about the faith and trust and the love of science that bond all these people together – the stranded astronaut who says “I love what I do,” the Ares 3’s other five astronauts who have become his friends, and the entire ground crew at NASA, who are faced with making tough decisions without much time to consider the odds.

And most of all, it’s about optimism in the face of adversity – a quality we should all aspire to.

Check out these binge-worthy sci-fi, fantasy TV series

  1. “Battlestar Galactica.” There are four seasons, but you have to start with the miniseries. My favorite TV show of all time, it stars Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and so many other great actors. It is epic, dramatic, suspenseful, and just plain awesome. So say we all!
  2. “Star Trek.” Any and all. I came in at “Deep Space Nine,” so I’m more a fan of the later series. I sometimes think if I had watched Star Trek when I was younger, I would have set my sights on science, rather than journalism.
  3. “Game of Thrones” is the first science fiction-fantasy series ever to win an Emmy for best drama, so you know it’s something special. GoT has knights, dragons, wolves, witches, giants, and ice zombies, and the special effects are amazing. But the real magic is the plotting and political intrigue, and the stellar performances of the ensemble cast. My one complaint is that HBO goes too far sometimes, adding violent scenes that weren’t in the books.
  4. “Orphan Black.” If you haven’t seen this BBC show yet, you’re in for a treat. Tatiana Maslany stars as a young mother and con woman who has just discovered she’s a clone – one of many. And then the plot thickens. Stick with it; it keeps getting better.
  5. “Heroes.” With the “Heroes Reborn” premiere this week, what better time to re-watch the original series, about ordinary people discovering they have random superpowers? The series has a huge cast of great actors playing interesting characters, and Zachary Quinto (who plays Spock in the new Star Trek films) is amazing as psychotic supervillain Sylar.
  6. “The 4400.” This series drew a lot of comparisons to “Heroes” but actually came first. In the pilot episode, 4,400 people suddenly appear near Mount Rainier. All of them have disappeared at some point during the past 50 years, but no one knows where they have been all this time, or how they got back, and some of them have returned with special abilities.
  7. “Life on Mars.” Jason O’Mara plays a New York City cop who is hit by a car in 2008 and wakes up in 1973. I’m a sucker for a good time travel tale. It was canceled after one season, and some say it wasn’t good as the BBC version, but I ask of you, did the BBC version have Harvey Keitel?
  8. “Caprica.” I didn’t love this prequel series as much as the series from which it was spun, but it satisfied my craving for more “Battlestar Galactica.” Starring Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson, Alessandra Torresani and Polly Walker, “Caprica” tells the story of how the Cylons were created.
  9. “Defying Gravity.” Another good show that was canceled after one season, “Defying Gravity” starred Ron Livingston as one of eight astronauts on a mysterious six-year mission. This was pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in outer space,” which may have sold the series, but was maybe also its downfall.
  10. “Dr. Who.” I confess I have only seen one season of this goofy time-travel series, but I’m planning to go back and watch more. It’s on my list.

(Photo: “Battlestar Galactica,” Syfy)