Making the work of science fiction writers more scientific

Tuesday, 19 January, 2016

The Science and Entertainment Exchange might be just the resource that writers of science fiction novels and screenplays need, and is made up of two thousand seven hundred scientists, who stand ready to help make manuscripts and scripts more “plausible-ish”.

The Exchange’s Mr. Loverd acknowledges getting the minutiae correct services “that small percentage of the population that can understand this stuff.” But writers face fans who have turned the Web into an accountability tool. And shows like “MythBusters” have popularized movie-science debunking. There are also academic critiques. The 2013 space drama “Gravity” was a hit, but astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson publicly raised questions: Why did satellite debris orbit east to west, and why didn’t Sandra Bullock’s hair float in zero-G? The movie makers, Dr. Tyson says in an email, “needed that twist of reality to intensify the story.”

Science fiction seems to have science become non-fiction, and if the science thereof doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, sci-fi writers may find themselves in hot water. It’s a topic that’s near and dear, given I’m writing a manuscript that has a decent sci-fi element.

I’m trying to ensure accuracy where possible, but I’m afraid when it comes to faster than light travel, I’ll be dropping the ball.

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Yoda, a nasty little green oven mitt, until proved otherwise?

Tuesday, 19 January, 2016

It’s fair to say that US scientist and science fiction author David Brin takes a reasonably dim view of the Star Wars films, especially the first six movies. It’s series creator George Lucas’ “sneering contempt for democracy and the common man”, that particularly gets on Brin’s goat, to say nothing of that “nasty little green oven mit” Yoda:

Yoda is pretty much, inarguably, the most evil figure ever in the history of any human mythology. I have defied folks to name one time when he says or does anything that is indisputably wise. The trail of destruction that follows him and every decision that he makes is inarguable and overwhelming.

Evil, and not much of a strategist either. Or was he?

I do hope folks will notice, for example, that Yoda, in Attack of the Clones, orders the Jedi into a suicide charge that kills most of them, then conveniently shows up with the new clone army that he ordered. An act of treachery and betrayal so stunning that I had to watch the movie twice. Perhaps that was Lucas’ evil plan.

Brin has written a book, Star Wars on Trial, that examines the good and bad aspects of the saga in court case fashion, where he, unsurprisingly, acts as the prosecuting attorney.

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The 2001 File, a look at the art direction of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Monday, 18 January, 2016

For those who cannot get enough of 2001: A Space Odyssey, comes The 2001 File, a book by British writer Christopher Frayling, that explores the work of the film’s art director, Harry Lange.

A new book by Sir Christopher Frayling presents the largely unpublished archive of art director Harry Lange’s designs, concepts, roughs and photographs for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The result is a veritable feast for design and film geeks.

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Han Solo’s life story may not stand up to many special modifications

Thursday, 14 January, 2016

Today’s obligatory Star Wars related post – I think have one ready to go for tomorrow as well – asks the question, should there be a Han Solo anthology, or “spin off” film made? As I said a few months ago, Solo’s the sort of person who’d have a couple of stories to tell. Thing is, would it be a good idea to make movies out of them?

Something else I also wondered about was who on Earth would you cast to portray a younger Solo? One thing is for sure, whoever it might be will have big shoes to fill, as David Sim, writing for The Atlantic, notes:

Why do audiences need to see the events that made Han Solo who he is? He’s a complete package the second he’s introduced – rebellious, charming, with just enough bravado to disguise that he’s making it up as he goes along – and so much of that is down to Ford’s performance. Any new actor in the role will be saddled with the choice between trying to imitate Ford or creating their own take on the character, and both will be a tough sell.

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Write a crawl for your own private Star Wars story

Wednesday, 13 January, 2016

This is fun, write your own Star Wars crawl text… just what those who are into Star Wars role playing games, and the like, ordered I would think.

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A rebooted trailer for The Empire Strikes Back

Monday, 11 January, 2016

A contemporary trailer for The Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the original Star Wars trilogy. It casts the story in a whole new light, doesn’t it?

By way of a comparison, here is an earlier trailer, dating from about 1980, that is narrated, apparently, by Harrison Ford.

I think I know which one I prefer.

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The Force Awakens… a new hope or a false start?

Monday, 11 January, 2016

SPOILERS, of some sort, follow.

If box office takings are anything to go by, I expect it’s safe to assume just about everyone reading this has seen the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, by now. I’ve seen it twice.

The story is not too bad, despite the forty – or so – plot holes that one reviewer identified, and shows up director J.J. Abrams penchant for simultaneously copying, and changing, earlier versions of a story that is he has taken over telling. His Star Trek reboots are a case in point here.

I think he missed the mark however in regards to the current crop of villains who are intent on galactic domination. They have no presence. Darth Vadar was terrifying. Kylo Ren is not. Ditto Supreme Leader Snoke, who completely lacks the enigma and menace of Palpatine, the Emperor.

Palpatine went virtually unseen for the first two original Star Wars films, and that, I thought, played a big part in building up his character. An over size hologram of Snoke is the only fear instilling mechanism this time around, and that’s not saying much. It’s also something we’ve seen before anyway, in The Empire Strikes Back.

So, what to expect in episode eight then? Another “I am your father” sort of moment? Might be brother, or sister, of course. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, only eleven months to go until Rogue One, the next Star Wars movie, the first in the spin off, or anthology series of films, opens.

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Hoverboards placed on the no fly list, is that a contradiction or what?

Thursday, 17 December, 2015

Hoverboard, photo by Josh Valcarcel

The hoverboards in question are not the least bit like the devices from the Back to the Future films, but maybe they’re close enough for some people. I’ve seen a few of these around now, and while they look fun, it appears some models have an unfortunate tendency to burst into flames. That’s not much use if Biff Tannen happens to be in hot pursuit.

The problem can apparently be traced to their lithium-ion batteries, and is something that has resulted in a number of US airlines banning passengers from taking them onto flights.

An exploding two-wheeler burned down a house in Louisiana a few weeks ago; another scooter combusted in the same state in the past week. A gyroboard caused significant damage to a home in New York a few days ago. At a mall in Washington this week, a scooterboard caught fire and shoppers were forced to evacuate. The perceived danger is significant enough that major airlines have banned the little vehicles altogether.

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Can the new Star Trek film step beyond The Force Awakens?

Wednesday, 16 December, 2015

I guess some of us will be waiting to hear what whispers emanate from Los Angeles, following the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday – I’m going to try and block out any chatter for now – but let’s not forget that a new installment of the rebooted Star Trek films, Star Trek Beyond, is out next year.

If this first trailer is anything to go by, they’re definitely ramping up the action aspect, and possibly the slapstick. Is that because Justin Lin, who directed the Fast & Furious films, is at the helm, or is that the way the producers want to take the series? Time will tell. Also, it seems the USS Enterprise has been lost/destroyed.

Didn’t that happen in the third film that featured the original Star Trek cast?

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Albert Einstein’s general theory of science fiction

Monday, 30 November, 2015

It’s all rocket science to me, but concepts such as faster than light (FTL) travel, and wormholes, the staples of science fiction, derive from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which is good, because that’s about the total sum of it that makes sense to me.

General relativity is a treasure trove of ideas that have enriched science fiction for decades. Take wormholes – a popular form of transportation for fictional space explorers and a consequence of general relativity’s stretchy space-time. “That kind of flexibility allows you in theory to kind of bend space so much that you actually get really a shortcut between different parts of the universe, potentially even opposite parts of the universe,” Pope said.

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