Tag scifi

The Old Faith of the Precursors

Dan Crisper has done it again, with a wonderfully inventive cultural archeology of the next thousand years or so, viewed from an unimaginably far future:

Originally worshippers of simple Nature, protohumans recognized the existence of, and divided their Universe into, four primal Elements: Energy, Gas, Liquid, and Solid. It was their belief that these "elemental states" represented a progression or procession of "refinement", from lowest Solid to highest Energy, to which all materios should aspire – and through which, if left to its own devices, all existence would invariably descend. It is important for the reader to understand that this was not merely a metaphorical model for personal self-improvement, as it so clearly appears at first glance. No, the Ancients actually believed this was how molecules worked. To be fair, they recognized the existence of shades and nuances within this simple structure, and they did apply fairly sophisticated rituals to its philosophical exploration. And before one dismisses this proto-belief out of hand, be aware that application of this simple model was sufficient to get them to the culminating revelation of Elementalism, the fission reaction, that process by which (in their eyes) crude, banal, degraded Solid could be transmuted instantly into bright, enlightened, perfected Energy. This direct experience of the divine as they understood it was so profound that, in their first wave of interplanetary transit (so far as we can determine) they predominantly relied on atomic drives, forgoing any number of obviously superior alternatives, carrying their precious Transmutative Process with them like a superstitiously-held good-luck charm.

And after that it gets really strange, culminating with the fantastic pantheon of Old Precursor Paganism:

Vortosk – God of Time, Inventions, and Absence. Patron of Scientists and all who have lost something. According to myth, entirely lacked outward-facing senses of any sort. Followers typically practiced potlatch-charity and self-amputation.

The case for the Empire

I was looking for this the other day – the article in which Jonathan Last makes the case for the Empire in Star Wars being ‘good,’ while the Rebel Alliance are the terrorist scum. After all, the Empire have a good education system, high standards of personal freedom (although admittedly things can get nasty for you if you harbour terrorists, which sounds familiar). It’s clever stuff, and particularily interesting given when it was written – early 2002.

No Doctor Who in 2009, and perhaps Tennant’s off for good…

I thought this would happen, mainly because we got the RSC brochure last week and they were advertising him as Hamlet next year, against Patrick Stewart as Claudius. Which should be interesting – who do I heckle? Do I shout "Make it so!" at Stewart or "Reverse the polarity!" at Tennant?

I’m very much looking forward to it, which I suppose cheers me up a bit if there’s going to be no Who in ’09, but I hope it gives them time to think about the series and stops them getting into a rut, rather than robbing them of the rather nice momentum they built up in the last series.

I’m a little confused by the BBC saying:

Tennant, 36, will reportedly (sic) to play Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from July to November next year, however this has not been confirmed by the RSC.

when they’re actually advertising tickets for it though…

“…did you get some kind of discount on orc miniatures?”

"Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D. The latter rose from the former, although the two are now so estranged that to reunite them would be an act of savage madness. Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a D&D campaign."

This is sheer genius – a comic strip asking the question "What if the Lord of the Rings was a D&D campaign?" Of course, you might not get a lot of it if you’ve not played role (with dice and stuff, not running around the woods with rubber swords or anything that a sex therapist might advise). But if you are a veteran roller of the regular solids, you’ll recognise an awful lot of it.

Far too much more than meets the eye

Just saw the Transformers movie. Yes, I know it’s old hat now, but we were sillybusy when it was on. We’re still sillybusy now, but we decided dammit, we’d go out.

Lovely, all very shiny Transformer effects and that, and some great lines, but strewth it went on. It could easily have been three-quarters of an hour shorter.

I suspect the length was to help you forget the gaping plot holes. Still, it pleased my inner 12-year-old, and with a film like that, that’s all that counts.

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Things to read later: How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later by Philip K. Dick. Lovely essay on the man over at Suicide Girls (I only go there for the articles) by Warren Ellis.

dr who

Warren Ellis has seen the new Doctor Who, and has reviewed it. He’s a hard man to please, and he likes it.

It is, in fact, DOCTOR WHO, as it was, complete with fake jeopardy for the kids and laughs for the adults. It will probably disappoint old fans – and anyone looking for a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA-style treatment – because it resolutely refuses to take itself too seriously. It’s not afraid of doing gags like having a kid eaten by a marauding plastic rubbish bin because that’s all part of the ride, all part of the style. In Michael Moorcock’s phrase, it obeys and enjoys the genre.

And so you get that nice little counterpoint between strange comedy bits and straight dramatic moments that is the hallmark of a certain strain of British fiction. Showroom dummies (yes) coming to life and shooting people might look funny, and it is – but the bodies are just as dead. And that – the placing of an alien element into a naturalistic contemporary British context – is the signature of the old British sf style, from WAR OF THE WORLDS to DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, from QUATERMASS AND THE PIT to, especially, DOCTOR WHO.

Definitely agree with that first paragraph – “taking itself too seriously” was the key mistake made by the Paul McGann abomination.

Oh, and read the next article, in which Warren talks about James Bond. Good stuff. Oh bugger – and the next article on Holmes.

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