January 2007 (Final)

A Reminder That All Things End:
Farewell to Far Sector SFFH

Media Commentary
By John Kenneth Muir

John K. Muir's Encyclopedia of Superheroes was picked by NY Public Libraries as a Top Ten Reference Work for 2004/5

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), the last Star Trek film to feature the original TV series cast, our half-Vulcan Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) revealed to Lt. Valeris (Kim Cattrall), that he had hung an expressionist painting on a wall in his personal quarters. It depicted what the logical science officer termed the “expulsion from Paradise” and was explicitly—he said—a “reminder” that “all things end.”

Well, as of January 07...this the end of Far Sector SFFH, a web magazine that has been close to my heart for a long time. I’ve had my name under the Far Sector SFFH banner (and Deep Outside before it...) since 2000, I believe. And I’ve been proud—very proud—to write my media meanderings under the auspices of an exquisite editor-in-chief, John T. Cullen.

Not only is John an incredibly gifted writer and genius in terms of the publishing business, he’s an extremely generous cat too. Through the ups and downs of the last six years, he’s been a constant friend and supporter. So, although I’m sorry to see Far Sector SFFH come to an end, I know John will be moving on to other amazing projects now, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

But, back to Spock—all things do end. And since this is my last Far Sector SFFH column, I thought it would be fun to offer a brief time capsule of where we’ve been together during the last six years.

After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, I penned a column called “Vanilla Sci-Fi,” about how easy it was to retreat into bland science fiction entertainment and fantasy. Enterprise had just premiered on UPN (now long gone...). And Smallville, the story of young superman, had recently bowed on the now defunct WB. Both series, I insisted, were harmless time-wasters—fantasy fodder—for a nation facing a new, grim reality: The War on Terror. I wrote of this escapism:

“...in times of personal and collective crisis, who can deny that vanilla is actually a tasty and welcome treat? I can't, that's for sure....there's the war on terror, the stock market disaster, the Enron collapse; and just the other day came the wonderful news that a giant asteroid could very well strike the Earth in seventeen years. In other words, life has seemed a little hairy of late. Yet all these various and sundry crises have led me to an epiphany. I like vanilla.

In my spare time, what entertainment have I found myself popping in the DVD player or VCR? Not chocolate chip mint, thank you. Nor rocky road, please. No, I've been going straight for the vanilla. Now, to be blunt, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) was never one of my favorite movies. It doesn't meet any objective or intellectual criteria for being considered a "quality" or good film. It was listlessly directed by George Lucas, overloaded with C.G.I. special effects that were too cartoony for my taste, and badly acted by Jake Lloyd. Worse, it was downright boring. And yet, it's like a bowl of smooth vanilla, reassuring in pure its happiness and total blandness. In its own derivative way, the movie goes down easy, resurrecting the safe, protected feeling of childhood often associated with Star Wars.”

In 2003, the Iraq War loomed, and I described in my Far Sector SFFH column how our real world had seemingly come to resemble science fiction, namely the epic novel Dune, by Frank Herbert. At this point, I was also sure that the Iraq War was a mistake...but that WMDs would nonetheless be discovered in Iraq. Oops! In the column, “Desert Power,” I wrote:

“For those that need a refresher, the story of Dune and its sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, is one of colonialism... Specifically, two great and powerful houses in the galactic community—the Landsraad (the United Nations?)—have been bitter rivals for years. On one side of this conflict stands the Atreides family of Caladan and on the other is the Harkonnen family of Giedi Prime.

With an emperor named Shaddam (Saddam?) behind them, these parties squabble over the right to administer the valuable resources of a barren desert terrain, the planet called Arrakis (or Dune). Importantly, Dune is the only world in all of space that produces the important "spice," the fuel, as it were, that permits space travel in the galaxy and powers the engines of galactic commerce.

But the indigenous people of Dune, the desert people called Fremen, are the rightful inheritors of this resource and the lands of Arrakis and soon see their traditional values threatened by the new, imperialist custodians on their world. The Fremen come to view themselves as freedom fighters combating a brutal regime, but the Harkonnens and the Emperor behind them see these natives only as "terrorists" and "primitives."

Now examine what has happened regarding Iraq in 2003. Two "great" and powerful families, the Bushes of America and the Husseins of Iraq are locked in a dynastic war. Bush the Elder tried to oust Hussein the Elder in the Gulf War of 1991. Hussein responded in 1993 by trying to assassinate Bush Sr. Now in 2003, Bush's son controls the office his father once held and wages war against the family that attacked his papa. Hussein's own two sons are in the picture too, like Harkonnen nephews Feyd and Rabban, waiting in the wings to continue this legacy of hatred.

More to the point, America under the House of Bush has launched a battle, an invasion force, on a barren, desert terrain (Iraq, not Dune). This is a region of great resources (oil, not spice), resources that power our vehicles (SUVs, not cosmic cruisers) and keeps our economy humming. Furthermore, the indigenous people of the battlefield region (Arabs, not Fremen) see the attack as a religious battle for the land that is rightly theirs to control.”

In other Far Sector SFFH columns throughout the years, I haven’t only meditated about the political tides, either. I’ve said my goodbyes to TV favorites such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“Bye Bye Buffy,”), The X-Files (“The Truth Was Out There...”) and Farscape (“The End of Sci-Fi TV’s Golden Age”). I’ve reviewed the odd movie here and there, from non-starters such as Identity (anyone remember that one?) and Solaris. I’ve heralded new horror hits such as Open Water and The Descent.

Occasionally, we’ve gazed together at genre history, from the 1950s incarnation of Superman (“Superman Returns...but from where?”) to Star Trek in its middle age, on its 39th birthday. We looked closely at the trend of “re-imagination,” particularly in terms of the new Battlestar Galactica (“Another One Bites the Dust...”)

Difficult to believe Far Sector SFFH ends here. I, for one, wish it had outlasted the current Presidential Administration. But again...all things end. Through the years, it my sincerest hope you’ve had as much fun reading Far Sector SFFH as I’ve had writing for it.

I will always have love in my heart for Far Sector SFFH (and John T. Cullen) because this venue represents my first posting as a regular columnist. John T. Cullen could have put any talented writer into this slot...but by means and reasoning only the wise Cullen understands, he chose me, and supported me throughout my tenure. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

All things end.

Even, sadly, Far Sector SFFH. But memories don’t die. They’re a form of immortality. And to John T. Cullen, our stalwart editor and chief, I offer another Spock-ian thought as my closing line: “live long and prosper...”

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Copyright © 2007 by John Kenneth Muir. All Rights Reserved.