by Michael D. Pederson
I’ve received more comments on my last editorial than on any of the other editorials that I’ve written in the past three years. For those of you who missed it, I pointed out many of the similarities between my two favorite hobbies—poker and Fandom. Since I seem to have struck a chord with the fans, I’d like to pursue this a little further.
Fellow fan writer rich (yes, the lowercase is intentional) brown pointed out that the similarities probably extend to include zines as well. A quick search turned up a Canadian poker zine called Deal Five and several dozen e-zines that were all devoted to the game. No surprise there, the world of zinedom has grown to include every hobby imaginable. That’s something that Fandom can be truly proud of. Most of the comments that I received though were directed at my comments about the so-called Sci Fi Channel. The one thing that I heard most was a loud cheer of support for a show that I alluded to but didn’t actually mention—Sci-Fi Buzz. I was slightly surprised to discover that a long-dead news program could have such a strong fan following. But when I think back on the debut of the Sci Fi Channel (September 24, 1992), Sci-Fi Buzz is the one program that I most associate with the fledgling network. It was the show that stood out from the classic science fiction reruns to give Sci Fi its identity. When we the fans cry out for a return of science fiction to the Sci Fi Channel we’re all thinking about Sci-Fi Buzz.
Over the years (though not so many in recent years) the Sci Fi Channel has had a number of great original programs that could easily be brought back to help re-establish their science fiction identity: Sci-Fi Buzz, FTL NewsFeeds, Inside Space, SF Vortex, and The Anti-Gravity Room all had strong fan followings and would be welcomed back with open arms. Heck, I’d even settle for the well-meaning but poorly executed Sciography.
All of our complaining about the state of the Sci Fi Channel will likely fall on deaf ears though. With the unqualified success (both in ratings and awards) of Steven Spielberg’s typically saccharin Taken the station appears to be focusing on making itself the home for bad movies. Sure, they did a pretty good job on Dune but their plans for a two-part Amber mini-series fill me with nothing short of utter dread. Allowing time for commercials they’ll only be able to dedicate a half an hour to each book. Hmmm… Better make some cuts… How does Three Princes in Amber sound?
The biggest obstacle that we fans face in getting science fiction programming back on the Sci Fi Channel though is the tunnel vision of its president, Bonnie Hammer. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly she stated, “Sci Fi is the little engine that could. Every plateau we get to, someone says, ‘They’re doing great, but they ain’t gonna get any further.’ And every year, we prove everybody wrong.” And, sadly, she seems to be right. The channel is the eighth most viewed cable channel in the critical 18- to 49-year-old market. As long as this bastardized version of the Sci Fi Channel is doing well I’m afraid that our voice isn’t going to matter much. I hope that everyone enjoyed Python Versus Boa, we’ll probably have plenty of sequels to look forward to.