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A John Scalzi SciFi Thanksgiving

Here in the United States it’s Thanksgiving, when we all sit around with family and friends, eat a 48,000-calorie pile of food, and then collapse in front of the television to watch football. It’s an American tradition, and I guess somewhere in there we maybe think about all the things we’re thankful for. Since this is a column about science fiction and movies, I thought I’d make a list of the things I’m thankful for as far as those two things are concerned. It’s pretty short (Hey, if you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, you’re probably groggy from tryptophan anyway), but just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s not sincere. So, without further ado: Things I’m thankful for in the science fiction movie universe.

• I’m thankful for computerized special effects, which at this point are advanced enough to make even the cheesiest direct-to-DVD science fiction crud look passably respectable. Maybe some people miss the era of wires and clunky practical effects, but I’m not one of them.

• I’m thankful for Will Smith. He’s made sure there’s at least one watchable (not necessarily good, but watchable) big-budget science fiction movie a year, for, what, most of a dozen years already? Yes, I know, Wild Wild West. Hey, he was young. He needed the work.

• I’m thankful for Darth Vader. In the last 30-some years, has there been a better villain in all of film — not just science fiction film, but film in general? I tell you, there is not (Hannibal Lecter comes close, but dude. Vader could use his Force powers to feed him his own liver with a nice Chianti). Vader is so badass that he survived George Lucas turning him into a whiny loser in the prequel trilogy . Think about that.

• I’m thankful for science fiction B-movies from the ’80s. Sure, there are better things in life than a home theater double feature of Buckaroo Banzai and The Hidden, but not all that many if you really want to think about it.

• I’m thankful that Charlton Heston decided to make Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man and Soylent Green, thus giving the previously A-list-free genre of science fiction flicks a measure of respectability (and his own career a boost, I might add). I don’t think Heston gets enough credit these days for what he did for science fiction.

• I’m thankful that Ridley Scott is the guy who currently has the rights to The Forever War, since that means the chances of the movie being worthy of the book have gone up exponentially.

• I’m thankful for Wall-E — the best silent movie (the first half of it, anyway) of the last 70 years or so, depending on whether you count Modern Times as a silent movie or not. Chaplin would have proud; either that, or sued Disney for stealing his charcter.

• I’m thankful the world hasn’t turned into a Road Warrior-like post-apocalyptic mess yet. Although from time to time on the freeway one of those battle scenes seems like it would be fun, especially if it targeted the jerk going 45 miles an hour in the fast lane.

• I’m thankful I’m almost 40 years old and still want a lightsaber and a speeder bike.

• I’m thankful AMC lets me write about science fiction movies, which I love, and that you folks drop by to read what I have to say. Thanks, AMC, and thank you.

Anything you’re thankful about in the category of science fiction movies? Don’t be shy — share!

scalzi.pngWinner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also the editor of METAtropolis, an audiobook anthology on His column appears every Thursday.

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