Showing posts from December, 2011

Cheating Death: Star Trek II and III

I watched the first three Star Trek movies back-to-back last night, tweeting as I went. I've always liked the first film for the things that it usually gets criticised for: its slow pace, 'transcendent' story, lack of 'action'. Its special effects by Doug Trumbull (with help from John Dykstra) are striking, with clear nods to 2001's Stargate sequence when the Enterprise penetrates V'ger's cloud, and the opening tour around the Enterprise in space-dock is so good that it's reprised at the beginning of Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan. This was partly for budgetary reasons, re-using the first film's footage, but the recognisability of some of the shots (as they pass the Enterprise's rear bay doors a man in an environment suit descends head-first; when the Enterprise gets under way, a worker in a suit stops to wave them goodbye) lends familiarity, a very literal sense that we've been here before.

Wrath of Khan trades on this familiarity. Its …

The Man Who Fell to Earth

I read Walter Tevis's The Man Who Fell to Earth over the summer. At the beginning of the novel, as in the film, a man walks out of the American desert into a dusty town. There, he pawns a solid gold ring for cold cash. Outside the town, he checks both a roll of cash, and a hundred more gold rings: this is his 'stake', so to speak, his means by which to operate in 20th century America. He buys food and returns to a camp outside the town. In a following scene, he seeks out a patent lawyer and asks him to act as an agent; the basic patents he shows the lawyer would net him a further $300 million - which 'isn't enough'.

Enough for what? The man who fell to Earth is Jerome Thomas Newton, a literal alien from a drought-stricken planet, who finds that not only does he have gold rings and technology to sell America, he is an excellent businessman. Soon he accrues a large fortune and control of a major corporation; so major, in fact, that it begins to attract ths attent…

Writing Shiva

Over the past two weeks I have been publishing a twitternovel called 'Shiva' (@SciFiBaker), in 14 parts, 10 tweets per 'set'. I wrote it partly because of my interest in the literature of constraint, such as that prouced bhy the OuLiPo group (Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino and others) who devised arbitrary constraints (Perec's A Void lacks the letter 'e') or mathematical processes as compositional tools: the constraint itself was intended to be generative, to produce an imaginative response.

This was the way I approached writing the text. I had been writing an article about science and literature using the idea of 'bifurcations' found in dynamic systems in physics, an idea drawn from the work of Ilya Prigogine. I originally used this back in my MA dissertation in the early 1990s, in writing about William Gibson's 'Sprawl' trilogy of cyberpunk novels, but returned to it after I found references to Prigogine in the work of…