No, I’m not talking about the movie with the boy who sees dead people. I’ve always been interested in the paranormal, although for much of my life that interest has been in “normal” things like hauntings and ghost stories. Then one day I was browsing at my favorite bookstore and one of the employees referred me to a science fiction author. I’d always avoided science fiction books like the plague, because the genre had always brought visions of complete fantasy to mind with no basis in anything I knew. Then SciFi Channel came around and, even though a lot of what the channel offered was too weird for me, once in awhile a show piqued my interest.
Such as Farscape.
The premise of this show is a U.S. astronaut who inadvertently flies into a wormhole in an experimental test flight and ends up on the other side of the universe in the midst of an intergalactic war. Granted, the vast majority of this series is complete fantasy, however, at least there was an element of the plot that struck a familiar cord: the U.S. astronaut. The first thing I thought of was the Lee Majors series I was addicted to while growing up, The Six Million Dollar Man. However, beyond the astronaut angle, the Farscape shares no other common traits with the Lee Majors saga. Watching the show, though, made me a bit more willing to consider science fiction as a literary/dramatic genre I would enjoy.
Awhile later, I stumbled
onto a show that completely changed my opionion of all things Sci-Fi. Stargate SG-1. The series spun off the 1994 movie Stargate, which starred Kurt Russell and James Spader-two actors I thoroughly enjoy. The series had very little in common with the movie, other than the gates themselves, Egyptian mythology, and the system of rings used to “beam’ people short distances (spatially speaking) from a ship to the surface of a planet.
The series ran for an astounding 10 years on Sci-Fi. (Yes, it the channel was still called Sci-Fi at the time.) Kurt Russell was replaced by Richard Dean Anderson of MacGuyver fame, introduced some great actors whose characters developed beautifully across ten years, including Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, and Christopher Judge. In the later years, Beau Bridges joined the cast, and familiar faces from Farscape (Ben Browder and Claudia Black) made the series interesting.
SG-1 hooked me onto the science fiction genre permanently. The best thing about this series, to a non-fantastical mind like mine, was the world of SG-1 incorporated the real world of a U.S. Air Force command, “normal” earth-centric, everyday things like cars made in Detroit, asphalt roads, USAF uniforms, and the general populace completely unaware of anything out of the ordinary happening on the planet. The “magic” happened when the team travels through the gate, via wormholes, to different planets. The alien aspect of the story is based on Egyptian mythology, which completely intrigued me. The marriage of realistic things I knew, familiar mythological references, and science fiction that was just plain cool made this series so popular that SciFi ran it for ten years.
When SG-1 wound down, Sci-Fi launched Stargate Atlantis which was a spin-off of SG-1 which delved deeper into the premise of the origins of the entire stargate system, founders of the universe, etc.etc. This series was entertaining as well, although short-lived and not as complex and thoroughly entertaining as SG-1.
The Sci-Fi show that pulled me into the paranormal beyond aliens and ghosts took the quasi-reality based idea from Stargate SG-1 a step further: The Dresden Files. This show was my fist exposure to a completely new genre which had evolved, incorporating reality and supernatural. This new branch of fiction, Urban Fantasy, is much more interesting to me than the old science fiction such as Star Trek and Star Wars. (I know that last line will get me shot in many circles, but it’s the truth.)
The main character in The Dresden Files is Harry Dresden, played by Paul Blackthorne, a wizard who sets up shop in Chicago. To most of Chicagoland, monsters, vampires, fairies, and dragons are merely things read about in books. Harry, however, deals with the darker side of homicide, helping the Chicago Police Department solve crimes that are perpetrated by non-human beings. Harry uses a hockey stick for a wizard’s staff and a drumstick for a magic wand. One of his adventures even involves battling a high-level vampire in Wrigley Field. (AWESOME!) The author of the books which the series was based on, Jim Butcher, writes with the self-deprecating humor that draws the reader’s interest and which Blackthorne conveys wonderfully. The series only ran for one season, which upset me to no end. Luckily, Butcher continues to write books in the series, so I can continue to have my Dresden fix. I was made aware of the books by that helpful bookstore employee a few years ago and spent way too much buying every book in the series over the next two weeks!
For shame, the bookstore I loved just closed it’s doors. Amazon, as much as I like it, will never replace the experience of physically browsing, and interacting with people, at live bookstores. Rest in peace, Borders, rest in peace.