Tag: speculative fiction


The Hooded Swan series

James Nicoll reminds us of Brian M. Stableford’s Hooded Swan series, which I adored back in the late 1970/early 1980s:

The Hooded Swan stories are gloomy and morose to the point of parody. If it were possible for space to be overcast and drizzling, it would be so everywhere Grainger goes.

I have to confess that I barely even noticed this. Then again, it was the 1970s and I was British.

[Stableford’s…] later work is more ambitious, but not always as enjoyable as these stories. Though perhaps “enjoyable” is not the right word. They’re readable. Perhaps they would have been more enjoyable if the protagonist hadn’t been an antisocial depressive.

If you are looking for morose space opera told from the point of view of a misanthrope, featuring puzzles with depressing answers, you might like this series.

I feel like being a fan of this series set me up to fully enjoy Ian M Banks’ Culture novels. The Banks novels were set in a very different universe and starred a very much more capable set of protagonists who would have looked on in amusement at the crudity of the technology that Grainger and co were blundering around using in their attempt to understand their little corner of the universe1 but it feels as if slumming it in the technological dark ages with Stableford’s crew was necessary for me to fully enjoy the very different view of the universe granted to the agents of the Culture.

I demand an Old Night spin-off

It’s a real shame that The OA reportedly won’t be returning for a third season:

Farewell to _The OA_, the Netflix series created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij and starring Marling, which lasted two ambitious, lopsided seasons. It told a story of alternate realities to which characters could travel by working through the rejected sections of a community mime class.

I had a horrible feeling that they were going to have a hell of a job moving on from the none-more-meta second season finale,1 but I’d have loved to see them try.

Casting

It’d be nice to think that we live in the timeline where the most noteworthy effect of Deepfakes will be to swap one Hollywood actor for another but somehow I doubt we’re going to be that lucky:

In some parallel universe, there’s a version of Casino Royale with Hugh Jackman playing everyone’s favorite suave British agent, James Bond. And one in which Matthew McConaughey took the Leo role in Titanic. And DiCaprio and Brad Pitt co-starred in Brokeback Mountain. And Saved by the Bell’s Tiffani Thiessen played Rachel in Friends.

That being said, I have to confess that the biggest effect of my watching Neo-as-played-by-Bruce-Lee having Morpheus ask him if he thinks that’s air he’s breathing now in the digital dojo was a powerful urge to see the best film the Wachowskis ever made again, as it’s been way too long since I last saw The Matrix and it was definitely indisputably very good, whatever you might think of the two sequels plus The Animatrix 1 that followed it. So from Hollywood’s point of view that’s a success, insofar as right now The Matrix isn’t on Netflix and my DVD copies are long since gone so I’m going to have to go and pay someone some money to watch it again. Ka-ching!

[Via The RISKS Digest]

Wikihistory

I know I’ve read Wikihistory before a few years ago, but I was reminded of it earlier today and it’s definitely funny enough to be worth posting here:

International Association of Time Travelers: Members’ Forum
Subforum: Europe – Twentieth Century – Second World War
Page 263

11/15/2104
At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl’s cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice! […]

Or possibly not, as it turns out.

Also, from further along in the same Usenet discussion and very much related: The home of Adolf Hitler, 1933: Doubt creeps in.

[Via Dorothy J Heydt, posting to rec.arts.sf.written]

“All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.”

Peter Watts breaks the bad news to us:

A couple of months ago, its creators announced that Counterpart is dead after a mere two seasons. It just couldn’t attract enough viewers, out of all the people on two Earths. And I think that’s a shame; Counterpart was more than just SF for people who hate SF.

The first season of Counterpart got a Region 1 Blu-ray release, but that seems to be it for now.

I was looking forward to seeing J K Simmons 1 being great in a great piece of speculative fiction, but being an old person who grew up with a TV world where US shows frequently took a couple of seasons to be picked up by a terrestrial broadcaster in the UK 2 I took it that for a good-but-not-a-smash-hit show like this I just needed to be patient.3

I guess that if I really wanted to see Counterpart I’d look to BitTorrent, but dammit I don’t want to pirate content just because this era of capitalism demands that the players only consider making shows worthwhile if those shows have a decent prospect of turning out to be megahits that generate megareturns on their investment.

I want my Fully Automated Luxury Space Communism, and I want it now!4

Black Mirror

Having caught up with the last episode of the latest series of Black Mirror, I was amused to learn that Nine Inch Nails were jumping on the marketing bandwagon, after an episode where a (real life) Pop Princess was repurposing a couple of their songs:

Head like a hole!

I’m on a roll!

Riding so high!

ACHIEVIN’ MY GOALS!

The episode felt really strange, starting as a slice of life from a distinctly average teenage girl a couple of years on from the death of her mother but then veering into pure Disney Channel TV adventure movie stuff as our teen hero and her older sister ended up teaming up and helping to bust a major criminal conspiracy that was preventing Miley Cyrus from fully expressing her love for Nine Inch Nails on stage.

It’s been an odd season of Black Mirror. After the Black Museum visit that closed season 4, it feels as if they want to shift to less bleak – dare I say “happy?”- endings, but are ending up exploring the themes underpinning their chosen stories more superficially than usual. Our two old friends getting diverted by the temptations of transgressive virtual sex in Striking Vipers X discussed how different sex feels as a man and a woman but as far as we can see never took the obvious step of switching avatar genders to find out in-game (or if they did,1 no mention was made of the attempt.2) Our grieving taxi driver in Smithereens was never destined for a happy ending, admittedly, and I did like the way they left open the question of whether the grieving mother found resolution once he got her access to her daughter’s social media posts.3 Then in the last episode we find a Disneyesque teen adventure.

[Via EmpressCallipygos commenting at FanFare]

Ask and ye shall receive…

It’s almost as if they heard me: trailers for the three episodes of the forthcoming series of _Black Mirror_ are out.

So, not much sign of a turn towards the upbeat so far. I live in hope…

Black Mirror trailer

The trailer for Black Mirror season 5 seems mainly to exist to remind us that having access to some of Netflix’s money allows the show to cast bigger names and keep the standard of special effects up to scratch: no attempt to let us in on what any of the stories are about. Charlie Brooker seems to know what he’s doing thus far, so let’s see what sort of nightmares he’s going to share with us this time round.

I’d love to see them deliver a season of relatively upbeat tales in the vein of San Junipero, just to see how that’d feel, but I’m not going to hold my breath…

[Edited to add: ask, and ye shall receive… JR 23 May 2019]

[Via Slate]

40 years of Aliens

Just before 20th Century Fox was swallowed up by Disney, they celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of their own greatest franchises with six Alien 40th Anniversary Short Films.

I doubt the Xenomorphs are going to be showing up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe any time soon, but that’s OK: they’ve done a fine job of making humanity’s corner of the galaxy a nasty, brutish place to live and die in. I can pass on seeing how Captain Marvel and friends would cope with a gaggle of facehuggers coming for them.1

[Via jwz]

The OA reviewed

A couple of weeks ago I finally got round to watching the first season of Netflix’s The OA. I was well aware that it got a mixed-but-respectful response from reviewers at the time, and I’d always had in on my list of shows to catch up with some day. I’ve since enjoyed various reviews of the first season, but this one is by far the one that chimed with me most, partly because the reviewer makes a connection with a very different big budget swing-and-miss that I love:

[The OA…] is a swing and a miss on a colossal level, but oh, what a swing. Both Jupiter Ascending and The OA share a thread of DNA, a plot that you just know, at one point, made complete crystalline sense to somebody, but somewhere down the line (or more likely, when morning came) the smudges on the glass became apparent. They are filled with lines of dialogue that could sound profound or heartwarming if you don’t think about them too long, but I’m to distracted imagining the writer nodding and smirking at his computer screen. They forgo rational characters for convenient or dramatic plot developments, and cohesion for spectacle.

The thing is, I adore what the Wachowski siblings do and, slightly against my better judgement, I loved The OA too. They established a strange mood and stuck with it, and ended up with something seriously compelling even if reason didn’t get much of a look-in at times.

I’m intrigued to see what they do with the imminent second season of The OA. I do hope they don’t react to the response to that first season by suddenly trying to explain themselves. More saving the world via the medium of interpretive dance, I say. Swing away!

Next page →
← Previous page