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Visions of the future

With Blade Runner 2 producers offering Harrison Ford a key role and with Ridley Scott involved and with Hampton Fancher involved (writer of the original blade runner!!) and Michael Green involved (screenwriter of the Green Lantern film…wait that isn’t good, is it?…) we’re all very excited. So we’ve decided to look back at the original and it’s visions of the future. 

Spinners:

BladeRunner_Spinner

The spinners were used by the police but through the corruption of the time also by the wealthy. Capable of taking off vertically with the use of its jet propulsion and anti-gravity engines. The technology is based on aerodynes that forces air down to gain thrust. Visual Futurist Syd Mead designed it and one can be seen on display at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington. Also, go and have a look at more of Syd Mead’s work, he designed the light cycles for Tron! http://sydmead.com/v/12/

Likely five years from now?: Well obviously not. We haven’t reached the anti-gravity stage yet but we do have the Harrier Jump Jet which works in the same way but doesn’t look as cool in the future smog…harrier jump jet

The future is a bit smoggy with no sunlight:

Second bit is a lie and one people continue to get wrong. For most of the film it’s raining and dark. There is one scene where you see the sun and that’s at the top of Eldon Tyrell’s pyramid and in the original uplifting ending which everyone was glad they scrapped so we don’t count it. The film is without doubt one of the most visually stunning films of all time. The atmosphere we see in the film is a pathetic fallacy drawing us more into the dank world inhabited by humans and replicants. As there is no sunlight there is no animal or plant life so they have to be artificially created. eldrons 

Likely five years from now: We’re not far off now. Some places in China have days when young children and old people can’t go outside because of the levels of smog. Reports are starting to say that the smog is affecting plant’s photosynthesis just like you would find in a nuclear winter.

smog in china

Replicants

Putting the biological vs mechanical argument over Blade Runner’s replicants to one side they still remain artificial humans who were so well designed and constructed that the only way to tell one apart from a human was to test their emotional reactions. They wouldn’t be able to empathise with certain situations, e.g. You’ve got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do? Apart from emotional fallibility they were superior to humans in their strength, agility and intelligence (depending on the model).

Likely in five years time? Well we’ve only just made a robot than can run. Meet it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv35ItWLBBk. We could also clone humans but there are laws and stuff…damn bureaucrats…Very recently Stephen Hawking has expressed concern over the future of artificial intelligence. “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.” Hawking writes. “Unfortunately, it might also be the last.” The worry being that AI could outpace human intelligence so where does that leave us?

replicant?

Off-world colonies:

The replicant mutiny started on an off-world colony where they are used for the most dangerous and menial work or simply for leisure. The replicants have a built-in 4 year lifespan which stops the replicants gathering more life experience and become more human and emotionally unstable. They get to Earth to try to extend their lives where Deckard gets the job of hunting them down. We know from the final scene that they have attack ships and c-beams (whatever they are) but the film takes place on Earth and most of this stuff just gets a passing reference, mostly in the final speech by Roy Batty.

tears in rain

Likely in five years time: Nope, only just got a lander to Mars. But there is likely to be a manned mission to Mars by 2023…http://www.mars-one.com/news/press-releases/mars-one-will-settle-men-on-mars-in-202

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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Looking for your own sci-fi adventure?

Go to Mars!!

Mars One is a not-for-profit organization that will take humanity to Mars in 2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement. Before the first crew lands, Mars One will have established a habitable, sustainable settlement designed to receive astronauts every two years.
So it’s a one way ticket to Mars. That still sounds like an amazing adventure to me.

Book: Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson

Go Planet Hunting!!

Planet Hunters is a collaboration between Yale University and the Zooniverse, home to the internet’s largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. They use lightcurves from the publicly released data obtained by NASA’s Kepler mission to identify the change in a Star’s light as a planet passes in front of it.
Think of that. You are helping to discover new planets within our galaxy (possibly harbouring life) with little training. They help you through the whole process so go and give it a go. Over 700 discovered so far!

Book: The Wanderer, Fritz Lieber

Go on a Space Flight!!

Virgin Galactic have been committed to sending up space tourists for the last 20 years and have been selling the tickets since 1995. Over 500 people have booked themselves on the first flights and you can snap one up for the bargain cost of only $200,000 (it’s a $20,000 deposit).
The flight comes along with the usual Virgin exclusivity such as being called an “astronaut”, forums with Sir Richard, touring the workshops and being invited to media events.
The aim is to get the first flights going in 2013 but that is reliant on all the tests going well…

Book: Destination Space: How Space Tourism Is Making Science Fiction a Reality, Kenny Kemp

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Locus Awards 2012

The fight for The Hugo Award 2012 heats up with the announcement of The Locus Awards. China Mieville has been awarded best science fiction novel for Embassytown and George R.R. Martin got the award for the best fantasy novel for A Dance with Dragons, both books that are nominated for this year’s Hugo.

This is the sixth award for China Mieville at the Locus Awards and an astounding eleventh for George R.R. Martin. The Locus has tended to follow the Hugo Awards for best science fiction awards, including last year’s winner Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, but has gone off on its own in the fantasy section where for the last two years it has favoured (you guessed it) China Mieville.

My money is still on Embassytown at the moment, but the shock of Jane Rogers beating Mieville to the Arthur C Clarke Award we could be in for an upset…

Full list of Locus Award 2012 winners:

Science Fiction Novel: Embassytown, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)

Fantasy Novel: A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)

First Novel: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)

Young Adult Book: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,

Novella: Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA; Clarkesworld)

Novelette: “White Lines on a Green Field”, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Fall ’11)

Short Story: “The Case of Death and Honey”, Neil Gaiman (A Study in Sherlock)

Anthology: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-eighth Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Collection: The Bible Repairman and Other Stories, Tim Powers (Tachyon)

Non-fiction: Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature, Gary K. Wolfe (Wesleyan)

Art Books: Spectrum 18: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner (Underwood)

Artist: Shaun Tan

Editor: Ellen Datlow

Magazine: Asimov’s

Publisher: Tor

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Looking for a new series?

A while ago I wrote about one of the hardest things to do as a fan of sci-fi/fantasy; picking what to read next. There are so many great books and writers out there, where do you start? Best move in my opinion is to start reading one of great serieses(?). You finish one book you can move right on to the next book. All sweaty, hurty-head decisions are borne away from you on the silky wings of the following recommendations:

The Discworld Series, Sir Terry Pratchett:

So we have a world that is a Disc. That sits on the back of four giant elephants. Which themselves perch on the back of the Giant Star Turtle the Great A’Tuin. You just can’t fail on that premise can you?

I could astound you for hours with facts about this amazing series of books but I’ll settle for saying that this series has some of the classics of the comic fantasy genre. Feet of Clay still remains one of my favourite books but I love them all…mostly. There are 39 Discworld novels and a load of short stories for you to devour, which you will, relentlessly, at the expense of family, friends and jobs.

Literacy some people have asked where to start with Discworld. My advice is to read the character books in sequence (The Watch novels, Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax) but the rest are perfect for just dipping in to.

Dune Series, Frank Herbert:

Dune has been called the greatest science fiction novel of all time. The scope of the series is set over thousands of years and is just magnificent. You start your journey with Dune and I defy you not to become hooked by books as much as the characters are hooked on the Spice from the desert planet Arrakis.

One of the downfalls of the Dune series is that Frank Herbert died before he completed it. It has been left to his son and Kevin J Anderson to complete the series from his notes. I recommend finishing the series but none of the prequels or sequels that they have written, they are just awful.

Ender’s Series, Orson Scott Card:

I’ve only recently come across this series on my trawl through the Hugo Award winners. The first book is just a stunning work about the human condition of love, hate, survival, justice and all told through a child called Ender. Not surprised that this book and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, both won the Hugo and Nebula Award. I’m completely hooked by the Ender Universe and can’t wait to read all of its eleven novels, twelve short stories, and 47 comic issues.

Forever War Series, Joe Haldeman:

Just a trilogy this one but I read it years ago and the story has stayed with me. It’s splits down into three books; Forever War, Forever Peace and Forever Free.

The first book, Forever War, is the story of the war between humanity and the Taurans. The war takes place across the galaxy and the soldiers have to deal with the time dilation that results from space travel; they come back to a world centuries after they left and all the psychological damage that this causes.

The book may be partly biographic as Joe Haldeman fought in the Vietnam war which may be why it feels so raw. The story comes not from the war itself but people’s reaction to the war.

The Uplift Universe, David Brin:

David Brin creates a Universe where no race has achieved enlightenment, and so space flight, without being Uplifted (see that) by a patron race. And now humans are uplifting the most intelligent on Earth, namely chimps and dolphins. Together they battle the other races in Universe for the ultimate prize; survival.

There are 6 books in the series with another one planned; Brin has stated that Temptation “will be a core element of the next Uplift novel… and answers several unresolved riddles left over from Heaven’s Reach (the last book).”

The Commonwealth Saga, Peter F. Hamilton:

There are three books in The Commonwealth Saga though the second two take place 340 years after the first. The Void Trilogy take place in the same Universe as the Commonwealth Saga though 1,200 years after.

I love the Hamilton space operas books, they’re just so detailed but huge in scope and never less than a thousand pages long so you can get a nice big tome to read. The Commonwealth Saga is where I started and the intertwining stories of Pandora’s Star as the Commonwealth fight the Primes (warlike aliens) across the hundreds of human worlds just sucked me in.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

May the madness continue

So Jane Rogers has won this year’s Arthur C Clarke award for The Testament of Jessie Lamb. Where the hell did that come from? This win is just the latest gasp of drama that the Arthur C Clarke award has thrown up. And although it’s the biggest British prize for a Science Fiction/Fantasy author it has had some setbacks of late.

Firstly there have been a few financial difficulties with its funding running out:

The award has always been run on a voluntary basis, with the funding going to support a cash award matched to the year (so this year the prize money was £2,010). But since Clarke’s death in 2008, and the winding-up of his UK company Rocket Publishing, which funded the prize, the money has come to an end”. (Guardian, 2012)

Tom Hunter, Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, has written an open letter to all science fiction fans (which can be found here) on how you can help.

Then came the vitriolic criticism by Christopher Priest about the books which he called “dreadful” and the judging “incompetent”. The full article can be found on the Guardian website here.

Now, an award that was becoming known as the C Mieville award, has been won by an author whose book wasn’t even wanted by publishers. It was eventually picked up by Scottish independent publishers Sandstone and was even longlisted for the Man Booker prize.

Assessing Rogers’s chances of winning back in March, SFX described The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, as “Possibly a choice too far from SF’s centre-ground even for the Clarke judges,” but a win for an author from outside the genre has proved popular with many.

The book is set in a near-future world living in the aftermath of biological terrorism and the release of the MDS (maternal death syndrome) virus. Narrated by 16-year old Jessie Lamb, the novel follows her decision to volunteer for an experimental programme to carry an immune embryo to term, a choice she can’t hope to survive.

This have proven to be one of the most exciting and followed Arthur C. Clarke awards for a good few years. So I say may the madness (and the award) continue!

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Hugo Award Nominations 2012

The Hugo nominations are out!! You can find a full list at the most excellent Sci Fi Signal , which itself has been nominated for two thoroughly deserved awards for best fanzine and best fancast.

I’m focussing on the best novel nominations here as they have thrown up some very interesting authors and books. Here’s a breakdown:

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

Jo Walton won the Campbell award in 2002 and a number of other awards since including the Prometheus Award. By the amount of awards she has been nominated for she’s well due and the book itself has been receiving some great reviews.

Among others is presented as the diary of a girl, Morwenna Phelps, who has been sent to live with her father after her half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, tries to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled – and her twin sister dead. The boarding school she lives in is devoid of all true magic and she is forced to tempt fate by doing magic herself.

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)

If you haven’t come across A Song of Ice and Fire yet then you must have been living under a rock…on mars…with your fingers in your ears and your eyes closed. It’s just brilliant and has redefined the fantasy genre. The audience that has been opened up by this great series is a massive boon to fantasy authors everywhere.

A Dance with Dragons is the fifth book of the series so I don’t want to spoil anything for those that haven’t read it.  I don’t think it’s going to win though. The third book, A Storm of Swords, was runner-up in 2001 as was A Feast for Crows in 2006. I’m thinking that this is a another runner-up for Martin but he does have a successful show on HBO and a legion of loyal fans to console himself with.

Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)

Mira Grant is the pen name of Seanan McGuire, a multiple award winning author from America. She has previously won the Campbell award in 2010 and her novel Feed was nominated in 2011 for the Hugo award for Best Novel.

Deadline is the second novel in the Newsfelsh Trilogy (Feed was the first book) and is written from the point of view of blogger Shaun Mason who lives in a world that has gone through a Zombie Apocalypse.  You really need to have read the first book in the series to make sense of this one, but you may have already done that after it was nominated last year. It’s been getting good reviews though not as good as Feed so it may not be winning this year.

Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)

China Miéville has been a revelation since he burst on to the sci-fi scene a few years ago. Since his first novel King Rat was published in 1998 he has won three Arthur C. Clarke awards, a Hugo Award, a Locus and, sickeningly, many many more.

As this book has also been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award and is the firm favourite to win I’d set this as the favourite to win the Hugo Award as well. Christopher Priest who has just won the BSFA award this year, a competition that saw Priest up against Miéville, had some harsh words about the line up for Arthur C. Clarke award this year but Embassytown has been widely lauded by the critics.

Embassytown takes place in the title city, on the planet Arieka. Immerser Avice Benner Cho has returned to her childhood home, from her adventures in the Out. It is a planet on which humans and “exots” co-exist with the indigenous, enigmatic Ariekei — otherwise known as the Hosts. Few people can speak the language of the Hosts; those who can are genetically-engineered linguists known as Ambassadors. The relationship between humans and Ariekei has proceeded in relative tranquility for many years. Then one day an unexpected Ambassador arrives and the delicate diplomatic balance is tipped towards war. (taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassytown)

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

James S.A. Corey is actually the pen name for a collaboration between writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Abraham has published a huge number of novels, short stories and even a comic book based on A Game of Thrones. He lives in New Mexico and occasionally collaborates with George R.R. Martin (which was probably obvious from the comic book…). Ty Franck, I can’t find much on at all…

Leviathan Wakes is the first book in the Expanse Series and has had very good reviews, including from…you guessed it…George R.R. Martin.

You can find a great interview with both authors on SF Signal.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

My Trek Through The Hugo Awards

My Hugo Award winners bookshelf

Hugo Award Winning Shelf

Have you ever reached the stage where you look around and think to yourself; what the hell am I going to read next? With all the books that are published each year, around 206,000 in the U.K., how can you possibly decide which ones to read?

We’re all a little nerdy here so let’s do the maths: If a person reads a book a week (this is probably above average) then that’s 52 a year. Say they live for 80 years and started reading that amount of books at the age of 10. That’s only 3640 books in their whole life. That’s less than two percent of the books published in one year. I started to worry that I’m reading the wrong books and completely wasting my time.

Fear not though fellow nerdlings there are solutions. For me the solution was to take someone else’s advice on which books to read. The advice of a panel of experts on Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I turned to the Hugo Awards. More specifically the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

I’m not going to write about the history of the Hugo here, that’s something I’d like to cover another day. Basically though The Hugo Awards are given every year since 1953 by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year and are named for Hugo Gernsback, the founder of  science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.

I’ve been making my way through them for the last year or so in-between reviewing books and it’s been pretty good so far. There have been highs (Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm) and luckily very few lows. All of the books have included something different, something unique that makes them well worth the read. There are some books that maybe I wouldn’t recommend to others but there are some that have placed themselves firmly in my favourite Sci-Fi reads ever.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be highlighting some of the best examples of Hugo Award winners and trying to persuade you that they are well worth a read.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Uncategorized