A long time ago in a place far far away called Before the Lockdown (aka Manchester, January 2020), I was invited to be a guest on the award-winning Comma Press Podcast for the opening episode of series two to help introduce the central theme for this series: FUTURES.
Westworld was my favourite series of 2016. It presented a rich science fiction future that managed to be fresh and exciting despite being a remake based upon a 1973 movie by the same title. It had and continues to have lots of opportunities for developing exciting and prescient narrative that can be explored in what I hope will be a long running series. I was mesmerised from the opening credits, which I wrote about here. Westworld played around with time and I will have to rewatch all ten episodes as I attempt to distinguish between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, and past, present and/or future. Continue reading “Westworld: Imagined Futures and Re/imagined Pasts”→
Westworld finally got its UK premier last night. It seemed like an eternity between the US release and our chance to explore, and I successfully navigated the minefield of avoiding spoilers and opinions on the first episode that might interfere with my own initial response (and enjoyment). The first episode wasn’t perfect – I wanted more, but it was necessary to give over time and space for worldbuilding (both the Western theme-park and the futuristic workplace) and introducing the basic concept of the show. It’s based on the 1973 SF-Western movie Westworld written and directed by science fiction writer Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain, Disclosure), it was Crichton’s first foray in directing, and it famously stars Yul Brynner as a killer-robot called ‘The Gunslinger’. The film and now the HBO TV series is set in a near-future adult amusement park where the super-rich can pay ($40,000/day) for an immersive storyworld ‘holiday’ where they can do use the robots as they please to act out their wildest Wild West fantasies. Continue reading “Science & Future World Building in Westworld’s Credit Sequence”→
The cover art for the Unsettling Scientific Stories project is taken from original cover art created by Arnold Kohn for the August 1947 edition of Amazing Stories (vol.21, iss.8). I proposed it as a suitable image to represent the project as it communicates the awesome power of science. The figure is both frightened and in awe of the power he holds in his hand: the potential of science, and specifically in this cover, the potential that atomic science has in the hands of humanity. Trying to find an image to represent a project that spans more than 100 years is not an easy task. But the idea that science has been looked upon, feared, respected, and misused is one that weaves its way throughout the project. Kohn’s art for Amazing Stories communicated an idea rather than a story. Unsettling Scientific Stories is of course about stories, and some very specific stories but it is also about how ideas about science were communicated through text and image. Continue reading “Amazing Stories, Amazing Art: SF Magazine Cover Art”→
Caryl Churchill’s postmodern play The Skriker is just about to begin its final week of a sold-out run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and its environmentalist message is as worryingly relevant today as when it premièred at the National Theatre twenty-one years ago. This has been a summer of headlines about record-breaking temperatures; according to scientists the Earth as a whole has experienced its hottest June and the hottest first half of the year since records began. The current climate crisis is entwined with a lengthy history of industrialisation, reckless ecological practices, and the environmental movement has been blighted by financial crisis, austerity, and a political and corporate denial of this global catastrophe. Global warming and climate change are unavoidable issues that permeate news media and increasingly fictional media. Continue reading “The Skriker: Global Warming, Eco-fairytales, and Science on the Stage”→
By 2011 I had already spent five years of postgraduate study researching the history and cultural interpretations of Planet of the Apes. I was very nervous about seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes; it was released just a few weeks before I submitted my PhD and I knew I would have to make at least some reference to the film in my thesis. So, I anxiously went to the screening accompanied by my low expectations and a notebook. I was, thankfully, very pleased with the new origin story that was clearly intended as a new beginning for the multiple-decade spanning franchise. It did not try to awkwardly update or rehash the original series’ subtext (oh, Tim Burton) but instead used the science fiction genre and the possibilities of the fall of humanity to explore more pertinent socio-cultural issues. Continue reading “‘Talking Apes with Big-Ass Spears’: Violence, Science, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”→