Links for June 15, 2012

Here’s a further discussion on what exactly Meredith Vickers is.  (Spoilers at the link.)  Apparently my answer is not very popular.  Next week, in lieu of a post on a new film — since I’ve seen and reviewed everything that is currently out which would be pertinent to this blog — I’ll give my take on some of those arguments.

A great retrospective from io9 on the overlooked work of Fredric Brown.

Want to find alien life?  Search for Dyson spheres.

This has always been one of my favorite stories.  Michael Malloy’s resistance to death bordered on the supernatural.  Now you too can read and marvel at what it took to bring him down.  There must be a screenplay in here somewhere.

A video to send you on your way.

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Further Thoughts on Prometheus, and Meredith Vickers

On Monday, I uploaded my review of Prometheus.  Last night, I went to see it again in hopes of answering some of my more pressing questions.  In the process, I realized some of my criticisms were wrong, and so I appended a correction to my original review.  I also had half a dozen other questions crop up, however.  Those will be listed at the end of this post.

But while rewatching the movie, I not only revised one of my initial criticisms of Prometheus, I came up with a startling interpretation which would tie my revised observation together with two other facts in the movie related to the character of Meredith Vickers.  This is the sort of character revelation that I would hope is revealed in a sequel.  It was simply too good not to post about.  Someone else may already have seen the same thing I saw, but I solemnly swear that this post represents my own work, and is not stolen from anyone.

[Spoilers ahead.]

So, about Meredith Vickers: (more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm  Comments (8)  

Links for June 14, 2012: All About Writing

All links today courtesy of the invaluable SFSignal.com — you should make it a daily visit.

Want to write?  Don’t plan small, plan large.  Perhaps even a dozen books a year.  My prediction:  with Kindle, you’ll see more and more authors taking on this “serial” mentality.  Why not, after all?  Write twelve slim novels a year, sell an average of just 2000 copies of each at the now-standard $2.99 price, and your royalties will be over $45,000. (more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Europa off the Starboard Bow

When I was a young boy, I used to stand in my backyard and look at the moon.  There’s nothing unusual in that, of course.  I imagine that every young boy has done the same.  But I was a child steeped in the possibilities of the Space Age.  The moon was not an unreachable object.  I had met a man who had flown around it in orbit.  It was only a matter of time, I reckoned, until people were going up there to stay.  And I was firmly convinced that I would be one of them.  Going up to the moon to live and work, while taking vacations on Earth?  That should be possible by my old age, shouldn’t it?  When I would be thirty or so.

Thirty is just around the corner now, as far as the span of a lifetime is concerned.  And I am no closer to living on the moon.  Nor would I be if I were an astronaut of any country.  I never go into political issues on this blog – and I don’t intend to start now.  But I feel compelled at this point to mention a bipartisan complaint about the American government for surrendering control of the space race it was best equipped to lead, both by underfunding NASA and by forcing it to misappropriate the limited funds it does possess.  This is not a political issue.  It is instead a species imperative.  I consider it vital for humanity to colonize other bodies within our solar system as a first step toward exploring the stars and ensuring our long-term survival.

While I welcome the increased participation from the private sector in developing spaceflight technologies, it will take them some time to catch up.  But it seems increasingly probable that they will have to lead the way, especially because they possess a key advantage.  Many national governments have to answer to their citizens.  That is as it should be, but it also means that agendas shift with the prevailing political winds.  A company with a dedicated board of directors might be able to formulate and sustain an explorative agenda better than any government ever could.  This could lead to the restoration of what current space missions lack – an inspiring vision.

All of this is my way of setting the stage for this comment:  Look at this.  Wow. (more…)

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Do We Get New Readers of Speculative Literature?

Recently I have been grappling with this essay over at SFSignal.com.  I don’t mean to say I think it’s incomprehensible.  I understand it perfectly well, though I have to agree with those commenters who find it overwritten and far too academic.  I’m a believer in not muddying things up when you don’t have to.  The problem John H. Stevens is discussing can be stated much more plainly: what does it take for people to become readers of speculative fiction?  Do they have to learn a different way of approaching stories, a different set of reading skills than it takes to read their preferred genre?  Or do they have an innate distaste for speculative fiction because they simply don’t feel like they “get it” very well?

Neither of these hypotheses about “why” is nearly as interesting to me as a solution to the problem.  And after some thought, I believe I’ve come up with an idea that would make answering Stevens’s question unnecessary.  Whether the problem has to do with a learning curve or an aversion, the answer is the same:  acclimation.  Following are three ideas I came up with for introducing a friend to the wonderful world of speculative fiction. (more…)

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Links for June 12, 2012

Okay, so they’re taking great care in the update of Total Recall.  And to be fair, the trailer looks superb.  I will probably go see the movie, and I’ll probably even review it for this site, though I’m unhappy with the jettisoning of the Mars angle.  But the big question still remains.  Why update a film that was done so well?  I don’t think the time has yet arrived where “Because we can make it so much more cool” is a sufficient answer, though I’m willing to be proven wrong.

Robert Jackson Bennett explains the danger of cool ideas.  The short version:  those ideas can sabotage your story by taking it over or sending it off-course.  I learned a great deal in reading it, and I recommend it highly.

Two valuable pieces over at RevolutionSF.  First is a somewhat sarcastic look at the “adopted” joke in The Avengers.  My personal take:  this should be labeled a non-troversy.  While I don’t wish to devalue anyone’s feelings, those who were so greatly offended by Thor’s laugh line that they campaigned against it should probably devote a little more effort to solving the actual problems that adopted and foster children face.  (Full disclosure:  I was not adopted, nor was I a foster child.)

Second, a lovely retrospective on Ray Bradbury.

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

REVIEW: Prometheus

The first thing you’re likely to notice about Prometheus is the magnificent score by Marc Streitenfeld.  The title theme especially has strains of the questing heroic in it, as if it were trying to express the innate desire of humanity to break free from our natural shackles and finally find answers to the greatest questions ever posed.  It’s a masterful piece of music that simply doesn’t belong in this film, which is not so much dedicated to the proposition of asking the big questions as it is to being the film that finally answers the question:  What happened before the events of Alien?  That question, of course, is not so big.  At this point, it doesn’t need an answer.

The focus of Prometheus is disappointing for two reasons.  First, it was originally written to be a straight Alien prequel.  Then it was subsequently was it redrafted to feel more like its own film, a true science-fiction movie in the most exalted sense of that phrase.  The problem is that the story Jon Spaihts was originally hired to tell (the prequel) was so thoroughly reworked by the more original story of Damon Lindelof that the Alien bits now feel grafted onto a movie where they were supposed to be front and center.  Frankly, the film that occupied my attention for two-thirds of the running time is the film I’d rather see…the story about humans venturing into deep space in search of answers about our very existence is much more interesting.

Second, in answering the Alien prequel question, not only do the writers cop out of even offering hints at answers to the grander questions they invoke, they fail to provide real answers for many things that happen in the plot.  A person seeking to study the phenomenon Hitchcock labeled as the “icebox scene” should enthusiastically set to the task of studying Prometheus, which seems to offer them at a rate of one every ten minutes or so.  What keeps you from noticing them at the time is that the film is exceedingly well-directed, well-acted, and well-animated.  So much talent was assembled here to so compellingly present such a sloppy story.  It breaks my heart for the movie that could have been, if only the people involved had given up the Alien connection.  Still, I’m not sorry I saw Prometheus, even if it was ultimately less than I had hoped it would be.

Spoilers, as always, follow: (more…)

Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 11:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Like Prometheus with fire, I bring links to the masses

Have you seen Prometheus and were curious about a few things?  Here are some answers.

Have you not seen Prometheus and are wondering if you should?  Here’s a succinct and fair review from James over at Big Dumb Object.  For those interested, my own review will be out later this evening.

Do you not particularly care about Prometheus one way or the other?  Well, then, try one of these other questions:

Which female superheroes would be best to base a film on?

What crazy TV show concepts are we going to see from Syfy next?

What would Lego-Inception look like?

Will I ever talk about a book again on this site?

My answers:  Wonder Woman, “You watch those?” followed by an incredulous stare, Legorrific, and stay tuned.  This Friday I’ll be posting a review of the novel Mad Science Institute by Sechin Tower.

Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

REVIEW: Snow White and the Huntsman

There comes a moment late in the film Snow White and the Huntsman, as Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is showing some actual passion in attempting to rally the last free troops in her kingdom to march against the evil queen (Charlize Theron) who murdered her father and usurped his throne.  I was starting to get interested in spite of myself.  After having been a fairly passive presence during the first three quarters of the film, Stewart finally let loose with some assertiveness, and the result was interesting.  “Why couldn’t she have shown a tenth this much energy during any other part of the film?” I muttered to myself.

Then came the defining moment of the monologue.  “Who will be my brother?” asks Snow White.  Only she says it a little too emphatically.  And the crowd around her is a little too quick and unified in their response.  And the comment itself was a little too on-the-nose.  Shakespeare already wrote the definitive speech of this type, and that sentence was simply too close to it.  So much so, in fact, that immediately the words popped into my mind:  “Saint Kristen’s Day speech.”

I couldn’t help it.  I laughed.

Don’t misunderstand me.  There are quite a few merits to be found in Snow White and the Huntsman.  The film is well-shot and well-animated, at times gorgeous.  The costumes are rich and lush.  Most of the actors give performances of good to excellent quality, especially Charlize Theron in an almost perfectly-judged scenery-chewing turn as the villain.  But in the end, it’s not enough.  What we have here is a film that never really seems to get a handle on its reason for existing.  It wants to break away from the classic versions of “Snow White” that we all remember, but never totally manages to do so.  Add in the mis-casting of Kristen Stewart as the titular princess, which is (I think) the real reason the film never manages to coalesce, and we get an assembly of some intriguing parts into a disappointing less-than-whole. (more…)

I Sing the Body Eclectic (or, RIP Ray Bradbury)

Ray Bradbury was not my first science-fiction love; that was Isaac Asimov.  He was not the writer I read most compulsively; that was (and is) Orson Scott Card.  What Bradbury means to me can’t be captured in a simple label.  Except, perhaps, most human.

Some fiction inspires me.  Some amuses me.  Some unsettles me.  Bradbury frequently did all three, and he could move me from one to the other within the course of a single short piece.  I read Bradbury not to be exalted or brought low, but to come at life from another angle.  Often the reaction I have upon finishing a story or essay of his that I’ve never read is:  “I’ve thought that way!  But I could never put it into words.”

Bradbury gave me those words. (more…)

Published in: on June 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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