Pattern recognition is a human gift… and curse. Nowhere is this more blatant than in the entertainment biz. Ideas get ripped-off, right and left — almost as often as folks hallucinate that they were plagiarized. Both have happened to me… and every shade in between. Have a good look at the “Uplift” scenarios that pervade so many games – like Mass Effect – across the last couple of decades. Even if they are more “homages” than steals, you’d think they’d at least have the class to buy me dinner?
So yes, it is with many grains of salt — and a sense of mixed triumph and despair — that I rise again to glance at a modern propagandist who has tried – throughout his career – to undermine our confidence in our own civilization. The context is a coming cinematic event that I at least foreshadowed… possibly provoked or inspired or goaded into being and… well… I’ll let you be the judge.
==Coming Attractions: The Rise of Themistocles & the Common Man==
Making the buzz is news that the garish, dance-’n-flex-abs flick “300” — based on Frank Miller’s comic book of the same name – will soon have a sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. With a new hero, Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), and a new villain, Artemisia (Eva Green).
Stephen Peterson writes: So “300: Rise of an Empire,” besides having a horribly generic title, apparently focuses on the Athenian navy and the battles of Artemisium and Salamis. Famously, this is where Athenians obliterated the invading Persians, while their Spartan allies were busy futilely, but flamboyantly, dying at Thermopylae. Oddly enough, David Brin wrote an article about how the Athenians and other non-Spartan Greeks kicked so much more Persian heiney at Salamis and Marathon, and how a movie about General Themistocles would be so much better than “300.” Lo and behold, this sequel is exactly that. Coincidence?
Yes, my piece from years ago — Roll Over Frank Miller, or Why the Occupy Wall Street Kids are Better than the #$%! Spartans — eviscerating the original “300″ – got a lot of attention for pointing out that Miller’s flick ignored history… in fact flagrantly pissed all over history. It also insulted the main, heroic characters, like King Leonidas, the Spartan leader at Thermopylae, who in real life would never have openly insulted Athenians or greek “amateur” militias the way Miller had him do. Not then. Not just ten years after those same amateurs crushed the first Persian invasion without a drop of Spartan help — at Marathon.
Oh, but let’s scan the press release: Days before Zack Snyder delivers the newest vision of Superman to the world with “Man of Steel,” fans of the director’s films are getting a glimpse at a follow-up to his first comic-book movie. “300: Rise of an Empire” continues the story that Snyder started in his 2006 film “300″, this time under the direction of Noam Murro. “The idea of this movie was always that it takes place at about the same time of the first one,” he said. “It’s as if you zoomed out and saw a bigger time frame and told a bigger story of what happened in ’300.’ The first movie speaks to the detail of this sequel.”
Speaks to the detail? Rather than preaching the opposite? Okay, whatever. Go back and read my essay, which culminated a decade of more informal postings that got wide circulation, recommending that someone who loves democracy finally give the Athenians – and the underlying notions of democracy and volunteer citizenship – fair treatment. Especially the tale of Themistocles and Salamis — even if it meant repudiating every moral point that Miller pushed in “300.”
Such as the notion that Sparta (one of the worst and cruelest slavery states in history) should preen about “freedom” when the true citizen soldiers and sailors (including many escaped Spartan slaves) were down there at sea, on ships that fought the real fight for western civilization. Ships crewed by volunteer bakers, potter, poets and merchant-sailors who achieved the one thing that Miller’s beloved “professional” Spartan soldiers never could – victory.
Oh… and sure, I’ll go see this movie. Hey, it’ll probably be great fun. At least they are focused on real heroes, this time. And if it’s a big success, remember where you read about such things, first.
Ah, pattern recognition.
== Sci Fi news miscellany ==
The fundamental premise of Science Fiction: I believe it is that…Children can learn from the mistakes of their parents…and create a better future! Take a look at my latest video, What is Science Fiction?
…and for your further Saturday pleasure, Our Favorite Cliche: A World Filled with Idiots: here are my own reasons why readers and viewers should cast a wary eye toward the sheer laziness of most modern storytellers who proclaim that citizens and civilizations can accomplish nothing. Those who cannot think of any way to propel a lively plot, except by calling humanity worthless. The secret: they don’t really believe this! They do it out of simple laziness.
Cool Science Fictional World Generator: create planetary and city maps.
Popular Mechanics touts “Seven gadget predictions Sci Fi got right…” The slide show includes one of my own forecasts. A minor thing, really.
A new novel by my bro Jeff Carlson is always an event. Dig this exciting tease for his newest: Interrupt. “In the distant past, the leader of a Neanderthal tribe confronts the end of his kind. Today, a computational biologist, a Navy pilot, and an autistic boy are drawn together by the ancient mystery that gave rise to Homo sapiens. Planes are falling from the sky. Global communications have ceased. America stands on the brink of war with China — but war is the least of humankind’s concerns. As solar storms destroy Earth’s electronics and plunge the world into another Ice Age, our civilization finds itself overrun by a powerful new species of man…”
Pondering possible movie ideas in the shower, for some reason my mind drifted to “Deep Safari” by Charles Sheffield, from his collection, Georgia on My Mind. Men waldo-control teensy robots to hunt insects. All the drama of hunting, and with monstrous scale, and no PETA on your back! The last refuge of machismo, in a future when violence and death have been quelled… at least from plain sight!
Now available online, (legally, I hope), you should check out the whole ‘Connections‘ and ‘The Day The Universe Changed‘ documentary series. They will blow your mind. Start with Connections. The only series that ever impressed me more was Bronowski’s ‘The Ascent of Man‘… with ‘Cosmos‘ coming in a third place tie with ‘The Universe‘ and ‘Life After People‘ (because I was in it). Followed by “The Architechs“! Watch em all!
Watch a 1982 video of Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe, discussing writing, books, and the label, “Science Fiction. ”
One of my readers was fascinated by a word that I invented, in my novel Brightness Reef. “Nulatative” stands for a type of reasoning – on a par with associative, inductive and deductive, having to do with Karl Popper’s process of falsification in science, finding out what is try by removing what is not-true. Sherlock Holmes would approve. Donald G Mason added Nulatative to the Urban Dictionary.
Looking Toward Tomorrow: Best Future-Oriented Books and Blogs. Which sites and tomes do the best job of exploring what’s next? Well, this survey that I published some years ago is still a trove that many find useful. (Traffic/visits have zoomed lately.)
See a review of Starship Century , edited by James Benford & Gregory Benford. Starship Century is a collection of articles and stories about the future possibilities of extended space exploration and all its concomitant problems. With the recent discovery of Earth-sized planets orbiting other star systems, interest in space has mushroomed. In particular, the Darpa 100 Year Starship Symposium that met in October 2011 and the 2013 Starship Century Symposium at the University of California, San Diego brought both scientists and SF writers together “to set a bar high enough and hard enough to seriously challenge the next generations” and to make sure that the vision doesn’t lack plans for execution. As the promo material succinctly phrases the purpose of the anthology: “Starship Century is an anthology by authors from both science and fiction writing backgrounds, illustrating some of the tech and ideology behind the illustrious goal of traveling to another star within the next century.”
Science Fiction folk, alas, there won’t be Asimov, Heinlein and Herbert postage stamps! A five-stamp set had been announced by the USPS Commemorative Panel program in February with a July 2013 release date, honoring Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert. Canceled. Sigh.
Random House’s science fiction and fantasy online community Suvudu has launched a blogger community called Suvudu Universe. Writers can register to post on science fiction, fantasy, gaming and comics.