Category: Science Fiction


JPL Visions of the Future

NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a bunch of free propaganda posters for a bright future! If I had to decorate a restaurant or something, I’d choose some of those.You can download the whole thing, about 600 MB, here.

 

Fallout 4

Welcome home.

Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s been a while since I left a cinema grinning. A good movie! It’s gritty and it will set the tone for Burning Man for years to come. The pace is always just right. As with the first Mad Max movie, the emotional impulse is survive, save the innocent, revenge. Nothing new there but at the same time the movie and the way it tells the old plot in the old setting just feels surprisingly fresh.

Also, it’s so feminist it’s got its own set of memes now.

Hey-Girl-Mad-Max-1

But without being annoying about it. I really like the symbolism (bullets in her crotch, carrying seeds, the older women dealing out death but looking for a place to put the seeds…) You coud easily analyse this in a gender seminar and get interesting results.

IMDB trivia: “The film editor, Margaret Sixel, is director George Miller‘s wife. When she asked her husband why he thought she should do it as she had never edited an action film before, Miller replied, “Because if a guy did it, it would look like every other action movie.” It was shot in sequence, not a lot of CGI (well at least not much as compared to other movies out there).

Yesterday, I saw “Jupiter Ascending” and … oh god, what a train wreck of a movie. Seriously, if you just look at it without sound you might appreciate the concept art but that’s about it. So seeing Mad Max really made me happy and had me at the edge of my seat. Go see it on the big screen … but it will probably age well, and I already look forward to seeing it again in a few years.

Young Adult Novels: ‘House of Stairs’

Another of my childhood favorites: ‘House of Stairs’ by William Sleator, published in 1974.

Never having heard anything of MC Escher, Kafka, Milgram or B.F. Skinner at the age of seven, these names come to mind years later. Themes include suspicion of authority and social breakdown under stress, similar to ‘Lord of the Flies’ but distinctly different. It’s a good read and it was my first for that theme, nostalgia is probably repsopnsible for making it better than all the later works on this theme.

I’ll tell you a secret. I love reading young adult novels. Maybe because I have such fond memories of reading a great book under the blanket all night and being really tired at school the next day – and not regretting a thing because the book was worth it. So here are some of my favorite ya books that I still like as an adult.

I read ‘The Giver’ when I was nine and it’s one of the books I reread frequently. I just recently discovered that, in fact, the author, Lois Lowry, has written more books which are set in the same dystopian world: The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004),Son (2012). These novels are now called ‘The Giver Quartet’.

‘The Giver’ is minimalistic yet compelling. I won’t tell you much about the world because part of the fun is figuring out how it works, but let’s just say it’s not that far away from ‘Brave New World’. I imagine you would read it differently as an adult, but to me it was one of the first novels that took me to a place where something was not quite right.

Jumping on the ‘Hunger Games’ train, it has now been adapted as a movie. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but quite a tearjerker. While the novel is so elegantly understated at times, the movie kind of throws it all in you face (oh, and Taylor Swift is in it). So if you are going to watch it, read the book first.

Abalakin by Alexander Preuss

More old bookmark material! I don’t remember how I came across these stunning visuals by German artist Alexander Preuss, but I’d like to share this.

Have a look at his gallery for more mouth-wide-open sci fi visuals and concept art. I really like futuristic city scapes and huge structures in space.

Japanese Monster Art

Looking through old bookmarks, I just rediscovered this beautiful flickr set  by user modern_fred named kaiju eiga.

I especially enjoy these weird anatomical drawings. Have fun with the set!

 

The Desolation of Cinema

I couldn’t get any sleep last night until I had written the first draft of this article. At times like these I feel a little sorry that the scifi zine I used to write for ceased to be some years ago. R.I.P. e!Scope (hi, Jörn!). At least there we had an audience of ~3,000 people who could probably have been understanding readers for the rant that is to follow. Now it’s just another blogger ranting away. Why, you ask? Well, because I just saw “The Hobbit 2 – The Desolation of Smaug”.

Ennor, bâr nîn (Middle Earth, my home)

A bit of my background with “Lord of the Rings”. There were two worlds which I adored since I was old enough to appreciate Scifi and fantasy, “Star Wars” and Middle Earth. “The Hobbit” was a gift from my mother when I was nine years old, I was supposedly “too young” for the “Lord of the Rings”, which I read shortly thereafter. And yes, the first volume was a bit harsh for an 11-year-old impatient girl, but I made it through and Tolkien has been one of my favorites ever since. When I was thirteen, I learned Sindarin online and communicated in Elvish, we had a regular vocabulary of around 600 words. The site we used is still online btw. My online alias which I still use today, Thiliel, is inspired by Sindarin as well. It is a translation of my European name and means “The Shining One”. My love for Tolkien came to a peak when the “Lord of the Rings” movies came out since 2001. Yes, they are an interpretation, but rather a good one. Especially the Elves were portrayed in a more somber, haughty nature, the original gaiety, singing and rhyming which is paramount in Tolkien’s fiction was replaced by the elegant, noble Elven folk. Again, an interpretation, but one I could and can live with. It is not mine, but at least it is consistent.

“The Hobbit 1”

Let’s skip a bit ahead in time. The year is 2012. I have played two Lord of the Rings-campaigns with my roleplaying group in anticipation of the movie that is eagerly expected by Tolkien-afficionados around the world: The Hobbit! I have re-read the book two times already.

I left the theater with mixed feelings a year ago. Peter Jackson still had enough credit with me that I would trust him to make a decent movie out of this material, because he had proven himself worthy before. Now, I wasn’t so sure. Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Ian McKellen were excellent choices for the characters. Also Lee Pace as Thranduil was a pleasant surprise, although Luke Evans looks so much like Orlando Bloom he would have been the obvious choice. Nevermind. The dwarves I could live with. Not my interpretation, but acceptable in a way. What really stung with me though was Radagast. That’s an interpretation I can’t live with. Unnecessary slapstick; check. Fecal humor; check. Cowardly behavior; check. Bunny waggon – wtf? Jar Jar Binks Alert!

Now let’s get down to business. I think I have at length expressed that I don’t criticize just for the hell of it, but I’m a genuine fan and have always been greatly inspired by Lord of the Rings. I know a lot of work has gone into making the “Desolation” and it shows; some aspects like the visuals, costumes and concept art hold their ground. Especially the scenes in Erebor and Esgaroth were convincingly made. Mirkwood wasn’t half bad either.

But there are just so many things that make me go to bed angry.

Picture by Irise on deviant art

The Carrock

First off, Beorn. They are making three  movies out of one relatively short book. There’s a lot of stretching and plot-threading going on. Nevertheless, they cut one of the funniest scenes in the whole Hobbit down to some wild escape and like two minutes of meaningless conversation. Why can’t they take the time to tell this like it’s meant to be but add action, action, action and a love story (more about THAT later!). The dwarves still have a funny potential and weren’t completely fun-neutered like the elves. So why not make the best of these adorable scenes? Who doesn’t remember the way grumpy Beorn has to be carefully prepared for guests? (We have tons of CGI at hand, would a few animals serving the food at Beorn’s house have been so much effort? I still understand why they left his one out though, they cut Tom Bombadil as well in LOTR.) And last but not least – why the bloody hell would Beorn build a house in which he cannot stand up straight? He is huge, the audience gets that without any Gandalfy headbumping.

The Womenfolk

Secondly, Tauriel. I don’t even have words. I kept thinking of “The TV Set”  as I watched this horrible romance unfold. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s worth it. It tells the story of a writer who runs a pilot for a series, but the channel directors and consumer research force him to alter his script in so many ways that he’d rather die of embarrassment than let this misogynist fart-humor monster that his show has become air on television. For evaluation, the test audience are given controls with which they indicate throughout the pilot what they like and don’t like. It comes as it has to. Sex sells. We all know it.

Let me tell you a bit about elves. Elves in romantic contexts are rare in that universe. Interracial relationships are a once in a millennium exception (Beren & Luthien, Arwen & Aragorn). How likely is it for an approximately 700-year-old Elven woman to have feelings for a little dwarf, who has the lifespan of a gnat, that go anything beyond pity?  Whose peoples have been  not friendly with each other for centuries? The ‘couple’ gets more screen time than Bilbo! And then the healing… blegh! Of course, it’s Arthelas. Does anyone except me smell a best of Galadriel and Arwen cook-up?

“Hmm, let’s see, we have to insert some kind of fair Elven maiden here. She should be really sexy, possess exceptional healing powers and a halo, fall in love with a member of another race… and of course, we’ve had blonde and a brunette already, let’s have a redhead for a change so we have covered all young adult porn categories!”
The only explanation for the character Tauriel is this: The “Star Wars Episode II” phenomenon. There has to be love involved. Even if it derails the story completely. Padme & Anakin 4eva ❤ ❤

 WhoooaooooOOOWhoooa!

“What place does 3D have in a serious tool show?” Just an example for all the action and blam blam poing. It’s okay if Legolas does a stunt in, let’s say, in  a clash of armies once or twice. Good for a laugh, let’s move on. But this Elven Killing Machine Ninja thing is really starting to annoy me. All the things that were kept under control in LOTR seem to get completely out of hand here.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cogwheels. So the part inside the Erebor was pretty cool as a visual fireworks. Skyrim, anyone? Dwarven architecture rocks. Still, what does it have to do with “The Hobbit”? Smaug was a good dragon even if they have to put Cumberbatch in everything nowadays. I could live with this kind of furor in say, “Indiana Jones” minus Shia La Beouf. It’s just there for the sake of WhoooaoooWhooa! “Badabing, you’re scared half to death.” (Tim Allen)

The Desolation of Cinema

What am I going to the cinema for? If I want a ride in a rollercoaster, I’ll go to an amusement park. If I want to almost drown in a river, I’ll go whitewater rafting. If I want to scratch a kinky itch and experience a tete-á-tete between a dwarf and an elf, I’ll go read fan fiction on fanfiction.net or something – and it will probably be better written.

And what for? More money? Better ratings? Awards? The real LOTR-fans might think of this like me. It almost borders on desecration. I am seriously disappointed. So it’s not a movie for the fans.
The average non-fantasy-nerd consumer however will probably appreciate the movie up to a certain point. But we have also reached the time where all the movies of this production size sort of blend in together. It’s just one giant omnium gatherum of the same old formula, boy meets girl, boy fights robots/orcs/own people, becomes king/leader/marries/saves the world. That’s okay, in a way we expect blockbuster movies to be like that. Or at least we have come to accept them this way, mostly. But recently, you can’t even distinguish which  Pocahontas revamp you are watching – “Indiana Jones”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Star War”s, “Star Trek”, you name it… So the average consumer will be left with nothing discernible at the end of this movie except with “Oh yeah, dude, it was so cool when x / y did that stunt with the x / x”, except it’s dwarves now, not jedis.

What is it good for?
So why make this movie at all? As a fan, I am severely disappointed. I watch the worlds of my childhood and teenage imagination get trampled on. Over and over. Another franchise is down. As an average non-nerd consumer, I still feel punked and cheated. Should have stayed home and watched Avatar or whatever!
Who are you making movies for, guys?

Official promotional poster

And having watched “The TV Set” I might even be understanding of what the evil overseer made you do to your creative child and have you paint a clown mask and tits on it. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Update: TolkienEditor has recut the three movies into one film, 4,5 hours long. He has thrown out all “unengaging plot tangents and constant narrative filibustering”, and created a version that’s actually watchable. The story mainly focuses on Bilbo, as in the original book, and all the annoying crap isn’t as annoying.

by Lena van Beek

arielle_fanart_n_o_norm_large

How did I end up here, you ask? Well, actually, that’s a long story. Not really a long one, though. Like all stories in real life, this one does not have a happy ending. As you know. You are so used to everything resolving and coming out nicely at the end. But not here. There you go. Out here, people loose their jobs, they don’t get to marry the love of their life or to fuck the girl they always had a crush on, and they often die, too – sometimes they go crazy. But let’s start a the beginning, not at the end, because you already know how it will end, right? Exactly, with me being here, talking to you little bugger to pass time.

I always was kind of a weird kid. Kept to myself, mostly. Never played outside, never had friends except those I let copy my homework at school. I never felt lonely, tough. My parents didn’t really care about me – I mean, they did love me and feed me with food and TV and all that stuff parents should do, I was never beaten or abused so don’t you try get to me with that Freudian shit, it won’t apply here. My mother was a nurse and my father had the noble occupation of being a professional asshole at nameless company. You don’t care about company names when you’re still peeing your pants now, do you.

So, when exactly did it all start? I was like, what, five, when I had my first thing. It is somewhat hard to describe, because I never really thought about it, it just came to me naturally. I could… well, see things. I was alone a lot so I guess I started making me some company. I didn’t exactly read much nor watch lots of TV, but some stuff stuck to me. So one day I was happily splashing in the family bath tub, which, at that time, seemed very large to me, as do most things when you are small and the world is infinitely bigger than you, and every object has its own mystery, its own story to tell you if you just care to explore it. You could have fit three boys my size inside that bath tub, and I had a few toys – a rubber shark, a wooden ship, and a barbie some cousin of mine had left at our house at the last family get-together. And as little boys usually are, I was very impatient, I wanted to get out and do stuff, I was bored, so I tried to play with the toys my parents thought I liked, but toys never worked on me for some reason. I just pushed the barbie doll underwater to see if it came up again on its own. It didn’t. The rubber shark did, though, and the wooden ship with a thin layer of lime upon its plastic sails did, too. Great. Now could I get out, please? Of course, I wasn’t that cynical yet when I was a kid, but I guess you could say I already had the basics of my later character laid out and I was preconditioned to be a nag.

My fingers started to shrivel, I stared at the barbie at the white bottom of the tub. Still lying there, green hair floating in the lukewarm water. It grew a fishtail for some reason. Just as I leaned over to take a closer look at what might be an illusion caused by circulatory collapse, being in hot water way too long, I slipped. My head hit the edge and my face hit the water, and I blacked out for a second and panicked. Someone said „Hi, dear.“ When I opened them again, I screamed. A little. No bottom in sight. I was underwater, and bubbles emerged from my mouth. But as it turned out, the mermaid-barbie was quite nice and took me to some Ariellesque underwater party with fish and seals and a nice Neptun-like uncle and we had so much fun.

Yeah, right. Don’t look at me like that, pal. I know what you think. But wait until you hear this, then you’ll really think I’m nuts. I never told my parents any of the stuff that was happening to me, though it was hard to me to keep myself from screaming when it went bad. And it was bad a lot. Like that one time when I was stumbling through that wintery forest with Bambi and his mom, my nose running and instantly spawning tiny icicles. You could hear their stomachs growl down to Paraguay. I was the first one to cave in. They started tearing away at my flesh, sinews and tissue hanging out of my blue-cold skin and hyperbolically red blood pouring into the Disney-white snow.

Have you ever been eaten alive by deer? No? In retrospect, I can tell you, it’s quite interesting. They basically treat you like a tree, they rip off your skin with their sharp runty teeth, like they’re peeling the bark off, until they get to the better, softer parts.

But you see, there was that to it, too. Talk about kids having a vivid imagination. It’s true, I seemed to process bits and pieces of that media multiverse that subconsciously digged into my head, whether I wanted it to or not, and then – transform into something so entirely weird, I couldn’t influence it in any way. I couldn’t tell myself to stop thinking about it or making it up, because I wasn’t. Nor could I distract myself, these episodes just popped into my head like paperback visions.

It wasn’t until later in my life when I realized it was all sort of conntected. When I came into that certain age when you suddenly notice that this thing dangling between your thighs is actually there for a reason. The only thing you think about is how can manage to sneak out of class for a couple of minutes to relieve yourself because the teacher’s knockers give you a boner. I had normal fantasies, I guess, until I had this episode about Alice. Little innocent Alice sucking away gently at the caterpillar’s tail, salivating its massive ring segments until it was wet and hard enough to slide between her buttocks and pop her cherry. Standing bent over the giant mushroom, occasionally cramming a little of it into her mouth, she was getting her brains fucked out. Rubbing her labia against it, screaming and moaning but not a sound to be heard, just a giant „O“ hovering above her head. Over time, the caterpillar’s body miraculously grew additional segments, slowly winding around her lithe and lissom body until she was getting it everywhere…

When I opened my eyes, I was ashamed because I had jerked off in my undies without touching myself or even noticing. Ever since I get turned on by gals wearing blue skirts. Once the brain has been kinked, it can’t be unkinked.

I lived. Not thinking. I graduated, eventually, best of class. I had bad sodes during the ceremony and puked all over the makeshift stage. You wouldn’t think that now, if you look at me, that I could have had it all. But what is that, all? Had had nothing in my life anyway, except school and TV and sodes. I couldn’t really think of anything else to do and I wanted to go on not having to think, because thinking makes me nervous. So I enlisted.

You know how they have you do tests before they even think of you as something?

Your motivations don’t count, your experience don’t count, your training ain’t important. All that they care about is not your body, not your abilities, but your mind.Which is the only thing you are really going to put to use up here, anyway.

During the wars, oh, that didn’t matter, they simply needed someone to push buttons, unleashing nuclear hell upon civilizations. But nowadays, C.O.’s most peculiar interest is rather not to fuck up a mission. Because, you know, billions of dollars in expensive hitec gear, and they are unwilling to take the risk of somebody going completely bonkers on ’em, so they can kiss their longterm investment good-bye as they see it crashing into an asteroid, the pilot screaming ‘La Paloma’ at the top of his lungs, dancing around naked with porn magazines in deep space.

I ain’t going crazy on them, they made darn sure of that. Or maybe I had just the right level of craziness that they were looking for.

It wasn’t like I was applying for a normal job, but like I was being casted to be part of a new elite. At least, that’s what they told us. It didn’t feel very elite, though, it felt like being a lab rat.

They put us in saunas, with numbers on them. No windows. Just sitting in a box without food or water, struggling to keep up to nonsense tasks. Like, I had a keyboard right in front of me, and everytime a key flashed I was supposed to punch it as fast as possible. And that was real fast, as I learned the hard way. With time passing on, everything started to blur. I tried to stay awake. I wish they wouldn’t have shaved our hair and eyebrows off, sweatdrops kept running down my head and into my eyes.

I started having sodes again, not in the usual scary way, but they helped me get through it. They were good, friendly sodes like that day I almost drowned in the bathtub. When they just let you sit there, for hours, days, weeks, you’ve got no idea how long, I was in Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. Well, you’ve done it, too, you know the drill. Time stops existing. You had no way of knowing how long you were in this thing, and then, you stopped caring. Because it wasn’t important. The only thing that is important is serving your country, as the voice kept telling me in the dark, loving it and being loved. Protecting it, too. But mostly: loving it.

I was right. I didn’t have to think at all, despite what they told us at the beginning. I did not mind the darkness, nor the cold, the heat, the loneliness and I guess they were waiting for me to crack like many others must’ve done. When there was food, there was something in it that sometimes made me drowsy, sometimes it made me able to concentrate harder. Whatever.

Yeah, of course I know what it is now, dumbass. I take it every frigging day. You couldn’t live without it, could you. So basically, that’s it. You know it from there. I came here, met you guys, worked my ass off. Believe it or not, I actually had a good time. What would they have said back then, it’s been an honour serving with you? Fuck that. When the oxygen runs out, there’s gonna be no honour whatsoever, just choking and gasping and sleeping and dying.

You know what bugs me most about it? All that couldn’t entirely stop me from thinking. I still am and I won’t stop. Now, you know what this ship looks like to me right now? A big pumpkin carriage. Yep, that’s right. So, this is how it’s going to end. The harsher the reality, the pleasanter the illusions of the mind and vice versa. What do you care if I talk and use up so much air, they won’t come get us anyway. Now, what’s your story?

by-nc-sa1

Men with a passion…

So of course we all know Mythbusters, we’ve all seen Jamie and Adam blow up all kinda of things and put them mainly in the “yeah, they’re cool” category.

Today I learned that Adam is a man with a passion. Well, most likely more than one. For over 13 years or so he is working on a replica of the ZF-1 from “The Fifth Element”.

See him talk about it right here:

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