REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Co-written with Dr R. Lyle Skainsbr3.gif

Blade Runner is a formative SF film for many fans and scholars, inviting endless revisitation – a multi-layered, visually excessive storyworld that prioritises aesthetics over narrative. Its long-awaited sequel, 2049, is equally beautiful and complex, although more narratively accessible than its predecessor. Similarly, 2049 also asks questions about the essence of humanity while lacking depth in its cultural representation.  Continue reading “REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)”

Westworld: Imagined Futures and Re/imagined Pasts

Originally posted: January 20171_lMW0qUD1hgQlnCABnQgkhw.jpeg

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 hereWestworld 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”

Science & Future World Building in Westworld’s Credit Sequence

Originally posted: October 2016westworld-sun2.gif

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 ParkAndromeda StrainDisclosure), 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”

(Don’t) Ask a Scientist!: The Good, the Bad, and the Accuracy

Originally posted: May 2016Frau_Im_Mond_940

At the end of March 2016 I went to my first science fiction convention: EasterCon. Also known as the British National Science Fiction Convention, now in its 67th year, the convention is given a name that reflects its location or theme each year and for the Manchester EasterCon we had Mancunicon. The convention, which is primarily literary, was drastically different from my convention expectations of cosplayers and comic books. It was a serious and engaging event where, as a SF researcher, it was great to speak to a huge range of writers, fans, and commentators. Audience questions were perceptive and revealing and I found the entire experience very rewarding. Continue reading “(Don’t) Ask a Scientist!: The Good, the Bad, and the Accuracy”

SF Suggestions (2016 edition)

Originally posted: May 2016Orphan-Black-Cosima-1434649070.gif

When I started as a postdoc on the Unsettling Scientific Stories project in 2016 I was asked to produce a ‘top ten’ list of SF texts that were favourites, inspiration, and the types of works that I hoped to look at as part of the project.

This is mine: Continue reading “SF Suggestions (2016 edition)”

You gotta make way for the Homo Superior: Mutation, Evolution, and Super Powers on Screen

Originally posted: February 2015

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Detail from the title sequence from X-Men: First Class

Recently I went to a fascinating research seminar on the history of the theory of mass extinction and the human fears of and impact on extinction given by historian of biology, Dr David Sepkoski (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin) at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (University of Manchester). It got me thinking about not only imagined extinction in fiction (I’ve researched/written about Planet of the Apes’ and its post-human/post-apocalyptic worlds), but also about how some recent science fiction shows, predominately in the Marvel (MCU) and DC storyworlds, have drawn upon human fears of extinction and being replaced (and thus super threatened) by another human race (or more specifically, a secondarily evolving hominin species). The fear isn’t of an invading species of aliens, or the rise of intelligent apes – but a threat that is much closer to home, a threat from within human DNA (what Kirby [2007] refers to as ‘the Devil in our DNA’). Continue reading “You gotta make way for the Homo Superior: Mutation, Evolution, and Super Powers on Screen”

What Entertainment Can do for Science, and Vice Versa

Originally posted: August 2015

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One of the plausible zombies from The Last of Us (2013) – in the game the zombie infection is a fungus that kills and transforms its hosts

We are experiencing a golden age for the fusion of science and entertainment. Oscar-winning films such as Gravity and The Theory of Everything, television ratings titans like The Big Bang Theory, video games including The Last of Us (2013), and high-traffic web-comics like XKCD have shown that science-based entertainment products can be both critically and financially successful. Continue reading “What Entertainment Can do for Science, and Vice Versa”

Stories about Science: Communicating Science Through Entertainment Media

Originally posted: June 2015 – co-written with Ray MacauleyScreen Shot 2018-05-29 at 23.32.08.png

We are now in a golden age of science-based entertainment media.

Every science-based entertainment product is a unique and complex cultural artefact created for a specific audience, format, and purpose. It would be difficult to come up with a template or set of generic rules that could be applied by practitioners in all science communication projects or encompass all forms of entertainment media. Continue reading “Stories about Science: Communicating Science Through Entertainment Media”

If She Can See It, She Can Be It: Women of STEM on Television

Originally posted: July 2015

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She is science (Cosima/Maslany)

I am a self-proclaimed Orphan Black geek monkey and I am obsessed with Clone Club (and their marvelous dance parties). When I first started to explore the representation of women in science in entertainment media I wrote a blog post on the subject to help organize my thoughts on how and where women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were represented. I got a great response from people who read the article and received lots of tweets about the mysterious Cosima Niehaus. After a quick google I binge-watched the first two seasons of Orphan Black (an almost entirely female-led science-based series) and excitedly watching seasons three on four on TV. Continue reading “If She Can See It, She Can Be It: Women of STEM on Television”

‘You’re Blind, But You See So Much’: Netflix’s Daredevil and Blindness

Originally posted: 20th April 2015

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Netflix recently released its most recent original series, an adaptation of Marvel’s Daredevil. It joins Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter’s focus upon the more human characters of the Marvel Universe. Agent Phil Coulson, Agent Peggy Carter, and Daredevil/Matt Murdock are all human and definitely distinct from the god, the genetically enhanced super-soldier, the angry green scientist, and even the genius (billionaire playboy philanthropist) and his super-suit of armour. Unlike Agents of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter that were produced for weekly broadcast on television, the newest addition to the Marvel franchise has been released in a 13-episode load. This gives the audience the option to binge-watch the entire series, space it over a few days, or (if you have the willpower) over a few weeks. I have taken a break from my viewing marathon to think about a few things that came up during the first half of the series relating to the way the series communicates Murdock’s blindness and how this sensory deprivation makes him a super (human) hero. Continue reading “‘You’re Blind, But You See So Much’: Netflix’s Daredevil and Blindness”