Welcome to Matter Anti-Matter, a site about nerd stuff. By day, I'm Head of Community at Kickstarter.
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But you want to know what’s not cool? That I don’t have time today to write about any of them!
So instead, here’s a shortlist of what I would want to blather on about if I could engineer a clone of myself and force it to finish revising an unnamed academic project that holds the key to no longer having to wear a backpack in my adult life:
1. The Cloak of Invisibility:
German scientists have successfully cloaked a three-dimensional object using “transformation optics” and “laser writing” on a “woodpile photonic crystal with tailored polymer filling fraction to hide a bump in a gold reflector.” Oh, you’re not a super-genius scientist so you don’t know what any of that means? Let me translate: Science Make Thing Invisible. Invisible Good. Science Good.
2. The Syfy Upfronts:
Syfy orders a new lineup of reality tv shows that are chimeras of other cable networks +Syfy. For example:
-“Mr. Impossible,” a reality show about a “rogue inventor”= Syfy +Discovery Channel= Sycovery.
-“Force of Nature,” a reality show about a Feng Shui master helping sad people by using, you guessed it, Feng Shui= Syfy + HGTV= ShyGyTV
-“Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen,” a reality show about “molecular gastronimist Marcel Vigneron= Syfy + Food Channel= SyFood
-“The Dome Experiment,” a reality show about 12 people living in a sealed off bio-dome is actually a reboot of Pauly Shore’s career. Syfy + Pauly Shore= Paulyfy
3. A new superhero show called “Three Inches”:
“Three Inches,” also greenlit by Syfy, “centers on an underachiever who gains the power to move any object using his mind, but only for a distance of three inches. He recruits a team of fellow heroes, each with their own less-than-spectacular abilities.” The Good: The pilot was written by Harley Peyton of Twin Peaks fame. The Bad: If the show doesn’t live up to expectations, the title of every tv critic’s review will be “Three Inches Might Not Be Enough” or “Three Inches Proves Inadequate” or “Three Inches Having a Hard Time.” And so forth.
4. The Large Hadron Collider breaks its own record for most awesomely huge number of particle collisions:
If Syfy’s rebrand has helped expand its core audience, does it then follow that the core audience of science fiction is changing as well?
In other words, is there a new ”average” science fiction viewer?
I imagine the audience for science fiction is still largely male. But I also know that I exist, therefore it’s highly possible that there are more of me out there.
I started this site because I love science fiction—especially science fiction television shows—and because I don’t really know many other people in my age/gender bracket who are like-minded.
Don’t get me wrong—I meet plenty of people who are obsessed with Battlestar Galactica or Lost. But for me, there’s still something missing.
As I’ve written before, there’s certainly no shortage of “Geeks” on the internet or walking around out there on the street, individuals whose personal obsessions drive their geekiness. But I can count on one hand the number of people I personally know who would enjoy sitting around with me watching every single last episode of Enterprise, no matter how terrible, in order to satisfy my completionist compulsion. And I know exactly 0 females who would want to do this with me.
At the same time, a few years ago I went to the ginormous Star Trek convention in Las Vegas wondering if I’d meet people like me. I will say that while everyone I met was very nice, they were definitely not like me. There was something about the Star Trek fan that also was a little off for me. I love Star Trek—watching it, discussing individual episodes, comparing the different series, debating continuity issues, playing with toy phasers, etc. However I don’t remember individual episode titles and I can’t tell you if a particular phaser model is from Star Trek Voyager or Star Trek: Nemesis. Among the hardcore fans at the convention, I felt pretty out of my league. As a female I felt even more out of place and at times, kinda creeped out.
To get to the heart of the matter, I find myself somewhat in-between worlds. I consider the joy that science fiction brings to me a defining part of who I am—a core part even—but a part nonetheless.
Which brings me back to my original question. Fans and viewers of science fiction—who are you?
In response to a few antagonistic tweets implying that the Syfy Channel intentionally withholds its shows from viewers outside of the US, Syfy’s resident tweetmaster Craig Engler had quite a bit to say. Unfortunately, twitter does have some limitations, one of which is long form responses. So, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled @Syfy’s response here in paragraph form:
Syfy is not the rights holder to the shows we air, we’re basically the “U.S. rights renter”. The underlying rights holder controls the rest.
Here’s a quick 101 on TV economics that might help:
First, TV shows are VERY expensive. We all know that. Even an inexpensive show costs…hundreds of thousands. Some cost SEVERAL million dollars PER EPISODE. To offsets those costs, the rights holder sell them to different networks in different territories. For instance, CRAIG CO. makes CRAIG’s SHOW. It costs $2 million per episode. CRAIG CO. might sell the US rights to CRAIG’s SHOW to Syfy for $500k. Now they need another $1.5 million. So they sell it to Sci Fi UK for $150k, etc. Sci Fi UK pay for the UK rights so they don’t want Syfy in the US to stream CRAIG’S SHOW in their territory. They want to show it.
Now, extend that out to all the other territories out there, and you understand why the rights issues are so prominent. It’s a business model that’s a legacy from a time when international distribution wasn’t even possible. Now that it is, a new business model needs to be developed to accommodate the ease of distribution online, which will probably take a while. The problem is, there is no way for CRAIG CO to both distribute CRAIG’s SHOW internationally via the Web & recoup its costs…not yet anyway.
iTunes sales and online ads add only a (small) fraction of $$$ to the pot, not enough to make Web distribution viable in and of itself.
More people are watching more TV than ever before. HOORAY! Just like any industry undergoing changes, we’ll sort it out eventually. I missed a tweet that said, the Internet can actually HELP (i.e. be additive) to regular TV viewing, piracy aside. So that’s a GOOD thing. Which is why I like to push for putting as much of our content online as possible, within reason. I.e. #Caprica is on syfy.com right now :)
Larry Charles, director of “Borat” and “Bruno,” will be filming a prototype (whatever happened to the pilot?) of a new semi-scripted sci-fi based comedy for NBC. According to Variety,
The Untitled project centers on a group of sci-fi fanboys in a small town who shoot their own version of a canceled TV show. Charles is onboard to write, exec produce and direct the project.
Is NBC hoping to capitalize on its Syfy brand’s recent successes? Given that CBS’s geek-centered Big Bang Theory has done so well, NBC may be hoping it can bring some life back to its primetime lineup.
In a recent post about the People’s Choice Awards, Scifi Wire asks its readers, “Twilight vs. Star Trek! Can you think of two franchises that are more different? Which franchise should win the prize?”
The somewhat pointless question raises the ire of one commenter “Mandy,” who responds with a laundry list of “sins” that Scifi Wire has committed in recent months:
A true scifi geek wouldn’t have written half the articles being published by Scifi Wire in the last two months.
The seven sins of Scifi Wire:
1. All these “Hot Babe” articles are degrading us female Science fiction fans. It’s offensive, knock it off! We’re not all thirteen-year-old boys or forty-year-old virgins.
2. In their list of hot vampires they call the version of Lestat that feeds on innocent people “angelic” and the one that feeds on Evil doers “Deranged.” Why? Well, it’s either A. Homophobia because the first incarnation of Lestat was bisexual or B. A bias against Tom Cruise because of his weird personal life. Either way it dishonours the work of Anne Rice, the character’s creator.
3. Their list of “Hot Witches” included Mab, the FAERY Queen. Do they think we don’t read the articles and just look at the pretty pictures? They leave off Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden but put a Faery on there. What the Hell?!
4. These gloating articles about the faults and failures of other networks Scifi is very crude and low brow. But then again so are the rampant articles about “Hot Scifi Chicks.” I’m sorry, is it nineteen fifty again? Are there no female science fiction fans? When did Scifi degrade back into sexism and misogyny?
5. You have to love the irony that Scifi Wire was dismissive and deliberately misdescribed Being Human when it first aired on BBC Ameria (making it sound like some cheesy sitcom) and now, because it’s a hit, Syfy wants to do a remake (even though the original’s still going) and clearly doesn’t really get the show’s meaning.
6. Claiming a flying saucer landing would be impossible because we’d see it. Never mind cloaking technology, the nature of advanced tech in Science fiction, or the fact that Syfy has made for TV movies about giant insects and zombies so bad they’d make Ed Wood blush. Pot, kettle, black.
7. Syfy and Scifi Wire has started to treat us like we’re idiots or all overly horny, socially inept teenage boys. Try to remember, Scifi Wire / Syfy, your demographic has never been thirteen-year-old Boys. The Scifi Channel (when it was still The Scifi Channel) aired Dark Shadows, the sixties Gothic Soap as it’s very first show. Try to remember those of us who watched from the beginning. Stop trying to shove us away in a vulgar effort to narrow your audience that you claimed to want to expand.
And as a bonus that I forgot:
Number 8. Scifi Wire / Syfy trying to pit Scifi nerds against each other. Trekkers and Trekkies vs Starwars Fans, British Scifi vs. American, and now Star Trek vs. Twilight.
Scifi Wire, that’s a lot to answer for!
I have to agree with Mandy in some regards—those “hot babes of scifi” articles are a bit Maxim, though I’m assuming these “stories” probably drive a lot of traffic to the site. Yet io9, a site headed by some very talented ladies, manages to cover much of the same science fiction news as Scifi Wire without nearly as much fluff and always with a healthy balance between levity, wit, and seriousness. I’d be curious to know what the numbers look like for a site like io9, part of the Gawker media group, vs. Scifi Wire, an NBC-owned venture.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a few more ladies on staff over at Syfy/Scifi wire. Where on earth would they be able to find an able-bodied female to contribute to their man-heavy writing staff? Hmmmmmmm…*cough* *cough*
Now, will Scifi wire have the courage to defend themselves?
Based on the ongoing barrage of questions for SyFy’s Craig Engler on Twitter, I get the sense that hardcore science fiction lovers are up in arms over the cable channel’s decision to change their name to the made-up word “syfy.” But what are we really so angry about?
Much of this seems to stem from TV historian and original Scifi channel developer Tim Brooks’ comment that, “The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular.” At the time, uber-geek Wil Wheaton responded “SyFy’s Tim Brooks insulted the hell out of geeks everywhere. So on behalf of all us geeks, I say SyFy can go Fyck Itsylf.”
But not so fast. What Brooks said about the “name” Sci Fi isn’t exactly untrue in the sense that if you throw that word around, those geeky adolescent boys in their basements are exactly what comes to mind for the general public.
Now, I’m not sure if anyone’s ever done a serious anthropological study of science fiction demographics, but one way to get a gauge on what we look like is to go to a convention. Any convention. Let me tell you, there aren’t a lot of women there. But there are some.
So is the new Syfy channel trying to recreate itself in order to be more inclusive of these other demographics, “the general public and the female audience”? Absolutely. It’s a cable channel, not a fan club. It operates with the sole purpose of creating for-profit entertainment, and profitability necessitates attracting a wider audience. The good news is, the execs at Syfy seem to have noticed that as the quality of their programming increases, so too does the type of audience the channel attracts.
Growing up, I was the only one in my family that enjoyed watching science fiction. My two sisters somehow managed to deal with adolescence much better than I, and didn’t spend all their time imagining a future where high school didn’t exist, only Starfleet Academy. Fast forward to sometime in 2005, when the reboot of Battlestar Galactica made its viral trip around the pop culture circuit. Suddenly both my sisters were hopelessly addicted. Here was a show that we could talk about together. The quality of writing, the incredible suspense of not knowing how the fleet would survive, all of these things made the show incredibly satisfying for all three of us. Did it even matter that the show was science fiction? For me, yes. That’s why I watched it in the first place. But for my sisters, no. They just heard it was an amazing show. And this is a very good thing for people like me.
I get the sense that the strange anger over the Syfy name change has more to do with injured geek pride and the fact that geek subculture is currently enjoying mainstream status. All those “other” people who don’t know what it means to grow up alone in the basement watching Star Trek have no idea how to properly appreciate science fiction, right?
Of course they don’t. That’s why we don’t need to really worry about anyone taking away our geek/nerd status any day soon. At least not without a time machine and some magical popularity dust. With our geek statuses firmly intact, we should sit back and enjoy the fact that the people out there want to invest money and energy and time into creating quality science fiction for not just us, but everyone. It’s mob rule out there, and right now the mob is favoring us. Relish the moment. Because seriously, if I have to turn on the television and see one more freaking “new” crime show, so help me god…
The curious world of marketing has brought us the rebranding of the SciFi channel, now reincarnated as the SyFy Channel. In a world where neologisms and intentional mispellings of common words has become the only way (tumblr, flickr, etc.) to secure something recognizable as a domain on the web, the SyFy Channel gave up its monopoly on the word scifi in order to birth the new domain of SyFy. Curious indeed.
The reason for changing their name in the first place, Engler said, was to get “something that was ownable,” and “to distinguish [their] brand from the category.” This has been widely reported and is really the only sensible reasoning, because why else would you change the name of something that’s currently successful? So why, then, didn’t they change the name completely, so it didn’t still sound like the genre whose fans love it so? That, Engler said, is because they “wanted to have [their] cake and eat it, too,” meaning they could tweak the brand just enough to allow them to trademark it but keep it close enough that it didn’t change their underlying identity.
In another interview, SyFy President David Howe explains,
Our development strategy has not changed, nor do I expect it to, other than we’ll still be doing creative, smart, risk-taking, ambitious programming, both in scripted and reality.
The conversion of SciFi to SyFy rests on the success of the channel’s recent high-quality original programming and future shows like Caprica, Warehouse 13, and Stargate: SGU that promise to keep the channel going strong. While I wholeheartedly support SyFy for bringing shows like Battlestar Galactica and the Stargate franchise to television, I do hope that they figure out what to do with all that airtime in between the good shows. Movies of the week like “Snakehead Terror” “Wyvern” “War Wolves” and “Yeti”, while hilarious, seem like evidence that money might be better spent on more of that “ambitious programming” that Howe speaks of.
If SyFy really wants to update itself along with its new name, set the bar for cable television as high as possible, and maybe consider easing up on those movies of the week. I hear Virtuality could use a home…
For your viewing pleasure, Snakehead Terror: