Friday, 13 March 2009

What do science fiction writers do for a break?

They write science fiction, it seems. Ben Bova is best known for his novels following humanity's colonization of the Solar System - hard sci-fi featuring hard characters. The collection "Laugh Lines" shows a different side of Bova altogether. The novella "The Starcrossed" is the A-side of the collection.

Starcrossed is sci-fi only in the use of a three-dimensional TV tech as a plot device, allowing its inventor Bill Oxnard to develop a new, clearer version which is his route into the world of TV production. It's actually a satire about the production of sci-fi TV series, based on Bova's past experience as a science advisor, and much of it rings true. Each character in the production hierarchy is given their own chapter, and Oxnard is both the stand-in for Bova and the eyes and ears of the reader, allowed to see every crazy aspect of the production.

Bova is mostly successful in hitting his satirical targets and in raising laughs. The ending was too happy for my liking, and the cast list too male-dominated, with some (thankfully not all) female characters present purely as sexual reward or distraction for the males - Bova may be deliberately sending himself up here though. The novella is backed up by some inventive and equally satirical media-focussed short stories - I particularly enjoyed "Crisis of the Month" about journalists vying to find the best disaster stories.

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