|Becca Stareyes (beccastareyes) wrote,|
@ 2012-06-19 14:40:00
|Entry tags:||100 sff stories, 2012 books|
100 SF/Fantasy Stories 012: Redshirts by John Scalzi
A lot of books take on meta-narrative. Mercedes Lackey has a whole universe where magic is driven by stories, and a lot of Discworld Physics (such as it is) runs on narrative. And, heck, Redshirts itself has a list of stories in the back of the book that run on 'what if fiction were, in some sense' real'?
I don't think it's a spoiler to say Redshirts is one of these books; if you have a serious loathing for meta-fiction, it's probably best to give it a pass. (On the other hand, it's a good adventure story.)
Redshirts is the inverse problem of Galaxy Quest -- in Galaxy Quest, a group of actors for a Star Trek copycat* discover that aliens think their broadcasts were real, and somehow manage to make the garbage technobabble the show writers come up with into a real spaceship. In Redshirts, Andy Dahl is a newly-graduated ensign assigned to the fleet flagship. And things are weird: people hide from the senior officers because everyone knows away missions are a good way to get killed, the xenobiologists have a magic box that sometimes can come up with miracles in the nick of time, and the cute Russian-born astrogator has been seriously injured 17 times in three years, mostly on missions he had no reason to be along for. Also, one of the xenobiologists went crazy, told everyone they were in a bad SF television show, and is now living in the tubes.
Dahl and his friends are redshirts, though they don't know the term: the extras on a SF show that exist to get shot to show how dangerous the stakes are. And frankly, things are crazy enough that 'we are the extras in a SF TV show' is a perfectly valid theory.
The book does take potshots at bad television writing; the idea that you need redshirts for drama. If you kill an ensign/lieutenant/crewman every time you tell a story, that's a lot of people, and the readers catch on. So in the end, it decreases tension when you expect that Extra #2 will bite it within five minutes of beam down. Or that Lieutenant Buttmonkey is injured every other episode and hasn't been killed yet (or driven crazy or to resignation by the sheer amount of garbage that happens to him): all these things that remind the viewer the drama is false.
It's also a good adventure story in the old Star Trek style. It must be fun when you can invent crazy made-up physics and have it work because it worked on Star Trek.
(Come to think about it, I kind of want to see Dahl and Guy, the 'redshirt' from Galaxy Quest, talk over coffee.)
* Actually, does Star Trek exist in the GQ universe, or is it assumed that GQ replaces Star Trek?