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Showing posts from 2010

War of the Worlds

Spielberg's 2005 War of the Worlds is, according to Wikipedia, on Cahiers du Cinema's list of the best 10 films of the Noughties. I can't say I agree, but like a lot of later Spielberg, it's an interesting film, if deeply flawed, and does put on show many of Spielberg's ongoing motifs and ideas.

War of the Worlds is the next Spielberg sf film after AI (2001) and Minority Report (2002), and, of course, has the same star as the latter film in Tom Cruise. These three films are significant revisions of the kind of visionary sf Spielberg essayed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) but continue that film's focus upon deficient fatherhood. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfus), the boy-man who leaves his family behind and takes to the stars in Close Encounters, escapes censure for his seeming irresponsibility (the cosmological imperative outweighs the familial), but Minority Report's John Anderton (Cruise), a broken man suffering the loss of his young son and subseq…

Thoughts on Lost Girls

For those of you who don't know, Lost Girls is a graphic tale by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie (who became life-partners during the making of the book), which re-writes the characters and histories of Wendy Darling (Peter Pan), Alice Liddell (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass) and Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz). The book is sexually explicit, offering a fantasia of couplings, flows and desires - it's positively Deleuzian in its representations of desiring machines - it's Sadean too, but we'll get back to that - and it is utopian, in that its re-coding of the latent sexual content of Victorian and Edwardian children's literature is released (orgiastically) from the structures of repression into a polymorphously perverse world of unrestricted desire and sexual pleasure. A special roundtable discussion of the online journal ImageText (which can be found at: http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v3_3/) does a good job of investiga…

V for Vendetta

Some ten years ago now, I was due to give a paper at the University de Alacala, near Madrid, at a conference that considered the influence of George Orwell. At the very last minute, I was unable to go, but I had planned and written a paper on Alan Moore and David Lloyd's graphic novel, V for Vendetta. This narrative had a curious publishing history: it had first appeared in Warrior, a short-lived monthly British comic that was intended to provide British writers and artists with the same measure of artistic control and expressive freedom as was available in the American comic book industry. As it turned out, this proved to be a false hope: Warrior, published by Quality Communications (and edited by Dez Skinn, who had worked for Marvel UK) was subsidised by the turnover from Quality's retail outlet, folded after 25 issues, when many of the writers and artists – some, like Alan Moore, disillusioned with the British comics scene – were recruited by US comics publishers to work on…

Nuclear Armageddon

I've been reading a lot of nuclear fictions, as I'm writing a book chapter on Nevil Shute's classic novel On The Beach, wherein the last survivors of a global nuclear war, eking out a last few weeks in Melbourne (the southernmost major city), inhabit a slow entropic drift down into death. It's a wonderfully moving book, with several characters taking their own (and their loved ones') life with the onset of radiation sickness. Having watched Peter Watkins's suppressed 1965 BBC film The War Game (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2864871032688882557#), I realised that, although it's very moving in its depiction of a quiet decline into death, Shute's narrative effaces the full horror of nuclear war, and its domesticity verges on the sentimental. The War Game is clearly lensed through Dresden and Hiroshima and doesn't spare the viewer images of radiation burns, children blinded, and the euthanising of casualties who cannot be treated. (In fact, …

Android Rock

The connection between science fiction and popular music isn't always a pretty one. For every Sun Ra or Parliament/ Funkadelic (and watch out for an Afro-Futurism post soon) there's Rush's 2112 or 'Cygnus X-1', not to mention the rather odd legacies of 'space rock' (Hawkwind and early Pink Floyd).

Much as I am a fan of Mike Moorcock, I don't really have that much interest in his involvement in Hawkwind (he wrote the lyrics for much of the classic album 'Space Ritual') except as an odd cul-de-sac in his career. I'm no fan of prog. I do, however, quite like psychedelia, and I very much like repetition. Circular, looping, hypnotic 'indie' rock of the 1980s - Spacemen 3, Loop - is very much my thing. But both these bands are clearly drawing as much upon the American garage tradition of The Stooges and the MC5, and the early electronic punk of Suicide, as they are upon English space rock.

Rather than rock or pop that explicitly has science…

James Bond's science fiction imaginary

By any standard, even by the standards of other Bond movies, Moonraker is a bad film. Though Roger Moore was yet to truly descend into his immobile, parodic, geriatric mid-1980s self, Moonraker carried on the flatulent, throwaway feel of The Spy Who Loved Me, an overlong bore of a film that traded on the curio attraction of Richard Kiel's 'Jaws' villain, the underwater Lotus Espirit and Ken Adam's grandiose sets (the interior of the sub-swallowing supertanker was one of the most expensive and largest sets ever constructed on a sound stage).

Moonraker, released in 1979 in the wake of the success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, doubled-down on the spectacle and tried to avert our eyes from the plot holes. The film begins with a Space Shuttle being transported to Britain on the back of a 747, echoing NASA publicity footage of the late 70s (before the Shuttle's first orbital mission in 1981). The Shuttle was made by Drax Industries, and when the 747…

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

At the beginning of the film, I thought to myself. 'Why 1957?' With Indy the subject of a barely-credible FBI investigation of Reds Under the Bed, and the author of a barely-credible escape from a nearby H-bomb test in a lead-lined Fridgidaire, I wondered why the film wasn't set earlier in the 50s (despite Ford's apparent superannuation). In the hallowed phrase of Toy Story 2's Stinky Pete: 'Two words: Sput Nik.'

Where the original Raiders conjured with World War 2 films and adventure serials with the Nazis as villains, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull plays with an amusing series of Cold War science-fictional pop-mythologies: the so-called 'Area 51' at Groom Lake, Nevada (where it transpires that the Ark of the Covenant is stored, revealed in a visual aside); the Roswell crash; the Soviet experiments in parapsychology, ESP, psychokinesis and so on; von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods; and of course the 'Rooshians' as ubiquitous baddies a…

Me, James Bond and hyper-mobility

Coming soon, an essay on Casino Royale and mobility, in Revisioning 007: James Bond and Casino Royale, edited by Christoph Lindner, with Wallflower Press.

http://www.wallflowerpress.co.uk/product/new-titles/revisioning_007

Star Wars (Marvel Comics)

I've been watching a lot of Star Wars recently. My nearly-5-year-old daughter had massive thing for the Clone Wars, and now watches the films themselves repetitively, though she favours three strongly: Star Wars (A New Hope), Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace. After reading Will Brooker's excellent BFI Classic essay on Star Wars, which made the prequel trilogy seem a lot more interesting and thoughtfully constructed, I've been thinking about the films as well as enjoying the elements of spectacle and world-creation again (and again and again).

I was also sent, by a good friend (thankyou Andy), an omnibus edition of the Marvel Star Wars comics that were produced from 1977 to 1986, in monthly format in the USA and in weekly editions in the UK. The early episodes, including a multi-part comic book adaptation of Star Wars itself, was drawn by Howard Chaykin, who would have a notable later career as a writer/artist on titles such as American Flagg!.

What primarily stru…

Available Publications | University Of Chester

Meanwhile, available now, a collection of essays on screen adaptation, edited by myself (and containing an essay by me on the adaptation of PKD's 'The Minority Report'):

Available Publications | University Of Chester

After the hiatus

So much for new beginnings. After I started this new blog, which was meant to accompany a period of study leave, myself and my daughter succumbed to what seemed like months of low-level illnesses, infections, and so on, which meant all my plans came to nought. And then back to work in April, and exam season, which for me is a descent into the maelstrom...

But I have returned!

Planned or possible upcoming posts:

Anna Kavan
Christine Brooke-Rose
James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)
Hunter S. Thompson (as science fiction)
SF and music (dub, space-rock, Afrofuturism, electronic/ scanning, the android, Krautrock)

and more...

Check back shortly.