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We are watching the first episode of the new BBC documentary series on science fiction (actually on filmed science fiction with the odd - very odd - excursion into text.) There has already been a lot of yelling in this household, mainly boiling down to: "Who is this idiot?" and and "If it's just about film and TV why didn't they fucking say so?" (Also "Acknowledge that Flash Gordon was a *great* comic strip before it was anything else, you bastard!" and "Star Wars is a bloody *fantasy* not SF, idiot.")

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I thought it sounded interesting, but I am now glad I'd forgotten it was on.

I did a certain amount of the same, but don't worry, the second part is on tonight, featuring - as far as I can tell from the blurbs - Daleks, Cybermen, War of the Worlds, Cybermen, and Daleks.

And 'Dr Who' isn't Science Fiction but Science Fantasy. No, we've been bitten once, and now we are shy.

Seconded, with extreme prejudice!

In this household there were also cries of "Journey into Space!"

And "If you going to bring in Ursula LeGuin immediaitely before you talk about Avatar, surely you want The Word for World is Forest not The Left Hand of Darkness?" (though actually if you are standing in the hothouse at the Eden Project, you might mention Brian Aldiss...)

Not going back for tonight's installment.

Avatar? I'm currently reading that!

Oh, you mean the movie, not the novel by Poul Anderson. :)

Not the excellent cartoon series, either.

'Journey into Space', like the 'Quatermass' serials, cleared the streets because ordinary people were committed to listening/watching. And we are talking real SF here, and with the 'Andromeda' serials too.

Anyone ever heard of this presenter, a so-called 'historian of SF'? His name means nothing to be me.

He appears to be a genuine historian, specialising in British and American political history since 1950, according to

His own website makes it pretty clear that he's just the presenter:

"Almost all the credit for the series belongs to the producers, John Das and Ben Southwell, who worked incredibly hard, as indeed did Chloe Penman, our researcher, and Mike Robinson and Simon Pinkerton, our crew. For John and Ben in particular, the show was a real labour of love."

So I think the problem is that it was researched by people with the belief, encouraged so strongly by TV these days, that everything that matters is on TV, and the most important thing in the world is to be on TV. Me, I am so far adrift from this world view that I have not possessed a TV since 1991.

What the hell possessed the BBC to go for someone who plainly does not know what the fuck he is talking about?

Because in modern TV, presenters are just actors, and the researchers and producers are responsible for everything?

It's necessary to remember that the rules of "reality" TV now apply to everything on TV, because it's what nearly all the programme makers want to do, since it gets audience.

This is by no means new. Back in the early 70s (the Radio Times genome project suggests 1971) Jonathan Miller (then the flavour of the month presenter) did a programme on SF - in his opening remarks he admitted that prior to being given the gig he had not read any SF, but had read 1984 in preparation (and didn't much like it).

The following week's Radio Times had a leading letter (I think from Brian Aldiss) which asked "On what other subject would the BBC be prepared to give an hour of airtime to someone who confesses that he knows nothing about the subject?"

Oh, thanks for this! I had not known the BBC was doing this - what? Sequence? Strand? Stuff? :) - until iPlayer suggested I might like an online-only mini-documentary about 'the fans'. I hate watching online, but I watched it. 20 minutes of what I thought were reasonably sane interviews and footage. There was a lot more on cosplay than I would have expected, but I don't know: is this a thing in UK fandom now? My only exposure to it is a single trip to Eastercon. But other than that, I think they tried to be representative. Not being immersed in SF fandom myself, just on the edges, I don't know how well they succeeded.

I was away and didn't watch the actual broadcast programme. Suspect I may not now.

Oh, the 'invasion of the fans' thing is at and is 20 minutes long, if you are interested.

Ina and I used to greet this sort of programme with chants of "Let's look at the loonies, let's look at the loonies."

Cosplay is a big thing in comic book and film, and its own fandom, and so at a big comic con or a Worldcon there will be a lot of quite astonishingly good costuming. It has, normally, been a small part of UK SF fandom -- even of media fandom -- but it now growing and drawing in people who would not call themselves fans. (One of Ina's relatives is a European champion and we think her way in was through Steampunk, which is a fandom of itself.)

Of course, there was the BBC series on Seacon 79, though that did cover the Masquerade and another one on Conspiracy 87 (both British worldcons in Brighton) which were not that bad.

Then there were the phone calls made by Ina's relatives when the Mercenaries League appeared on local TV, all black leather and whips and high heels: "Are those your friends, dear?"

So far, this series seems to be ignoring fans, which is probably just as well...

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