Science (fiction) doesn’t have to be believable?


sci fi movie postersI recently encountered a Facebook post by an author of a science fiction novel based around the idea of global cooling.  He had discovered a website of climate theorists, the Space and Science Research Center, whose opinions roughly matched those of his book, and was proud to point out the connection.

Unfortunately, the SSRC is an avowed anti-warming group, whose theories are not backed by actual scientific data:

“The Space and Science Research Center (SSRC) is (apparently) a for-profit company located in Orlando, FL. They appear to have an anti-global warming agenda, though their arguments have yet to be examined in detail. They present an appearance of scientific grounding, but they do not seem to have any peer-reviewed papers on their theories.” (From Issuepedia)

I politely pointed this out, and added that “although it’s nice to take your SF from the headlines, one should caution whose headlines are being read…”

However, my point was essentially ignored by other posters, including the author, all of whom expressed little or no concern about whether the science in the story was actually correct.  One such poster lauded the author, and added:

“I suspect your book will be much better fiction than anything peddled by the SSRC. Science does not have to be believable, as long as your characters are.”

When I read that, a small part of me died inside. Continue reading

Robert McCall, inspirational master of the space painting


Gizmodo has posted a fantastic series of 27 works from the master of space painting, Robert McCall.  McCall’s realistic, documentary-style paintings have been seen on everything from Hollywood posters (most notably for 2001: A Space Odyssey) to promotional materials by NASA.  And this set doesn’t include my personal favorite, Apollo On The Moon, depicting a lunar lander and astronaut standing on the Moon, with Earth in the background.

For those young’uns of you: These are among the most inspirational visual works depicting space and space exploration of the 1960s and 70s, the paintings that turned many a child’s eye inexorably skyward… including my own.

Robert McCall

Space Opera: It’s the (stupid) science

space opera

The trappings of space opera are beautifully illustrated here.

The recent arguments over the merits of Interstellar (is it good SF, is it crappy, is it too serious, is the science BS, etc, etc) has been ringing in my ears this week.  One poster even tried to label Interstellar as space opera.  Which reminded me of a post in IO9 a few months back about space opera and its merits.  Part of the discussion revolved around what, exactly, is considered space opera. Continue reading

Futurist’s review: Interstellar


InterstellarInterstellar, the Christopher Nolan movie (co-written by himself and Jonathan Nolan), is the sort of science fiction movie that comes along very seldom these days… unfortunately for all of us.  In an entertainment market that will go out of its way to throw boy wizards, zombies and Klingons at ravenous audiences—but turn up its nose when someone offers real scientific content—Interstellar strives to hit some notes that are rarely touched by Hollywood anymore.  But as those science notes are nested within some of the more well-known notes preferred by Pop Movie 101 aficionados, this movie does a great job hitting the right notes at the right times.

(Spoiler-free review follows) Continue reading

My list of the greatest SF moments in TV and cinema


enterprise_in_drydock_600Lists.  We love ’em, we make ’em, we argue over ’em, we share ’em.  And every now and then, we see a list that just demands that we respond with: “That’s a nice list; but here’s what it should have had…”

A recent list (on The Observation Deck) of the greatest science fiction moments that made you “weep for joy” made me think of SF’s greatest visual moments from my memory, and I realized that my list couldn’t include just F@&# YEAH! moments, but heartbreaking moments as well.  After all, SF’s greatest trait is its ability to make you rethink your world, and that doesn’t just come from cool explosions.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, is my list of the greatest SF (visual) moments of TV and cinema, and how they impacted me. Continue reading

Have you been to the Sci-Fi Airshow?


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Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End would make EPIC movies


Childhood's EndScience fiction fans love to debate about which beloved SF books would make good movies… or which would make bad movies.  Among the books that fans usually seem to agree could not be made into good movies, two of my favorites inevitably come up, both by Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End; and Rendezvous with Rama.  Whenever I hear this, I have to laugh.  Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was developed from a “one-gag” short story (a weird monolith found on the Moon sends a message to the stars), but look what Stanley Kubrick did with that.  And no, we don’t need another Kubrick to do justice with Rama and Childhood.  All we need is a bit of imagination.

So, without further ado, here are some notes on how both books could be turned into fantastic movies. Continue reading

SF has cycled back to the “Star Wars” era. Again.


space battleScience fiction, like many other things, enjoys cycles.  In SF’s case, those cycles usually involve the relative popularity of science itself: Exploring physics and extrapolating on reality, to discover or speculate more about ourselves and the universe we live in.  When the science part of SF is up, we get novels by scientist-authors like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov; we get movies like 2001: A Space Obyssey, The Andromeda Strain and Soylent Green; we get TV series like Star Trek.

When science is down, we get space battles.  We see an abandonment of concepts like science and physics, in exchange for showy action and eye-candy.  We get movies like Star Wars and TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, and we see video games that are devoted to first-person shooters.  More cerebral content, like the movie Solaris or the TV series Caprica, quickly get dumped in favor of The Fifth Element, Aliens or Warehouse 13.

We even see science-embracing shows, like Star Trek, rebooted as science-ignorant shows. Continue reading