Tag Archives: sci fi movies

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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Science Fiction round-up: from humorous to inspiring to uplifting

What the heck has happened to The Atlantic? All my life it was  central HQ of the intelligencia’s relentless campaign to discredit science fiction and future-curious literature.  The Atlantic’s editorial staff even commissioned a hit piece, in 1990, hiring one of our own, Thomas Disch, to savage the field, then they cut and hacked his essay to leave out all mention of SF tales he respected.  Now?  There have been at least three SF friendly articles in the last year and this new one absolutely fizzes with can-do optimism about how Science Fiction can help bring wisdom to the process of creating new technologies.

In “Why Today’s Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction” – MIT Media Lab researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner argue that the mind-bending worlds of authors such as Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke can help us not just come up with ideas for novel gadgets, but envision and anticipate their consequences and ramifications — ideas which Novy and Brueckner use in their course, Science Fiction to Science Fabrication.

maxresdefaultIs String Theory right? Is it just fantasy? A nifty Bohemian Gravity parody, by A Capella Science. Delightful evidence that the brightest human beings are win-win polymaths, who are brilliant at a wide range of things.  All of the great scientists I’ve known also had artistic avocations that they often performed at a professional level. This young feller, Tim Blais, is clearly part of that tradition, creating singlehandedly a capella mixes that are skilled, hilariously amusing and awesomely cool.  I just wish he would give us two seconds of blank screen for applause and cool-down before launching into his self-adverts at the end.  Just two seconds of grace-note chill, hm? Make it three. You’ll go far.

Four Reasons Why Remakes of Sci-Fi Movies Are Doomed to Suck… and amen and this proves why cocaine should remain illegal, given what it has done to a generation of Hollywood moguls and directors, going “Ooooh, hows THIS for an original idea! How about we remake….”

== More cool scifi stuff ==

UnknownPaul Rubens doing a serious (if short and low budget) science fiction film. The Final Moments of Karl Brant is a 15-minute short film that explores mind uploading. The movie follows a scientist who is researching whole brain emulation technology; he gets murdered immediately after downloading his entire memory onto a hard drive. The film follows two police detectives who revive Karl Brant’s mind upload to find his killer.

The Hidden Message in Pixar’s Films by Kyle Munkittrick excplores in a moving and I think accurate way the “otherness” theme that guides nearly all films by the great animation house.  Otherness, indeed.

Okay… gotta watch this totally way-cool fun video plus music in a full-boil love paean to starships.  The very heart and soul of science fiction!

MoviesNeverExisted100 Wonderful and Terrible Movies That Never Existed. For every movie that makes it to your local cineplex, there are dozens that never come into existence. In another universe, Mel Gibson directed Fahrenheit 451, Terry Gilliam directed Watchmen, and Batman fought Godzilla. The history of movies is crammed full of weird almost-weres and could-have-beens.  A terrific list on io9.


Utopia in Exile
: Here is the videoed interview with me that Adam Ford did at LosCon39 back when Existence first came out. Not my very best, but still filled with mind-stretching exercises! (Though he lost the first few seconds of footage). It’s gotten way more buzz than I thought it merited. But go figure.== Brinstuff ==

The French site ActuSF has run an interview with me in both French and English.

SciFiThronesThe Uplift Universe is number three on this list: Twelve Book Series that are the Sci Fi equivalent of Game of Thrones.

A glimpse of my visit with the ALEF science fiction club of Athens, Greece, in August.

Live long in this world, especially as a male, and folks have a range of opinions about you. Karma builds. The more so if you become even a little “famous.”  I know I can be overbearing and … opinionated… but I try to make up for that and other faults by almost never engaging in personal gossip, and with good deeds.  Okay, Maimonedes said you’re not supposed to brag about the latter.  But… well… I’d rather at least some of these things were known.  Anyway, this bright young author writes action even better than Zelazny or Moorcock. Take a look at John Koetsier’s action-packed novel, No Other Gods. I was able to help a little. And John, you’re welcome.

== Serious Asides ==

Shall we give up on reason?  Will we genetic-cavemen ever become the logical beings we flatter ourselves into believing we are? Or that Science Fiction says we might become?  Recent research suggests that we have a long slog ahead of us… and yes, even the smartest best-educated folks allow their pre-set beliefs and passions to interfere with basic mental processes, if their close-held biases might be under threat. Indeed we have all seen this tenacity in online arguments, in which cogent – even devastating and fact-rich — rebuttals don’t sway the other guy even an iota. See: Scientists’ depressing new discovery about the brain.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes. Clearly this is what goes on as know-nothings rage against scientists and other professionals.

== SF prescience and fun…. ==

ClarkePredictPrescience from the 1960s: Arthur Clarke wrote, “We could be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be, where we can contact our friends anywhere on earth, even if we don’t know their actual physical location. It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London…”

In 1964, Isaac Asimov on the year 2014 —  “Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”

and “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.

On the other hand… there were some howlers from Asimov:  “The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes.”

And our final category today is “Not yet… but increasingly likely!”

“[V]ehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

and “Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors.”  Coming soon!

==New Collections Released==

TwelveTomorrowsTwelve Tomorrows” is the latest special science fiction issue of the MIT Technology Review, with vivid tales by Greg Egan, Nancy Kress, Allen Steele, Brian Aldiss, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Peter Watts, Nancy Fulda, and myself… along with other fine writers, all aimed at dealing with near-future possible trends or shocks in technology and its impact on human lives. My story, Insistence of Vision, leads off this terrific collectors’ volume.  It deals with a near future option offered by “specs” or googlasses, to replace prison as a punishment with something else. Something that is both better and more chilling.

shadows sunJust out: Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in honor of Gene Wolfe, with contributions from Neil  Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Jack Dann, Michael Swanwick, Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Mike Resnick, and Todd McCaffrey… oh, and me too, with one of my best stories yet! All in the spirit of honoring one of the all-time greats of Science Fiction. See the book review on the Tor site. If you’re not familiar with Gene Wolfe, sample some of his best, with his excellent short story collection: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories.

== Final SF’nal Miscellany ==

Hugo-nominated author Jim Hines has a new novel Libriomancer in which the urban mage can pull items or characters from any book.  Clever idea!  Read an interview on Wired about why he decided not to pull a black hole out of EARTH.  Interesting fellow!

Here’s a wonderfully funny riff on how dangerous humans might seem to aliens, e.g.  REMOVING A LIMB MAY NOT FATALLY INCAPACITATE HUMANS: ALWAYS DESTROY THE HEAD…

and…

WARNING: HUMANS CAN DETECT YOU EVEN AT NIGHT BY TRACKING VIBRATIONS THROUGH THE ATMOSPHERE.

and my own contributions…

HUMANS CAN SEE ALL THE WAY INTO THE “BLUE”!

and…

HUMANS CAN COOPERATE LIKE HIVE BEINGS AND THEN OPERATE SOLO LIKE MANTISES! THEY CAN RUN IN THE NOONDAY SUN AND STAY COOL. THEY CAN PICK UP SMALL OBJECTS AND “THROW” THEM AT AMAZING DISTANCES AND SPEEDS.  worst of all, THEY ARE CAPABLE OF EMPATHIZING WITH YOUR OFFSPRING, RAISING THEM AS THEIR OWN AND TURNING THEM AGAINST YOU!

And finally… MechaWhales.  Seriously man?  MechaWhales?  Aw geez… and I don’t get a piece of this?  Even an action figure?  Mechawhales.  Fun. And I’ll hold back till they’re raking it in….

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