TV Show Review: Revolution (Warning: Ranty)

I almost stopped watching this show over the opening. Right here at 0:41: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4Bq-h2JCSE

If you go to 0:41, you will see a jumbo jet spinning to the ground.

Let me explain why I raged over this. The premise of the show is something happened that caused all electricity to stop working. Later in the show, it’s explained that there are nanobots in the air, absorbing all electrical current. This means computers won’t work, cars that run on gasoline don’t run, etc.

Okay, I can suspend disbelief for that. In fact, I’m a really easy person for the most part to convince, because I always want to let myself sink into a story, and will happily go with the story as long as it’s internally consistent.

Whoever came up with the jet spinning out of control clearly seems to think that electricity has something to do with lift. It doesn’t. That’s not what happens to a plane when you have an electrical failure unless the pilots are complete frelling asshats.

Engine failures are something pilots are drilled on – to adjust the speed of the plane to maximize the distance you can cover, and try to reach something flat enough to make a decently smooth crash landing. Gimli Glider anyone? If the engine fails in an aeroplane, it does not suddenly drop like a stone or spin out of control like crazy.

That’s an engine failure though. That’s assuming that what happened would cause the engine to fail. An electrical failure does not cause an engine failure in an aeroplane. An electrical failure is an electrical failure. Your electronics will stop working. With the Gimli Glider, the battery eventually ran down, and they were stuck using a ram turbine to power the hydraulics that moved the control surfaces. That’s likely to fail under the circumstances of the show’s premise as well, so I can believe that the pilots would have lost control of the plane entirely. However, they’re more likely to end up in a spiral dive then. That spin? Completely implausible. They’d definitely be in a shitty position – trying to make a landing with no control over the plane, or next to none, over ground that appears as nothing but black, since all the lights on the ground are out, and it’s dark. They will probably crash if they try to land, but they won’t spin. Those planes are built to be aerodynamically stable, and resist spinning.

But here’s the kicker, and you probably haven’t even thought about this yet. Okay, so presumably the plane is in this death spin because of a lack of any electricity working. It’s affected by this no electricity phenomenon, right?

THEN WHY ARE THE POSITION LIGHTS STILL ON?

Why? Because it’s night, and we wouldn’t be able to see the plane in it’s dramatically implausible spin if there wasn’t something lighting it up, and clearly that’s more important than internal consistency to the premise.

Ugh.

This is particularly bad because this is the opening scene, and the scene introducing the premise, so the audience is using everything they see right now to interpret how the premise works.

Anyway, that’s why I almost stopped watching the show.

Now to why I kept watching the show: Rachel. And some Charlie, but mostly Rachel. She’s introduced as a damsel in distress. She’s a prisoner of the Big Bad, and the characters have to rescue her. She falls nicely into the mother-desperately-trying-to-protect-her-children trope. She’s also a scientist, so she’s uber smart, which is also cool.

And they’ll play up all these elements, and then suddenly remind you that she’s also freakin’ badass. Give her a gun, and she’s not the sort of woman who stands at the back whimpering, hoping she’s not forced to make the decision to pull the trigger on someone and then when she is, can’t bring herself to take a life. No, that’s her husband. Rachel? She will shoot your ass. She gets to be brainy, a middle aged mother, and still gets to be a fighter.

And Charlie’s her daughter, and because Charlie is introduced first, you don’t realize right away that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to badassery. Charlie is kind of another subversion of a trope, because she’s the protective character who’s sworn to look after her younger, sickly brother (he suffers from activity induced asthma). The trope is just gender swapped. She’s an archer, so right away has warrior characteristics. She gets a romantic subplot, but it doesn’t overshadow anything else about her.

There’s another warrior female character too, so there’s three major female characters who kick butt. They didn’t just go with the token honorary male character, they’ve got three of them. And the male characters, the writers weren’t afraid to make them weak – Rachel’s husband, and then the teacher character are both non-fighter types out of their element.

Anyway, I’m kind of glad I got over my rage over that four second clip of the plane spinning. The male to female roles are well balanced, and the women in the plot are there as more than arm candy to the male characters. And of course I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings.

And it’s on Netflix, for Americans and Canadians who can hack American Netflix.

The Zeitgeist – Writing in the Spirit of the Times

This is something of a followup to this post and this post. Robert J. Sawyer touched on this on his “Idea is King” lecture as well. It’s about finding an idea that will hit a nerve with your audience.

Think about what concepts are big right now. The current issues and events rocking our world today. A work that makes statements on that is the sort of work that will get people talking, and right from the time of Jonathan Swift and H. G. Wells, science fiction and fantasy have been a platform for making a statement.

I find as I’ve matured, the ideas that come to me are the sort of ideas that are in the Zeitgeist. Obviously I can’t feel strongly about every concept being debated right now, but the bigger ones that I feel most strongly about, I write about.

My last major project, The Box, was about religious tolerance and faith, and the conflict between science and religion, approaching it from the speculative standpoint of “what would a society look like if science was the dominant religion?” From that, the idea was born of a country where an underground group of rebels dedicated to science had overthrown the reigning theocracy, and captured God in a contraption they’d built, and ultimately turn out to be no better ruler’s than the theocracy had been.

My current project, The Eyelet Dove, originally was about a country occupied by a conquering country and revolting against the occupying country. I slowly got frustrated with it, there was something wrong, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then finally I realized that the reason I didn’t like it, was because I didn’t want to write about an occupation – what was on my mind was the conflicts in the world today between the corporate aristocracy and the working class people. That’s what I feel passionately about right now, and when I realized that, the story turned into a people’s revolution, overturning an oppressive and indulgent monarchy and upper class.

And with the way the world is going right now, that’s totally on the front page of the Zeitgeist newspaper.

And now I have NaNoWriMo coming up, which I do every year, and have finally decided on which of many ideas bouncing around in my head that I’m going to do. It’s going to be science fiction this time, possibly classifiable as cyberpunk, with AI’s being a major theme, but then I read this article on debt and my worldbuilding elements began to fall into place. Many futuristic science fiction novels themes center around an extrapolation of how the world will be in X number of years, if things keep going the way they are.

This one’s going to look at debt, and how the current economic situation has turned the lower class into little more than a slave class, with no upward mobility and no power. So that will be the world my main character is trapped in, only with spaceships and asteroid mines, where there is no government anymore – the government has been bought out by the Corporations, and their employees are their citizens, and if they have any debt, they’re their slaves. Only they won’t use that word – that’s an ugly word. There will be internment camp for the bankrupt, and defaulters will be hunted like escaped slaves. The companies won’t pay employees in cash, but in credit that can only be used for buying company goods, so that their employees can survive, but can never get out of debt. And there will be an attack on one of the companies, attempting to delete all of their financial records, so as to free their employees from debt, by a legendary hacker. It will be fun.