My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1955

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. I start here, at the beginning, with the first Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel. Each year, I’ll read all the books nominated and pick my own winner, while also noting which novel won the award that year.

They’d Rather be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (Winner/My Winner)
Grade: D
Apparently this book is widely regarded as the worst book to ever win a Hugo award. I thought it was passable in parts, though. The main plot is a decent thread: scientists make a machine that can basically make you immortal, but only if you are able to give up all of your prejudices and admitting you’re wrong. The problem is that many, many people would rather be right than admit to being wrong, so very few can benefit. It’s a good piece for irony, though the authors don’t often cash in on it. Instead, what we have is a bunch of 1950s ideas about men and women that are very outdated, some horrible dialogue, and some head-scratching moments. Honestly, the opening was the coolest part, where a young boy is discovered to have certain mental powers. Overall, it is not a very good book, though it could have been a great short story. Also, what the heck is with that 1st Edition cover? Finally, I am guessing–I may be wrong–that this is going to be the lowest grade given to a Hugo Award book that is also my winner. This one gets it by default, being the only one known on the ballot.


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos- Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!



Share Your Idea for Star Trek Series- Along with my idea!

q-whoOn Facebook I mentioned how much I’ve been enjoying the “New Frontier” Star Trek series of books. They’re a fascinating look at different parts of the universe that don’t show up in the TV shows or movies. A friend came along and asked what my idea would be for a Star Trek Series (book or television). I decided to write up a brief blog post on it and share my idea with you. I’d love to hear your own ideas in the comments. Here’s my pitch:

I think a series that was set as a struggle against Borg expansion would be utterly fascinating. The Borg remain a kind of open-ended question in the Star Trek Universe. Imagine a series that followed, say, a Defiant Class ship (or maybe a bigger one so they could introduce more characters–but a class designed to combat Borg) as they tried to stamp out Borg incursions in Federation space.

They could also have some kind of modified Warp drive that allowed them to jump around faster and get to hot spots behind the borders or in other places, combating Borg attacks on planets outside the Federation. Some of these planets could be lost, while others would be saved by the crew of the ship.

I’d give them a super nerdy Borg expert–possibly Vulcan–as a science officer, a battle hardened captain (maybe ex-Borg), a first officer with a grudge, at least one Klingon, a Bajoran who has seen a lot of fighting with Cardassians, and more. Medical officer should be pretty unique too–more willing to do things that would combat the Borg.

Ethical dilemmas could be the name of the game–do they do things that would kill more Borg just for the sake of killing them? How do they choose which planets/people to save? etc.

Star Trek: The Next Generation “Pen Pals” and “Q Who?”


At last we reveal ourselves to the Enterprise; at last, we shall have revenge.

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. Here, we’re in season 2 and discussing episodes fifteen and sixteen. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Pen Pals”


Wesley is put in charge of a team for a geological survey of a planet in order to continue his development towards officer training. Meanwhile, Data receives a transmission asking “Is anyone out there?” and decides to answer it by saying “Yes.” It turns out the transmission is from a young girl whose planet is experiencing geological upheaval. Data wants to fix it, but this would violate the prime directive. Ultimately, Wesley’s team figures out a way to stop the upheaval while Data saves his interstellar pen pal, after which her memory is erased.


Wesley’s struggles with his first command of a team were actually pretty compelling. It was delivered in a winsome way while also cashing in on the premise. Watching him in a command situation while also trying to figure out the nuances of the situation was well-done and even well-acted.

The discussion over the Prime Directive between the senior officers was interesting, and the juxtaposition between Worf’s absolutism and Pulaski’s willingness to bend it was great. The ensuing debate over fate and the plight of a world was great, bringing forward philosophical ethical issues. Picard’s reasoning about moral certitude was catching, and Data’s insight into the issue not being a philosophical debate was well-placed.

The episode raises these questions alongside the debate over wiping the memory of the alien girl. Pulaski comforts Data by pointing out they need to wipe the girl’s memory to allow her to stay on whatever path she was born into, but one wonders whether perhaps her path would be to discover that there is life “out there” among the stars. Similar questions about fate were raised with the previous discussion on the Prime Directive, and TNG often tries to answer the questions. Here, we’re basically just served a number of questions without a proposed solution. It’s frustrating and charming all at once, and it calls for reflection afterwards as well.

Despite all these great aspects, there really was quite a bit of need for “suspension of disbelief” throughout this episode above and beyond the standard fare. Why didn’t Data immediately report this contact with alien life to Picard or a superior? Why does O’Brien unquestioningly transport Data and this alien to the Enterprise? Wouldn’t there be some kind of discipline for flaunting the Prime Directive so eagerly? Since when did they have the technology to wipe out memories, and how easily could they solve other Prime Directive issues with it? (Or apply it to crazy amounts of criminal activity?) How does a planet’s geological upheaval get fixed within seconds? The questions just keep coming, and the episode almost gleefully flaunts these issues without offering any explanation. They keep “Pen Pals” from being the great episode it could be.

Grade: B “Any episode that stars Wesley and isn’t terrible is refreshing. The stretching of imagination, however, got painful.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: C+ “It was nice to see Wes grow in his character, but the plot was very hard to believe.” 

“Q Who?”


Q shows up and is petulant because Picard won’t make him a crew member so he shoots the Enterprise off to meet the Borg. The Enterprise is worse for the wear after the engagement and Picard appeals to Q to get them back home. He does, the end. Oh, and Guinan is apparently hundreds (or thousands… or millions… or !?) of years old and has some history with Q somehow. Oh, and there’s a new engineering Ensign named Sonya who’s overeager and a klutz.


If my summary seems a little chaotic that’s because I was trying to reflect the episode: it has a lot going on and seems a bit thrown together. We never get any reason behind Sonya’s introduction and she seems tacked on. The encounter with the Borg has much drama, but Q was there to deus ex machina the whole thing. It was cool to have the episode point ahead: “Look out for what’s coming!” but hard to follow that theme alongside weird revelations about Guinan. Lots of questions were raised, and no answers provided. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also leaves me scratching my head. What was the point of this episode? It’s like an episode-long version of “What’s next on TNG.”

That said, the Borg are awesome. The creators did an awesome job introducing a truly sinister threat, but doing so in a way that isn’t over-the-top. There’s no question that the Borg are a major threat, but there’s also no question that they aren’t sporting devil horns and worshiping Satan; that is, they’re not evil for evil’s sake. There’s a mystery to them that makes the episode more appealing and wins me over despite its total lack of cohesion.

If the episode had simply stayed about the Borg and Q trying to show Picard they need to prepare even more, it would have had more cohesion. As it stands, it’s got too much going on to be a truly great episode.

Grade: B- “Introducing the Borg was genius, but it could have been done without so many distractions.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was very interesting but the Q manipulation felt artificial… and annoying.”


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!


Thoughts on Prego’s “Bacon Provolone” Pasta Sauce

I’m a picky eater, much to the distress of my wife. One thing I do find, however, is that bacon is pretty much always awesome. She recently made me some cinnamon rolls with bacon inside them. Delicious.

Enter pasta. Now, I already said I’m picky, so that makes it hard for me to really enjoy pasta. I like a variety of sauces, but I don’t like anything too crazy… once we start to add too many green things or, heaven forbid, something horrifying like shrimp, I’m out. I don’t want to touch that. So how do we make pasta exciting? Well, I usually use liberal amounts of crushed red pepper. Yum. But then I saw a new Prego pasta sauce: “Bacon Provolone.” Uh… what!? I had to try it. I bought it and brought it home. We tried it shortly thereafter.

First, I’d say it isn’t what I thought at all. I figured it would either be amazing or terrible. It’s basically right in the middle. On a scale of 1-10 with 5 being truly average (i.e. don’t think of it as % in school), I’d give it a 5.5. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s not like I want to scrape my taste buds off with a razor afterwards or anything. It tastes like… well, tomatoes with some bacon and provolone cheese thrown in.

Second, why the smoke flavoring? I don’t really like smoke flavoring. For one thing, how on earth do you make smoke flavoring? Do they just burn something and mix it into my food? That is creepy. For another thing, it just really doesn’t taste that great. I take a bite and think “Great, I’m eating smoke.” Not wonderful. The sauce would have been better without it.

Third, how is this not amazing? I think that what it needs is to be in an alfredo (mmm… alfredo!). I would imagine that bacon thrown into some alfredo sauce would actually be quite amazing. The problem is that I try to get veggie servings out of my pasta sauce (because vegetables are disgusting), so I try to get tomato-based stuff. What a dilemma!

Well, that’s pretty much it. Have you tried it? Are you going to now because you can’t resist seeing what it’s like? Better yet, do you know of some amazing, readily available pasta sauce that I would love (remember: it needs to be available at major retailers and also have servings of veggies!)? Let me know… I’m begging you.