FlashForward. Television SF Hits The Mainstream

Cover of Flash ForwardThis is a great time to be a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Tonight (September 24, 2009), on ABC television, a new series called FlashForward will be broadcast to a waiting world. The series is based on the 1999 novel of the same name by my great friend, Robert J. Sawyer. Here’s the quick intro: for mysterious reasons (aren’t they always), everyone in the entire world, all 7 billions human beings, suddenly black out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During this blackout, they see visions of themselves and others, one year into the future. 

Of course, the blackout brings unimaginable disaster as planes crash, multi-car pileups occur, people die on the operating table, and accidents of every kind take place as everyone loses consciousness. So beings FlashForward, a series that ABC is promoting as the successor to the immensely popular, LOST. If you can’t wait for FlashForward to air tonight, you can check out this 18 minute sneak peak, which contains just enough to get you totally and utterly hooked.

FlashForward is the latest of reasons why it’s great to be a science fiction fan in today’s world. When I was 9 years old (in 1969), shortly after my family moved to Ontario, I discovered a show that blew me away. That was Star Trek. I have to tell you, at 9, I had already started the march toward science and technology geek. To my young mind, the idea of spaceships and travelling to other worlds only made sense, having watched the march of the space program on television, but Star Trek was something else. This was entertainment that seem made for me! It was different, painting a future that I assumed was just a matter of time, probably somewhere around the time I would reach my parents’ age.

Okay, so that was wrong. Still, science fiction became my window into the world that would someday be, and sometimes the world we should (and would) try to avoid. It was all so fantastic, taking me to places beyond the humdrum world I inhabited with my fellow creatures. Consequently, I devoured vast quantities of science fiction and fantasy books and magazines (and yes, comic books too). But with television science fiction, some of those visions came to life, with living breathing people coming face to face with the wonders, and occasionally terrors, I would read about.

Unfortunately, not everything was as good as Star Trek. Lost in Space was fun, but I wouldn’t have called it good. Okay, I wouldn’t call it good now. But lately, things have changed. Not only is there good science fiction television, there is great science fiction television. That had started a while back with shows like Babylon 5 and some of the reimagined Star Trek. But lately, something amazing has happened. Science fiction and fantasy has come of age; it has become totally mainstream. You can discuss the latest episode of your favorite SF and F shows with your friends who claim to not like that stuff.

They’re huge fans of the same shows I enjoy and have enjoyed. Heroes. LOST. Battlestar Galactica. Stargate. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Big Bang Theory (not SF, but wonderfully geeky). Eureka. Defying Gravity.  What’s amazing is that a lot of these shows don’t bill themselves as genre fiction, nor do the people who watch them see them as genre fiction. It’s all mainstream. I can chat about the latest episode of Heroes with my brother-in-law who lives for football, the attraction of which is still lost on me, but I digress . . . And with FlashForward premiering tonight, I can say with confidence that the same will be true of that series. Everyone will be watching it and no one will call it science fiction. Neither will ABC. It’s mainstream fiction. Accessible to everyone.

I started out by telling you that this is a great time to be into television science fiction and fantasy. The selection is better than it has ever been and the quality just keeps on getting better. And you don’t have to tune in to a special SF channel. The big networks are carrying the stuff, in prime time. Everybody’s consuming vast quantities of television SF and F. The only difficulty I can see with all of this, is learning to adjust to a world where fans of SF and F are no longer on the fringes, but part of the mainstream.

Sigh . . . I think I already miss the days of being an geek and an outsider.

But the television shows are great.

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