Tuesday, 28 April 2009
The Dune mini-series was made for the Sci-Fi channel. The most dedicated opera fans often go to see operas with their own copies of the libretto and follow the score as they watch. I wonder if, amongst the channel's viewers are some similar-minded sci-fi fans who are watching Dune with copies of the book in their laps. The series has clearly been made for such people; while occasionally there are adaptations for the media, to my mind this is extremely faithful to the book. On a few occasions this is at the cost of dramatic effect; the attempt to stick absolutely to the book's description of Baron Harkonnen leads to an enjoyable but slightly pantomime performance byIan McNeice; in other places the coldness of other characters is slightly overplayed. By today's standards the special effects are artful but unusually low-tech with many scenes clearly using back projection effects, or very contrived camera angles - sometimes this is a good thing. In the old days, by which I mean before Industrial Light and Magic, the limits of special effects forced directors to be much more inventive, and acting was still required at times. Naturally I still enjoyed much of this series.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
In the last few years I've got into series again: Stephen Baxter (Ring cycle, including the Destiny's Children series which feeds back into Ring), David Weber (Honor Harrington series), Alastair Reynolds (Revelation Space series), Orson Scott Card (Homecoming saga), Gordon Dickson (Dorsai), etc.
What was the problem with series? I thought that authors might be writing more and more books just for the money, and that the books would become repetitive. I also think cinema has given the sequel a bad name.
I now think that most of these concerns were simply wrong, or at least overstated, or only apply to some unusually poor examples of the genre. I have to say I enjoyed and still enjoy the sense of satisfaction at a good book, with a good ending, and the fact that this really is the last contact I will have with a particular universe does seem to make that brief contact more meaningful. There are also some books in series that I wish had been stand-alone: in particular Coalescence far outshines its sequels.
However I've rediscovered some of the great things about series too - they can tell epic storylines that don't easily fit into a single novel, or tell different but consecutive stories within the same universe; they can focus in on one character or location from a previous novel or take the storyline in unexpected directions. Despite what I wrote above, getting to know a good, interesting character and following their further adventures and development is also satisfying. I think many authors continue writing series because they themselves love the scenarios and characters, and a series also lives or dies depending on whether it is enjoyable to a group of readers. A good author is able to give a structure to a series of books - and is still not afraid to conclude them.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
This original film was made by team Death Star Holiday Chalets, who include writer Molly Brown. On meeting the team after the screening event I was particularly impressed to learn that they held a dummy run the week before - that's dedication to the cause.
Incidentally, Tube travellers over the next few weeks should watch out - Sci-Fi London festival director Louis Savy will be at large with a hi-tech portable projector screening short films and competition entries indiscriminately. You have been warned.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
We weren't shortlisted, so I'll try and get the film onto YouTube in the near future. We were rushed for time so entered with a fairly minimal soundtrack - I may try and put together a slightly improved version if I get the chance too.
I enjoyed the selection of other entries I saw, including a few of the shortlisted films. General trends this year: lots of teleport effects, use of Canary Wharf or the Jubilee Line as substitutes for the future (we are guilty of these too), plenty of zombies, and everyone seemed to be using the same Now Thats What I Call Discordant Sound Effects CD. Quality varied but several films were extremely well produced, including a few with awesome soundtracks - overall the standard was higher than last year.
I know at least one other team was also ejected from Canary Wharf and there may be more - Wharf security probably fought a weekend-long running battle against amateur filmmakers. Also, we were pretty tired by the end but the two secret agents who spent the entire weekend running up and down the Westminster Station escalators must have been fairly knackered.
Watch out for the shortlist on the Sci-Fi channel, then all the films on the festival website in a month or so. There were some really funny entries - several of my favourites weren't shortlisted either. I'll post links to them when I can, for now I'll just say watch out for string and kettles.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
My relationship with Terry Pratchett's novels seems to be different from most other fans I have spoken to. For me the majority of the Discworld series are amusing and readable satire but not that special. There are exceptions - the recent novel Night Watch is excellent and Sam Vimes joins the pantheon of time-travellers sharing the forename Sam (Sam Beckett, Sam Tyler etc...)
The stand-out Pratchett books are the first Discworld novel (The Colour of Magic) and two other novels, Dark Side of the Sun and Strata. The first is well-liked but quite different from the later, much more satirical books - it's a tale of magic with a semi-scientific feel, reminiscent of Ursula K. le Guin in terms of "hard" magical laws including conservation of momentum - and to my mind the humour is more original and works better.
Strata stands out as an attempt to link Discworld, or a discworld, with the real universe in a sci-fi setting. It's a creationist story with ancient races creating younger races and laying down fossil records to disguise their origins, and this is another book with a mind-blowing, emotionally resonant twist in the tale.
The third book, Dark Side of the Sun is pre-Discworld space opera and I don't know anyone else who's read it although there are ideas in Alastair Reynold's fiction that make me wonder.... Read it. Discworld's gain has been space opera's loss. I may write more about this book another day, if I can find my copy.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Monday, 13 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
this third-person observer perspective works particularly well. Most of the other characters on the committee fall quickly into their hawk or dove stereotypes, however the President is convincing and seems genuinely thrown by the challenge he faces; also Doyle's boss Thurman Mather quickly develops into a likeable antihero. Every government office should have a Thurman Mather.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
This is the opener for a weekend of sci-fi across the UK channels - tonight there are the second episodes of Red Dwarf (Dave) and Primeval (ITV) while over on the BBC Doctor Who teams up with Bionic Woman actress Michelle Ryan in Planet of the Dead.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Secondly, Dark Roasted Blend reviews this book of sci-fi art by Daniel Simon. No further comment.
Monday, 6 April 2009
I think we finished in entirely appropriate style, after two of us spent the last night editing and compositing, we discovered with less than an hour to the deadline that we don't seem to be able to export the film. Cue much angst, and a real, tense dash across London trying to get the film off the computer and get back to the Apollo cinema for the drop-off. Perhaps one of these would have helped...
Sunday, 5 April 2009
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Friday, 3 April 2009
Another part of the festival, the 48 hour film competition, is running this weekend - so watch out for strange activities on the Capital's streets. I'm entering a team so expect a couple of sleepless nights. I'll post some updates as we go along and although I don't think we can release the film before the competition I may sneak in a few pictures...