Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sci Fi Forever! Quirky Thoughts from recent Brinterviews

Amid the media frenzy leading up to release of Existence (June 19), some interviewers posed questions that I found especially interesting. Here are a few fun examples.

==The Amazon Book Blog==

Illustrations by Patrick Farley
- Like Earth, your new novel is set in the 30 to 50 year time frame, taking samples of world civilization all over a planet that’s in danger. What’s the appeal of this kind of science fiction and how do you make it fresh for jaded readers? 

 Most of storytelling in literature boils down to one basic issue, how we balance our hopes against our fears. Within a novel, we adopt the characters’ yearnings – briefly – as our own, trying them on for size. And when those dreams, those ambitions, are threatened?  That drives both empathy and a gripping plot-line.  The hopes can be as small-scale as getting invited to a dance and the threat might just be a teen rival...

...or the issues at stake may ramp up to include absolutely everything we value. Our families, nations, civilization, and continuing survival. Our chance to continue existing as a species.  Perhaps even the flourishing of life itself, in our galaxy.

Is that topic too both broad and heavy for a summer novel? Maybe so! And yet, I found the experience of writing EXISTENCE both fun and – at times – even humorous.

- What was the hardest part to get right?

Always - making aliens seem plausible. And catching just the right tone for characters living in a near future that is both very different from our time, and yet strangely unchanged.  Just the way 2012 would surprise any person brought forward from 1967. Half the time she would say: "Wow! We never thought of that!"  And the other half? "You mean you future folks are STILL doing THAT?"

- What was the most fun about writing the book?

The very hings that make peering into tomorrow difficult are the same traits that make it so enjoyable, even addictive.  It's why I keep coming back, trying (along with you)  to see a little better.

==A PARTICULAR "BRITISH" MAGAZINE==

- In most of your books and papers you tend to take the optimistic view of the future, but it is certainly not Pollyannaish.  You interspersed sections EXISTENCE to discuss the many ways our world could end, and even talked about a game of “choose your own apocalypse.”  In the end, though, you are an optimist.  What makes you think that way?

I am not, by nature, a Pollyanna or optimist.  Rather, I’m dragged, kicking and screaming, into optimism by the plain and simple fact of human progress. After 9000 years of wretched feudalism, in which lords and kings and shamans bullied everybody around them, we’ve spent just two centuries years experimenting with openness, curiosity, freedom and willingness to embrace the diversity of minds. 

 Imperfectly!  Indeed, I hold out little hope for western civilization, if we don’t end Culture War bickering, returning instead to fair argument and negotiation. In 1945, we western pragmatists stopped the rising tide of murderous dogmatism at its peak and then helped ensure that it gradually ebbed. Professor Steven Pinker, in “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” proves conclusively that violence has declined while freedom, prosperity and health have climbed in every decade since the end of WWII.  We are making the world Gene Roddenberry portrayed in Star Trek! Even though, during each particular year, it doesn’t seem that way.

This puts a born-grouch like me in a terrible bind. I could enjoy the sick pleasures of cynicism… and be a fool for ignoring facts. Or I can grudgingly admit that progress happens, while pointing out the myriad ways that it may yet fail. 

I decided on the latter. To embrace the complex tension of our time, between hope and the chance that it may all go away. At least, that’s the suspense in Existence!

- In a hundred years what do you think future scientists will think of the science in your books?

Well, the far-future novels like Startide Rising and Glory Season speculate technologies that may turn out to be impossible, as science advances. Certainly the physics that helps propel the plot of EARTH is speculative, though it helps to drive an unusual plot. And we won’t even go into “warp drive!” So? Look, we still read and love Jules Verne, despite some things that he got wrong.  And every novel by H.G. Wells contains a mix of amazing foresight and incredible howlers! I ask future generations to be just as forgiving.

- In EXISTENCE you resurrected some of the earlier themes in previous novels (Project Uplift), as well as philosophical notions in your nonfiction.

Many new readers will find “uplift” intriguing. The notion that we might increase the diversity of culture on Earth by helping creatures like dolphins and chimpanzees to join us, as equals. That may take some meddling on our part. And that raises a whole raft of moral and scientific issues, that get raised in Existence. Of course, longtime readers of the Uplift books are welcome to view this as a prequel, of sorts.

-What are you working on now, or what do you envision will be your next novel?

Several projects.  What if Americans and Europeans turn inward, leaving leadership of civilization and progress to nations of the South and East? What would real Artificial Intelligence (AI) be like and what might it demand from us? I have a teen-adventure work in progress – aliens abduct an entire southern California high school! And my first sci fi comedy novel. But I expect I’ll only find out what my “main” project is after I get started. Once I meet the characters. Get swept away.

==A MAGAZINE INTERVIEW THAT VEERED INTO QUESTIONS ABOUT SCI FI CINEMA==

- What are some of your favourite adaptations and what makes them so good? What are some you disliked and what made them bad?

WATCHMEN was by far the most faithful adaptation of a book, ever, down to the look and feel of individual characters.  Close behind was the more difficult task that David Lynch did with DUNE, compressing admirably the concepts and ironies of that great work. Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was also dedicated to utter faithfulness.  Fans are free to complain about the few-but-necessary simplifications, but they never had to squeeze everything from a giant tome into a couple of hours.  (See below about how many more hours of pleasure you get from a book.)

The quirkiest adaptation was Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS. The director put author  Robert Heinlein’s words into the characters’ mouths, expressing the author’s philosophy. Only then Verhoeven used hints and imagery to suggest that he (the director) did not necessarily approve of the portrayed civilization.  He honestly showed the upside benefits of Heinlein’s world, but drew attention also to downsides. I found it fascinating how he combined all of this into an action-drenched “bug hunt.” The after-viewing arguments I had with others would have pleased this provocative fellow. And I’m not surprised that most viewers, even fans, missed all this.

-As an author, how do you think the process of adapting a novel to screen can be improved? What might a publisher/editor do to improve it?

It won’t improve as long as all decisions are made by producers who never read.  There is, in Hollywood, no lower caste person than the writer.  This will change soon, as we start seeing “animated storyboards” in which the same skills that I bring to a graphic novel can combine with those of a programmer, artist, musician and a few voice actors… to make a 90 minute animated pre-version of a film.  

When this can be done for 5 figures, suddenly such writer-led teams will have the power to create rough cuts of entire films… versions that might even gain followings on the Internet. Concepts and fresh stories will become important again, instead of endless remakes and remakes.
                                                                    ***

And that should suffice for just a sampling, a glimpse at what I’ve spent the last week doing, sometimes answering the same question in several different ways, in order not to duplicate myself (Kiln People, anyone?) and to keep it fresh. Ah well. Things could be worse. Like... what if, instead of too many questions, there were too few!

Now to offer up those entertaining miscellany I promised. And science!

=== Other great Science Fictional News! ===

The second most awesome book on sale now is Going Interstellar: Build Starships Now! Edited by Les Johnson and my pal and sci fi colleague Jack McDevitt. Bold ideas about the kind of stuff we might be doing soon if we stop all the backbiting (and looking backward) and resume our love affair with both science and the future.

Another sure-fire winner and terrific deal in entertainment? Check out Howard Tayler’s latest, The Sharp End of the Stick. I had the honor of writing the introduction for this latest installment in his marvelous and hilarious series.  Oh, also have a look at Tayler’s rendering of Schlock Brin.  A new member of Tagon’s Toughs? Naw. Just what I might look like if I had the misfortune of being inducted into the Shlock Mercenary universe.

=== And Finally === 

Want to keep your favorite author in cheese blintzes and sweat pants? Then buy Kim Stanley Robinson’s... I mean Vernor Vinge’s... I mean David Brin’s latest book, on sale June 19!

Seriously. (May I? For just a moment?)  Next time you contemplate a book’s retail price, try dividing it by the number of hours of pleasure you’ll get, reading it.  Then tell me of any other pastime with a better minutes per pennies ratio of sheer joy!

And yes, that is exactly what I’m promising, as a special offer, during publication week.

Sheer joy.

42 comments:

Rob said...

Verhoeven made "Starship Troopers" without once looking in the book, by his own admission. He had no chance or inclination to build the world Heinlein depicted.

At first viewing I thought the movie was nothing more than "Sexy Teens in Space, Being Otherwise Awesome", which is probably just as unfair to Verhoeven as I think he was to Heinlein. The brain bug FX were downright pornographic to me, and I'm not into that. But the clue was the short shrift he gave to both the political philosophy and the treatment of that book's military. ST the movie was not and never could have been ST the book.

(ST is a multilayered work of writer's art, and deserved better, in other words.)

I *will* be buying both Existence and Children of the Sky. Vinge's aliens are just about the most imaginative out there, right alongside David's Jophur/Traeki or the Kanten. It's good fun.

Dunno about KSR's novel yet. The Mars books made me feel *lonely*, somehow, as if everything was seen through a tunnel. Might have been the viewpoint choices he made writing it.

David Brin said...

See a fun commentary on how privatized spaceflight may help us to get out where the gold (and platinum group elements) is in them thar hills. On the excellent Science2.0 site.

http://www.science20.com/satellite_diaries/rockets_asteroids_gold_rushes_and_conferences-91096

Lorraine said...

Sci-fi comedy novel? What, in the spirit of the Hitchhikers' Guide?

Carl M. said...

I think the movie adaption of the first Harry Potter book was the closest adaption I have ever seen. True, I didn't read the book until after seeing the movie, but when reading the book I was shocked how close it came to the movie.

Watchmen comes in second place for faithfulness in my book, and I liked the moview better for the most part. The missing comic within the comic was no biggie for me, and Ozymandias' conspiracy was more believable in the movie. (Where the movie was unsatisfying was the ambiguity of which costumed characters actually had superpowers.)

Dune was horrible. I would have walked out had I not gone with someone else. Saudaukars with machine guns??? Lynch missed the entire background. Starship Troopers was more faithful even as it criticized Heinlein's vision.

Lord of the Rings suffered from trying to be an action movie with everything on camera. Mysteries not revealed until well into the books were shown on camera in Scene 1. Gandalf's battle with Saruman was not "on camera" in the book. Jackson's putting everything on camera in order eliminated the sense of mystery that makes the books so powerful. He also made the orcs too subhuman. In the books they talk -- rather like the stormtroopers in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Also, Jackson made Middle Earth seem smaller than a county. The characters sprinted across Middle Earth! Peter Jackson should have watched some old Westerns to learn the art of portraying vastness and the passage of time on a long journey within the confines of a movie. Westerns did it routinely with movies much shorter than LOTR.

Lorraine said...

Very few book/movie dyads in which I've consumed both projects, and fewer still in the science fiction vein. Does Slaughterhouse Five count? The thing from the book that most sticks in my memory is the "Support Your Local Police" bumper sticker on Valencia's totaled Cadillac. While the movie was overall true to the book, I felt oh so cheated by the lack of a zoom in on the back of the wrecked car for a look at the bumper sticker. It's always in the details.

Hahaha. As is well known by now, Captcha's new slogan is "tabulate house numbers, stop spam." I just drew a 42...

matthew said...

It will be an expensive month for books. KSR, VV, and DB all rate hardcover copies of any new book. My only worry is buy Existence the day it comes out to give it the first week sales bump, or wait until DB is at Powells in Portland so I can get a clean signed copy... Tough call.

Tony Fisk said...

I've just been informed that my ordered Existence is on its way out... from the UK.

I went for the 3D version, out of curiosity. I might also add that the shipping cost was more than the book! @#!!@# middlemen!! Still, it raises a notion I've had for a while now: what's the likely market for bespoke publishing shops? What if they could download a hard copy of your order while you have a cup of coffee etc.? Yes, I know! e-books are the future! However, you may have noticed that the past has a habit of hanging around; a lot of people still prefer the sheer convenience of a pile of bound papyrus.

Thoughts?

====

I was actually quite pleasantly surprised at how much of Heinlein's novel remained in the movie adaptation! A bit hokey, but Starship Troopers has had the 'Mickey' taken out of it by others (Haldeman, Scalzi, maybe Tayler!?) and survived.

On the whole, I liked Jackson's adaptation of LOTR (He definitely portrayed the geography of Middle Earth! Vistas? Well, he was being backed by the NZ tourist board! And the lighting of the beacons was pretty spectacular... I *felt* for the poor sods who would have been manning those mountain tops: Brrr!!) I did think several of the characters weren't well served (Gimli as buffoon, Denethor, as miserly nutter), and I would have loved to have seen a slight, almost indiscernable tweak to Gollum's final moments.

...and Prometheus! I had been planning to see it, but the news isn't good! I think the problem we have with the 'Alien' franchise is that it was originally a horror film in a SF setting. Hope has no place there. 'Aliens' was the aberration, which was brutally cut off by the despairing futility of 'Alien 3'. Prometheus definitely smacks of Lovecraft and horrors from the dawn of time.

rewinn said...

I just finished "Children of the Sky" and it does not disappoint ... except that it feels like the 2nd book of a triology. No spoilers! but the Tines ring a lot more changes on the concept of distributed intelligence and the politics, oh the politics drive the book in a very satisfying way. The balance between the two elements (Sensawonder and plot) is very satisfying; I simultaneously ponder whether distributed intelligence IRL could be awesome, and curse the unresolved issues between the factions!

---

OTOH Starship Troopers and Dune were both as clueless as Rob and Carl may have suggested. I wonder if it may be that while ST was written with WW2 in mind (the starship troopers were direct translations of paratroopers, up to and including "Blood Upon The Risers" ... and the moment of being alone as you stepped out of a perfectly good airplane/starship to fall toward the ground depending only on your parachute and the enemies' bad aim) whereas ST threw that away in favor of Vietnam feel (helicoptering into a firebase so the gook/bugs could attack you WTF?) The difference in the politics of the two eras may have tainted the thoughtful heroism in the work. All that political philosophy most especially should not have been boiled down to uniforms and shouting in unison!

Likewise Dune, where the boy's magic powers were expressed in the Book by a personal Voice power were that the movie turned into gadgets that anybody could wear around their throat. Ultimately there was no connection at all between the many elements of the planet that mixed together in a magical mystery quest to come up with the Superman, er, I mean the Kwisatz Haderach. It was sort of like watching "1984" as a police procedural rather than a political work.

It prompts me to ask: ARE there any good movie adaptations of SF novels?

I liked the 1950s "War Of The Worlds"; perhaps it has the advantage of a very straightforward story with a simple punchline.


Being There and The Princess Bridge are perfect adaptations of novels; the latter is fun but contentless, but perhaps the former shows how a novel of ideas might be made into a movie - IIRC every scene in BT is about the movie's underlying concept ("Chauncey Gardiner seems wise"); that's can't be said of Dune or ST.

Perhaps SF novels have an inherently lot of information to pack in, making adaptation into film difficult?

Wouldn't you love to see someone try Heinlein's "Double Star" as a movie! Just upgrade the computers a little bit, and make "Mars" circle another star, and the show would roll!

David Brin said...

Carl I disagree about Dune. He captured perfectly the fact that the Saga was classic :vampires versus nazis." The Atreides were absolute horrors and you only root for them because their enemies are even worse. That may have offended some people, when Lynch made it so clear. But I loved it.

Matthew, go for the clean copy. Remember I'll be at the Beaverton store!

Tony the print as U wait bookstore is definitely in the future.

Rewinn The Princess Bridge was very sexy in its depiction of steel trusses and lacey under-girders. The push-up suspension spans were almost R rated!

Ray said...

Vistas, Vistas, -- watch and learn from westerns.
Quote me an important vista passage from the book Sorry I get it LOTR should have been out of Disney studios. Aragorn should have been played like John Wayne in true grit. And American movies don't get cheques for promoting all things from Coke to National Parks. Shakespearean orcs, there's a good idea. " My hovel, my hovel for a warg!
Soory. Got a head of steam up defending Peter Jackson. I agree with mr Brin about as faithful as you can get and a film is not a book has to run and be understood in real time no fliping back and for to remind ones self who did what when and where to whom. In a sense a film has to be a dumbed down version of the book. To dumb and it sinks/stinks. Postman wasn't a bad book but the movie made me cry for all the wrong reasons.

Patricia Mathews said...

I note your "two hundred years of progress" corresponds precisely to the period when civilization started using fossil fuels in a big way. In EARTH, you addressed the problem of their depletion in a very rational way. But failing Alex' grasers, what do you see as powering any continuation of this progress?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Carl I disagree about Dune. He captured perfectly the fact that the Saga was classic :vampires versus nazis." The Atreides were absolute horrors and you only root for them because their enemies are even worse. That may have offended some people, when Lynch made it so clear. But I loved it.


Sorry, Dr Brin, but I disagree. Not that your point is wrong, but that it is irrelevant. The 1980s "Dune" movie (that is the one we're talking about, right?) doesn't fall short on account of the characters being unlikeable. It falls short of the whole world-building experience and the wheels-within-wheels multiple layers of plotting that is part and parcel of reading the novel.

Of course, it is impossible to compress all of that sort of thing into a 2 or 3 hour movie. But that doesn't mitigate Carl's point and my own. Rather, it just states it plainly. The default position for a fan, of "Dune", of "Watchmen", of "Slaugherhouse Five", of "Lord of the Rings" HAS to be "They can't possibly capture the essence of this thing in a Hollywood screen adaptation." It's incumbent on the moviemakers to prove that assumption wrong, not incumbent on the viewers/readers to give allownaces for how difficult a task it is. And "Dune" failed miserably in exactly the manner any fan would have expected.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

He captured perfectly the fact that the Saga was classic :vampires versus nazis."


Just read that line again.

In a "vampires vs nazis" conflict, which one do you root for?

LarryHart said...

Ray:

Soory. Got a head of steam up defending Peter Jackson. I agree with mr Brin about as faithful as you can get and a film is not a book has to run and be understood in real time no fliping back and for to remind ones self who did what when and where to whom. In a sense a film has to be a dumbed down version of the book.


In my opinion, Peter Jackson's LOTR set out to be THE DEFINITIVE film version of the novels. It was supposed to be the book itself AS a movie--the film version that you could henceforth watch INSTEAD of reading the books. (I don't know if Jackson himself had that intention, but that certainly seemed to be the expectation fans had of the films).

What I think it proved instead is that there is no such thing as "THE DEFINITIVE film version of a book." Books and movies are two very different art forms, and while it is possible to adapt one in order to make the other, it is not possible for one to BE the other.

In a slightly different manner, graphic novel adaptations like "Sin City" (which I saw) and "Watchmen" (which I didn't) seem to prove that while it is indeed possible to faithfully adapt a graphic novel on the big screen, it's not necessarily a good idea to do so. It's been too long to remember specific examples, but I do remember watching "Sin City" and thinking that, rather than making the adaptation better, sometimes the very faithfulness to the original got in the way of the adaptation.

When I was 16 years old (before the term "graphic novel" had been invented), I tried to essentially adapt "Star Wars" in comics form--not the way a real "Star Wars" comic would be laid out, but actually trying to adapt it shot-by-shot, scene-by-scene onto a comics page. I didn't get beyond the opening scene of the two spaceships shooting at each other before realizing why this just didn't work. Without the actual motion and energy, panel after panel of starships firing on each other is...boring.

Canadian comics writer/artist Dave Sim set out to make his 300-issue epic "Cerebus" make sense as a complete novel in a way most serial comics do not. He stated an intent to make "Cerebus" into "the story of a life". By the end, I maintained that he proved the goal was impossible. There's a Heisenberg-uncertainty principle at work there which states that the better a work is at being a "story", the less it can be a "life". And vice versa.

The same dynamic applies to an attempt to make "a movie of a book." You can get arbitrarily close, but you can't achieve perfection at both things.


To dumb and it sinks/stinks. Postman wasn't a bad book but the movie made me cry for all the wrong reasons.


My wife and I were psyched to see "The Postman" on the screen, but the more we heard about it, the more we decided to take a pass. I really did not want the Hollywood imagery to overwrite my personal memories of the book.

Robert said...

There's a couple things to remember about LotR. First, Tolkien admitted after it was published that he wish he'd made it larger - he sacrificed some story to compact it. Second, there are pacing differences between books and movies. Dialogue which works on the page doesn't work in a movie, and vise versa. Similarly, a scene can work on the pages of a book and yet fall flat when viewed on the big screen.

LotR cannot be adapted to the big screen without changing things. The changes Peter Jackson made helped the movie work, while remaining true to some of the essential elements of the books. And while we may disagree on some elements (like removal of the Razing of the Shire, or Tom Bombadil), ultimately they were removed for the movies to remain viable within the time constraints available and the storytelling restraints of the big screen.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

The Wall Street Journal review of Existence is clearly very positive and boils down to “very very interesting from many directions.” Alas, I wish they had actually said that, in a quotable way! http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303901504577462411929127448.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Vampires vs Nazis see F Paul Wilson's The Keep

SteveO said...

Heh, Dr. Brin, MY first book came out this month! Well the book of which I contributed about 10% and served as a consulting editor on the rest. My name is on the cover though! Alas, not science fiction yet, but the no-less-hopeful-for-the-future-what-should-be-rather-than-what-is genre of business performance improvement. ;-)

Can't wait to get a copy of Existence.

For me, LotR was a faithful adaptation that felt like reading the book - the same feel even though some things were different. Starship Troopers felt like reading the book but reading it *wrong*. There certainly were uncomfortable aspects of that world, but not the ones the movies explored. And Dune the movie was like using a favorite book for kindling. Things that would have worked perfectly fine on screen were bizarrely changed so as to appear dumb.

I liked the Dune mini-series that the Sci-Fi channel did. It preserved the political machinations and had a live-theatre feel and visual symbolism that I enjoyed. And I think seeing it conveyed more than the book the horribleness of that society, including our main characters. (But Jessica was too weak IMO.)

I am reading the Game of Thrones series - talk about a series that conveys fully the horror of feudalism...

Maestro Sidereus said...

I would also like to recommend Steven Pinker's, "The Better Angels of our Nature". Superbly researched and a very enjoyable read.

Most of my left-leaning friends, and I would consider myself left-leaning, will not even read this book...because of the subtitle, "Why Violence Has Declined". Mind you, they are fans of Pinker's earlier books. They just do not accept the subtitle, therefore, will not give the book a chance. How sad!

Movies: have yet to see Prometheus. Worried that it will not live up to Alien. For those who have seen it, does it work well as a stand-alone movie?

Sigh...I am slogging my way through the Falling Skies series. The scope of the "invasion" is completely lost by the writing/direction in the series...and I don't think that my age bracket is the intended audience :)

The Postman movie fans will recognize the actor Will Patton...I think he does a good job in the series, if not completely predictable.

Tony Fisk said...

I am reading the Game of Thrones series - talk about a series that conveys fully the horror of feudalism...

Indeed! Martin is a creative anarchy buff and it shows in ASOIAF! Then again, he's a child of the enlightenment (read his Tuf stories), and is at pains to depict *exactly* what life is like in a world where the pointiest end rules. (my one niggle about the TV show? Everyone is too clean and healthy looking!) Like Dune, even the 'nice' Sers are operating with a feudal mindset (In fact, in the last novel there are hints at some 'subversive' elements are coming into play)

rewinn said...

"...Rewinn The Princess Bridge was very sexy in its depiction of steel trusses and lacey under-girders. The push-up suspension spans were almost R rated!"

Heh. Curse my typing!

OTOH ... The Princess Bridge sounds very steampunk, e.g. "You keep using that equation. It do not think it means what you think it means."

Three cheers for Agatha Clay!

David Brin said...

Maestro Siderious said "I would also like to recommend Steven Pinker's, "The Better Angels of our Nature". Superbly researched and a very enjoyable read. Most of my left-leaning friends, and I would consider myself left-leaning, will not even read this book...because of the subtitle, "Why Violence Has Declined". Mind you, they are fans of Pinker's earlier books. They just do not accept the subtitle, therefore, will not give the book a chance. How sad!"

Exactly! As I rail against the stark jibbering lunacy that has hijacked the American right, I am always (you all you) ready to posit that the left is rife with delusional nonsense as well! The crucial distinction is not that the left is currently saner than the right... it is... but not by anywhere near as much as the left believe. But rather, the crucial fact is that most American Liberals" are not, in fact, leftists.

If they would get that fact crystallized in mind - that lefties are necessary allies but to be viewed as mad and even dangerous cousins - I think liberals could then seize the center with such power and force as to end this phase of our civil war, at long last.

But back to your remark. The notion that human progress can only be propelled by guilt, never by praise over how far we have come... this is clear evidence that lefties are mad. They are indeed stupid fools.

David Brin said...

See the cover story on io9!!!

Spoiler alert. Many

Rob said...

Three cheers for Agatha Clay!

Ah... a fellow fan. The problem with that story is you only get a page every two or three days, and they're doing the High Climax right now!

Tacitus2 said...

Regards Promethius, I saw it today with my Scifi fan son. I was not sure what to expect. The trailers were so damned good. But the early reviews seemed less so...some critics found it confusing, and too interested in religious matters.

I would put it towards the good end of the spectrum between those two points. Solid but not overused special effects. The story line seemed coherent, but I am a rather serious fan of the Alien franchise and perhaps less dependent on the usual scifi cliches.

It does make some nice homages. To 2001 for sure, and I think there was a bit done in recognition of Dark Star, the movie that was the spark behind the original Alien.

No spoilers, but I will say that the humans were both very noble and really, really stupid. An interesting combination. Yet two characters who expressed a greater degree of common sense than anyone else came to the worst ends!

I guess you can all decide, but I would hazard an opinion that anyone a serious enough fan of the genre to visit here would enjoy the movie.

But please, for the love of God, do not, explicity repeat with emphasis, not, assume this is a "date movie" that will put your female better half in the mood for snuggles later on in the evening.

Do what I did, go with a fellow, guy type, scifi fan.

Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

Interesting experience. The 'twitter storm' to promote the end to fossil fuel subsidies has been going for 24 hours. In that time, I have not seen a single troll raise their heads! A novelty!

David Brin said...

Huh! Intriguing insights from Tacitus2.


Had fun being interviewed by Maureen Kavanaugh on KPBS radio, our local NPR station, on the day Existence came out. The session is available online, discussion the near and far future, education and hope.
http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/jun/19/san-diego-futurist-explores-nature-existence/

Nicholas MacDonald said...

Why the hate for David Lynch's Dune? I have to disagree with Brin- it wasn't very faithful to the book. But I have to disagree with the other posters here - it was awesome, and there have been very few science fiction movies as great. Yes, it was a mess- but my god, what a visionary mess! In my mind it's in a league with... 2001, the first Star Trek, Blade Runner, Brazil, The Matrix, AI... and not much else. I doubt a movie like it could get made today. The closest I've seen was the forgettable Vin Diesel vehicle "The Chronicles of Riddick", and that... while it tried, hard!... didn't quite get there, mostly because Vin Diesel's Riddick simply wasn't a sympathetic protagonist.

I haven't seen Prometheus yet, and was hoping that might be in the same league... but the reviews I've been seeing don't bode well. I'll have to give it a chance, though.

I think I saw Dune when I was 12... a year before I saw the Star Wars movies for the first time, actually... and thought it was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen. It was weird, grim, glorious, gory... and my god, that soundtrack! (which I still find popping up on my itunes shuffle frequently)

By contrast, the Sci-fi channel miniseries' were just... meh.

Such a shame that movie was a box office and directorial failure. It drove the man who could have been the greatest sci-fi film director of all time out of the genre, and it's failure at the box office meant that what could have been an absolutely epic saga was never filmed. Instead we are left with a beautiful wreck.

Maestro Sidereus said...

Very cool...and yet very disturbing. I wonder - if aliens ever visit us will they will mistake us for termites, at least from space?

Terra-i, a real-time deforestation tracking system that combines satellite coverage with on-the-ground processing and mapping has launched in advance of the United Nation's environmental conference in Brazil.

"So far the system has shown that deforestation has increased in Caquetá, Columbia by 340 percent since 2004 and the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay, the second most forested area in South America, has lost over a million hectares of forest":

http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/06/terra-i-the-most-precise-real-time-deforestation-tracker-yet/

Make sure you zoom in using the map's tools...

Tony Fisk said...

Did not like the Dune movie. (Haven't seen the mini-series.)

Baron Harkonnen was portrayed as a leering, self-centred imbecile: hardly the devious villain he was in the book. Only the... predilections remained recognisable.

Effects varied from passable (sandworms, force shields) to Dr. Who quality (The Barrier Wall, space ships, Spice Harvesters)

I coined the term 'Dr. Who Effect' to imply that good story-telling will carry poor effects, but not vice versa. Dune had neither.

David's comments about both sides being awful may have a certain validity when referring to feudal overlords in general ('...Come and see the violence inherent in the System!'). I don't quite see it when comparing house Atreides with house Harkonnen, Coriantes(?), the Guild, the Bene Gesserit etc. (Waits for counterpoints)

Maestro Sidereus said...

Just ordered and downloaded Existence via iBooks. Entire transaction duration from start to finish was approximately 5 seconds. What a dangerous(?) way to order books :-)

Hope to begin reading next week. Looks like a great read...

I also plan to buy a signed copy when you are up here in Seattle.

@rewinn - Elliott Bay Book Company, the Capitol Hill location in Seattle, is a cozy place. Nice interior. Cafe off in the corner. The "author's reading room" is downstairs...which seemed a bit dark and not quite as cozy, quite frankly ;-)

duncan cairncross said...

Re- Dune

Some parts were straight from the book and were excellent other parts were terrible!

The day after I watched Dune I saw a re-run of - The Italian Job -

It's not science fiction but the prison scenes were far more surreal than anything in Dune

David Brin said...

"San Diego Futurist Explores the Nature of Existence" – my interview on NPR http://bit.ly/Ljj9H6

Tom Crowl said...

My copy just arrived yesterday and I'm loving it so far!!!!

Naturally, I can't help commenting on one of the myriad of ideas that pop up right away... (I mean by page 20 I was already figuring I had to make this comment)...

RE: Tor's purchase via an 'auto-auction or a photo panorama for 5 milli-cents...

(I'm sure you know where this is going...)

The sort of network that could allow this sort of transaction... and the actualization of Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans and Doc Searl's 'V.R.M." (vendor relationship management) will be attained via a P2P distributed network of accounts with all transaction costs externalized.

I don't believe it can (or should) work through the existing TBTF banking system... which by its very nature will inhibit these sorts of transactions.

BTW, You can also use the same system to throw quarters at politicians... which is a bigger deaL than it might at first seem.

Tom Crowl said...

RE: Movie adaptations...

Don't forget the developing world of Gaming!

This is still in its infancy... but signs are good!

Not only for adaptations but also for literature written expressly for the capabilities offered (less linear, alternate plot paths, dialog choice by users, etc...)

Games like Skyrim, L.A. Noire, Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, etc. are growing increasingly effective... (the acting in some of them is first rate)... and the dollars they cost to produce and the dollars they earn... are now competitive with blockbuster movies.

And its still hard to know where the "Live" and Multi-player elements are going... but I'm convinced they're a much bigger deal than we think.

Is it the Matrix 1.0 or an opportunity to vastly expand our horizons? (Both outcomes may be possible.)

I'm wondering if you've yet been approached for adaptations of existing work and/or been tempted to create directly for this medium?

LarryHart said...

I bought my copy of "Existence" hardcover at my local store yesterday.

It goes right to the top of my summer reading pile.

Will be avoiding spoilers on this blog for quite some time.

Tony Fisk said...

re: Gaming.

A number of sf novels have been given 'the treatment', with varying results. Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama(!), and of course, Hitchhikers. Terry Dowling has provided specific scenarios for a number of Myst-like games (Schizm, Dormeuse: it would be fascinating to see how an RPG based on Rynosseros turned out).

Now, prepare for inundation by Ecco the Dolphin!

sociotard said...

How the 1% brainwashed the 99%

Companies that hold the most private data are invisible to the public

Googles report on government censorship requests.

infanttyrone said...

For Andrew S. Taylor (and anyone else tired of being disappointed after voting for either of the Janus parties)

Found in an article written by David Foster Wallace for Rolling Stone in 2000 about John McCain's first presidential campaign.

Let's pause here one second for a quick Rolling Stone PSA. If you are demographically a Young Voter, it is again worth a moment of your valuable time to consider the implications of the techs' point. If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who are not dumb and are keenly aware that it's in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV Spring Break on Primary Day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.

Libertarian, Green, Martian...options exist.

David Brin said...

Starting my online TWEET CHAT session on Twitter. Follow it via #torchat

sociotard said...

Oh, how very transparent of our executive.

In a mounting confrontation with congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege Wednesday to withhold documents a House committee is seeking. The panel neared a vote on citing Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt.

Tony Fisk said...

I think the discussion about Dune family values holds just as well for another currently popular fantasy series. Mother Jones has used it as inspiration for a series of brilliant attack ads*. (which says something about... the mentality of attack ads!)

*FundedByMinorSpoilersInc.

Jumper said...

It would be an interesting case study in sousveillance to publish the home addresses of some of those responsible for the above blog spam.