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Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old April 29 2012, 05:30 PM   #796
Greg Cox
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Okay, I respect that some people are simply concerned with precision of language, and that's fine. But:

1) There is a matter of practicality and convenience here. Sure, it would be more accurate if every thread, article, blog, film festival, convention, and bookstore shelf was labeled "Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Miscellaenous Weird Shit, and Assorted Combinations and Permutations Thereof," but that's a bit of a mouthful. Sometimes it's just an easier to put up a sign saying "Science Fiction Section." In the immortal words of Saki: "An ounce of inaccuracy saves a ton of explanation."

2) A mere concern with precision of language doesn't really explain the endless blustery indignation that tends to erupt online whenever someone (gasp!) lumps Buffy in with Babylon-5. Explicit or implied is an attitude that "real" science fiction is somehow intellectually superior to all that wizards and vampire crap. From where I'm sitting, there almost seems to be a kind of seige mentality on the part of some sf purists, as though they're afraid that acknowledging any kinship to fantasy or horror (or comic books) is going to give them cooties.

(Oddly, this sort of sf snobbery only seems to flow one way. Maybe I'm just hanging out at the wrong websites, but I seldom see fantasy fans huffily distancing themselves from all those damn robots and aliens.)

Speaking as someone who grew up on Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Wyndham and Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, I'm not sure why some many fans seem determined to man the barricades to protect sf's precious bodily fluids from contamination . . . .
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Old April 29 2012, 06:10 PM   #797
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

A nice quote from Babylon 5.

"If you don't say what you mean, how can you mean what you say?"
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Old April 29 2012, 06:28 PM   #798
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

RJDiogenes wrote: View Post
This is exactly it. Mundanes see anything beyond their football games as "weird shit" and science fiction has become the catch-all term for that weird shit. And, as insecurity has grown in genre fandom, the trend has been to go along with those low standards in desperate hope of acceptance. It's like the nerdy kid in junior high school who laughs too loud at the jock's stupid jokes-- it's awkward and embarrassing..

I think that's a stretch. You could just as easily argue that some fans are still so traumatized by high school that they persist in seeing the "mundanes" and "the masses" as the enemy--and are ever intent on finding new ways to prove that they understand what science fiction is all about better than the jocks and cool kids. 'Cause god forbid we let those people into our exclusive, little fannish club. They might actually confuse robots with golems!

Better to keep pointing out what "higher" standards we have than those silly people who don't insist on our rarefied, ivory-tower definitions.

It's funny. Once in a blue moon, I stumble onto a bookstore that tries to keep the sf and fantasy books separate. It's always a mess, with the same authors (and sometimes even the same series) scattered across the store. Where do you shelve Gene Wolfe or Ursula K. Le Guin or Piers Anthony or Marion Zimmer Bradley or Andre Norton or Orson Scott Card or Poul Anderson or Ray Bradbury or whomever? And do we trust some poor clerk to figure out whether "Witch World" is fantasy or science fiction? What about "The Shadow of the Torturer" or "The Anubis Gates" or "Dragon Riders of Pern"?

Honestly, it's easier just to put them all in the "Science Fiction" section.
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Old April 29 2012, 07:16 PM   #799
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

It comes down to intent but since everything is relativistically connected then there can be no distinction ever to hybrids and the like that teeter on the fence of the best of both worlds but there are touchstones and signposts and things and ideas that make something foremost science fiction and not fantasy. Serling was doing fantasy and dabbled in sci-fi when certain elements were present that indicated the direction, emphasis and thrust of the story towards being futuristic and involving physical technology or aliens, etc. that are the hallmark/landmarks of sci-fi. Lucas' mystical mythical force religion was secondary to the overwhelming amount of futuristic technology that was being presented, so there is a heirarchical order to the distinction of any genre - is that short for Gene R? - that distinguishes the various overlapping genres that may delve into one another and borrow heavily from science fiction but something has to weigh more and take presidence, if not to the author than at least to the audience.
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Old April 29 2012, 09:48 PM   #800
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Christopher wrote: View Post
Actually singular "they" is not a recent development. It's been a part of English usage at least as far back as Chaucer, and is also found in Shakespeare and the King James Bible, among plenty of others. Like the so-called "split infinitive," the rule declaring it "wrong" came along only a couple of centuries ago, even though it had been standard usage for many times longer.
True enough, but there's still the difference between need and ignorance.

True, but it's occurred to me that maybe the reason so many people use "irony" in that way is because we need a word that actually does mean that (i.e. something that is unexpectedly and poetically appropriate) and don't have one. It's a concept in need of a word, and people use "irony" for lack of a better alternative. And it's probably a losing battle. Once enough people use "irony" that way, the dictionaries will have to adapt.
"Poetic justice?" Anyway, however that particular circumstance works out, surely you agree that all words can't become so homogenized that none of them mean anything.

Christopher wrote: View Post
If you're talking about mass-media science fiction, you should consider that the earliest entries in the genre were things like the cheesy adventure serials of the '30s and '40s, and Z-grade monster movies and kids' shows like Captain Video in the '50s. The standards started out low and have actually increased over time -- first with writers like Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry bringing more adult storytelling sensibilities, more recently with writers like J. Michael Straczynski and Michael Piller and Joss Whedon raising the literacy and complexity of the material.
I never said that the problem wasn't there from the beginning-- just that it hasn't been fixed yet. Like I said, every day I wake up in the 21st century....

If you're talking about the lines between strict SF and fantasy, those have always been vague in the mass media (which one does Flash Gordon or The Twilight Zone fall into?)
Flash Gordon is Space Opera and Twilight Zone depends on the episode. Also, there's no reason why one particular concept or story can't fall into multiple categories.

but it's a distinction that has nothing to do with standards of quality. Ray Bradbury's prose fiction is as much fantasy as SF, but few would dispute its very high quality.
I never said otherwise. When I talk about high standards, I'm talking about language not the superiority of one genre over another.

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Okay, I respect that some people are simply concerned with precision of language, and that's fine. But:

1) There is a matter of practicality and convenience here. Sure, it would be more accurate if every thread, article, blog, film festival, convention, and bookstore shelf was labeled "Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Miscellaenous Weird Shit, and Assorted Combinations and Permutations Thereof," but that's a bit of a mouthful. Sometimes it's just an easier to put up a sign saying "Science Fiction Section." In the immortal words of Saki: "An ounce of inaccuracy saves a ton of explanation."
Actually, even in practical terms, I think the longer version would be more eye-catching and welcoming.

2) A mere concern with precision of language doesn't really explain the endless blustery indignation that tends to erupt online whenever someone (gasp!) lumps Buffy in with Babylon-5. Explicit or implied is an attitude that "real" science fiction is somehow intellectually superior to all that wizards and vampire crap. From where I'm sitting, there almost seems to be a kind of seige mentality on the part of some sf purists, as though they're afraid that acknowledging any kinship to fantasy or horror (or comic books) is going to give them cooties.
That may be, although I've never seen it. It's certainly not what I'm saying, since I love all that weird shit. To me it's just the equivalent of people calling a dolphin a fish.

Speaking as someone who grew up on Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Wyndham and Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, I'm not sure why some many fans seem determined to man the barricades to protect sf's precious bodily fluids from contamination . . . .
Me neither. If there are such people, I would argue as strenuously with them.

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
I think that's a stretch. You could just as easily argue that some fans are still so traumatized by high school that they persist in seeing the "mundanes" and "the masses" as the enemy--and are ever intent on finding new ways to prove that they understand what science fiction is all about better than the jocks and cool kids. 'Cause god forbid we let those people into our exclusive, little fannish club. They might actually confuse robots with golems!
Well, they might. It's misleading to consider the Mundanes or the masses or the common people the enemy-- that makes it too personal. But low standards are definitely the enemy. Let's be honest here, there's something wrong with a culture that favors wrestling over literature. Or do you think that things are perfect now? Do you not wish that the common people were more educated and literate?

Better to keep pointing out what "higher" standards we have than those silly people who don't insist on our rarefied, ivory-tower definitions.
Again, I think that high standards are better than low standards.

It's funny. Once in a blue moon, I stumble onto a bookstore that tries to keep the sf and fantasy books separate. It's always a mess, with the same authors (and sometimes even the same series) scattered across the store. Where do you shelve Gene Wolfe or Ursula K. Le Guin or Piers Anthony or Marion Zimmer Bradley or Andre Norton or Orson Scott Card or Poul Anderson or Ray Bradbury or whomever? And do we trust some poor clerk to figure out whether "Witch World" is fantasy or science fiction? What about "The Shadow of the Torturer" or "The Anubis Gates" or "Dragon Riders of Pern"?

Honestly, it's easier just to put them all in the "Science Fiction" section.
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction solved that problem. They call it fantasy and science fiction. You could also call it creative writing. Or, I suppose, weird shit, but somebody's mother would probably complain.
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Old April 29 2012, 10:56 PM   #801
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Dumbing down the masses is how and where mediocrity thrives.
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Old April 29 2012, 11:15 PM   #802
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
1) There is a matter of practicality and convenience here. Sure, it would be more accurate if every thread, article, blog, film festival, convention, and bookstore shelf was labeled "Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Miscellaenous Weird Shit, and Assorted Combinations and Permutations Thereof," but that's a bit of a mouthful. Sometimes it's just an easier to put up a sign saying "Science Fiction Section." In the immortal words of Saki: "An ounce of inaccuracy saves a ton of explanation."
It's symptomatic that horror is lumped in here. Horror doesn't have to have "weird shit" in it, nor are people actually putting horror novels as such in. The reprints in "SF" that include SF/Fantasy/Horror/Etc. aren't going to include Robert Bloch's The Scarf or Psycho, no matter what. There is no practicality or convenience in pretending to put them together, no matter what Locus says. Why claim that "practicality and convenience" are motives when they clearly aren't? That's just bullshitting us. Which is a little offensive, since we're feeling all sensitive today.

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Once in a blue moon, I stumble onto a bookstore that tries to keep the sf and fantasy books separate. It's always a mess, with the same authors (and sometimes even the same series) scattered across the store. Where do you shelve Gene Wolfe or Ursula K. Le Guin or Piers Anthony or Marion Zimmer Bradley or Andre Norton or Orson Scott Card or Poul Anderson or Ray Bradbury or whomever? And do we trust some poor clerk to figure out whether "Witch World" is fantasy or science fiction? What about "The Shadow of the Torturer" or "The Anubis Gates" or "Dragon Riders of Pern"?

Honestly, it's easier just to put them all in the "Science Fiction" section.
Obviously, you file authors alphabetically. However could someone imagine that it is a problem to have authors' entries in different genres scattered about? How could it possibly be tragic if Gore Vidal's handful of mysteries were shelved in the Mystery section, just like his essays aren't filed in general fiction or his plays are filed in drama?

Despite the alleged practicality of mixing them all up, the fact is that I personally can no longer keep track of the kinds of "weird shit" I prefer to read, particularly new authors, because they are buried in tired old novels and short story collections rehashing folklore for the millionth time. Even military SF tends to be more original than that!
The fuck you attitude towards SF fans trying to find SF is just about as offensive as any perceived snobbery.

Of course, as everyone well knows, since these discussions keep arising, part of the issue is the idea that SF should try to have some decent speculative science, an issue of standards. The fuck you attitude that it's all just weird shit is offensive, particularly since there's no reason for it beyond resentment at the implication that genuine literacy should include scientific literacy. Well, no one ever read SF for a text book, so no one should feel so intimidated.

And last, the fuck you attitude it takes to reduce all these concerns to SF fans' supposed snobbery is offensive. "Offensive" is relative, though. Maybe we should use annoyed.


[QUOTE=Christopher;6260584]
And it doesn't matter how many people don't understand the definition of irony, Alanis Morrisette is still wrong.
True, but it's occurred to me that maybe the reason so many people use "irony" in that way is because we need a word that actually does mean that (i.e. something that is unexpectedly and poetically appropriate) and don't have one. It's a concept in need of a word, and people use "irony" for lack of a better alternative. And it's probably a losing battle. Once enough people use "irony" that way, the dictionaries will have to adapt./QUOTE]

This sounds sensible, except that we then have the problem of what word to use when we really are talking about irony. It's the "theory" problem again, where the standard popular misusage is tied up with the repudiation of the concept expressed by the standard usage by the people who actually use the idea.
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Old April 29 2012, 11:31 PM   #803
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

RJDiogenes wrote: View Post
I never said that the problem wasn't there from the beginning-- just that it hasn't been fixed yet.
If the "problem" is lack of quality, my point is that the quality of the material, on the whole, has improved over time. If the "problem" is the blurring of the lines between fantasy and science fiction, my point is that there is no problem, because neither genre is intrinsically superior and there's plenty of room for overlap.


Flash Gordon is Space Opera and Twilight Zone depends on the episode. Also, there's no reason why one particular concept or story can't fall into multiple categories.
Well, yeah, that's my point. I wasn't trying to ask you to lump those shows into one category or the other -- it was a rhetorical question, meant to offer examples of shows that defy simple categories. (Flash Gordon may nominally be space opera, but it's loaded with elements of high fantasy and always has been.)


I never said otherwise. When I talk about high standards, I'm talking about language not the superiority of one genre over another.
Okay, what you said was, "And, as insecurity has grown in genre fandom, the trend has been to go along with those low standards in desperate hope of acceptance." I suppose what you're referring to is the tendency to blur genre labels -- in which case "low standards" is an odd and misleading choice of words, and it took me a long while to figure out what you were talking about. I don't think "insecurity" has anything to do with it. And whose "acceptance" are you referring to? If the term "science fiction" is applied to fantasy, horror, slipstream, miscellaneous, whatever, doesn't that mean the SF community is the one that's already "accepted?" Are you implying that it's fantasy and horror fans who are desperately craving acceptance and think they'll be more popular if they call themselves science fiction? If so, then I don't know what parallel universe you're posting from, since fantasy and horror seem to be rather more popular these days than SF. So I'm just thoroughly confused right now.
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Old April 29 2012, 11:57 PM   #804
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

stj wrote: View Post
Despite the alleged practicality of mixing them all up, the fact is that I personally can no longer keep track of the kinds of "weird shit" I prefer to read, particularly new authors, because they are buried in tired old novels and short story collections rehashing folklore for the millionth time. Even military SF tends to be more original than that!
The fuck you attitude towards SF fans trying to find SF is just about as offensive as any perceived snobbery.

Of course, as everyone well knows, since these discussions keep arising, part of the issue is the idea that SF should try to have some decent speculative science, an issue of standards. The fuck you attitude that it's all just weird shit is offensive, particularly since there's no reason for it beyond resentment at the implication that genuine literacy should include scientific literacy. Well, no one ever read SF for a text book, so no one should feel so intimidated. .

But, you see, you're almost making my case for me. First, you dismiss entire subgenres as "tired" and "rehashing folklore for the millionth time," then state outright that anyone who doesn't distinguish between different kinds of "weird shit" clearly resents having to know about science or something. (For the record, I majored in Chemistry and think science is vitally important--in real life. In imaginative literature, it's just one flavor of plot device.)

And, you know, maybe we just find werewolves and androids equally entertaining, and equally worth writing and reading about. And would like to embrace the entire range of "weird shit" without worrying about keeping everything in neat little categories--or, worse, yet trying to elevate one over the other.

To me, it's not about "standards." It's about not getting so hung up on whether any given book or show is sf or fantasy or an alternate-history-steampunk-horror-space-opera about extraterrestrial cyborg elves . . . .
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Old April 30 2012, 12:38 AM   #805
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
...or an alternate-history-steampunk-horror-space-opera about extraterrestrial cyborg elves . . . .
Okay, now that you've proposed that, you have to write it.
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Old April 30 2012, 01:04 AM   #806
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Christopher wrote: View Post
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
...or an alternate-history-steampunk-horror-space-opera about extraterrestrial cyborg elves . . . .
Okay, now that you've proposed that, you have to write it.

Can I make them alien cyborg vampire elves?

(Says the guy who edited two volumes of sf vampire and werewolf stories for Baen.)

In the meantime, I'll get back to editing The Six-Gun Tarot, this very cool dark fantasy-horror-western I acquired for Tor a while back!

(If nothing else, I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to blurring genres!)
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Old April 30 2012, 02:22 AM   #807
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Greg Cox wrote: View Post
(If nothing else, I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to blurring genres!)
Says the guy who bought my space-opera superhero bildungsroman.
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Old April 30 2012, 02:37 AM   #808
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JD wrote: View Post
Does anyone know if there's anyway to legally see the original Beautiful People, (that's the robot show right?)? It seems like when they do this kind of stuff no matter how hard they try they can never quite match the quality of the original.
Is there an original Beautiful People? I didn't think this series was based on anything (except the general trope of "are androids people?")

xortex wrote: View Post
How is horror science fiction?
Horror can be sci fi (Alien) or fantasy (The Omen), or neither (such as teen slasher flicks that don't depend on anything other than the killer's psychosis for the premise.)

Not surprising for CBS, very surprising for FOX. Historically, of all the broadcast networks, FOX has had the highest percentage of shows in its schedule that were genre-oriented (roughly tied with the now-defunct UPN), while CBS has had the lowest percentage by a wide margin.
CBS doesn't surprise me either. When they launched Jericho, they still seemed to be trying to create their own cult-genre fanbase. But after that failed, they seemed to give up. They don't need anything but cop shows, sitcoms and reality.

FOX seems to be sick of sci fi - it's probably frustrating for them to launch one sci fi show after another and see the ratings plunge. (And sure, it's because their sci fi shows this year have been disappointing but from their perspective, we're a bunch of ingrates and impossible to please. )

But the shows they are going with instead - one about serial killers, and then they'll probably choose one of their two spy pilots and one of their two legal-oriented pilots - aren't necessarily going to do any better. So next year, the wheel will swing back around and they'll try sci fi again.
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Old April 30 2012, 02:55 AM   #809
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Re: sf/f TV development news - 2012

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
...or an alternate-history-steampunk-horror-space-opera about extraterrestrial cyborg elves . . . .
Okay, now that you've proposed that, you have to write it.

Can I make them alien cyborg vampire elves?

(Says the guy who edited two volumes of sf vampire and werewolf stories for Baen.)

In the meantime, I'll get back to editing The Six-Gun Tarot, this very cool dark fantasy-horror-western I acquired for Tor a while back!

(If nothing else, I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to blurring genres!)
So maybe sci-fi is just words that make money. Wow, that's very vague. Even more so I would imagine for someone who writes words and gets paid for it.
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Old April 30 2012, 03:33 AM   #810
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Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
JD wrote: View Post
Does anyone know if there's anyway to legally see the original Beautiful People, (that's the robot show right?)? It seems like when they do this kind of stuff no matter how hard they try they can never quite match the quality of the original.
Is there an original Beautiful People? I didn't think this series was based on anything (except the general trope of "are androids people?")
Wikipedia lists both a 2005 ABC Family series and a 2008 BBC Two series of that name, but neither of them has anything to do with the genre pilot. As far as I can tell, this is an original premise, not an adaptation.


xortex wrote: View Post
How is horror science fiction?
Horror can be sci fi (Alien) or fantasy (The Omen), or neither (such as teen slasher flicks that don't depend on anything other than the killer's psychosis for the premise.)
Exactly. People have always been afraid of supernatural or unearthly forces, monsters, and the like going back to ancient mythology about ghosts and witches and vampires and demons. So horror and fantasy have always gone hand in hand. And the same goes for the fear of the unknown and alien in a more modern, scientific context, things like Frankenstein and The Fly and The Thing and Species.


CBS doesn't surprise me either. When they launched Jericho, they still seemed to be trying to create their own cult-genre fanbase. But after that failed, they seemed to give up. They don't need anything but cop shows, sitcoms and reality.
The low ratio of genre shows on CBS goes back decades. The only time it was really a major SF broadcaster was in the '60s, with The Twilight Zone and Lost in Space (and Mission: Impossible, which often bordered on SF with its cutting-edge spy gadgetry). And maybe in the '70s with The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman. The longest-running SF show it's had in the past 30 years (not counting pure fantasies like Touched by an Angel and Early Edition) was Beauty and the Beast.


FOX seems to be sick of sci fi - it's probably frustrating for them to launch one sci fi show after another and see the ratings plunge. (And sure, it's because their sci fi shows this year have been disappointing but from their perspective, we're a bunch of ingrates and impossible to please. )
The current FOX regime has actually been very supportive of genre shows, belying the outdated stereotype. They gave Dollhouse two complete (if short) seasons even though its ratings were poor enough that most networks would've cancelled it before the first season ended, and they're letting Fringe have a fifth and final season (though just enough to reach the magic number of 100 episodes, so they probably did it with syndication profits in mind). Sure, they cancelled Terra Nova this year and Alcatraz is on the bubble, but both shows were disappointments in the writing department and the former was incredibly expensive.

FOX has been debuting genre shows and seeing most of them die quickly for over two decades now, and it hasn't stopped them before, so why should it now? Heck, most TV shows of any genre die quickly. That's just the nature of the business, so I doubt that TV executives would be able to do their jobs if they let it frustrate them unduly.
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