July 2010 Archives
July 28, 2010
I first heard about Christopher Nolan before seeing any of his films as he was interviewed in The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. At that point he was saying that new film-makers needed interesting structure in films to get noticed, and this was what he did in his first film, Following. I've still never seen Following, but have seen everything he has made since, including the brilliant brain strain Memento, the excellent adaptation of The Prestige and the wonderful The Dark Knight.
Whilst the trailers for Inception focused on the blockbuster elements of the film: nice special effects and Leonardo DiCaprio; much of the hype has been about the film's complexity and "intelligence". Well, it's not a stupid film, that's for sure, it doesn't dumb down, it doesn't try to be too clever, it just tells a story and expects you to follow along. And following along isn't very hard, those people who got lost really do need to exercise their brain more. At most there are five concurrent plots, although really they are just different perspectives of the same plot. Each thread is interwoven, yes, but it's not difficult to see which is which. It's nowhere near the mental workout of Memento, and doesn't come close to the mind spinning after-effect of watching Primer. And then there's literature: five plots in Mona Lisa Overdrive, ten in River Of Gods, and there's more. SF readers can cope with complexity.
What it does do however is deliver an effective thriller.
So let's forget about the complexity hype, because what worked for me best were the action sequences and the pacey plot. The dream gravity fight sequences were some of the most original since The Matrix. The multiple threads intertwine effectively to ratchet up the tension, the action is surprising and even The Matrix-like exposition is entertaining. On top of that is the noisy score harrumphing along in a not very subtle but fun way, which combined with the visuals spell BLOCKBUSTER.
There was one negative point, from the start I thought I had guessed the ending and didn't need the large signposts, however the film delivered a slightly different ending which was not terrible but was deliberate and made me groan.
Was it Science Fiction? Yes, I think four layers of dreams count as that. Which probably makes it the best and biggest SF film of the year.
I enjoyed it. Fun. But if you think it's complicated watch Memento or Primer.
July 25, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 23, 2010
SF Signal has been going for seven years.
And congratulations to everyone involved in what continues to be an impressive Science Fiction blog, that every SF fan should read.
July 20, 2010
At this month's BSFA meeting in London, Lauren Beukes (author of Moxyland and Zoo City) will be interviewed by Jonathan McCalmont (blogger and reviewer). The full details are here, it's in London, free and starts at 7pm on Wednesday 28th July 2010.
I haven't figured out whether I can make it or not, but I want to, should be a good interview.
Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard, is the perfect accompaniment to this slightly hotter and dryer than usual Summer we are having in the UK. It's a collection of stories set in a resort on the edge of a desert lake. The resort is fading, it's best days behind it, the occupants are jaded and searching for better times, the stories evoke images of hot lazy days with small twists of oddness. And, despite being published in 1971, only one of the stories feels a bit dated mainly due to the use of automated poetry machines. (Great idea though.)
The stories are linked by their setting, and I inferred that they are chronological with regards to Vermilion Sands. Whether that's true or not they flow nicely into one another. All of them have some slightly odd idea at their centre, whether it's sculpting art in clouds with gliders, creating statues that sing, or houses that morph to their owners mood. The characters are often searching for something, restless and wanting. Intriguing even.
As you would expect with Ballard, the writing is great, evocative and illuminating, with paragraphs that I loved reading more than once. The sort of stuff I want to clip somewhere and keep as quotes to aspire to.
Strangely I found myself falling asleep a lot when reading these stories, as though the essence of Vermilion Sands had infected me and I was dozing away the days as a has-been film star. I can't quite explain it, because I enjoyed the stories immensely.
I know have the urge to seek out more Ballard. Once this hot, lazy summer has passed by this fading town.
July 13, 2010
For the first fourty or so pages, after the prologue, I had a nagging feeling that The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod reminded me of someone else: hints of wannabe Nick Hornby maybe? Not quite. Shades of Douglas Coupland? Not really. Then it hit me: Iain Banks, some of his older mainstream fiction, with one big downside, it wasn't as good.
The prologue to The Restoration Game is a big signpost, heavy handedly setting up the novel. It might have been brilliant if the novel had wanted to be Science Fiction, but it doesn't, it wants to be a post-cold war political intrigue thriller. It wants to be Frederick Forsyth or Robert Harris. The wrapper of Science Fiction, is to me, a thin bubble and an attempt at sleight of hand. I can foresee the disagreements, one could argue that the SF premise is at the heart of the novel, but it never felt like that to me. And unfortunately it doesn't do enough to satisfy as a spy thriller: not enough action to compare to Ludlum, not enough intrigue for Forsyth, not enough slow burning espionage for Deighton. It's compromised by pretending to be something else.
Instead we get the story of a woman who grew up in the ex-Soviet backwater of Krassnia. Whose mother worked for the CIA. Whose father could be one of three people, all mixed up with political espionage. Who works for a videogames company. The espionage elements aren't handled too well either, with large infodumps, including finding an old dossier that just spells everything out for us.
It's different from The Execution Channel in that, without the SF element that book still hands up as a decent near future take of terrorism and war. The SF element takes it to another level, because it's so unexpected and joyous. All the SF in The Restoration Game is spelt out in large letters, modern culture referenced obviously, clues chucked out in big buckets. Yeah, yeah, it's Turtles all the way down. Hasn't this all been said before? And better?
The Restoration Game is the third of Ken MacLeod's novels which begin with "The". It's clear now that they are not a trilogy despite the naming and the similar red and black artwork on the covers. The links between them are weak and nothing more than the fact that they are near(ish) future, on Earth. And, The Restoration Game is by far the weakest of the three.
I feel the urge to read the amazing Star Fraction again....
July 12, 2010
The BBC have just released a press release about the Doctor Who Christmas special. What already?! Bit early isn't it?
Stephen Moffat says:
Actor supreme Michael Gambon is in the episode as is opera singer Katherine Jenkins. Not sure why an opera singer is in Doctor Who? Perhaps she'll do some singing?"Oh, we're going for broke with this one. It's all your favourite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters and the Doctor and a honeymoon and - oh, you'll see. I've honestly never been so excited about writing anything. I was laughing madly as I typed along to Christmas songs in April. My neighbours loved it so much they all moved away and set up a website demanding my execution. But I'm fairly sure they did it ironically."
Filming starts in August. Yes, they haven't even started filming yet and there's a press release.
July 8, 2010
The one's on bold I've read: 29 of them.
The one's I own are in italics: 42 of them (!). So still a few on the shelf then.
1 - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
2 - I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
3 - Cities in Flight - James Blish
4 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
5 - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
6 - Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delany
7 - Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
8 - The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Gene Wolfe
9 - Gateway - Frederik Pohl
10 - The Rediscovery of Man - Cordwainer Smith
11 - Last and First Men - Olaf Stapledon
12 - Earth Abides - George R. Stewart
13 - Martian Time-Slip - Philip K. Dick
14 - The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
15 - Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
16 - The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
17 - The Drowned World - J. G. Ballard
18 - The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
19 - Emphyrio - Jack Vance
20 - A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick
21 - Star Maker - Olaf Stapledon
22 - Behold the Man - Michael Moorcock
23 - The Book of Skulls - Robert Silverberg
24 - The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
25 - Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
26 - Ubik - Philip K. Dick
27 - Timescape - Gregory Benford
28 - More Than Human - Theodore Sturgeon
29 - Man Plus - Frederik Pohl
30 - A Case of Conscience - James Blish
31 - The Centauri Device - M. John Harrison
32 - Dr. Bloodmoney - Philip K. Dick
33 - Non-Stop - Brian Aldiss
34 - The Fountains of Paradise - Arthur C. Clarke
35 - Pavane - Keith Roberts
36 - Now Wait for Last Year - Philip K. Dick
37 - Nova - Samuel R. Delany
38 - The First Men in the Moon - H. G. Wells
39 - The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clarke
40 - Blood Music - Greg Bear
41 - Jem - Frederik Pohl
42 - Bring the Jubilee - Ward Moore
43 - VALIS - Philip K. Dick
44 - The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin
45 - The Complete Roderick - John Sladek
46 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Philip K. Dick
47 - The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells
48 - Grass - Sheri S. Tepper
49 - A Fall of Moondust - Arthur C. Clarke
50 - Eon - Greg Bear
51 - The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson
52 - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K. Dick
53 - The Dancers at the End of Time - Michael Moorcock
54 - The Space Merchants - Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth
55 - Time Out of Joint - Philip K. Dick
56 - Downward to the Earth - Robert Silverberg
57 - The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick
58 - The Penultimate Truth - Philip K. Dick
59 - Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg
60 - Ringworld - Larry Niven
61 - The Child Garden - Geoff Ryman
62 - Mission of Gravity - Hal Clement
63 - A Maze of Death - Philip K. Dick
64 - Tau Zero - Poul Anderson
65 - Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
66 - Life During Wartime - Lucius Shepard
67 - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm
68 - Roadside Picnic - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
69 - Dark Benediction - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
70 - Mockingbird - Walter Tevis
71 - Dune - Frank Herbert
72 - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
73 - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
74 - Inverted World - Christopher Priest
75 - Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle
76 - H.G. Wells - The Island of Dr. Moreau
77 - Arthur C. Clarke - Childhood's End
78 - H.G. Wells - The Time Machine
79 - Samuel R. Delany - Dhalgren (July 2010)
80 - Brian Aldiss - Helliconia (August 2010)
81 - H.G. Wells - Food of the Gods (Sept. 2010)
82 - Jack Finney - The Body Snatchers (Oct. 2010)
83 - Joanna Russ - The Female Man (Nov. 2010)
84 - M.J. Engh - Arslan (Dec. 2010)
July 7, 2010
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Christopher Nolan's new film, Inception, which appears to be about crashing into people's dreams.
Why is it DiCaprio's first science fiction film?
"I have a bit of an aversion to science fiction," he said at a recent press conference for the film, "because it's hard for me to emotionally invest in worlds that are too far detached from worlds that I know."
But director Chris Nolan's science fiction scenes, he says, "are deeply rooted in things we've seen before. There are cultural references. It feels like a world that's tactile and we can jump into. It's not too much of a leap of faith to make."
So Leo has a lack of imagination and can't cope with anything he doesn't know?!
Via USA Today