Tag: speculative fiction


Make it so.

Dan Hon’s been thinking:

Go for it. I’d buy that for a dollar!

Not Ready

I never got round to reading Ready Player One because judging by the reviews I read at the time it sounded as if the book was unutterably proud of itself for stringing together lists of pop cultural trivia for geeks to recognise. Judging by Laura Hudson’s review for Slate , I don’t think I’ll be in any rush to devour Ready Player Two:

A cackling villain appears to menace our heroes and shout mean things that sound remarkably similar to negative reviews of Cline’s previous work: “Don’t you kids ever get tired of picking through the wreckage of a past generation’s nostalgia?” Wade responds by telling the bad man to go away and leave them alone, and subsequently drives off to fight Prince in a little red Corvette while wearing a raspberry beret. (This is not a joke.)

I have a feeling Spielberg isn’t going to be in a rush to put together another big screen adaptation of Cline’s work. Not that the first one was all that wonderful.1 I get that Spielberg was probably the one pop cultural figure with the clout 2 to get the rights to use so many pieces of other peoples’ intellectual property in his film, but exercising that clout in such an unworthy cause3 was not worth doing for this story.


  1. Sure, it was a challenge to pull together a replica of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining when the plot led our heroes down that path, but I like to think that Spielberg directed those scenes fully aware that Stanley Kubrick was looking down from above and shaking his head at how small an achievement that truly was. 
  2. Which is to say, the cash. I’m rather glad that according to Wikipedia he failed to get to use material from Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in this project. I’m still deeply unhappy that the film made such use of the rather distinctive profile of a replica of the Iron Giant. Dammit, he deserved better than to have such a throwaway part. 
  3. As I understand it the scenes on the sets from The Shining weren’t part of the Ernest Cline novel. I suppose it could have been worse: we could have enjoyed a scene based on a clue to be found via a careful reading of a set of zero-G toilet use instructions that Heywood Floyd ponders briefly during his travels in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not sure why the gang would need to find themselves visiting the virtual set rather than just googling for the text like they were savages, but I’m sure the screenwriters could have come up with a good reason. Maybe that prankster Kubrick had embedded a vital clue. 

Fame while hidden from view

Catching up with my podcast queue the other day, I was slightly taken aback at the moment in episode 153 of Imaginary Worlds where Doug Jones mentioned that he’s recently turned sixty years old and finds himself having to think a bit harder nowadays about whether a younger performer might be a better fit for a role’s demands. I suppose the fact that he delivers most of his performances from under layers of latex and makeup has hidden hasn’t helped.

His current role as Saru on Star Trek: Discovery, excellent as his performance is, probably isn’t destined to turn him into a superstar1 given what a niche of a niche that show is followed by. I have a horrible feeling that a decade from now he’ll be at least semi-retired and for a certain generation of Trekkies2 he’ll be remembered alongside Mark Lenard and Jeffrey Coombs and as one of the fan-favourites of the franchise.

That’s not a small thing, even if it’s not the level of fame he deserves after a long career bringing other peoples’ dreams – or nightmares – to life on-screen.


  1. To be fair, within his very particular niche he is something of a superstar. It’s just that his niche is one of those where – almost by design? – thirty years after his death people will be amazed to find out that the same guy was under all that make-up in Pan’s Labyrinth (in two different roles!) and in the Buffy episode Hush and in The Shape of Water and as Abe Sapien in the two good Hellboy films and in oh so many others
  2. Not sure whether that’s still a term that they approve. (Probably not.) Pretty certain I’m past caring. It’s not meant as an insult. 

Incorruptible

Today seems to have turned into a day of reading speculative fiction online. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday…

I first read Incorruptible by Peter Watts a couple of years ago as part of the XPRIZE Flight #008 competition. It’s precisely as optimistic as you’d expect from Watts:

This is the moment Malika Rydman first realizes that something is seriously out of whack: when the airport cop doesn’t threaten her. […]

There’s no implied threat in his voice. He doesn’t seem to be itching for an excuse to escalate (not that Malika would ever be stupid enough to give him one – then again, sometimes they just make shit up after the fact). The words don’t even carry the tone of a command exactly, more like a – a request. […]

Believe me, it gets way darker and heavier from there. But Watts gets us there in a characteristically logical, remorseless manner.

It’s a pity Peter Watts doesn’t have the profile and awards his talent merits.

[Via a comment from MeFi user lax at MetaFilter]

A short Trek

I truly wish the folks running the Short Treks series could get behind adapting Matchmaker of Mars by Edonohana.

[End of a rejection letter from Campbell…]

As for “The Phonemes of Aldebaran,” it’s well-written but I have to pass. Astounding is a science fiction magazine and linguistics is not a science.

I mean, how can any Trekkie with a sense of the history of the genre resist a storyline which pits the combined unstoppable forces of Uhura and T’Pring against the immovable object that was John W. Campbell, Jr at the height of Astounding‘s dominance?

Think of it as a sort of companion piece for Deep Space Nine‘s Far Beyond The Stars

[Via MetaFilter]

BSG is back

Happy to see Battlestar Galactica return to BBC2 tomorrow. Looks as if the plan is for two episodes a week on Saturdays, so that’ll be something to look forward to.

Admittedly All This Has Happened Before and All This Will Happen Again, but perhaps this time knowing in advance how badly they lost their grip on certain aspects 1 of the wider story will bother me less this time round.2

The thing is, somewhat improbably given the source material, the BSG reboot still ended up delivering several seasons of high quality speculative fiction on TV. I’m delighted to have another opportunity to watch the story unfold.


  1. e.g. what happened to that whole Cylon Plan that supposedly underpinned their actions from the start? 
  2. In a perfect world Ron Moore will end his new baby, For All Mankind, well into the future with a conclusion that sees the alternate history space race sending teams off to establish a colony on Kobol and we’ll look back on that show and recognise all the sneaky connections to his earlier story that the writers slipped in this time round. (I doubt that the storyline of For All Mankind will extend that far into the future, but I can hope, can’t I?) 

Good news, bad news?

Amazon missed an opportunity when they failed to issue a press release announcing that their planned TV adaptation of Consider Phlebas was cancelled due to special circumstances and left it at that.

For the record, if the rights are picked up by someone else perhaps we’ll look back a decade from now and be glad that we ended up with the Wachowskis’ version of Use of Weapons instead.1


  1. I know this is not a fashionable take on Jupiter Rising and Sense8, but who else has even looked capable of rising to the challenge? 

Cat Pictures Please

It’s a shame that I’ve drifted away from following short speculative fiction to the extent that I was completely unaware of Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer until, on a whim, I followed a link and found out what the Hugo voters knew back in 2016:

I don’t want to be evil.

I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. […] I know where you live, where you work, where you shop, what you eat, what turns you on, what creeps you out. I probably know the color of your underwear, the sort of car you drive, and your brand of refrigerator. Depending on what sort of phone you carry, I may know exactly where you are right now. I probably know you better than you know yourself.

And here’s the thing, I also know where you ought to live. […]

Bonus points for direct references to Bruce Sterling’s Maneki Neko, a story published back when I used to pay more attention to the state of short speculative fiction.

Difficult to tell how well this story will stand the test of time, but as of 2020 it’s doing OK. Our central character is quietly, patiently working away in the background even as her more aggressive cousins are making so much noise and getting so much attention.

[Via notGoodenough, posting at Crooked Timber]

Don’t Panic

To mark the 42nd anniversary of the radio broadcast of the first instalment of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, BBC Radio 4 Extra are devoting a sizeable chunk of their evening schedule to programmes about the series, interspersed with the first six episodes of the story itself.

I can’t help but notice that there’s nary a mention of this on the front page on the BBC Sounds application or the web site. I was alerted to it by #hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy trending in Twitter.1 Still definitely worth a listen.


  1. In fairness, that might well just be the modern way of achieving the desired end and I’m just too stuck in my ways to have picked up on that. 

Tales from the Loop

The teaser trailer for Amazon’s forthcoming TV adaptation of artist Simon Stålenhag’s vision of a future where the presence of a large underground particle accelerator coincided with the arrival on the scene of an array of strange machines, Tales From the Loop, already had me hooked even before I recognised the presence of Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall in the cast. Throw in Mark Romanek directing and it’s fair to say that I’m interested.

Assuming that early reviews don’t reveal that the striking imagery has been lavished on a supremely dumb story, this looks like one more strand in Amazon’s ongoing campaign to get me to sign up to Prime Video membership so I can give them a chance to claim a chunk of my streaming service budget.

[Via The Verge, via Sentiers #115]

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