New Scientist's Science fiction special: The future of a ...
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Author:  Roy [ Sat Nov 22, 2008 11:56 pm ]
Post subject:  New Scientist's Science fiction special: The future of a ...

Here's the link. What do you think of their hot new writers to watch out for? I list them here.
Sandra McDonald
Tobias S Buckell
Walter H Hunt
Josh Conviser

The top five films by reader votedidn't include "12 Monkeys". Top book was "Dune"

Author:  Foxie [ Sun Nov 23, 2008 9:17 am ]
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Interesting stuff. I was surprised to see Serenity on the list. Not because of my personal opinion of it (less than favorable), but because it didn't pitch itself at the normal sci-fi market (by which I mean the part of the sci-fi market which votes in New Scientist polls). Perhaps it's one of those secret, guilty pleasures of 'real' sci-fi fans, like Labyrinth is for fantasy types.

Was also interested to see that their 'Authors to Watch' were all involved in writing series of books. Has the stand-alone novel gone out of fashion? Is Harry Potter to blame, or is there little sense in trying something different when you know the same will sell?

Just my thoughts...

Author:  Djibril [ Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:09 pm ]
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Well obviously the audience of the New Scientist is very different from the science fiction fandom at large, so the fact that these poll results are skewed is an interesting datum in itself. One might have expected there to be more hard-sf than usual in these lists, but that doesn't seem to have been the case. I suppose Dune is kind of hard by today's standards, although it's almost science fantasy really.

I think Serenity was popular among scientifically minded and educated scifi fans because it was a thoughtful sort of science fiction. Not "hard" as such, but respectful to science and even more importantly respectful to the viewers (no sound in space, no plot-McGuffins, no breaking its own rules...).

Having said this, I was surprised by the selection as a whole. I'd like to do some more thinking about why this particular sub-demographic of science fiction fandom (or of scientists who just happen to have an opinion about scifi) shows the tendencies it does. Is age a factor? Socio-economic status? Education?

(I reviewed this article in TFF-Reviews--link below--but didn't have an answer to this question there either.)

Author:  Mike A [ Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:44 pm ]
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'Blade Runner' is the only one that would make my personal top 5. Well, maybe 'Forbidden Planet' at a push. I'd make a case for 'Pitch Black', 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' (which IS SF, even if not marketed as such), and Tarkovsky's 'Solaris'.

Surprised by the lack of H.G. Wells in the book list!

Author:  Roy [ Mon Nov 24, 2008 6:10 pm ]
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"Alien" would be in my list along with "12 Monkeys".

Author:  Djibril [ Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:21 pm ]
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Pitch Black: +1

Alien: +1

Eternal Sunshine: -1. Yes, that was SF. No it wasn't all that good. The basic premise was very cool, and very timely, but just not all that well executed. They spent so long having Jim Carey running around in his childhood home making rubber faces, that they never got around to exploring all the really interesting issues.

Tarkovsky's Solaris: +1, although actually his Stalker may knock that one out of my top five. That film rocks. Totally. One of the most inspiring films ever... I actually have childhood memories of that film that I didn't realise until many years later when I saw it for what I thought was the first time. Stunning. A ten-minute scene with no action, no dialogue, and no camera movement that is relentlessly tense and powerful. Most incredible cinematography.

12 Monkeys: sits with _Matrix_ for me in the category of films that seemed terrible original when I first watched them, but didn't survive the second viewing. Some cool ideas, but pretty shallow in execution.

Author:  Foxie [ Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:00 am ]
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'Eternal Sunshine' is one of those ones I never understand why people put in these lists. Wonderful idea and story, but what's with the subplot? Two teens get stoned and jump around in their underwear while wiping memories? Bad show.

The original Terminator must have a showing, surely, along with Robocop. Terminator, for me, was the first time a film introduced me to the 'man vs. machines' war in the future, time travel, salvation, Sarah Conor as an innocent dragged in by destiny... And Robocop may have had a vast body count, but also some brilliant satire.

Author:  Rasputin_Zero [ Thu Nov 27, 2008 5:24 pm ]
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I would have voted "The Day the Earth Stood Still" into my top five, if not strictly for its scientific content as much as the sheer audacity of making a quiet, thoughtful rumination on human progress and a reflective call for peace in a 1950s Hollywood sci-fi flick. I haven't seen the remake, and can't really bring myself to do so.

I have to honest and say I found "Dune" a chore to read. Frank Herbert is an excellent ideas man, but I thought his literary style was clunky and obvious.

Author:  Tony [ Thu Nov 27, 2008 7:47 pm ]
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Foxie wrote:
'Eternal Sunshine' is one of those ones I never understand why people put in these lists.

Agreed. Very over-rated film... It's little more than a PKD soap, really.

Author:  Mike A [ Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:44 pm ]
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I think it does more justice to PKD's ideas than many a PKD-adaptation. 'Total Recall', for example, which should have been called 'Total Sh**e'. :wink:

Author:  Djibril [ Fri Nov 28, 2008 11:49 pm ]
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While I agree about Total Shite, I don't see what was particularly PKD about Eternal Sunshine. It wasn't about self-identity, or social/political repression, or mind-bending revelations. If anything it was about the futility of trying to forget the past, and the importance of persistance in making love work. Apart from the memory erasure idea, which I liked partly because of how timely it was (treatments for PTSD working on the same principle were reported in the popular science press starting that year) I didn't think much of the plot, which was kind of predictable rom-com fare.

But I'm intrigued, Mike; tell me what's PKD about it. I may have to give it a second chance. (The TFF reviewer obviously liked it better than I did.)

Author:  Roy [ Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:38 pm ]
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I think you were unfair on Total R. Suppose it had finished at the point where Arnie and partner were stranded on the surface and subject to vacuum decompression. If they had died at that point and the new Martian atmosphere had taken, say, another 100 years to get to a life supporting state it would have been quite a respectable SF movie.

I often wondered if that stupid ending had been tacked on following a director/producer/star/marketing bust up.

Author:  Tony [ Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:08 pm ]
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Roy wrote:
I think you were unfair on Total R...
I often wondered if that stupid ending had been tacked on

I'm a big fan of Verhoeven's TR. Yes, its action is pure OTT Arnie, but there's enough quirky PKD twists for it to benefit from repeat viewings... Psych trick/ test: is Arnie's hero a brilliant agent or is it more likely that remember-it-for-you-wholesale plot's just an implant?
Also, that happy-ending actually works - if you view it as Arnie's schizo-damaged sanity collapsing into fantasy (much like the 'escape' sequence near the ending of Brazil): it perfectly depicts how Rekall's sales-rep claims Arnie's *virtual* adventure will end!

Author:  Mike A [ Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:53 pm ]
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Djibril wrote:
While I agree about Total Shite, I don't see what was particularly PKD about Eternal Sunshine. It wasn't about self-identity, or social/political repression, or mind-bending revelations.

Well it's been a while, so I probably remember my response to the movie better than the movie itself. But the key thing here is surely memory - the importance of memory to identity, and paranoia about whether one's memory can be trusted. This is a major PKD theme, most famously explored in 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' but also in earlier short stories like 'We can remember it for you wholesale' and even 'Impostor' (incidentally I thought the film of the latter was a fairly decent PKD adaptation). Come to think of it, Dick tackles the theme again later in 'Flow my tears, the policeman said', where the protagonist's memories seem completely at odds with the reality in which he finds himself.

The major difference between PKD's approach and Charlie Kaufman's is that Dick tends to deal with memory insertion, whereas Kaufman is dealing with excision.

There is also the angle about how, if you cut yourself off from painful emotions, you lose an important part of yourself. That's the major argument of the film, and, I think, a key argument in PKD. In particular, I'm thinking of Deckard's dislike of the Penfield mood organ in the opening chapter of 'Do Androids Dream...', and also the somewhat masochistic religion of 'Mercerism', that seems to be all about a mass shared experience of suffering. To Dick, and I think Kaufman, authenticity is more important than comfort, and suffering (and the empathy that goes along with it) is part of what makes us human.

Author:  Djibril [ Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:31 pm ]
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Okay, yes; I see how some of these are Dickian themes, and I have to say that despite my criticism of the film I did think Eternal Sunshine raised some very interesting issues (I just didn't think it did so very well).

The main difference I see between this film and the way Dick does the same thing, however, is that Dick would tell you the story from the point of view of the person with the memory problem (inserted, or erased, or manufactured, or whatever) thus drawing the reader/viewer into the state of existential panic as the protagonist. The film shows us the backstory, thus removing almost any drama and tension from the story at all. This tactic also means that there is an obvious "truth" behind the confused/confusing perceptions of the characters, rather than just blowing away the surface assumptions and leaving us to wrestle with several possible "truths", or merely the fact that things are not always what they appear. Dick's approach is much more satisfying, and more useful, than simply replacing one truth with another.

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