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Archive for February, 2011

Scalzi on the sf/fantasy question

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

John Scalzi, writer of science fiction and recent GOH at Capricon has an article about movies and science fiction, an often awkward pair. This is an endless topic among sf readers. Especially with movies, the nature of movie production tends to stomp the sf out of them. I still don’t think Scalzi really gets the meat of the argument.

The vital element in speculative fiction is that it raises interesting questions–predictions about the future or about whether aspects of our society are necessary or universal, just to pick two.

Star Wars is space fantasy because it eschews sf and tells a fantasy tale of adventure and superpowers. The space future setting doesn’t make it sf any more than it did for Bugs Bunny cartoons with Marvin the Martian.

The science content is not a critical aspect of sf, but it is a signifier. Good speculative fiction respects science to the extent it can while telling it’s story. It does this so the reader or viewer has a context in which to think about the ideas raised by the work. If ‘it’s all a dream’ or ‘you’ve thought about this more than the director’ is the best answer to the questions the work raises then doesn’t work as sf.

Many movies with a futurist setting ignore all the rules of the world, violating laws of nature randomly. It’s a flag that the author isn’t telling a story you are meant to think about, just an adventure romp or a horror tale. Shows like Star Trek jump back and forth across this divide–it pulls things together for a spot of speculative fiction but then retreats fantasy.

Links for February 2011

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Putting web sites on phones: 1, 2
Heat pad, $14 and thermostat, $13, combine for temperature controlled water bath.
Small crudely adjustable heater, small temp. range, $8
Batch orders of custom PCBs at low cost
Natural human sleep patterns are two four hour blocks with a hour or so between them. Article
Open Library, has catalog (author, title, ISBN, etc) info available for bulk download.
Why cats paint: a theory of feline aesthetics

Interesting post on John C. McLoughlin, author of The Helix and the Sword and Toolmaker Koan, other books, speculations on the nature of dinosaurs. His book Archosauria, a new look at the old dinosaur (1979) was a head of its time.

0.005″ Thick 6″ x 50″ Stainless Steel

Book review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Smith & Jane Austen (2009)

Great first line, it had to be polished, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

I haven’t read Jane Austen’s novel. This one I found quite enjoyable. Without zombies and katanas I suspect it would be a bit tedious. Everyone is happy in the end, except for those who deserve it and the people who turn into zombies.