Tag: sci-fi

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My husband and I both like sci-fi and went to see Ad Astra yesterday. It was showing in a small room, and only a handful of viewers were there. So I wondered whether it would be any good. Without giving much away, I would say that I enjoyed the plausible technological and political vision of […]

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The Near Side of Space

 

“This is really important. I need this at the top of your list.”

The boss-man looks haggard. He’s definitely not been getting enough sleep. And, judging by the look in his eye, he knows exactly how silly of a request he’s making. He’s still gotta make it. He and I aren’t the only ones on this call, and the boss-man has boss-men of his own to appease. That’s life.

The Legendarium Podcast Has Come to Ricochet

 

At the beginning of this year, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Craig Hanks, who listens to the Remnant with Jonah Goldberg (on which I make furtive appearances) heard that I was reading The Silmarillion by J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien. Craig happens to host his own podcast, The Legendarium Podcast, on which he and others discuss the great works of sci-fi and fantasy literature. He invited me onto his show to discuss The Silmarillion. You can listen to the episode here

Something strange happened when I distilled my thoughts about The Silmarillion in a post I published on Ricochet: All of Ricochet’s various nerds came out of the woodwork and had a field day discussing this somewhat more obscure “prequel” to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. A similar thing happened when I produced another post, about God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert, after appearing on one episode of the Legendarium (and later another) to discuss it. 

The revelation of an “undocumented nerd” community at Ricochet convinced higher-ups to bring this large, underserved population “out of the shadows” by bringing Craig’s podcast here. And so here it is. Now the Legendarium’s deep-dives not only into Tolkien and Herbert and the worlds they created but also their explorations of other, perhaps more obscure authors and worlds, are available via Ricochet. 

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  Direction by Shane Black Screenplay by Fred Dekker & Black Based on Characters created by Jim & John Thomas “F— me in the face with an aardvark!” – Baxley   Expanded franchising is killing this industry. Lest an executive forget why we go to the movies in the first place, it’s product like The […]

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ACF#27 Ex Machina

 

Out in theaters this weekend is Alex Garland’s second directorial feature, Annihilation, so the American Cinema Foundation is bringing you a discussion of his directorial feature, Ex Machina, starring Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, and Domnhall Gleeson, and which earned Garland his first Oscar nomination, for Best Writing Original Screenplay. We talk about everything from the movie’s warning about how we might replay creation, as per Genesis, and get it wrong, being that we’re not God, to the strange way in which sci-fi has become the last place for heroes, for moral stories where we, faced with crisis, retrieve an understanding of our own human nature that helps us make sense of the future.

ACF #12: Strong Women

 

Folks, the show is back — this is my second podcast with my friend Pete Spiliakos and he has another great idea to explore: Movie heroines of our times. First, we’re going back a generation to ask about the origins of these characters: Whatever happened with the last of the Boomers and the first of the Gen X-ers? We’re talking about the arrival of thrillers and horrors that thematize the problem of adulthood for young women. We start with Nancy, the heroine of Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); then go on to Laurie (played by Jaime Lee Curtis), the heroine of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978); and then Sarah Connor, the famous heroine of James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984).

Robert Heinlein: American Yahoo

 

America was supposed to be a land of philosophy. This might sound odd, but the American government was actually founded as a government of philosophers. It’s the only government that prohibited tying a man’s legal standing to his confession of faith. American courts, all other public institutions besides, do not require an oath by God. This is presumably because the public does not expect God to enforce oaths, however seriously people might take them. Somehow, in the absence of a divine guarantee for government or speech, Americans do believe in free speech, because it is natural for man to speak his mind. That’s Enlightenment. Whether nature or reason will ground morality or the public good should also be considered. Does living together as human beings require scientific solutions?

Of course, this godlessness is not the whole truth about America, either now or back when its government was founded. It cannot explain attachment to the flag or anthem; or the way Americans treat foreigners. But freedom is a powerful impulse in America and it does mean people can reject pretty much anything they like.

Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

 

As I keep saying, the joke about Americans is, you love nature almost as much as conquest of nature. Heinlein certainly portrayed the American character this way time and again. For once, in this novel, he showed the dark side of this complex mind. For one, the dreams of freedom from misery, and freedom from longing, turn into a lived inhumanity that’s by turns ridiculous and depressive. Time Enough for Love, published in 1973 and amply rewarded with prizes by sci-fi lovers, is the only dishonest Heinlein title there is. The story’s really about the ultimate collapse of freedom; and should be understood as a warning about the likely consequences of our modern confusions of American freedom.

Finally, Heinlein’s most famous character, Lazarus Long, gets the completion for which he has always yearned. Love finally turns out to be bearable for human beings, on the horizon of eternity, when it is commensurate with the power human beings have unleashed through modern natural science. The contempt in which Lazarus Long held the world for thousands of years could be relieved only by a situation that fits his exalted powers. All this in an apocalyptic setting: Heinlein is thinking about what is now called the Singularity—the emergence of human artifacts beyond human understanding or control. What’s left to do then? How will we confront our nature reflected in a creation that might surpass us?

Lazarus is mostly his own story-teller this time around, recounting his various attempts to understand human happiness and attain it. What can complete this man who more than anyone else insists he is complete by himself? What does his great loneliness, isolation from mankind, lead to? By the time he stops narrating and starts doing things, it’s obvious that the book is one long apology for incest. It’s one thing to think Heinlein was a moral cretin and possibly cuckoo. He might have been. It’s another to think his writing doesn’t get at anything serious, because it does show fairly serious problems we must face. If you come to the end of the world, what’s left to do? Without a society, how is it possible to turn to anything but self-love? The man who has traveled the universe has failed to find anything more interesting or admirable than himself—at any rate, anything that lasts, or at least lasts for him. Inasmuch as space adventure is a pastime of American leisure, it’s quite shocking that its most famous exponent should come to this conclusion.

Robert Heinlein, Methuselah’s Children

 

Heinlein’s wisest protagonist, Lazarus Long, waxes and wanes in two novels, Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough for Love. Methuselah’s Children, first written and serialized in ’41, then redone as a novel in ’59, is Heinlein’s book of prophecies about freedom. The story is set in the near future, when Hegel is vindicated: The World State is a fact, but without too much wealth. Everyone lives in an administrative order that rationalizes life, habits, and speech. It renders everyone a lonely individual, same as everyone else. Bureaucracy becomes the hope to which children are raised, the morning to which man awakes daily, the horizon of mortality itself. It is no longer possible for people to associate or to feel strong attachments or to conceive duties stronger than life.

Despite American hopes, what you end up with is the last men. Mankind is in a Nietzschean situation, therefore. The likely future is permanent mediocrity, a democracy in which only resentment makes people feel alive. The only thing that makes life worth living to people is that they had no choice in it. For the most part, however, people go on with their lives. What describes them, so far as we’re concerned, is how brittle they are. Life is organized, but, faced with difficulties, people, individually, seem to break down psychologically. Change crushes them. So far, it would seem that the result of modern political science is a crucial weakening of human nature. That would seem to be the price to pay for prosperous peace.

But then there is this other possibility–the shocking, incalculable possibility of a galactic future–the Space Age. This starts as a crisis faced by a select few. Among human beings, in secret, live exceptionally long-lived creatures, who get to 150 easy, the creatures of selective breeding. This is eugenics in its 19th-century sense, as one can read about it in Nietzsche or in Thomas Galton. Selecting the best and using science to improve on nature. In a sense, it’s natural for Heinlein to turn to this sort of thing–he writes in an age of confidence in the power of science to better mankind. The dreams of a previous such age come alive to him, regardless of the interim doings and goings on. This extremely long life serves a political purpose. It is a fulfillment of the ancient promise we know from Descartes: Medicine is the only real scientific power that can tame mankind. Fear of death, properly maintained among a people exceptionally long-lived, is the future of mankind. Everyone will be old people even in their youth, but without neuroses or hang-ups or repression. This is Hegel’s End of History: No one would ever fight to the death, knowing what long life awaits.

Member Post

 

To the surprise of nobody, another Star Trek TV series is in the works. As with so many legendary IPs, fans will cry havoc if their expectations are not met… but will also wolf down any scraps offered because they have been waiting for something, anything, much too long.  Preview Open

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. . . an earthshaking revelation and the critical role played by Larry Graham and Arthur C Clarke While doing some research on Larry Graham, bassist for Sly & The Family Stone, regarding his innovative “slap-pop”* style of playing on a pop single (listen to Thank You (Falenttinme Be Mice Elf Agin)), I stumbled across […]

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