Sci Fi Blasts from the Past…and Future

The biggest Sci Fi news is – of course – the release of the movie version of Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME. As you might guess, I have plenty to say about Card’s works, even without seeing how Hollywood has improved upon his archetype work.  But I will leave that for another time and venue. For now let me say that I hope Scott’s movie does better than mine did!  I expect it will. It presses the EndersGameright sequence of audience-flattering (“you are a demigod!”) buttons.  Anyway, after a year of SF film flops, the genre could use a boost.

Still, I am leaning toward waiting for the DVD and holding a viewing party at our home, inviting friends who have also said they’ll wait for DVD…. followed by lively discussion over copious drinks. Hey, DVD rentals are fair n’ square. But decide for yourself. I’m just a patient guy.

Oh, by the way… On PolicyMic they recommend five sci fi series that ought to please folks who like Ender’s Game.  I have mixed feelings, having written all the books in one of the recommended series and part of another….

Here Card addresses the controversy… and other voices weigh in. Here’s Laura Miller on Salon. See a more nuanced opinion from Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic.

== Brin Media ==

FiveBurningQuestionsNot exactly a big movie release… but I was in Tempe, Arizona to deliver the annual Shoemaker Lecture for Paul Davies’s wonderful Beyond Center at Arizona State University, when some media folk associated with the new ASU Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to step outside (under the Phoenix Airport landing path) and answer “Five Burning Questions” on-camera.  The heavily edited sequence is not linear… but still holds together pretty well as I answer questions about the future, resilience and imagination.

Sometimes, one of my works inspires followup discussion that’s worth a closer look. Steve Outing – on Media Distruptus – interrogates the vision of future journalism that I presented in Existence, with professional reporters empowered by vivid augmented reality (AR) but also by active links in real-time to thousands of stringers, volunteers, aficionados and witnesses, all over the planet, occasionally coalescing those networks into actively assertive “smart mobs.”

Outing appraises the plausibility of the methods used by one of my characters – Tor Povlov – as she plunges through the world of 2045 in search of fast-breaking… and possibly world-shattering … stories.  An interesting analysis.

== Is “Piecework” coming true? ==

PieceworkAccording to the august and erudite Colbert Report, as the wealthiest one percent prospers, a growing number of Americans resort to selling their body parts.  Watch this Colbert segment on the trend of Americans selling breastmilk, organs and the like. One reader recently wrote in to me about this report:

“I immediately thought of your delightfully unsettling short story “Piecework.” The whole time I was watching the segment I was thinking, “this is it, this is how it begins.”

“Piecework” truly is one of my creepiest stories and well worth 99 cents! (on Smashwords or Amazon)  Or try the even creepier and cooler (and somewhat similarly themed) “Dr. Pak’s Preschool!” Both are found in my collection, Otherness.

== Blasts from the Pasts! ==

I was asked to speculate on Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451, fifty years after publication: Well, it does seem quaint to imagine that knowledge of any kind could be burned away, now that electrons can be copied at a whim.  I have a device the size of my hand that contains all of Project Gutenberg and the text of Wikipedia. To eliminate all that would take a psychic tyranny. But Ray’s book is an allegory.  And it girded millions to defend literacy and free speech.  As a self-preventing prophecy it belongs to the ages.

GalaxysEdgeMike Resnick’s magazine (mostly online) GALAXY’S EDGE fills a long-needed slot in science fiction… all reprints of terrific “classic” stories that you may never have come across.  This issue — now available — contains a lot of truly outtasight tales from decades past, with stories by Larry Niven, Jack Dann, Catherine Asaro and Kevin Anderson … plus a modest contribution of my own. “Thor Meets Captain America” came in second for a Hugo and led to my graphic novel THE LIFE EATERS.

Have a look at Resnick’s  Galaxy’s Edge!

== Does Lit’ rah chah make you a better person? ==

soooo…. science proves that reading good literature helps to make you a better person.  All righty then, still I bet they left Sci Fi out of the study.  How about also expanding your horizons and learning great new things, experiencing new ideas….  And we do empathy, too!

A rebuttal — though not a refutation –– of that “study” showing that literary fiction increases empathy. Neither side, alas, is doing science. So let’s just keep reading.

== Good and Flawed Media ==

A lovely list of sci fi films from the 1950s that were superior and well worth watching.  Yes, more than just FORBIDDEN PLANET!

Ah but for something more tongue in cheek, see Tiny Changes That Would Have Saved Terrible Movies.  I loved the proposed change to Star Wars Episode 1.  And… oh, right. Nice to see The Postman listed first… I think… though that’s not the tiny change I would make. I’d have kept the actor, the screenwriter, even the director… for the first 2/3 of the film. But I’d have insisted the director actually talk – even once, over a beer – with the novel’s author.  Good things might have happened to the last 1/3. Well, one can dream.

Ah, but, for laughs, here are some overly realistic versions of the pitches for famous sci fi films. Follow @HardSciFiMovies on Twitter. Among the better ones:

    HardSciFiMovies A scientist accidentally releases a biological agent which causes animals to evolve rapidly, over a few thousand generations.

     A wealthy tycoon sponsors research into the cloning of extinct animals. Eventually a unique park is opened, populated by passenger pigeons.  Unexpected rampages occur that damage the paint of countless innocent cars.  (I added that last bit.)

     In the post-apocalyptic future, a lone US Postal Carrier continues his rounds. He is arrested for breaching furlough.  (!!)

     A talented computer hacker searching for truth is offered two pills by a mysterious character. It is a DEA sting operation.

     A man walks into a police call box. It is slightly smaller on the inside. He places a call.

     An archaeologist learns that Nazis are hunting a powerful religious relic. Content to let his enemies waste resources, he takes vacation.

     A boy and his sister discover a space alien and provide him refuge in their home closet. Their parents correctly identify it as a groundhog.

==Time Travel in SciFi==

TimeTravelStoriesFinally, in the latest issue of Nature, Andrew Jaffe takes a look at Time Travel in Science Fiction, from The Connecticut Yankee to Doctor Who — has been now time traveling in his TARDIS for fifty years, first appearing in 1963. Scan this list of Time Travel stories dating back to Samuel Madden’s 1733 Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, where a guardian angel travels to the 1700s carrying letters from the 1900s.

Just released: The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF (edited by Mike Ashley) offers 25 tales of time travel from authors such as Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwich, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, John Varley and others.

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