On The Other Side (or too much of the wrong Sci-Fi)

You know you’re not getting enough Sci-Fi TV when you start thinking the Twelve Monkeys spin-off is quite good.

When I was a teenager growing up on the other side of the planet, I used to feel completely cut off from everything that was cool because I had no virtually no access to the music scene in London.  I felt as if everyone in London was having a marvellous time because they could go and see Joy Division whenever they wanted to, or Nick Cave or Echo & the Bunnymen or the Fall or the Jam or Siouxsie or the Cure of about a zillion other bands I was wild about in my latter teens.

Eventually I did get to London when I was twenty and was plunged into a life of sheer utter suicidal misery and poverty and bewilderment, in which I was even more cut off from the universe than I had been before.  It took another twenty years before I could even begin to revel in my weirdness and could being to experience some relief that the reason I was “cut off” was because I was too fiercely individual, never part of a crowd, never agreeing with anyone about anything.  Now that I’m older and wiser, the “cut off” feelings I’ve discovered are actually about uniqueness.  Obviously this is delightful now.  It wasn’t then.

However:  Sci-Fi.  It’s all on bloody Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky Atlantic or whatever other pay-channel thing that exists.  I’ve only ever been able to afford the very cheapest Virgin package.  In the beginning, the package didn’t have the Sci-Fi Channel (now called, peculiarly, SyFy)(no, it’s not cool).  Now that I’ve got SyFy, it’s to find it’s a bit crap.  So I wished I had the Fox channel instead (mostly because ITV dumped Dexter after the 2nd series and I never got to see the rest).  When I finally did get Fox, now part of the cheapie package, it had, of course, gone a bit crap as well.

So every month when my SFX mag turns up, it discusses TV shows I’ve (a) never heard of (b) will never see or (c) don’t actually care about.  It’s true that there are immensely popular things that I really don’t give a single thought to, such as the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and anything that is a comic spin-off.  What does that leave me with?  What are all these fab shows I’m missing?  I became convinced that, as I paged through one glossy article after another, that I was really missing out.  I was cut-off all over again because I couldn’t afford extra TV subs.  I MUST watch this stuff, I thought.  This is all Radical.  This is Now.  It’s Modern.  It’s what Sci-Fi is all about.  The crap I write is so out-of-date.  Maybe I should go out and buy all the box sets, I thought.  I should catch-up.  I should brush up on what’s Really Out There.  Maybe I should I get Netflix.  Or Amazon Prime.  If I don’t eat, I should be able to manage.

And then I took a step back and remembered that miserable, bewildered girl who came to London and drowned.  I remembered that nothing is ever as cool as you think it it.  The grass is never greener.  I might be the only person in the entire universe who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones (no Sky Atlantic on Virgin) and I don’t actually want to.  The real issue is not that I’m missing out but that I don’t like what passes for Sci-Fi these days.  There’s more of it than ever before and none of it truly appeals.  There’s more CGI and less innovation.  More violence and less story.  A lot of it is Earth based.  A lot of it is in  universe recognisably now.  Grim is big.  So is realism.  The characters are generally unlikeable with endless soap clashes, endless fighting, endless betrayals until you can see every plot coming at you with predictable weariness.

But is it that there is something wrong with the Sci-Fi or is it just this planet in general?  I’m not sure I can work this out.  I think I’ll just go on feeling cut-off instead.  And write what I like even though no-one else reads it.  And dream of the Exodus Sequence on TV.  Now there’s a show I’d watch.



About susannahjbell

I am a writer of science fiction and other strange and surreal works. I mostly write novels and the occasional novelette. My published works include A Doorway into Ultra, the Fleet Quintet and the Exodus Sequence. I live in London in an attic flat but really want to live in a tree. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but would settle for an alien abduction. I write because I don’t know what to read.
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2 Responses to On The Other Side (or too much of the wrong Sci-Fi)

  1. rosannebane says:

    Susannah, you’re not the only person who’s hasn’t seen Game of Thrones. I too have no desire to watch it (I couldn’t bear to keep reading the book, so why would I watch it?) Yes, there is a lot of crap on TV and in movies that is called ‘science fiction’ and either isn’t really sf or is really bad sf. But this is not unique to the media; there is plenty of crap in published sf, too. Everyone has different tastes of course, which is good for us as readers and sf novelists. I’ll risk exposing my own poor taste to recommend Sense8 on Netflex, which has yet to provide the scientific explanation, but is intricately and intriguingly plotted.

    • Glad to hear it’s not just me, then! I recall reading the first page of the first GoT book and it was so appalling I couldn’t get past the 2nd page! Sense8 sounds interesting but I don’t have Netflix! Sigh…..

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