A term coined by critic Roz Kaveney and later popularised by the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the Big Dumb Object (BDO) is a unique selling point of the sci-fi genre. It can be a broad term – usually, they’re alien architectures, ranging from the man-sized to the planetary. BDOs either look extreme or unusual, and can often do extreme or unusual things: everything from lurking on a horizon to creating worlds. Usually, BDOs are plonked into plots to awe us with their majesty and mystery – really, they’re science fiction’s equivalent of a MacGuffin.
No other kind of storytelling goes in for spectacle quite so big, or quite so dumb as science fiction. But which is the biggest, dumbest object of them all?
I have long thought that nostalgia died with the arrival of the internet. (A computer never forgets, and so it has no memories.) But even though I’ve been able to track down the episodes I used to have on that VHS tape, for a long time there were some things I hadn’t been able to fully replicate that I now see were indelible parts of the experience: the running order and the commercials. Because I watched the cartoons so much, the entire tape became like a musical suite, with the disparate parts flowing seamlessly into each other. The commercials for Cabbage Patch Kids and Yahtzee seemed like such a natural part of my viewing experience that their absence felt like defacement.
“The After Party” seems an odd title for a poet’s first book. Have we come to opening night and found the show already closed? Jana Prikryl’s readers will quickly discover such rueful humor is typical of her understated sensibility.