Watchin’ TV with The Duchess

Sci-Fi fans, welcome to hell.

Here’s what it’s like: It’s comfy. It’s your living room. The fridge is stocked with things you like to eat, things you like to drink. The TV is on, bright and big and beaming entertainments right at you. You’re wearing slippers and a cat is purring on your lap as you sip a fine cocktail. You might think this is heaven at first, but really, it’s hell. It’s hell because sitting next to you is someone who doesn’t much care for skiffy, watching the same damn show, and you’re having conversations like this:


ME: That’s John Locke.

MWTD: Well, that just doesn’t make any sense.

ME: It does if you consider space/time to be –

MWTD: Space/time doesn’t make any sense either. Go get me some popcorn.

ME: Yes’m.

The problem here is that the Entertainment Industrial Complex has realized that Science Fiction, when properly obfuscated and packaged, can make a killing. Movies, books, television shows – SF is the flavor of the era, and more and more of the stuff being spooned out to audiences has its roots in skiffy. Maybe it ain’t really sci-fi, but its’ from that end of the pool. But it gets a nice candy-coating, a slow-burn rollout of the SF tropes, and actively goes for the big audience, many of whom won’t realize they’re watching Sci-Fi until season three.

Take Lost, for an overused example. The show has always had a creepy, weird side, but for a long stretch it was more about survivors of a plane crash on a creepy island of secrets. People who would normally never be attracted to Sci-Fi – and who probably thought Sci-Fi means spaceships, aliens, and magical children – got into the show, came to care about the characters and be intrigued by the scenario. BAM! They’re watching Sci-Fi, and most are ill-equipped for the experience, leaving folks like me to weather the storm.

A lot of folks have very antiquated ideas about SF/F; that it involves the aforementioned spaceships, that it’s the domain of nerds and socially-inept Trekkies (well, they’re in the mix, certainly, and I do a mean Shatner impersonation, but they’re merely part of the whole). These folks think SF = Nerds and are blithely sure they would never get caught dead watching Sci-Fi, or reading it, or whatever. More and more, of course, as time goes on, they are watching/reading Sci-Fi, and just don’t know it.

Until the reveals come, until phrases like space/time continuum start popping up, until someone points out that entire characters are imaginary, entire resolutions explainable only via magic, sorcery, or particle physics.

And that’s when folks like you and me start having those conversations. And drinking. Drinking during the conversations, just to survive.

Used to be, if you were watching something involving time-travel and ghosts, you would turn to your right and find someone wearing a Daleks T-shirt. Now I turn to my right, and I have The Duchess, shaking her head in disapproval of the ridiculous plot. This is our future, you see, as SF/F gets mainstreamed. Sure, that means more and better-funded entertainments in the SF field, which is: Yay. It also means more stroke-inducing conversations. Be ready.


  1. janet reid

    I can just hear Your Wife the Duchess saying that. Exactly her tone.

    And she’s right.

  2. jsomers

    For verisimilitude you also have to imagine her holding a thick Jeff Beating Stick in one hand, like a sceptre.

  3. Dan Krokos

    I’ve been noticing this for a while. It’s like adding water to a drink: the more you add, the less potent it gets. But a lot more people can drink it without complaining.

    Yet they still do.

  4. DK

    Frankly, I’m fine with sci-fi eschewing spaceships and magical children; the day when science fiction worries less about being “pure” and more about being good is a day when I start smiling again and virgin egg nog tumbles down from Heaven instead of rain.

    This goes double for steampunk.

  5. jsomers


    I agree – good is always better than pure. Pure being, usually, a big load of crap in the first place.


  6. Miss K

    That conversation looks like something between me and my husband whenever I bully him into watching anything sci-fi. Poor choice of words…not bullying, but applying a fine talent of mental pressure in the form of exasperated, bored long sighs until he agrees to watch something that amuses me in combination with a staring contest.

    On another note, loving your new blog layout thing.

    Miss K

  7. jsomers

    Miss K,

    Thanks–amazing what some nifty art and a slight color tweak can do!


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