Best 21st century sci-fi movies? Not quite, Rolling Stone.

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best 21st century sci-fi Rolling Stone magazine did an okay job with their top 20 sci-fi movies of the 21st century list. (Let’s just keep calm, ignore the fact that the 21st century has only had 15 years in it so far, and carry on.)

There’s one obvious thing about the movies that I have to nitpick right off, and it comes in one word:

Monsters.

See, to me, monsters aren’t sci-fi; they are fantasy.  Because they are hands-down impossible and/or stupid.  And, therefore, have no business in a sci-fi list.  Move them to some list that includes ghosts, wizards and hobbits.  That means that certain movies should be removed from this list.  The biggest offenders are:

  • The Host
  • Cloverfield
  • Monsters (duh)
  • Reign of Fire (a close one, admittedly; but since it’s based on the idea that dragons have always existed, and just recently awoke from hibernation—and no archeologist has yet to find a sleeping dragon or the species’ fossils—I am forced to add this to the fantasy monster list.)

Which leaves us a list of 16 movies.  Which is good, because I know just which movies were omitted from the Rolling Stone list that I would add to create a well-rounded 20 monster-free sci-fi movies.  Continue reading

Plans for 2015: ???

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2015As a new year approaches, I find myself in a familiar position: Reflecting on the past year, I have to ask myself, “Am I gonna continue this insanity for another year?  Or am I gonna find some new insanity to commit myself to?” Continue reading

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

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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

Space Opera: It’s the (stupid) science

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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

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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

Go Interstellar? No—go Orbital

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InterstellarInterstellar opens in theaters this week.  Its premise is that the Earth is becoming a global dustbowl, making it impossible to support the human race; so a band of astronauts heads out and through a wormhole to find another planet for human colonization.  (A non-spoiler-y review of the movie precedes this post.)

Would this be the best solution for human survival?  Not necessarily.  Physicists Gerard O’Neill and Tom Heppenheimer worked out a more practical solution four decades ago: Build artificial habitats and put them into orbit around the Earth or Sun.  This idea was described in O’Neill’s book The High Frontier and Heppenheimer’s book Colonies in Space, and it’s the idea I used as the premise of my novel Verdant Skies.
Continue reading

And speaking of interstellar spacecraft…

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And speaking of interstellar spacecraft...

In 2012, NASA physicist Harold White revealed that he and a team were working on a design for a faster-than-light ship. Now he’s collaborated with an artist to create a new, more realistic design of what such a ship might actually look like.  See the images in his Flickr gallery.

Pretty.  Probably downright impossible… but pretty. Continue reading