Have you ever spent a thought on the numerous no-name characters that bites the dust in television series just to prove to the audience what a dangerous situation our heroes are in? John Scalzi has and he wrote a very entertaining piece of Science Fiction about it called Redshirts . You know, like those unlucky ensigns on Starship Enterprise dressed in red and somehow fated to meet a horrible end in the maws of some alien monster.
We follow Andrew Dahl and his friends, all newly assigned to the flagship Intrepid, and all aware that something isn't right. People die on away missions, the science doesn't quite work out, and somehow none of them act rational near the senior officers on the ship. When they begin to figure out why, things get very weird and the story transitions from being funny, to being funny and involved in existential themes.
I enjoyed Redshirts. It is entertaining and thought provoking. I believe many of us are thinking not only about the 'red shirts', but about all kind of the unseen, undocumented collateral damage that surely must happen off screen in today's blockbuster movies. We live in an age where special effects technology are in a three-way collision with weird moral values of what to show and not show the you, and a market driving all movies PG-13 ratings. As a result, cities are razed to the ground in movies like Avengers and Pacific Rim, not to speak about Star Trek - Into Darkness, but nowhere do we see the bodies of all those that surely must have died in the pursuit of the bad guys. In reality I think not seeing this messes us up pretty badly in the name of entertainment. Scalzi in his empathic genius takes it one step further and asks: what it does it do to the characters in the fiction?