Monday, 3 November 2008

From Homeworld to Turner

If you're looking for inside gossip on films or games still in production, or secrets of the Lost spin-off (working title "Ah, there you are again - had me worried") you may or may not be disappointed by this column - if so, just type "sci-fi blog" into Google. If you want acerbic, contrary and offensive yet brilliant film reviews read Mutant Popcorn, found in Interzone magazine. Because I have the sci-fi gene deficiency, I am rarely disappointed and will usually find a retrospective justification for enjoying just about any film. I almost never take a strong dislike to anything (but more about "Kate and Leopold" another time.)

I wanted to mention Homeworld, an old PC war game. This was welcomed with seriously good reviews and awards on its release but is now old news. What I wanted to point out was, apart from the simple gameplay and smooth interface, I was awe-struck by the graphics - despite polygon counts and texture densities so low you could run this game with only (only!) an 8-bit graphics card, the game conjured up images of spaceships that could easily fit on the cover of a Golden Age paperback.

Which leads neatly to the topic of cover art: science-fiction readers more than anyone else should avoid judging a book by its cover - basically because the covers are so good. Here's Alien Way, a book I enjoyed greatly while being fully aware of its lack of any merit whatsoever (oh God not another power-crazed misunderstood anti-hero). The cover shows a vast wrecked hulk of a starship, towed by a smaller, sleeker ship. Unusually, the scene actually relates directly to an event early in the book - a wrecked human ship recovered and towed to an alien homeworld.

I don't even know the artist - as in those innocent days the artist didn't even get a mention in the book. The composition reminded me of something, and a few Google searches later I found it - Turner's "Fighting Temeraire" depicting the decomissioning of a sailing ship, towed by a steam-powered tug, symbolizing the end of the Age of Sail and the rise of new technology - this is appropriate given the book's theme of the conflict for supremacy between two intelligent races.

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