Science Fiction Turkeys

This being Thanksgiving and all, I though it would be interesting to inquire about turkeys. Not the gobble-gobble kind…I’m referring to the definition meaning “the worst of something”. Specifically:

What was the worst science fiction book/movie you’ve ever read/seen?

One qualifier: you had to actually read/watch the entire book/movie.


For me, the worst book (in recent memory anyway) was probably Ceres Storm. I just could not get into that book at all. Worse, it frequently annoyed me. I think the only reason I finished it was because it was mercifully short.

The worst movie for me was A Boy and His Dog, an adaptation of the excellent Harlan Ellison story that starred a young Don Johnson. Although I watched it all the way through on a borrowed DVD, I found myself doing other things around the house. The only reason I kept it running was for the supposedly really good ending, which was no way near good enough to redeem this painful flick.

6 thoughts on “Science Fiction Turkeys”

  1. Worst book has to be Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I read the first book (Red Mars) and enjoyed it somewhat (the science mostly) and was hoping the second book would be better. They are both Hugo award winners – seems like they ought to be good. Sadly the second book was all the parts of the first that I hated – it was a soap opera / political drama hiding as sci-fi. The science was non-existant and what was left just couldn’t hold up. I read the whole thing hoping vainly it would redeem itself.

    Worst movie, now that’s harder. I strongly disliked Space Balls, but then it was an attempt at satirical comedy and I fear that sometimes the jokes fell too close to home (where does Mel Brooks get off insulting my beloved Star Trek like that? Get a life, my ass!!!!1!!) Water World wasn’t all that great either, but I did finish it. Oh, and Santa Claus versus the Martians is a terrible movie if you manage to watch it without the Mystery Science Theatre voiceovers – but then who can honestly say they did?

  2. Worst book: Dhalgren by Delany. Urgh. Just awful. I just don’t like his writing style and this book seemed to be all atmosphere and no plot. The thought of slogging through 900+ pages makes me sick. Sick to realize that I did actually read the whole thing and I hated every minute of it. But I haven’t read any other Delany book.

    Movies are harder. I pretty much know going in whether the movie will be good or bad. The only thing that comes to mind isn’t SF, but Fantasy/Horror. The film Bram Stroker’s Dracula, with Keanu Reeves, comes to mind. You know a movie is bad when you start to MST-ie it during the last 30 minutes or so. Does anyone else miss the Turkey Day MST3K marathons? I know I have 6 hours or so on tape somewhere in a box in the garage….

  3. Worst SFF novel I ever read all the way to the end: it is a toss up between TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET by Robert Heinlein and BLOOD BROTHERS OF GOR by John Norman. The former is charmingly written, but has no plot and no memorable characters. It is mostly the author preaching his perverse sexual doctrine. The latter has one or two exciting battle scenes, but the dialog is wooden, the plot peppered with long digressions where, once again, the author preaches his perverse sexual doctrine (Norman’s perversion is admittedly different from Heinlein’s; bondage rather than incest).

    You may wonder why I single out BLOOD BROTHERS from all the other Gor novels of John Norman. His novels run along a formula. His Goreans are basically ancient Greeks hoplites who ride birds, and, in each novel, the author pits them against some other group from history: In NOMADS, Greeks meet Huns; in MARAUDERS, Vikings; TRIBESMAN, Bedouins; BEASTS, Eskimos; EXPLORERS, Zulu; etc. It is a formula that I like: I always wonder how battles between Samurai and Cataphracts, or Vikings and Aztecs would have turned out. John Norman, whatver his other flaws as a writer, does his homework and describes his societies in realistic detail.

    However, by the time he got to BLOOD BROTHERS, he forgot to include the Greeks, and somehow (inexplicably) made the Goreans forget all their unique goreanisms to act and talk like Cowboys. They were politically-correct versions of Cowboys at that, cowardly, exploitive, white and dumb, almost as if the Palefaces from the POCAHONTAS or SPIRIT STALLION OF THE CIMMERON had travelled back in time to insert themselves in Mr. Norman’s typewriter. Real Western pioneers were bold men, and John Norman has read enough history to know better.

    I might have been interested to see a struggle between Spartans and Apaches. But Cowboys and Indians? Puh-lease. I could watch a rerun of Roy Rogers.

    He spends even more time than normal preaching rather than story-telling, including a particularly boring and painful descent into allegory when the reader is taken on a tour of the Villiage of the “Sames”, inhabited by cartoonish egalitarians, who also happen to be homosexuals, as I recall. Obviously there is no reason given why the Red Savages would bother to protect and maintain this village: it exists only as a rhetorical device of the author to mock those who reject his uncouth doctrine of innate master-slave heirarchy between the sexes.

    Neither of these bad books was entirely bad. BLOOD BROTHERS OF GOR contains at least one good battle scene between Sioux warriors and monstrous bearlike aliens. SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET was well crafted page by page. Each page was written in Heinlein’s easygoing and smooth style. It is just that all the pages taken together were rubbish.

    SUNSET also had the cleverist system I have ever seen to designate the parallel time lines: each line is named after the man who first set foot on the moon in that version of history. We are from the “Armstrong” line. Parallel to us are the “Seaton” line, the “Cavor” line, and the “Julian the Seventh” line (SKYLARK OF SPACE by E.E. Doc Smith, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON by Wells and MOON MAID by Burroughs, in that order). I would be curious to see if some fan somewhere had a list of the names of the first men on the moon in books written,or movies filmed, before the moon shot.

    Lest this post grow beyond all telling, let me quickly end by naming the worst SF movie I ever sat through: HIGHLANDER II. If any of you have seen it, you need no description from me as to its mind-boggling badness.

  4. How in the world could I forget Highlander II? And to think I watched it in the theaters? Ack! I believe Scott was responsible for dragging us to that one….

  5. I couldn’t find a list of “first men on the moon in sf”, but there is a site dedicated to The Moon in Science Fiction.

    Oh, and as long as Scott brought it up, I would have to say that Red Mars , for me, sucked. The only thing I still remember are the endless variations of landscape descriptions. At the time, I wrote: “The author only has to tell me once that the sand/cliff/mountain/sky/terrain is red/rust/orange/crimson/brown/tan…I get it already!” That is the only lasting impression the book made on me. Sadly, it’s yet another award winner that failed to impress me.

  6. Worst Book:Quozl, by Alan Dean Foster. The less said, the better.

    Worst Movie: The Alan-Smithee wonder, “Solar Crisis”. Despite Charlton Heston and Jack Palance, its so bad, its bad. A patchwork theft of a lot of science fiction movies, including Dark Star(!)

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