Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Froggy's Last Story"

I commend to your attention this New York Times profile of an acquaintance of mine, the late sf writer F. Gwynplaine "Froggy" MacIntyre.  Note it's a three-page story.

Little Brother

So I'm about halfway through Doctorow's Little Brother, and let me say for the record that I really am enjoying this book.

I particularly found the parallels that the Social Studies teacher Ms. Galvez drew between the movement of the 1960's and 1970's with what is happening current day in the book.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Speaking of SyFy

This is completely off topic but I've meant to post something about this for a while. This summer in my Brit Lit class we had to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. After we completed the book the teacher told us we would be watching a movie adaptation of it. I was expecting the old Disney cartoon or the creepy Johnny Depp/ Helena Bonham-Carter version. Alas, this was not the case. She came in with Alice, which was a two part mini-series from SyFy. I absolutely loved it. The story was completely different and geared towards an adult audience. I enjoyed it so much that I told my dear roommate, Jordan, about it and convinced her to buy it. She loved it too. The movie/mini-series threw a science fiction twist into a familiar story that made my inner geek and inner child go crazy. Some parts of it are somewhat cheesy but overall I would suggest it to all of you. In fact, Kathy Bates was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of the Red Queen. It's definitely worth at least renting :)

Thank you, Star Trek

So, I thought it might be fun to list some former "science fiction" technology that we now use everyday. Cellphones are communicators. Automatic doors are like...automatic doors. The iPad is like the PADD (Personal Access Display Device). Bluetooth is like Uhura's earpiece communicator. They've recently made a device for the visually impaired, called Jordy, named after Geordi La Forge and his VISOR. Virtual reality headsets are a primitive holodeck. Can anyone else think of some others?

Nebulullaby and other RECords.

Hey guys, I'm using this blog post as a promotional gimmick as well as a chance to show you a couple of videos I think definitely have science fiction qualities but are perhaps a little different from the usual sci-fi. I'm not sure how many of you (if any) have ever heard of so I'll take a second to tell you what it is. It began 5 years ago, and is an online collaborative production studio founded by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I discovered it while stalking his Twitter account, @hitRECordJOE. :]

Anyway, the whole idea behind the site is that ANYONE can join, and begin uploading their videos, music, pictures etc. to the site for all to see. Then, the creative minds at hitRECord (aka everyone who joins) can take those "records" and download them, tweak them, mix them, have fun with them and then re-upload them, so the whole site works together to create some pretty amazing projects. Some of the short films, like the two I'm about to link you, have been featured at Sundance, SxSW and other festivals.

These two I think have a particular science fiction-y vibe to them. The first is titled Nebulullaby, and is more or less a music video depicting the Sun as the mother and all the planets as her children whom she's tucking into bed. I love how each planet has its own distinct personality.

Next we have Morgan and Destiny's Eleventeenth Date: The Zeppelin Zoo, which, let's face it, I included because of "Zeppelin City" mostly. But the language in this video and the combination of live action and sketch animation amuses be greatly. I hope you all enjoy it too. And yes, that IS Channing Tatum making an appearance as the dastardly Lionel.

Oh, the uses of technology today! Gotta love it. I encourage any of you artsy types or movie-makers to join!


Let me get this out of the way: I enjoyed "Mongoose".

That having been said, it does not seem to be as deep of a story as many of the others we have read. It was a great action-adventure romp with a sprinkling of politics, fantasy, and interpersonal relations. However, I feel that it barely asks the "What if?" question. Perhaps the question it asks is "What if humans needed to engage in a symbiotic partnership with a slightly less sentient being in order to live in space?" But if that is the question, the scope of the story is not broad enough to fully answer the question.

All in all, I feel that "Mongoose" would be a great addition to an anthology of stories by the same author set in the same universe. As it is, however, it amounts to little more than a pleasurable read.
Ok so I'm almost done reading Little Brother, and that was nuts. Does anyone else think it was way too much like all the post September 11th security measures? I'm sure I sound like a conspiracy theory follower, but I was looking at a plane ticket I just bought for my sister to come visit, and one of the charges was a "security charge". At the bottom it said it was a September 11th fee. Random, but it definitely made me think of some of the stuff in Little Brother.

Science Fiction for Tots

I was letting my daughter watch her cartoons this morning when a relatively new one came on, Team Umizoomi. We've watched this together before but I've never realized it's science fiction! The opening lines of the song are "In a world that's not so far away...." which sounds like it could be the beginning of any adult science fiction novel. The show revolves around two tiny children, Milli and Geo, and their robot, Bot (yes I know, creative). Milli, Geo and Bot use their "mighty math powers" to solve problems in their world. The world is a cartoon, yet real actors play most of the supporting roles, which only adds to the sci fi feel of the cartoon. I now realize why this is one of the few shows I let her watch.

This might not be relevant to many of you, since you are not yet subjected to the annoyance that is Nick Jr., but it may be comforting to know that in the future you can still watch a bit of science fiction while your kids enjoy their cartoons.

And the title is the theme song.... because it's cute.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eros, Philia, Agape

I think that this story is by far my favorite that we have read so far. It continued one of the reoccurring themes that we noticed earlier, love, as well as presenting a story of human interaction with a non-human life form.

What interested me the most in this story was the plasticity of Lucian's brain. How he was able to adapt and learn and grow in essentially the same way a human does. Except better. Because his brain will never lose plasticity like a human brain would. There's that cliche saying that you can't really change a person, but in this story, Adriana was able to change and mold Lucian into the type of mate that she wanted. Is the saying true, or does he count as a person? Is it mind over matter?

This story reminded me a lot of the movie A.I. where the little kid is a robot. I don't remember if there were healer bots in the movie, but with Rose always talking about healer bots I think I superimposed those two characters.

Eros, Philia, Agape

I just finished reading this story and I have to say that it is my favorite one from Strahan so far. Many of the other stories are more far-fetched in terms of how the future/alternate world may be different from our own, but I found "Eros, Philia, Agape" to be the most believable. How far are we really from having robots of this intelligence that are so like humans? It seems to me that we are a mere few years away from a world similar to the one that Swirsky has written about.

I also found the story to be beautifully written. I liked that Swirsky switched point of view between Adriana and Lucian, because it made the relationship between the characters so much easier to understand. It was easy for me to feel Adriana's pain, yet it was also easy for me to see why Lucian had to go.

I also love the use of the title. All three words "Eros, Philia, Agape" are all Greek words for love. I took a psychology-tastic quiz one time that determined what kind of lover you were (fun times in my public speaking class actually)

eros= Sexual, erotic love, romantic love
philia= love as friends
agape= self-sacrificing love

I think it's interesting the the author explores all three types of love throughout the story.

What kind of love do you think that each of the characters felt for one another?


Throughout science fiction, one archetype that keeps popping up is a dystopian society. In a dystopian society, the story usually centers on a protagonist who questions the society. Zeppelin City was a good example of this dystopian society except that the hero of this world was almost invisible and a villain. This is very similar to Ozymandius' role in the graphic novel, Watchmen. At the end of Watchmen, Ozymandius kills thousands of people in New York City but stops a possible World War 3 between the Soviet Union and the United States. In Zeppelin City, Eszterhazy gives the Naked Brain death and kills many of the gyro pilots, but in the end he gives that power back to himself (a person) rather than a floating brain in an over sized jar. What do you think about this change in the hero perspective in dystopian societies?

The Event

I was just watching TV earlier and saw a trailer for the new NBC show, "The Event." Has anyone seen anything about this? I had heard about it before, but had forgotten about it until I saw the commercial. It looks like it could be interesting - or like it could just be another attempt at a show with deep mythology, trying to capture what "Lost" was able to achieve.
Here's the summary of the plot, according to Wikipedia:
"The Event follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), a man who, while investigating the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend, ends up unraveling the biggest cover-up in U.S. history; a coverup which shapes the very core of mankind as a whole, whose implications are lifechanging."
Wikipedia also says that NYMAG put out an article claiming that the show is about an alien invasion, so I suppose that's the big cover-up. Either way, it sounds intriguing. I'll be interested in seeing whether the show is still around by Christmas.

Anyway, the link to the show's homepage is the in the title, and the show premieres Monday, September 20th, if anyone's interested.

Science Fiction and Philosophy

I was playing around on stumbleupon earlier today (for those who don't know, stumbleupon feature on Firefox and Google Chrome that takes you to a random website related to your interests), and I came across this link that I would like to share with all of you (click the title).

On the first day of class we discussed what science fiction is, and the prevailing definition was that it was the story of "what if." This article, by Sean Stubblefield, brings sci-fi and philosophy together proposes an alternative: science fiction and philosophy "are the literature of problem-solving and exploration (of ideas and of self)." I rather like that idea.

The article also focuses on the power of the symbol and of storytelling in science fiction (as well as philosophy). These two forms of literature together push the boundaries of human understanding and what is possible, and perhaps, as Stubblefield suggests, the two, in one way or another, may become one someday.

There is also a link in the article to a science fiction project called "Artemis Eternal." As far as I can tell, this is a sci-fi story by the people, for the people. I'm still exploring this avenue, so I can't say too much about it yet, but I encourage you all to check it out with me.