While we're all holding our breath for the release of films Interstellar and Transcendence… let's skim a fewer lesser-known nuggets. But first a few announcements:
1) The Smithsonian Magazine in collaboration with the UC San Diego Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, Nerd Nite, Smithsonian Grand Challenges Consortia, and the Smithsonian Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation PRESENTS
THE FUTURE IS HERE: Science meets Science Fiction
Imagination, Inspiration and Invention
MAY 16-18, 2014 Washington DC
Imagination, Inspiration and Invention
MAY 16-18, 2014 Washington DC
Presenters include: Patrick Stewart, David Brin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Brian Greene, Adam Steltzner, George Takei, Stewart Brand, Sara Seager, and The Mythbusters! For more information…. TICKETS ARE GOING FAST!
Culminating the first day, the mighty string theorist and science popularizer/author Brian Greene will interview me onstage.
2) Issues in Science and Technology -- a respected quarterly journal that explores the intersections of science, technology, society, and policy -- announces a science fiction contest! Winners will receive $1500. Throughout 2015, starting with the Winter volume, IST will publish one SF story per issue, on topics of broad societal interest. Published stories may be accompanied by a brief commentary or response written by a member of the National Academies. Co-sponsored by Arizona State University.
== Greene/(Green) Days ==
Speaking of the brilliant Brian Greene, author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos as well as The Elegant Universe… watch this trailer for a magnificent dramatization of his children's book "Icarus at the edge of Time," narrated by John Lithgow with music by Philip Glass.
Further… when does a story about science become science fiction? On this episode of ScienceFriday, Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and theoretical physicist Brian Greene discuss how to spin a yarn about string theory or the Big Bang, without hyping or distorting the science. And novelist Ian McEwan, whose books touch on neurosurgery and quantum field theory, talks about what science offers to fiction.
Speaking of the verdant color, lately, at the LA Times Festival of Books, I was able to wrangle for Cheryl a seat to watch an interview with John Green. the effervescent impresario of Crash Course online tutorials, as well as a legendary series of entertaining pro-sense-and-science v-log rants, co-founder of Nerdfighters, and New York Times best-selling author of novels including The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska.
== Media and Movies! ==
Keep an eye open for John Harden's latest short film "NEW" which will soon be hitting the festival circuit, thanks to the generosity of online supporters like you. Moreover, get ready for a story that is poignant, stirring, but not stuck in the hackneyed rut of apocalyptic dystopias. "Cautionary tales have their place, of course, and I love those movies," says Harden, "but I think dystopian views of the future are just a trendy stock solution. It's not a good trend, because an unvaried diet of dystopias doesn't warn us, it just points us toward despair." Harden believes we need the utopias, too.
One review reads: "I think that's one reason that NEW got [an] endorsement from sci-fi author and futurist David Brin, back when we were launching our first online fundraiser," says Harden. "He and I are simpatico on that point—which is why my movie shows a lush green future of rolling hills and puffy white clouds." Plus some sadness… and some hope. Spread some yourselves.
And yipe... this trailer for Scarlet Johansson's coming film LUCY is amazing. How interesting that the human enhancement theme is on a roll. This one makes it a dive into psychic stuff, but I am willing to be entertained. Still, I enjoyed the intelligent film LIMITLESS (2011) as one of the few SF films "for grownups" ever made.
BBC America has just announced the 10 PM April 19th debut of a four-part mini-series titled The Real History of Science Fiction, which will feature films from Star Wars to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Jurassic Park to Doctor Who, each program is packed with contributors behind these creations. There are even (gasp) a couple of authors.
Some details about Andy and Lana Wachowski's super secretive new Netflix series Sense8 have finally surfaced. And this new series, created in collaboration with Babylon 5's J. Michael Straczynski, sounds kind of incredible. It apparently concerns some topics that have been raised here before (and in certain novels): the cultural expansion of empathy horizons, from family to tribe to clan to nation to globe; as well as how technology is used to both unite us and divide us. Interesting themes, a promise of a show in conception already more sophisticated that most of the SF we get in media usually.
Anyone know about BLACK MIRROR? It seems the top sci fi anthology show around and …well… my ulterior motive is to get them a copy of OTHERNESS. Lots of people think I have a dozen tales perfect for that kind of Twilight Zone treatment. Hint. Hint. (Some of my best haven't been collected yet!)
Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe is threatening to draw me in. Argh, like I needed more time sinks.
Episode one of REDSHIRTS: The Animated Series!
Terry Gilliam may be out of his mind -- and this trailer for his new quasi-sci-fi film, Zero Theorem, seems to indicate it's so -- but no one can deny he is the bravest film maker alive.
== Weird but a good effort ==
In his 1960s novel The Futurological Congress, the great science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem foresaw a worldwide chemical dictatorship run by the leading pharmaceutical companies, whose complete control of our emotions range from love to jealousy to fear. Director Ari Folman's new film adaptation of Lem's novel -- The Congress -- introduces the current cinematic technologies of 3-D and motion capture, which are then extrapolated to a future when actors -- in this case Robin Wright -- sell their personnas to become permanent studio franchises, completely created by AI.
The film, which won a number of festival awards, has no theatrical release scheduled in the U.S., alas. My wife and I got to see it as guests of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival… for the price that I had to join a panel afterwards, with local luminaries (KPBS's Beth Accamondo) and animation experts, to discuss the movie. (I was the token sci fi author.)
We had mixed reactions. I felt the middle third dragged and the animation was too repetitious -- too many lush, avatar-like flowering plants. On the other hand, Robin Wright was terrific, playing an alternate version of herself. And the poignant ending was very well-handled. I thought that Folman dealt with the "what is reality?" issues at least as well as any of the directors who have rendered Philip K. Dick tales. All told, I recommend renting the DVD when you get a chance.