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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

The Preservation of an Untainted Idea

In Comics, Movies, Science Fiction on January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

“You should absolutely not see the Hobbit. In fact I’m calling you now.”

This was a text I received from a good friend upon informing him of my Wednesday night plans. I know you may be thinking, “Why hasn’t Scott seen the Hobbit yet?” And that is a good question. Have I lost my obsessive nature in the nearly two years since I posted? Well, maybe? Or maybe I know it’s not going anywhere and I’m not worried about spoiling the story because it’s been around for 70+ years.

But that brings me back to my original point. Why would my friend warn me off of the Hobbit? It’s about spoilage. But not the “Bruce Willis has a dead penis named Rosebud at the end of the Citizen Crying Sense” kind of spoiler. More like, a beloved property or franchise exists in your mind and you cherish it. You may treasure it and cultivate it in your memory. Then, somehow, something new comes out that threatens that memory on a personal level.

It might be like Frank Miller’s return to his 80’s roots in much maligned The Dark Knight Strikes Again that causes you to examine why you loved The Dark Knight Returns in the first place. Or how The Phantom Menance forced you to like the original trilogy slightly less than you did. Or, how the first Hobbit movie threatened the idea of the Hobbit for my friend and he wanted to save me.

And it’s not optional, in some cases. You cannot unsee what you saw. You can rationalize it all you want. Midichlorians? What are those? Josh Brolin’s Jonah Hex? Never heard of it. Crystal Skulls? It’s weird Harrison Ford has an entirely new franchise coincidentally starring a character name Indiana Jones, but whatever. Sometimes you can separate Jaws from Jaws: The Revenge and not have a problem enjoying the original.

I always thought this moment would be so great.  I really did.

I always thought this moment would be so great. (sigh) I really did.

But sometimes you can’t…and it kinda sucks.

For the record, I wasn’t over the moon for the first Hobbit movie but I understand that Peter Jackson is goofy and makes goofy movies. I enjoyed it for what it was and I will see more of them.

Robocop: The Worst Cop Ever?

In Movies, Science Fiction on March 4, 2011 at 2:36 am

There is a lot of love for the late Officer Murphy, these days. Whether it’s an upcoming statue the Motor City, talk of a still-not-dead remake, or me watching Robocop (as well as…sigh…Robocop 2 and …ugh…Robocop…godammit…3), I’ve been thinking non-stop about a certain cyborg police officer. But I ask anyone, especially those with extremely fond memories of this franchise, to consider that maybe, just maybe, Robocop is pretty terrible at law enforcement.

Consider this:

1) Robocop cannot run. He walks leisurely after criminals, engaging in wildly dangerous gunfights with everyone dumb enough to engage him. I mean, a light jog and jumping over a foot-tall hedge will make it nigh impossible for Robocop to catch you unless he decides to shoot you, which brings me to my next point.

2) Robocop’s chief method of protecting and serving is firing exploding three-round bursts into the soon-to-be-corpses of everyone. Non-lethal force consists of him occasionally manhandling muggers and stickup-men by throwing them through walls and breaking as much personal property as cyborgly possible. And this only works if the criminals get close enough to Robocop for him to grab them. Let’s go back to Point #1 to see how unnecessary that is.

3) Robocop drives a Ford Taurus.

4) Robocop keeps his admittedly sweet handgun in a hidden holster in his leg. Robocop’s leg pops open and then he draws his gun, kills everyone, then holsters his weapon with incredible panache. The question is: “Wouldn’t that shit-ton of leg real estate be better served for something like, I don’t know, being able to run…or walk fast. Back to Point #1.

So why is Robocop so well-loved? Robocop has a great supporting cast, a pretty badass costume design, and Paul Verhoeven calling his shots. He is, however, a terrible, terrible cop. But the worst ever?

At least he can handle stairs.

Warfare or snorefare?

In Science Fiction on July 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I am currently reading The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and very much enjoying it. It falls into one of my favorite genres; the science-fiction war story. Whether it’s Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers, I never tire of reading about the life of a soldier in the future. The really great thing, so far, about this gem from 1974 is how utterly boring and uncinematic the fighting is. I mean, I assume that is the point. Violence and those whom engage in it are often lionized in this, and many other societies. Yet I like how Haldeman describes how fighting in an age of great technology is simply instant, random unflinching death from an enemy you most likely will never see.

For instance, there are spaceship battles in this book but not of the like you’ll see in Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica. How about instead, missiles fired from hundreds of millions of miles away that, due to relativity, may have been fired years in the past or “near-misses” when an enemy weapon detonates a near 100,000 miles away? Or how about the sharpshooting of a turret that can nearly instantly locate and fire on a target when the “shooter” releases the safety. This isn’t badass! This isn’t the cool, fast, tough professional with advanced training or amazing experience. This is the cruel, arbitrary nature of war as far as a rank amateur like myself can tell.

I'd like to believe that world governments are working on Gunstar technology. But I assume none of us will ever be witness to a real Death Blossum in our lives.

And silly post title aside, I really like it that way. It may not be anymore realistic than anything else (I don’t know enough about science, warfare, or the future to say for sure) but it sure feels truer than the aircraft carrier style of BSG or the updated galleon broadsiding in Star Trek. Don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff too, but when it comes to war, death by an ill-fitting acceleration dampening suit might not be cinematic, but it sure is dramatic.

Puny Humans

In Science Fiction on June 30, 2010 at 12:43 am

I always feel bad for humanity in science fiction. Most of the time, they are significantly dumber than other, comparable, humanoid aliens. Almost all the time, they are considerably weaker, too. Vulcans and those newcomers from Alien Nation…those guys make us look like such losers.

And how do we poor man-animals hang in there. Well, we tend to display some resourcefulness, some chutzpah. Either we show some kind of crazy ambition or we breed like rabbits compared to these nearly asexual space creatures or something. And I get it. Humans are easy to figure as the baseline for competence, and creatures from space would clearly be more competent, more advanced, more powerful, etc.

And I have no problem with aliens being smarter than us. I mean, they may have mastered inter-dimensional warp drives or faster-than-light tachyon engines or whatever, so sure, I can concede the aliens being super-advanced. But I would like, occasionally, to see a change in the physical inferiority.

I mean, wouldn’t be awesome if humans, by complete chance, are the biggest bad-asses in the universe. Like, our gravity is stronger than most alien worlds. Or maybe our perception of time is far faster than others, or our reactions are ultra-fast in comparison.

In some universe, this might be the scariest thing to walk into a galactic cantina.

I like to think that humans might be the Wookies or the Gammoreans of the universe. Maybe not the brightest or most inventive, but the greatest mercenaries or bodyguards in the ‘Verse. How come it never works like this?

The transfer of consciousness. Sound boring enough?

In Science Fiction on June 18, 2010 at 12:24 am

It turns out it’s kinda tricky to continually maintain a blog on a daily basis. It’s also easier to perform this task when you are a full-time student verus having a job with a daily four hour round-trip commute. Now, I know these things, as my accurately named blog has turned into an ironically named one. Something is certainly not daily if it is updated once every few months. So, again I am trying to get back on the horse and trying to write something on a more-or-less daily basis. We’ll see how it goes.

So, what to write about? My obsession with Red Dead Redemption or Alpha Protocol? My love affair with Justified? My interest in the HBO version of Game of Thrones or my nitpicks with the pilot of Rubicon? Maybe my thoughts on the upcoming Thor movie or the casting of Captain America? Where to begin?
Let’s start with an interesting conversation I had today. It was about the nature of consciousness and the idea of transferring one’s mind into a purely digital medium. I mean, it’s a pretty popular sci-fi concept, be it Tad William’s Otherland, the show Caprica, or the ridiculous Schwarzenegger flick, The 6th Day, the idea of downloading your entire’s life experience into a digital form has been explored at length in science fiction.
The weird thing for me, however, is the idea that this is often synonymous with being immortal. That the preservation of your memories, thoughts, and feelings means that even if your mortal form were to fade away, the essence of what makes you you would live on forever. And in a sense, this is true. Everyone you interact with would most likely feel like you were still you. Couple this with crazy cloning technology, and you could imagine downloading your consciousness into a new exact replica of yourself, in essence making a brand new you.

But, it wouldn’t really be you, would it? I don’t even mean that in a metaphysical, “do clones have souls?” kinda way. I mean, even if there was a perfect replica of your mind created, you wouldn’t be the one thinking with it. It would be something that thought just like you, remembered everything you did, and might even think it was you, but it would be a new consciousness. You, however, would be gone. Creepy right? You can reproduce the data, but not the consciousness.

So, wait. Is he Hauser or is he Quaid?

On the other hand, what is consciousness? If the brain is just a storage unit for the collection of data; a organic supercomputer, then wouldn’t the preservation of the data be a preservation of what makes a person who they are. Is consciousness or identity just an illusion? I’ve kinda gone back and forth on this subject since I started writing this post. Explains why it’s such good sci-fi fodder.

What say you all?

The Perils of World Creation

In Books, Comics, Roleplaying Games, Science Fiction, Video Games on April 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Little know fact. The world is a large, complicated place with a lot going on in it. I contains many different cultures interacting in countless ways over vast amounts of time. Beyond the historical, sociological, or anthropological repercussions, there are tons of scientific and technological matters to think about. To even marginally understand our actual Earth, the one we actually live in, requires an ass-ton of research and years of disciplined learning. Right? So, imagine the problems that one runs into when he (or she…or it, I guess) tries to make up their own world. Whether it’s for a roleplaying game, a video game, a sci-fi story, a comic book, or a fantasy people, people are constantly trying to cobble whole worlds from nothing.

The problem with many creators is they do not understand how crazy hard this is. This is the one extreme. They know they like sword fights or dragons or robots or whatever so they make a simple little setting where these things can take place. The problem, however, is that these worlds feel artificial, so they people living in them also feel phonier than they should. They’re created as cheap backdrops and that is what they feel like.

On the other side, there is what I consider my problem. I become kind of obsessed with the details. Maybe it’s because of my love of history. I love history but I’m hardly an expert…at all. Because history is vast and complicated. But even worse is science. If you don’t understand geography, you can’t make a realistic map. If you don’t know weapons are used or battles are fought, you can’t portray war with any semblance of believability. How can you speculate on future technology if you don’t understand technology today? This is what ties me up. I could be making a simple superhero roleplaying campaign or a lighthearted comic, but I need to understand how the world fits together. So I get lost in tying up the infinite loose ends instead of creating the world I need.

So…is there a happy medium. I know some very creative types read this blog so I’m curious on how you people deal with this. How do you avoid the pitfalls of creating worlds.

This is His

In Movies, Science Fiction on August 22, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I had an idea to write a long response to the Avatar trailer.  Right before I was to start, I decided to read the blogs of my friends, as I do almost everyday.  I saw that comment master, Jon, had written a post with more depth and with much more content than I ever could.  So, check it out here.

That is all for now.

Artificial gravity

In Science Fiction on August 6, 2009 at 11:22 pm

As compromises for TV and movies go, I consider the widespread existence of artificial gravity in science fiction to be the most common one that creators have decided to get behind.  As a movie like Apollo 13 demonstrates, creating a believable sense of weightlessness is an impressive feat that the budgets of most sci-fi projects would rather avoid.  I understand it.  Also, watching Star Trek, Firefly, or Battlestar Gallactica with everyone floating around would most likely interfere with the drama and relatability of the interactions of the involved characters.  It would also be very (sorry Noah) prohibitively expensive, a huge pain in the ass for the actors, and slow down production to a crawl.  So, while I like the coolness of weightlessness in space, I am not against the common use of artificial gravity in space media.

Here comes the big but.

Them just standing there is the greatest accomplishment of of any of the feats of technology on this show.

Them just standing there is the greatest accomplishment of of any of the feats of technology on this show.

But I am irritated by how most shows avoid the ariticial gravity conversation almost entirely.  It usually is not even mentioned and only comes into play in the rare occasion when it gets knocked out.  Then, people will float around temporarily until it can be repaired.  The creation of gravity is almost on par with air conditioning in how mundanely it is portrayed.  Let’s examine gravity, as a force of nature, shall we?  Gravity is the force that draws all objects in the universe together based on mass and proximity.  The closer one comes to a large mass, the greater the amount of attractive force that mass will have on you.  The greater the mass, the stronger the force.  Do I really understand it?  No.  Does anyone?  I don’t really think so, though plenty of people can speak about it with much greater intelligence than me.

What’s my point?  Well, this is a universe-wide force at work on all matter in existence.  It is created by the presence of mass, and mass alone, as we understand it.  Finding a way to reproduce it without the use of another type of force, such as the centripetal force used in 2001: A Space Odyssey, would be an amazing accomplishment.  The implications of it would mean go way beyond the concept of making spaceships more comfortable to fly.  It would be right up there with faster-than-light technology or the perpetual motion machine.  It would be the unlocking of one of the primal forces in reality and challenge every assumption we have about how forces work in the universe.  Most science fiction mass media treats it as something pretty minor.  So, I have no problem with it, for the reasons I mentioned above, but the existence of artificial gravity should be the biggest thing going on in a space fiction.  Or at least I think so.

Fast versus venomous zombies

In Science Fiction, Video Games on July 9, 2009 at 12:13 am

I want define my terms before I proceed.  When I refer to fast zombies, I mean zombies at are as mobile in death as they were in life.  They do not possess extra speed or strength, just immunity to pain and fatigue.  This kind of behavior can be found in the zombies in The Dawn of the Dead remake and the infected in 28 Days Later. When I refer to venomous, I mean the characteristic that a zombie bite is fatal and will bring you back as a zombie, pronto.  This is a characteristic in classic Romero zombies and is very common in most zombie fiction.  Now, I would like to add another conclusion before I present my argument.  Fast, venomous zombies would be the end of us all.  Despite how common these paired characteristics have become in the media , I think that the combo would be hard to counter if the fast, venomous zombie epidemic broke out.  That being said, which one characteristic would you want your zombies to have if you needed to deal with a zombie apocolypse.

Well, let’s start with the slow, venomous zombies.  The advantage for you is they are generally easier to deal with day-to-day.  They can be circumvented pretty easily, dispatched in relative safety, and outran by almost anyone.  They do tend to collect if you stay in one place and their ability to wear down defenses is certainly a problem, yet once you fortify yourself in a good setup with solid people, you can hold out in relative safety.  So what’s the real problem?  Zero room for a mistake.  One false step, inability to detect, or slip up in defense, and you are done.  Just one little bite and it’s over.  It doesn’t matter how careful you are 99.99% of the time, that .01% will mean dirt nap (and catnap at that, for you will be up and around damn soon).  The slow, venomous might not get you at first, but even the most frosty customer will get comfortable after a time.  Comfortable always leads to sloppy.  And sloppy means zombie chow time.

So the alternative.  The fast, non-venomous zombie.  While not too popular in the movies, this is seeing some growth in video games like Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead. These zombies bite hard, but they kill you with the damage they do to your body, not a poisonous bite.  Death by these guys is usually grisly and involves being eaten alive, which is terrible but slightly less scary than one random bite doing you in.  The danger is that these guys attack fast, are really hard to avoid in the open, and will run you down when you get tired.  Also, their speed makes it easier for them to knock down barricades with power, as they can hit shit with a ton more momentum.  Life against these zombies is almost certainly shorter on average, as the opponent is more formidable, but there is a larger margin for error.  A few random bites will hurt like hell, but if you can escape, you will survive.  Also, the constant danger these fast zombies present might make getting comfortable less likely.

Of course, we should not forget the most dangerous foe.  The rare dancing zombie.

Of course, we should not forget the most dangerous foe. The rare dancing zombie.

Which would I prefer?  I have to go with the fast, non-venomous variety.  I think the fear of that singular bite would damage my emotionally and psychologically more than the obvious danger of the more physically active but, to me, less lethal fast-movers.  Also, a lot depends on the situation, of course.  If you had to decide right now, however, with which evil would you rather contend?

Vampire strength

In Science Fiction on July 3, 2009 at 1:24 am

All my discussions about vampires, Twilight, True Blood, and the like got me thinking about the source of vampire strength.  Basically, what about being an animated corpse powered by pure human blood makes a being more capable of heavy lifting despite no upgrade in physiological shape or form?  I know this might lead to a ridiculous discussion about the many flaws in the portrayal of super-strength, in general, but let’s stick to this one specific example for now.

Now, I suppose vampires must have some power source that is unknown to humanity, as vampires cannot exist according to the current understanding of biology.  This gives the narrative creator a lot of latitude in describing how vampires work.  Maybe vampires, in their use of blood for fuel, are able to tap into the equivalent of some kind of adrenaline rush all the time, pushing their human bodies to the peak of their potential performance?  Maybe the vampire’s unique physiology changes the muscle into a substance tougher and more efficient for feats of strength?  Maybe the source of the vampire’s power is entirely supernatural or occult in nature, not beholden to the laws of space and time as we understand them?  Okay, that gives a creator some space to work with and I have no desire to ruin a good story due to the constraints of the real world.  If I wanted to live in the real world all the time, I wouldn’t enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

That being said, there is one thing that I cannot let go in this discussion.  I do not see how a vampire can increase its mass.  Many, if not most feats of strength are actually feats of mass.  If a car slams into a vampire, I don’t think that the vampire need be hurt.  But unless that bloodsucker weighs more than that car, he will get knocked the fuck over just like a normal person.  It’s not a matter of strength, (sorry Twilight), it’s a matter of momentum.

If this guy has enough mass to stop a car, how does he drive a car?  The answer must involve Bella's love somehow.

If this guy has enough mass to stop a car, how does he drive a car? The answer must involve Bella's love somehow.

Or how about the vampire using his raw power to leap through the air.  Sorry, the amount of power to send him flying through the air would punch his legs into the ground before giving him that much lift.

Or my favorite, the vampire speed.  Moving so fast that the human eye can barely register it.  Well, unless that vampire is going barefoot and digging into some pretty sturdy material, that shit is pretty unlikely too.  I don’t care how fast those legs are moving, without the proper (and nearly impossible) friction, those legs will be wasting most of their work slip-sliding on their expensive Italian shoes.  Like trying to ice skate up hill, actually.  And don’t get me started on how they stop on a dime.

I’m not trying to ruin it.  Seriously.  I like vampires (and super-powers) a lot.  I’m not asking for realism.  In fact, I enjoy many forms of entertainment that walk all over any semblance of a consistent reality.  But I especially like when books, movies, or comics try to add a touch of reality to the game or at least acknowledge the absurdity.  I mean, wouldn’t it be great to see some super angst-ridden vampire moving super quickly for dramatic effect but underestimating how much space is needed to decelerate, then crashing into a wall?  Hilarious.