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Entries in Science Fiction (20)


Nerd Props To . . .

Nathaniel Hawthorne



How many of us read The Scarlet Letter in high school?  (Or was supposed to anyway, right?)  It’s a classic story of love, crime, punishment, and redemption.  While there are some creepy moments, and Hester’s daughter is often hinted at being a demon-spawn, there’s not really a whole bunch of sf or f going on in there.  So, is this early American scribe (and obvious Puritan-hater) really worthy of Nerd Props? 

Of course.

Hawthorne wrote some of earliest science fiction stories of American literature. Initially, “Young Goodman Brown” appears to simply be another anti-puritan rant, but it may be a dark, dark fantasy with witches and human sacrifice and the Devil . . . maybe.  On the more unambiguous front, “The Birthmark” explores the concept of altering a female’s appearance to meet the scientist’s conception of beauty, and “Rappaccini’s Daughter” delves into the consequences of what happens when a medical researcher raises his daughter to tend poisonous plants.   Both stories address the whole Frankensteinian-god-complex thing, but also, as with The Scarlet Letter – and most everything he wrote – they analyze and critique the nature of humanity.  Isn’t that with SF about anyway?


Nerd Props to . . .

 Mary Shelley



Everybody knows Mary Shelley as the author of that book most of us had to read in high school or college.  What most of us don’t do, is give credit where credit is due.  Yeah, she wrote Frankenstein, and EVERYONE knows Frankenstein – or thinks they do.  Most people mistakenly call the creation by the name Frankenstein, and that’s one of my big pet-peeves and I’m seriously restraining myself right now  . . .  . . .  . . . there . . .  . . .   . . . better . . . but have you ever stopped to consider how influential the novel has been on science fiction?  No, there’s not a lot of science in the book.  I can hardly recall any.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is that her presence resonates today in any story where man pushes the limits of knowledge, where man shirks the responsibility of his own doings.

I heard or read a comment (I don’t know where and that makes me sad) suggesting that any science fiction story is simply a retelling of Frankenstein.  I remember testing it.  Blade Runner, my favorite film, came immediately to mind.  Yeah, that one was easy: replicants same as the creation.  Then I thought – what about 2001: A Space Odyssey.  It’s nothing but symbolic mysticism stuff.  Hal.  Oh, yeah.  What about Gibson’s Neuromancer?  Okay.  How about Ender’s Game?  Check.  (How’s that, you ask?  Isn’t Ender himself a creation?)  Try it.  It’s fun and passes the time waiting at cons.  (I’m actually going to test it agains Ben Bova’s Grand Tour series as soon as I get this posted.) 

I would like to add that I feel bad not mentioning Shelley’s Last Man, in which she destroys humanity with a plague.  Sadly, it’s been lost beneath Frankenstein’s far-reaching shadow. 

So, nerd props to you, Mary Shelley!


Music of the Spheres: SF & F Inspired Rock

Rock & roll seems to have always been accepting of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Without even considering novelty songs of the fifties and sixties, there are plenty examples.  The Byrds were singing about spacemen and had adapted Clarke’s “The Sentinel” in the sixties.  By their second album, Zeppelin was rambling through Middle-earth.  Nearly everybody has heard, or at least knows, Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”  Nowadays, you got your Muses and Radioheads and even your Katy Perry-types chiming in.  The point being, it’s not new and there’s really too much out that for one soul to find on his or her own.  Luckily, this being the information age and all, most of the hard work has been done for us.

The following lists provide a variety of styles and artists.  There’s some overlap, of course, and there’s some wtfs.  All in all, however, they are worth a look. 

1. 100 Albums Every Science Fiction and Fantasy Fan Should Listen To  You may not have to go further than this one from i09.  This is actually the first of several articles covering a super-varied list.  There's artist here I've never heard of, and soundtracks I would never have considered.  From Ayreon to Ziggy, it's here. 

2.  Top 10 Best Sci-fi Inspired Rock Albums  No R&B or soundtracks here, just rock.

3.  The 23 Greatest Sci-Fi Songs of All Time I don't necessarily agree with its title, but the list is pretty solid and varied.

4.  The 15 Greatest Science Fiction-Based Pop/Rock Songs  Okay, this one has "Purple People Eater" on it.

There’s some missing items, I know.  I plan to address some of those at a future date, but please let us know any you happen to see missing.



Let the Southern Fandom Resource Guide Save You a Headache

If you’re like me, keeping up with all the conventions you’d like to go to can prove to be quite a bother.  I go to one big con a year – DragonCon in Atlanta – but I also enjoy going to some of the smaller ones that pop up throughout the year.  Seems like unless you know one by name, it can be a chore tracking those smaller ones down online.  In the past, I’ve stumbled across a few by accident, but that only happens a little more frequently than winning the lottery.  Luckily, everything changed when I found The Southern Fandom Resource Guide.

The SFRG offers a comprehensive listing of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Gaming, Comics, Anime and Pop Culture conventions across the southeast portion of the US, roughly from the Maryland/DC area down to portions of Texas.  Each con is listed by date and has a link to the con’s website.  The homepage presents a list of the newly listed ones, as well as those upcoming. 

The page was created by Kelly Lockhart, who continues to edit and update it on a weekly basis.  Be sure to check out the Facebook page, too.

The Southern Fandom Resource Guide is an informative, time-saver, and well worth a visit. 




Review: Chronicle (2012) Dir. Josh Trank

Chronicle Review

One of my favorite comics of the last few years is Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. It tells the story of a regular teenager coming in to his superpowers. The comic eschews normal comic book conflict in favor of real, human problems. Chronicle takes a similar approach but goes one step further, stripping away all but the most necessary components of a super-hero story (the super powers themselves). This is the story of three young men who discover they have super powers and have no one to turn to for help other than each other.

The characters in Chronicle are cut from a pretty broad cloth. The three teens fit nicely in to familiar categories: the troubled outcast, the jock, the preppy. The jock (Matt) provides the connection between the others; he is the cousin of our troubled teen (Andrew) and friends with the preppy (Steve). When these three get super powers after discovering a mysterious object, we would have to be pretty vapid not to know where things are going. Give a troubled, abused teen super powers and things are bound to get bad before long. Chronicle doesn’t have much in the way of surprises for us. The teens behave like we expect movie teens in their situation to behave. There is inevitability to Andrew’s decline that permeates the film even during the festive scenes when the teens are discovering all of their new abilities. I’ve heard it suggested that the film could have been improved simply by changing which character goes “bad,” but that doesn’t work for me as it isn’t too uncommon to see a jock or a preppy go bad in genre films, which tend to celebrate the outcasts and vilify the popular. I think the characters, as archetypal as they may be, work well enough, thanks, mainly, to solid performances by the three principal actors.

The film is the first for director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis, who both come to the project after beginning in television. It is an auspicious debut for both. Though I would certainly have rather seen Trank abandon or, at least, supplement the “found footage” format, he keeps things moving briskly and provides the viewer with dozens of memorable images. The action scenes and big set pieces are especially well-handled, but the small, intimate scenes also play well.  Perhaps that is helped along by Landis’s screenplay, which puts words in the characters’ mouths that you could actually imagine them saying, a rarity for genre films, and gets the core emotions of all three protagonists just right.  Here’s hoping we can keep both of these gentlemen working in genre film for a while at least.  Does the Invincible project still need a director? a sceenplay?

Chronicle isn’t a perfect picture by any means.  I really disliked the poetic license the film took in order to get a camera in every scene (though the blending of hand-held and security cam footage was handled well).  Every character not among the main three was completely flat and uninteresting.  Still, despite those problems, the film was very enjoyable.   I especially enjoyed the section in which the teens were learning what all they were capable of, and, especially, the amazing talent show.  With any luck, getting such a solid genre picture in the wasteland that is February releases means we have a very good year to look forward to.   


Score:  8.5/10