Tag scifi

Recent movies

Well, movies I’ve seen recently. I’m putting this here more for my benefit that anyone else’s – I have a memory like a, oh you know, round thing with holes in it, and I use the Internet to remember things for me.

  • Metropolis : bloody awesome. And very, very deep. Even if it does beat you over the head with the moral – and it’s a disturbingly cryptofascist moral (given where von Harbou later took it.)
  • M : made just four years later by Lang, it’s remarkable how far the technology of filmmaking had advanced. Anyway. It’s an astonishing film, mainly because of Peter Lorre’s sympathetic portrayal of a child murderer. His impassioned speech at the end is one of the most remarkable pieces of acting I’ve ever seen: “Ich muß – ich will nicht – ich muß – ich WILL NICHT!”
  • Tron Legacy : oh dearie, dearie me. The conceit of computer programs going to a night club in their idle time somehow worked in 1982, somehow it doesn’t now. More seriously, we’re all used to photorealistic CGI now, and when the virtual world is photorealistic, it doesn’t look… well, virtual any more. And I’m not even going to mention what was laughably called a plot. Still, pretty I suppose. And Michael Sheen was obviously enjoying himself.
  • It Happened One Night : a lovely, lovely screwball comedy from 1934 with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. So good to see it on the big screen. Beautifully acted with a light touch, and incredibly well shot. And Claudette – definitely. Until her legs fell off.
  • Monsters – interesting low budget scifi from auteur Gareth Edwards about a couple trying to make their way across an  northern Mexico infected with alien creatures. Some nice character work, good effects (for the budget) but a few problems with the pacing. Tries too hard to be understated. But I suspect it might stay with me.
  • Skeletons – I’ll go on about again, because it was awesome. Inception, done as a low-budget British comedy. Just bloody wonderful, see it if you can get hold of a copy.

rapamycin – an anti-aging drug from the soil? Sounds familiar…

Intriguing stuff, especially for me – I’m on immunosupressants anyway, so a change in prescription might not be a bad thing. It does sound familar though – a drug from the ground, which has geriatric properties…

The spice must flow!

Charles Stross – a classic example of bad luck = good luck

From the last installment of his tech biography series:

By summer 2001, we had our business plan and our proposals and our business cards printed. We’d bought an off-the-shelf shell company, zHosting Ltd. All we needed was £600,000 and a second-hand mainframe to install in a hosting centre like SCOLocate. So we booked our first meeting with IBM to discuss leasing options, and our first session with possible angel investors …

On September 12th, 2001.

So there you have it: the punchline to the extended shaggy dog story that is my career history in the computer industry. And now you know why I’m a novelist rather than the chief technical officer of a successful dot-com. Timing is everything – and my whole non-writing career has been one damn comic double-take after another.

That meeting was … well, the subject of conversation was rather overshadowed by the events of the previous day. NASDAQ was closed, air travel in North America was shut down: the hammer was about to come crashing down on the tech sector for the second time in two years. We buried zHosting outside the graveyard gate only a month later, and went our respective ways; Andrew back to consultancy for a couple of years (he’s now running a successful bespoke software business), and me to writing.

The perils of writing scifi

Well, near-future scifi anyway. From Charlie Stross’ blog, on which he announces that instead of a sequel to ”Halting State”, he’s working on a new ”Laundry” book instead:

Why the switch? Well, I was just settling down to work on the "Halting State" sequel last summer when the news went nonlinear. That book is meant to be near-future SF, which means it’s highly dependent on the state of the world today. It was bad enough when, as I was waiting for "Halting State" to work its way into print, bits of the plot kept turning up in the news; this time around, one of last year’s major news stories ate my plot!

I think we can all be very glad that he’s delayed a Halting State sequel to work on a Laundry story because the former came true in real life, rather than the other way around.

What is Warren Ellis on?

And where can I get some?

China began designing their own superhuman soon after, but didn’t have the tech for Megareactor Buddha’s Spine until 1990. Nominally, PRC is atheist, but the old religions never went away, and a surprising number of Chinese state scientists still think in terms of qi. The superhuman Maitreya was a subject enveloped by scanning tunnelling microscopes wired into his visual cortex, forced to meditate upon his own atomic structure until he could perceive the quantum foam of every particle of his being birthing and annihilating under the uncertainty principle. His emergence into superhumanity was heralded by the impossible light of zero point energy accessed from the spaces between virtual particles. The Chinese filled a warehouse with political prisoners and told Maitreya to kill them, to demonstrate his power over spacetime and matter. He instead fashioned them into a vast musical instrument of entrancingly beautiful tone. Then configured all the assembled soldiers and scientists into a self-supporting worm-like structure and fired them into space with/through the musical instrument, where they journeyed as a biological probe of brains linked in parallel that reported information about the solar system back to Maitreya via quantum entanglement until the structure, starting to break up, was identified as comet Shoemaker-Levy and eventually smacked into the surface of Jupiter.


That’s an awful headline, sorry.

Charlie Stross has another go at predicting the future – this time, of gaming. In bullet points:

  • CPU power is going to hit a brick wall pretty soon
  • There’s a couple of orders of magnitude of bandwidth to use up, but that’ll hit the buffers too at some point ("I don’t think we’re likely to get much more than a terabit per second of bandwidth out of any channel, be it wireless or a fibre-optic cable, because once you get into soft X-rays your network card becomes indistinguishable from a death ray.")
  • Mobile devices will continue to converge (of course)
  • They’ll all have picoprojectors in them
  • VR glasses are actually coming along nicely
  • All this leads to a lot of clever augmented reality stuff

Actually, just read Halting State.

my head hurts

Well, instead of watching BSG I ended up watching Primer. And I think my brain is now broken. Not bad for a film that only cost $7000 to make!

the new faith of the true emperor

Over the last couple of years, Dan Curtis Johnson has been adding mysterious little fragments of dark epic sci-fi to his livejournal, tagged (although I didn’t click at the time) lexicon. One of them I’ve blogged already, the lovely Old Faith of the Precursors.

Now all is revealed – he’s been playing an enormous game of Lexicon with his mates – and the result is a wodge of incredible writing, in the form of an encyclopaedia with commentary, describing the futile attempts of a far future ‘convocation’ of religious leaders to create a single unified faith. There’s a fascinating narrative – a set of narratives, really – to be teased out, by the looks of it.

Star Trek Babies

Oh dear. More pictures here, by the way.

Look! It’s Simon Pegg!

There, in the background, as Scotty.

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