Intrigued by the trolley problem? Here is a link to the full text of Michael Moorcock's 1971 SF novel Breakfast in the Ruins. Moral conundrums at the end of every chapter for you. [more inside]
The beta version of the SFE (The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction) has just gone live (blog - What is a beta text? Some philosophy, Some history…)
Margaret Atwood defines science fiction "Is [the term science fiction] a corral with real fences that separate what is clearly 'science ﬁction' from what is not, or is it merely a shelving aid, there to help workers in bookstores place the book in a semi-accurate or at least lucrative way? If you put skin-tight black or silver clothing on a book cover along with some jetlike ﬂames and/or colourful planets, does that make the work 'science ﬁction'? What about dragons and manticores, or backgrounds that contain volcanoes or atomic clouds, or plants with tentacles, or landscapes reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch? Does there have to be any actual science in such a book, or is the skin-tight clothing enough? These seemed to me to be open questions."
To paraphrase a character in the film, The Black Hole walks "a tightrope;" if not between "genius" and "insanity," then certainly between "genius" and "banality". If you're looking at this movie as a Manichean exercise between darkness and light, then you can -- for at least a few hours -- entertain the "genius" part of that equation.
An office space right out of sci fi by Kubrick. Apparently, the employees at SuperGroup are all science fiction fans. So they hired a design firm to turn their office into something out of 2001 A Space Odyssey and Star Trek.
Logan's Run is a 1976 science fiction film... It depicts a dystopian future society in which population and the consumption of resources are managed and maintained in equilibrium by the simple expediency of killing everyone who reaches the age of thirty, preventing overpopulation. (related 2004 post worth clicking through for) [more inside]
The 69th Worldcon (world science fiction convention) starts today ! Worldcon is the yearly convention at which the Hugo awards are voted upon by the membership. [more inside]
For sale: Philip K Dick's Bible, with handwritten annotations.
NOON, 22ND CENTURY. The research vessel Pegasus is getting ready for liftoff from a spaceport near Moscow. Its small crew of three comprises interplanetary zoologist Dr. Seleznev, his adventurous nine-year-old daughter Alisa, and the terminally pessimistic Captain Zeleny. As they search for rare animal specimens to expand the Moscow zoo's collection, they will discover which of the ferocious tigerat's two tails is longer, save a planet of robots from a paralyzing epidemic, and deliver a modestly sized birthday cake. [more inside]
"The contemporary setting and concerns of "The Steam Arm" are a very great distance from the Gothic setting and tropes of much 1830s horror fiction, and its science fictional content makes it possibly unique."
Traveller is a series of related science fiction role-playing games, the first published in 1977 by Game Designers' Workshop and subsequent editions by various companies remaining in print to this day. (previously)
Rocky Star was a 1990s Australian TV show that had actors lip-syncing along with a 1950s Flash Gordon-esque radio play. Mostly forgotten by absolutely everyone, two of the twenty episodes have recently turned up on youtube.
Out Of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It is an exhibition at the British Library exploring the origins of Science Fiction, running until September. China Mieville takes a look at the exhibition for the BBC. (Out Of This World postcards - images from the exhibition) [more inside]
The Fiction Liberation Front: cyberpunk/slipstream/transreal author Lewis Shiner has released his collected writings under a Creative Commons license, including his award novels Frontera, Deserted Cities of the Heart, and Glimpses. Shiner may be best known for his inclusion in the seminal 1986 cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades, alongside the likes of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Rudy Rucker. A few years later he was pronouncing the movement dead.
The Edgewise Guide To Filmmaking. Screenwriter Lisa Morton kept a diary while making the very, very strange 1989 movie Meet The Hollowheads (trailer). The low-budget sci-fi/horror/social comment/sitcom takes place in a dystopian underground suburb whose entire infrastructure, operated by monopolist corporation United Umblicial, consists of flexible tubes which carry waste, energy, and slimy and sometimes still living comestibles. The movie, the one and only directorial effort of horror FX and make-up man Tom Burman, inspires confusion and dismay in most viewers. Hollowheads stars John Glover and features a 14-year-old Juliette Lewis, her big brother Lightfield, a musical instrument made out of a live chicken, an eyeball attached to a large intestine that lives in a glass tank, and an uncredited Bobcat Goldthwait as a lascivious cop, whose few lines include "When will children learn to just say no to butt polish?"
Finnish YouTube user Ishexan has uploaded seven English subtitled movies in parts: Broken Blossoms (1919), Aelita (1924), The Gipsy Charmer (1929), The Tragedy of Elina (1938), The Activists (1939), The Wooden Pauper's Bride (1944), and Sampo (1959), which is based on the epic poem The Kalevala. The films are mostly Finnish, though Aelita is a silent Russian sci-fi film, and Sampo was a joint Finnish and Soviet production. More film clips inside (mostly Finnish documentaries and "dorky musical numbers"). [more inside]
Fans of George RR Martin's "The Song of Ice and Fire" series are eagerly awaiting "A Dance With Dragons", the next book. This anticipation has led to hostility from some fans as to Martin's work ethic and the manner in which he spends his personal time.
"Welcome to the Zion Archive. You have selected Historical File #12-1: The Second Renaissance." So begins the short film of the same name by Mahiro Maeda [Flash: 1 2 - QuickTime: 1 2] -- a devastating yet beautiful work of animation. Originally produced to explain the backstory behind the Matrix trilogy, Maeda's project ended up telling a story far darker and more affecting than any blockbuster. Using a blend of faux documentary footage and visual metaphor, his serene Instructor relates in biblical tones the saga of Man and Machine, how age-old cruelty and hatred birthed a horrifying, apocalyptic struggle that consumed the world. Packed with striking imagery and historical allusions galore, this dark allegory easily transcends the films it was made for. But while "The Second Renaissance" is arguably the best work to come from the Matrix franchise, it's hardly alone -- it's just one of the projects made for The Animatrix, a collection of nine superb anime films in a wide variety of styles designed to explore the universe and broaden its scope beyond the usual sci-fi action of the movies. Click inside for a guide to these films with links to where they can be watched online, along with a look at The Matrix Comics, a free series of comics, art, and short fiction created for the same purpose by some of the best talent in the business. [more inside]
Starship Schematics Database: dedicated to the sole purpose of archiving every single starship design ever conceived in the Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, and Space Battleship Yamato (A.K.A. Star Blazers in the USA) Universes, both official and unofficial, interesting and mediocre.
"Let's do those drive-in totals. We have: Nineteen dead bodies (plus fragments). Ten breasts (shame on you, TNT censors). Two zombie breasts. One-hundred twenty-five zombies. Mummy dogs. One-half zombie dog. Ten gallons blood. Brain-eating. Gratuitous embalming. Zombie fu. Nekkid punk-rocker fondue. Gratuitous midget zombie. Torso S&M. One motor vehicle chase (totalled by zombies). Pool cue fu. No aardvarking. Heads roll. Brains roll. Arms roll. Hands roll. Joe Bob says, Check It Out." Only on MonsterVision. [more inside]
Six or seven stances science fiction movies take towards science. From John Holbo at Crooked Timber. [more inside]
Ted Chiang is perhaps the finest author in contemporary science fiction -- and the most rarefied. A technical writer by trade and a graduate of the distinguished Clarion Writers Workshop, Chiang has published only twelve short stories in the last twenty years, one dozen masterpieces of the genre whose insightful, precise, often poetic language confronts fundamental ideas -- intelligence, consciousness, the nature of God -- and thrusts them into a dazzling new light. Click inside for a complete listing of Chiang's work, with links to online reprints or audio recordings where available, as well as a collection of one-on-one interviews, links to his nonfiction essays, and a few other related sites and articles. [more inside]
Pulp Fiction is an exhibition of (mostly) Australian pulp novel and magazine covers from the University of Otago Special Collections Library. (NSFW)
Just in time for the 30th anniversary of the movie's release, The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back chronicles the complete tale—from pre-release to blockbuster success — of what’s become the fan favorite of the Star Wars series. Vanity Fair presents an excerpt from the book: rarely seen photographs from the Empire Strikes Back set, annotated with behind-the-scenes details. They also have interviews with the book’s author, J. W. Rinzler, and the man behind Boba Fett’s mask, actor Jeremy Bulloch." On a lighter note, how about a Wampa Throw Rug, new from the folks at ThinkGeek?
Behind the opening scenes of Blade Runner. “Doug and his Entertainment Effects Group team created thousands of acid-etched brass miniatures lit from below with hundreds of bundles of fiber-optic lights, shot in forced-perspective through layers of smoke to create layers of light refraction, creating depth.” The first of a three-part series on the making of Blade Runner’s unforgettable opening sequence.
Snippets of poetry from the Imperium; a sample folk tale from the Oral History; brief biographies of over a dozen Duncan Idahos; two differing approaches to Paul Muad'Dib himself and to his son Leto II; Fremen recipes; Fremen history; secrets of the Bene Gesserit; the songs of Gurney Halleck -- these are just some of the treasures found when an earthmover fell into the God Emperor's no-room at Dar-es-Balat. Out of print for more than two decades, disavowed by Frank Herbert's estate, and highly sought-after by fans, the legendary Dune Encyclopedia is now available online as a fully illustrated and searchable PDF [direct link]. [more inside]
Futurama has always been a haven for geek humor, but last week's episode "The Prisoner of Benda" pushed things to the next level. First hinted at in an American Physical Society interview with showrunner David X. Cohen (previously), staff writer and mathematics Ph.D. Ken Keeler devised a novel mathematical proof based on group theory to resolve the logic puzzle spawned by the episode's brain-swapping (but no backsies!) conceit. Curious how it works? Read the proof (in the show or in plain text), then see it in action using this handy chart. Too much math for a lazy Sunday? Then entertain your brain with lengthy clips from the episode -- including two of the funniest moments in the series in the span of two minutes.
The whole of Mars' surface was shaped by liquid water around four billion years ago, say scientists. Scientists with the best names possible for the job. [more inside]
The Martians And Us a BBC documentary series on the history of British science fiction. Part 1 - 'From Apes To Aliens' (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Part 2 - 'Trouble In Paradise' (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Part 3 - The End Of The World As We Know It (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) [more inside]
In an exclusive interview with MTV, Ridley Scott releases further details on his latest project: two 3D Alien prequels, which will have a non-Ripley female lead and focus on the story behind the first movie's "Space Jockey." [more inside]
Pigs in Space appeared in over 30 Muppet Show episodes and spoofed contemporary science fiction television series. Most of them are now on YouTube or other video streaming sites. Links inside. [more inside]
"He surely had an indispensable role in the morphing of suburbia into disturbia in the cultural imagination, the real conception underlying the pretend-naïveté about the Sheppertons of the city and the mind--not only in the simple and tediously scandalous fact of his living there but in the power of his depicted suburbs too." China Mieville reviews J. G. Ballard's posthumous collection of short fiction.
He invented or popularized a startling array of the fundamental elements of film: the dissolve, the fade-in and fade-out, slow motion, fast motion, stop motion, double exposures and multiple exposures, miniatures, the in-camera matte, time-lapse photography, color film (albeit hand-painted), artificial film lighting, production sketches and storyboards, and the whole idea of narrative film.
By 1897, in a studio of his own design and construction – the first complete movie studio – his hand forged virtually everything on his screen. Norman McLaren writes, "He was not only his own producer, ideas man, script writer, but he was his own set-builder, scene painter, choreographer, deviser of mechanical contrivances, special effects man, costume designer, model maker, actor, multiple actor, editor and distributor." Also, his own cinematographer, and the inventor of cameras to suit his special conceptions. Not even auteur directors such as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, and Stanley Kubrick would personally author so many aspects of their films."Inside: 57 films by Georges Méliès, the Grandfather of Visual Effects. [more inside]
Famous Monsters of Filmland, the legendary genre magazine edited by the late Forrest J Ackerman (previously), will be resurrected by comic publisher IDW.
Stargate Universe ("SGU") premieres this evening in the US and Canada, on 10/6 in the UK and Ireland and in Australia on 10/9. Billed as "military scifi," the series is reportedly less campy than its predecessors and uses thematic elements which will seem familiar to Battlestar Galactica fans. Preview trailer. For US viewers, Hulu will be streaming the show a day after it airs. Reviews are mixed. Wikipedia.
King of an Endless Sky is a new graphic story by Teetering Bulb, AKA Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon. A new page every Thursday, published at Tor.com. [more inside]
Timelines: Time Travel in Popular Film and TV is a beautiful visualization of that most favored science fiction gimmick. For a more thorough, but less pretty, view of science fiction that messes with history, there is a chronology of when 1,800 different alternate history stories deviate from our own time line. Also, a brief look at the logic of time travel in science fiction, and how it should work.
Welcome to District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp turns his sci-fi short "Alive in Joburg" into a full-length feature film - examining xenophobia in an allegory of Apartheid, set in a slum recalling District 6 of Cape Town in South Africa.
John Anealio records songs inspired by science fiction and fantasy. Sing along about Cylons, Summer Glau (Firefly/Serenity), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and about how "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch" (previously).
28 years ago they came to Earth. Explore the world of District 9. Consider a career with Multi-National United. Find out about enhancing your math skills with DNA from outer space. Play the game. And learn the truth behind the lies.
Alien Nation is being revived for the SyFy channel by Tim Minear, whose previous credits include Firefly and Angel. [more inside]
Rules for Time Travelers [Spoiler? alert.]
StarshipSofa has podcasted all of the Nebula Best Short Story Nominees for 2008, following on from podcasting all but one of the 2008 BSFA short story nominees. Previous StarshipSofa.