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May 5, 2007

Top 25 SF
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:48 AM * 447 comments

EW.com has a list of the top 25 SF TV shows and movies from the last 25 years. They are:

25. V: THE MINISERIES (1983)
Bleah!
24. GALAXY QUEST (1999)
Should be ranked much higher.
23. DOCTOR WHO (1963-Present)
Should also be ranked higher.
22. QUANTUM LEAP (1989-1993)
I keep hearing about it, but I don’t know anyone who’s wildly fond of it.
21. FUTURAMA (1999-2003)
Okay.
20. STAR WARS: CLONE WARS (2003-2005)
GMAFB
19. STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997)
Maybe if they were trying to put together a list of the 25 worst movies of all time….
18. HEROES (2006-Present)
Heroes is in fact splendid, but this seems a little premature.
17. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)
I’m not 100% sure this is SF at all.
16. TOTAL RECALL (1990)
It had some moments.
15. FIREFLY/SERENITY (2002/2005)
Firefly didn’t work? Bite me. It worked fine. It also got cancelled, which is not the same thing.
14. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)
Just shows they aren’t familiar with the core literature.
13. THE TERMINATOR/ TERMINATOR 2 (1984 /1991)
Okay.
12. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
Okay.
11. LOST (2004-Present)
They ranked Lost above Firefly? No judgement at all.
10. THE THING (1982)
Okay. (You can always tell Rob Bottin mechanical effects.)
9. ALIENS (1986)
Alien was more than 25 years ago.
8. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-1994)
Okay, but where’s DS9 and Babylon 5, either of which was better?
7. E.T. (1982)
E. farkin’ T? No judgement or taste.
6. BRAZIL (1985)
Brazil, yay! A genuinely brilliant movie.
5. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)
The list turns painful again.
4. THE X-FILES (1993-2002)
Not disgraceful.
3. BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Also not disgraceful.
2. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2003-Present)
Gets a boost from being recent.
1. THE MATRIX (1999)
Well, that fits in with the rest of their choices.
Comments on Top 25 SF:
#1 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Interesting. Not a single comic-book related title. Heck, X-men is about a new race of humans arising among the Normals who fear them. That's about as SF as one can get.

#2 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:14 AM:

At last, a geeky topic which isn't depressing to me, like those writing or political ones. Still, I don't have much to say. Old enough to think that 2001 and Star Wars (now subtitled "A New Hope") are the top genre movies. I'm sure that leaves out a lot. It's so much people's preference. Thought Blade Runner looked gorgeous, but wasn't that great. I think each person will have their own favourites, depending on what time frame they're from. How about "Forbidden Planet," for instance?

That spelling reference at the bottom of the comment window comes off as vaguely condescending, like you're expecting us to do some of those things.

#3 ::: David Dvorkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:26 AM:

When I read that they had put The Matrix at #1, I didn't bother reading the whole list.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:32 AM:

Jack Ruttan @ 2... I too would put Forbidden Planet wayyyyy at the top of the list, but the constraint is that this has to be something from the last 25 years.

#5 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:36 AM:

I've been sitting on a copy of Brazil from Netflix for the last two weeks. (Well, not literally sitting on it. The cleaning situation in the living room hasn't become quite that bad yet.) Mostly put it in the queue because I had the vague notion it was a "classic" of some sort, but I haven't had any inspiration to actually watch the sucker. Maybe I'll give it a try today, if it actually is a good movie. So long as it's not like 2001, which I grant may well be a classic, but was so excruciatingly boring to watch that it wasn't even worth finally catching all those references to it from other sources.

#6 ::: Gavin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:36 AM:

By what possible standard would Eternal Sunshine not be science fiction?

#7 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind not SF? It's a story about the effects of a hypothetical new technology -- voluntary selective memory erasure -- on personal relationships. How could it be possibly be more like SF?

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:43 AM:

What about Dark City?

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:48 AM:

In the virtual-category of SF movies, I'd have put The Thirteenth Floor, not The Matrix.

#10 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:05 AM:

I very much liked Matrix. Parts 2 and 3, not so very much. I can still watch the original. The sequels almost destroyed my ability to enjoy it, though. But top-ranked? Uh, no.

And, yes, Firefly deserves to be ranked much higher.

#11 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:07 AM:

EW has never had any taste in, or judgement of, science fiction. For years the critic they assigned all the SF reviews to was Ken Tucker, who hates science fiction (and gay people, but that's another story).

The fact that any of the recent Star Bores movies are on this list proves that they have no taste.

And hello? Farscape?

#12 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:09 AM:

I think Eternal Sunshine Spotless Whatever qualifies for Science Fiction. I also think it does NOT qualify in being in the top anything list, except, perhaps, top 25 most complicated movie titles or something.

Dark City => saw it. loved it. Seems like "The Matrix" was basically "Dark City" with a little bit of rearrangment. And "dark city" and "brazil" are twins separated at birth. or something.

There were some moments that really hooked me in "The Matrix". When she learned how to fly helicopters in a split second, after all the time I spent in training to learn the old fashioned way, that scene made me drool a little bit. Yeah, The Matrix wasn't the first one to come up with that concept, (I seem to remember it being in some RPG's a decade or so earlier), but hey, it was helicopters, so it got in there.

The "There is no spoon" line was pretty nice, too. The whole "what is real what is illusion" isn't exactly something The Matrix invented, but it isn't very often that a blockbuster action movie has most of its audience go through the actual experience of questioning their fundamental worldview assumptions. "Total Recall" did it too. I give them both a point for at least getting something in the mainstream culture that involves some sort of thinking.

Sometimes it isnt' about being first with an idea. Sometimes I'm just happy to see people reminding others of the idea. In a "Hey, remember that time when we used to respect human rights?" sort of way....

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:24 AM:

Oh, I see, they meant the animated series of The Clone Wars, which I never heard of at all. Still stupid, but not as stupid as including the recent live-action-but-still-without-noticeable-acting crapfests.

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Eureka should have been on that list.

#15 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:34 AM:

I loved Quantum Leap. Of course, I was 15 at the time...

#16 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:35 AM:

This list just shows that the lister doesn't really get SF. Or is this based on box-office or ratings?

Cause then maybe it starts making some sense. Maybe.

#17 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:37 AM:

No Gattaca? And V and Starship Troopers are on the Best list? **shudder**

#18 ::: Chelsea ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:46 AM:

What's with all the Dark City love? Srsly! As an armchair film scholar I'm disappointed that a film which clearly rips off several better silent films -- and throws in some truly horrendous acting and editing, to boot -- gets such love from people who should know better. (And the fact that people think the Wachowski Brothers ripped it off make me laugh and laugh.)

#19 ::: casey ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Serge@1 No comic-book related titles? Heroes doesn't qualify for you? :) Seriously, I hope the writers can keep up the quality of this show. It has enough quality SF for makinglight to approve of it, and yet it's also accessible enough that coworkers of mine who'd never watch Doctor Who or Firefly can't wait to chat with me about Hiro, Peter, Nathan, et al. every Tuesday morning.

#20 ::: Ken Hirsch ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Is Brazil really science fiction?

I just rewatched it this week. Well, I watched a 142-minute movie that had some likeness to the movie I watched in 1985. Plus I watched parts of the 94-minute version and much of Gilliam's commentary.

God, what a dreadful film. Sure it has brilliant parts, but overall it's so relentlessly negative that it's painful to watch. Listening to the commentary doesn't improve matters. We learn why Gilliam wanted to get back at plastic surgeons, but his "satire" bears such little resemblance to its target that it only makes me dislike the film.

And why all the ducts? Gilliam hates the way "modern conveniences" (i.e. indoor plumbing) deface the beauty of Victorian architecture. Too bad the proles won't keep emptying chamber pots so that Gilliam can enjoy his unblemished view of the quaint native houses.

#21 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:01 PM:

But Battlefield Earth was left off the list? :-)

#22 ::: janine ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Starship Troopers?!

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Chelsea 18: An interesting comment to be your first ever on Making Light. Would you care to explain why you think the Wachowski brothers did not mine Dark City for ideas? Would you like to name the "better silent films" you speak of?

I'd actually be interested in hearing these things, which isn't as true of a simply-derisive first comment.

#24 ::: cathy ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:07 PM:

If the list was meant to be tv/movies with the greatest impact, as opposed to being great on their own, I can see including the first V miniseries. Diana unhooking her jaw and swallowing a guinea pig was something EVERYONE at school talked about the next day. Similarly, while I think DS9 is a much, much better show than TNG, I can see including TNG since it relaunched the franchise that then stayed on my television for the next 18 years. However, if the list is supposed to be movie/tv shows that are the greatest in their own right, then I probably wouldn't have included about 75% of the list.

Agree with Xopher that Farscape ought to be on the list.

#25 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:11 PM:

No Gattaca? If it was my personal list I'd have Mamoru Oshii's Avalon in there too, but I'll cut them a little slack due to its lack of a theatrical release. Even so, they bloody ought to have remembered Ghost in the Shell.

In fact, now I notice it, the only non-American products in there are Dr Who and (arguably) Brazil (unless I'm missing one of the ones I'm not familiar with). Huh. Parochial, or what?

#26 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Wait.

Neither Farscape nor Babylon 5?

The compiler is utterly wrong, obviously.

#27 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:19 PM:

I think one reason it's a bad list is because it's based on things other than the quality of the show in question.

E.T. is on the list because they give it credit for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Total Recall is on the list because... um. They wanted a Schwarzenegger vehicle, and couldn't afford to fill up a Hummer?

The Clone Wars animated series (as much as I liked it) is only on the list because they wanted to put something Star Wars on the list, and it's the non-video game that didn't suck.

Another reason the list is bad is it wasn't compiled by someone very familiar with SF. The Firefly blurb wasn't written by someone who watched the show, and TNG tackled homosexuality like Lost tackles closure.

I'd rather see the list of top SF movies from the future and other timelines: the definitive Casablanca (starring Peter Beardsley and Myra Binglebat), the Neil Gaiman/Terry Gilliam Episode III: Fall of the Republic (from the timeline where Lucas realized he can't write dialog or direct)...

Postscript to #21 - I'm sure Mitt Romney is writing them a stern email. "Worst top 25 list ever!"

#28 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:27 PM:

#7 seconded. And while I'm at it, I'll defend The Matrix too. It's hard to remember, in the wake of Reloaded and Revolutions, that it was actually quite amazing, and, er, revolutionary. You old timers will just have to take my word for it, but The Matrix was the kind of movie that made fans--it had the scope, the mix of eye-catching action and mind-blowing ideas that hooks you like heroin. And, most of all, it was popular. That's not the only mark of quality, but it's hardly irrelevant. Star Wars wouldn't be a classic of the genre and a pillar of fandom if no one had gone to see it. It was, more than a sf movie, a cultural moment.

That seems to be as much as anything what they are going for--not the sf titles that were the best, but the ones that made the heaviest impressions on the public zeitgeist. On that criterium, The Matrix is a pretty reasonable pick.

#29 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:28 PM:

Easily the most serious omission is "Babylon 5", possibly the best sf TV series ever (I only hedge because I'm not familiar with some of the more recent series here). E.T. perhaps works better as modern myth than as science fiction, which goes double for The Matrix. Yes, Eternal Sunshine... counts as sf. Agree with your enthusiasm for Brazil, but upon reflection I'm wondering why Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys isn't here as well. (I also wonder why only one Spielberg movie is on the list; Jurassic Park, Minority Report and critics' favorite A.I. might have all been listed.)

Finally, I'm glad to see two animated series on the list, but I also found myself thinking of good-to-great animation not listed, especially two great anime films (Akira and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds) and two very different twists of the E.T.-meets-kid concept (The Iron Giant and Lilo & Stitch); I also think "Dexter's Laboratory" wouldn't have disgraced the list, and admit to a weakness for "My Life as a Teenage Robot" as well.

#30 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:29 PM:

That 25 year limit is tough for me, but they could have found places for "Babylon 5," "Gattaca," and "Akira."

Again, it's so much down to personal taste, and what you've run into in your viewing career (no Heroes for me, as of yet). Was "Robocop" out of the running? I'd put that in ahead of the other Voerhoven (sp?) movies. (something new for the spelling ref. queue).

#31 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Well, clearly if "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is SciFi, then so is "Being John Malkovich" which was a much, much better movie.

#32 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Rob T. #29 got some nice ones. The good thing about these kinds of topics is that it might let you discover something you've missed. I suppose I can vote for "The Incredibles," but none of these is a perfect production.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:34 PM:

I think we're in agreement with regard to this list: we diskard it uterly.

#34 ::: Chelsea ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Xopher: For some reason I thought I'd occasionally poked my head in here and there over the years, but apparently I'm mistaken.

As far as the silent films that are better than Dark City: it pretty openly plunders from almost everything Fritz Lang ever directed, most notably Metropolis (which, come to think of it, is noticeably absent from this list), as well as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

It's not so much that I don't think the Wachowskis didn't rip off DC for The Matrix as I find the irony of talking about how DC was ripped off kind of painful in light of the films Proyas obviously plagiarizes. (There's one particular scene in DC that's almost identical to Metropolis, save for the shoot-for-the-edit cutting style [in which no shot lasts more than five seconds] and even worse acting.)

#35 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:36 PM:

I was about to whine about parochial Americans and where's Blake's 7, and then I remembered that Blake's 7 is now more than 25 years old.

I hate it when the universe reminds me that I'm middle-aged now.

#36 ::: Michael Berry ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:43 PM:

While far from the best of any given time period, "The Matrix" is a truly enjoyable movie. As long as you don't think about it too hard.

If you think about it too hard and start to notice how the Wachowskis (sp?) have ripped off characters, costume designs, themes and set-pieces from Grant Morrison's widely ignored comics series "The Invisibles," "The Matrix" becomes downright infuriating. (Morrison thought of suing but eventually let it go.)

During the release of the sequels, I couldn't understand why no one was pointing out the debt they owed to "The Invisibles." I should have done so myself.

#37 ::: Naomi ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:51 PM:

This is about what I'd expect from Entertainment Weekly.

I think we can all (or nearly all) agree that Babylon 5 damn well ought to be on that list somewhere and that they really didn't need to include Starship Troopers...but I'd be really interested in seeing what people here would have chosen for the #1 spot.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Chelsea 34: I see your point about both Metropolis and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but considered it more of an homage than a ripoff. (Both are more than 25 years old; they weren't doing the best SF films ever, after all.) Not that I think Dark City is a great movie, I'm just really fond of it for my own reasons. I try to get everyone to have a friend fast-forward over the stupid spoilery initial voiceover and watch it for the first time expecting a film noir—which technically it is, I guess, but I mean in mood and subject matter, not just lighting.

I agree with your last paragraph, too, but think the Wachowskis more likely to have seen Dark City then any silent movie, no matter how good—maybe even "especially a classic one." (I don't like them very much, even though The Matrix was the movie that finally pushed me over the edge into buying a DVD player.)

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Michael 36: The bad physics annoyed me too. I mean, bad physics is de rigeur in Hollowood, but The Matrix was the first movie where the physics was so bad it turned the bad guys into the good guys. At least in my limited film knowledge base.

#40 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:59 PM:

I'd go for either B5 or DS9 as number one, if only because they have cool acronyms.

(Oh, and also because I don't have cable, don't go out to movies, and very seldom rent anything.)

#41 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:00 PM:

Oh, and in that light, Early Edition belongs somewhere toward the bottom of that list.

#42 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Any top-whatever list that has The Matrix anywhere in it, never mind at the top, automatically goes into the garbage bin as far as I'm concerned. Unless it's a list of the "most annoying movies of all time", in which case, bring it on.

Yes, where the hell is Farscape?!

Personally I would have ranked Brazil higher, since after 21 years it is still my favorite movie of all time. Though at this point I would hesitate to file it under SF ... I would create a new genre for it: "Prescient History". :P

Remember, folks, We're All In This Together.

#43 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:06 PM:

The Matrix reminded me less of a good movie and more of Space Mountain, including the long wait in line (which I know has been dealt with, sort of, these days).

#44 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:09 PM:

There are two Dark Cities--one that's good, and the director's cut which is utter crap. You can't get the good one anymore, I don't think. (mumble mumble kids mumble lawn)

#45 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:11 PM:

I agree. No Farscape? What were they thinking?

#46 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:17 PM:

What, no Max Headroom?

#47 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Movies I would include that they didn't, strict SF division:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension
Android
Dark City (I thought it was pretty clear that viewers were supposed to think of Metropolis, not to mention "It's A Good Life," "Telek," and "You're All Alone." So I'm firmly in the homage camp.)
Pi
Princess Mononoke

Movies I would include that they didn't, fringe SF division:

Being John Malkovich
City of Lost Children
Groundhog Day
The Iron Giant
The Sacrifice
Waking Life


#48 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Yes, no Farscape, and yes, no Max Headroom, but shiny shiny pic of Nathan Fillion.

Oh, whoops, was that out loud? Sorry!

#49 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:29 PM:

What Jen @ 46 said. Listing Quantum Leap but not Max Headroom is just... bizarre.

#50 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:30 PM:

@27 they already had Terminators 1 & 2, so they didn't need Total Recall. So, no idea why it's there...

Reading the actual blurb on Firefly, it was a lot more positive overall than just "didn't work" implies. They were clearly referring to its cancellation...and recommended everyone go out and watch the whole season, the movie, and then lobby for more. So yeah...why wasn't it ranked higher?

#51 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Julia @ 35: Me too. Sigh.

(On the other hand, it's fun the way that pop culture now is continually referencing stuff from my childhood, because it's made by people my age.)

#52 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Managing not to mention Babylon 5 damns this list irrevocably.

#53 ::: Martin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:14 PM:

14. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)

Just shows they aren’t familiar with the core literature.

What does this mean?

#54 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Eternal Sunshine: definitely science fiction, and excellent. Not as great as Being John Malkovich, sure, but that's one of the top five science fiction movies ever.

Another great sf movie missing from the list: Delicatessen.

I love Brazil so much that it's hard for me to understand dislking it, but I guess if something being relentlessly bleak automatically qualifies it for awfulness, that would do it. I don't understand why bleakness isn't as valid a thing to shoot for as anything else. Anyway, it's hilarious, too.

I'd have Gattaca high on my list, too.

And Repo Man.

I'm surprised to not see The Truman Show on their list, which is flawed but still would make my top 25, and has enough well-done standard movie stuff to please a non-sf audience.

#55 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:17 PM:

I can't believe I left off Repo Man!

#56 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Ditto on Max Headroom - I loved that show - and most of # 47's two lists. (Well, I'd put Pi on the fringe list, and I never saw Android or even heard of The Sacrifice.)

I would not only include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on the SF list, I'd move it much nearer the top. That was a good movie, and even though I dislike Jim Carrey, he was a damn good actor in that movie. The Matrix (first movie only) indisputably belongs on the list, but maybe more like #10.

#57 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Indisputably? I'll dispute it: The Matrix was a shiny adventure movie dressed up in eye-rolling faux-profundity and flattened by an idiot plot. I thought its action-adventure elements were poorly done, but I hate that genre, so I'm an unreliable judge. But the science fiction elements were just gabble, and come to pieces at a touch.

#58 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:34 PM:

The Sacrifice is a mid-Eighties Tarkovsky film, and on second thought it's probably not even SFnal enough to be on the fringe list. I expect that what I really wanted was for Stalker to be a couple of years newer, and thus eligible.

#59 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:58 PM:

OK then, it's clearly not indisputable. I guess that was a silly adjective to use.

The reason it functions as SF, despite the silliness of the humans-as-batteries idea, is that there were a lot of potential different ways in which it could have been developed in the successors which would have been interesting, coherent, and deep. Even up through the end of #2, it could have been turned around, and I actually took some bits in #2 as hints that they were going to. (Why did the Oracle only in the Matrix? What was the reality status of that other place Neo exited the Matrix to with the Architect? And why is Neo eventually able to start exerting strange effects in the real world?)

They could have pulled the whole thing together in the third movie with a revelation that the "real world" they had exited into was itself simulated and no more real than the "Matrix". Until the huge disappointment of the last movie I had thought that was the plan all along. Unfortunately the clever pointers I thought I had seen in that direction turned out to be simply scriptwriting ineptness. I was robbed.

Nonetheless, I continue to see The Matrix as part of the trilogy I wanted to see, just as I would prefer to continue maintaining that Star Wars ep I-III never existed and that the original Star Wars remains untainted and pure.

#60 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Martin, I don't know what the original commentor meant, for sure, but I'd bet that it has something to do with Margaret Attwood's adamant rejection of the term SF to describe her writing.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:08 PM:

casey @ 19... True, there is Heroes. The strange thing is that I could never get into it, maybe precisely because I love comic-books. If that makes any sense.

#62 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:13 PM:

Sharon @51: I'm having a lot of fun with Life on Mars, because I'm in the right age group to enjoy the references.

(I did my bit to drive up the viewing figures on the Camberwick Green pastiche trailer uploaded to Youtube.:-)

#63 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:19 PM:

Tim@47: Buckaroo Banzai was a lot better movie before I actually saw it. I could see it trying So. Damn. Hard. to be awesome, but it's got a perfect combination of too much going on and too little of it onscreen. My gaze kept going from my watch to trying to look around the corner at the far more interesting movie that they didn't bother to shoot.

All of which saddens me, because I had spent, well, decades with this movie ticking in the back of my head, wanting to find a copy to see it.

#64 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Serge @ 9: I enjoyed The Thirteenth Floor, but I thought it relied a little too much on, "now here's our twist!" It suffers on rewatching (as does The Matrix, of course).

#65 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:26 PM:

This is what you get when the people making up the list have gotten all of their education and tastes from watching American prime-time TV: Badly understood SF and drivel.

#66 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Clifton: That was my thought, too. The only way it made sense for Neo and Agent Smith to be able to do what they did in the real world was for it all to be a simulation, too.

I thought The Matrix was a pretty fun film, for many of the same reasons as the first Star Wars. It's a pity they then ran it into the ground with their next two films.

#67 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Anticorium @ 83:

I can see what you mean about too much of it being offscreen, but that's part of what I liked about it: the sense that everything happening was imbedded in a complex backstory that's never made explicit.

I can certainly understand that it wouldn't live up to decades of anticipation, though; it's too slight and goofy for that. In my case, I saw its original theatrical release with no expectations at all, so it was a wonderful surprise.

Add to the I-can't-believe-I-forgot-to-mention-it list: Tremors.

#68 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:43 PM:

ESOTSM SF?

Yes. The snark answer is because it reminded me a great deal of a sweet sharp story read in Asimovs* about how divorce and old loves change given the existence of selective memory erasure. "Just get over her already- she's over you" has a new meaning when she doesn't remember you at all.

Children of Men?
I noticed when it first came out that there wasn't a single non-SF-based review of CoM that mentioned Aldiss. Not one. I started looking at Google-news: 2000+ hits turned to 200 (at best) when "science fiction" was added, and zeroed at Aldiss.

My main and righteous rant will, if I can't resist it (and already I've got my keyboard up against the whetstone) go into the PKDick thread. One point I'd make there is that reviewers are allowed to get away with a research laziness that wouldn't now be acceptible for a high school newspaper: they're not even reading Wikipedia, where the wiki article represents a floor, a minimum of topical knowledge that one must account for in a review.

-------
* the movie and the story were, as I recall, work timeline simultaneous: I mention it for sfnalishness, not causality. CoM, on the other hand...

#69 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:59 PM:

I'd call The Truman Show SF, albeit very near-term, and it was much better than most of the stuff on that list. The first Matrix movie was pretty fun IMO, and Minority Report was a good movie that was unquestionably SF.

Being John Malkovich was a fantastic movie, but I'm not sure I'd quite call it SF.

DS9 seems like it ought to beat out all the other Star Trek series in terms of quality, but I think it was too dark to have as much of a draw as TNG.

I am not sure what a good list of this kind would look like, but this ain't it.

#70 ::: A. Nakama ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:01 PM:

I'm going to throw this out there because I just saw it the other evening, but Demolition Man is a scifi movie from 15 years ago full of facepalming goodness.

Re: Children Of Men

While the schtick wasn't particularly innovative, I came into the film not knowing a darn thing about it. My friend was with me at the ticket booth and said, "Let's go see that!" So I shrugged, paid my dollar, and went in.

The thing is, Children of Men is a really good film, and plot is only one part of what makes it good. It's the first movie in a long time that left me shaken after seeing it, and glad I had -- and a lot of that was because of subtle things that only the film medium could have accomplished.

Re: the Matrix

So, I'm going to put out a tangential and probably wildly unpopular opinion and mention that I enjoyed the second movie an awful lot, more than the others -- though not because of anything the characters said. Visually, however, it featured a lot of pretty, consequence-less, stylistic violence in interesting locations (and I come at this with a background in dance, martial arts, and watching far too many kung fu movies).

Of course, the same could be said for 300, and that movie did more to offend me than anything else.

#71 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:11 PM:

IMO, 'ST: The Mild Annoyance of Khan' didn't beat out 'ST: A Whale of A Movie', but that's possibly because 'Khan' was a sequel to a single episode (which, also IMO, wasn't that great to begin with).

#72 ::: Peter Hentges ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:31 PM:

I'm somewhat surprised that commenters here don't mention Mirrormask among alternatives. Or did it not receive wide enough release?

For that matter, I think we'd be able to come up with a better list of good F/SF movies and television without even going back 25 years. How about 5 years?

#73 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:58 PM:

I loved Mirrormask, but I'd consider it fantasy rather than SF.

#74 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:26 PM:

JESR (60): Children of Men was written by P. D. James, not Margaret Atwood. Or did you mean something else?

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Tim Walters @ 67... Add to the I-can't-believe-I-forgot-to-mention-it list: Tremors.

"I vote for outer space. There's no way these boys are from around here."

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Howard the Duck, maybe. If the list were to include 9999 movies.

#77 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:41 PM:

I was rather turned off of Children of Men by the blurbs I saw. Any plot which begins with something happening "inexplicably" frustrates me -- it feels like the writers are displaying a failure of imagination for not at least /trying/ to explain it, even if the explanation is obvious bullshit. (Unless the film is about the discovery of the explanation, a la Serenity.) I also don't like movies which are too obvious in pushing a particular political message, even one I agree with, and all the comparisons that were being drawn between CoM and recent events made me wary. People here are saying not entirely dismissive things about the movie, though, so I'll put the question to you--- is Children of Men worth seeing, or should I just read the Aldiss book instead?

#78 ::: Shannon Clark ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:04 PM:

re Children of Men - go see. Probably repeatedly. One of the best movies in the past few years. Amazing filmmaking - beautiful and definitely dystopian sf.

I'm disappointed that the list did not include one of my all time favorite films, "Until the End of the World" (though perhaps that should really be 2-3 films - as distributed it is really almost 2 films plus there is apparently a directors cut with another 2 hrs).

I also think that Doctor Who (plus the current spinoff Torchwood) deserve to be MUCH higher on the list. Of course I'm a Dr. Who fan and thus rather biased on this subject - but I've always found Doctor Who much more interesting than either Star Trek or Star Wars (and the current series of Doctor Who are among the best of the series 40+ years)

And the absence of Babylon 5 is extremely glaring. By far one of the best SF TV shows of the past 25 years (much better I'd say than V, clone wars, or Lost). And I think it is too early to say if Heroes will stand up - so far it is very promising and good, but we're only 20 shows in - see Lost for what can go wrong)

Shannon

#79 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Re: Dark City (which I enjoyed):

I saw a presentation of The Limey* at the Dryden Theater at the Eastman House, which was based on a screenplay by Lem Dobbs, who is credited as a co-writer on Dark City. He was on hand to make some comments on The Limey, and also talked about Dark City.

He commented that Roger Ebert turned out to be a big fan of Dark City, and had hosted a three day conference about the film at some college. Dobbs had a chance to stop in on one day of this event. After one of the presentations, someone in the audience brings up the hotel room number where some scene unfolds, and finds a matching Biblical reference which seems significant.

In his comments at the Eastman, Dobbs noted how people will often read more into a script than is there; he needed a room number for the scene, he was staying in a hotel at the time, he used his room number.


* Call out to Serge: The Limey starred Terence Stamp (also known for what role?). In the month it was shown, the Dryden also managed to show a couple of other films he started in, including Modesty Blaise.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:06 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 79... Terence Stamp (also known for what role?)

I won't say it. I won't.

#81 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:08 PM:

FungiFromYoggoth @ 27

TNG tackled homosexuality like Lost tackles closure.

Or worse; Lost will handle closure perforce when the network cancels it. You have read the preface David Gerrold wrote for "Blood and Fire"? I'm glad he wrote that down; I hate to get my gossip on streetcorners.

#82 ::: Comesleep ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:18 PM:

#35
Aw, heck. I'm not 25 yet, and I love Blake's 7.

(Servalan makes me a happy girl!

#83 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:19 PM:

Well I also thouht it a tad parochial: so, in a spirit of friendly rivalry, here's my shot at the top 10 best british tv sf of all time:
1 Dr Who
2 Blakes 7
3 Survivors
4 Sapphire and Steel
5 Doomwatch
6 The Tomorrow People
7 Year of the Sex Olympics
8 Thunderbirds
9 Quatermass
10 Threads

Anyone fancy doing a USian version?

#84 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Clone Wars was Samurai Jack with light sabers, which is to say, cool.

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:37 PM:

First the obligatory comment about the futility of trying to choose and rank works of art according to any one criterion: it has only one good result, that it starts discussions like this where we can find out about works we didn't know of, and people with tastes similar to ours.

Next, violent agreement: Farscape, Gattaca, and Buckaroo Banzai should have been on the list.* Their absence proves, as if we didn't already know, that whoever made up the list didn't understand SF at all.

I also think 12 Monkeys should have been on the list. It's the only big budget** time travel movie I can think of where the writers didn't get a headache from the paradoxes and blow rational thought off completely, or just pull a deus ex machina from where the sun don't shine.

And while we're at it, why isn't there a list for fantasy? Not bludgeons and dragons, but movies like Mirrormask or Labryrinth.

* See, I do contain multitudes.

** There's one small budget (around $8000 IIRC) movie called Primer that not only gets that right, it also gets the high-tech startup atmosphere and character right.

#86 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:38 PM:

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless mind, which some people have described as Carrey's best work, is not really science fiction at all, instead it is what we nowadays would call a counter-factual.

#87 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:50 PM:

Mary Aileen, no, just swapping pairs again; it's a brain thing.

Sorry.

#88 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Comesleep @82: Unfortunately I'm old enough to have watched Blake's 7 on its original outing. Now I am using the DVDs to hook a another generation of new souls for the faith.

One of the creepier things about watching a late 70s dystopia is seeing how many of the things the writers used as markers of a totalitarian state have come to pass, or are in the offing.

#89 ::: Scott MacHaffie ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:06 PM:

One of my favorite little-noticed movies is called Equilibrium. It's kind of "Brave New World" with some of the visual appeal of The Matrix.

#90 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:11 PM:

Bruce @ 85:

Next, violent agreement: Farscape, Gattaca, and Buckaroo Banzai should have been on the list.* Their absence proves, as if we didn't already know, that whoever made up the list didn't understand SF at all.

I've never seen Farscape, and I thought Gattaca oozed mediocrity from every pore. Can I still be in the club?

Twelve Monkeys was OK in and of itself, but failed my test for remakes: would I rather have just watched the original again?

Bryan @ 86: funny!

#91 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:20 PM:

Bryan, #86:

[..]we nowadays would call a counter-factual.

Do we, indeed? I'm comfortable with 'science fiction', myself; 'counterfactual' sounds like a high-faluting term that high-faluters might apply to SF they like in order to avoid admitting that they like something in genre.

#92 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:26 PM:

NelC: I think Bryan was engaging in a little cross-thread humor.

#93 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:27 PM:

"bryan," I mean. Sorry, bryan.

#94 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:38 PM:

The last network-aired episode of "Max Headroom" involved Max, Edison, & friends trying to protect a ring of video pirates supplying educational programming to disadvantaged kids.

The copyright cops eventually drag away the video equipment, but on orders from their lieutenant ignore a sheet-draped archaic mechanism off in the corner.

The episode ends with a kid reading, from a freshly printed book, the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities.

Freaking brilliant.

#95 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:54 PM:

Scott at 89 has got Equilibrium as the main one I would have loved to see. It's like the Matrix but with slightly less physics jiggery-pokery. Also Christian Bale is many millions of times hotter than Keanu Reeves.

I think if there were to be a fantasy list, Buffy would have to be in the top 5.

#96 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Myself (and I understand this is a pet peeve) don't understand the Heroes worship*. I have two episodes on my iTunes, but I can't bring myself to finish even the first episode. I keep getting pulled up short by the eclipse scene in the middle, which between the pseudo-profundity, the geographic idiocy (it's daylight in Tokyo AND New York), scientific idiocy (the sun is high in the sky in Tokyo AND New York simultaneously), and the false notes (Japanese office workers doing their exercising in SUITS?** And not stopping to notice the eclipse?), it was enough to convince me that I couldn't trust the show. Call it nitpicking, but it becomes REALLY hard to suspend disbelief when so much nonsense gets thrown up.

I have an American-raised Japanese colleague who recognizes all this, but is still a fan of the show. So, what am I missing?

But to get back on topic, yeah, it's a pretty worthless list.

*I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.
**The whole Japanese office sequences looked phony to me, from the layout of the offices to the dress of the workers, given my experiences of Japanese offices.

#97 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:01 PM:

Ah, Max Headroom. It long ago occurred to me that were I to become insanely rich like Michael Jackson, rather than buy the Elephant Man bones, I'd buy all the rights to "Max Headroom", and then set up a website that would play all Max, all the time. Yes, then I would know I had truly made it. ahhh.....

Buckaroo Bonzai, is past the 25 year mark, but it is, of course, the best movie of all time. I'd probably buy all the rights to that one and set up a 24-7 Bonzai site.


#98 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:04 PM:

Tim Walters @ 90

Thanks for the reference to La Jetee; I hadn't known about it. With luck there's tape or DVD I can get my hands on.

What did you think was mediocre about Gataca? Writing, acting, camera work? I don't think it's a great film by any means, but I saw some solid craft in there.

The thing about Farscape that I think grabs a lot of people is that it's different from most other SF in TV or movies. I particularly like it because of the creature design, but then I'm a fan of puppets and such.

#99 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:08 PM:

Hm, I'm surprised by all the votes for Gattacca. I just couldn't get into it. The pacing just seemed painfully slow. I had a similar experience watching "Eyes Wide Shut".

#100 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:14 PM:

Bryan, Tim, I just read the post this moment. Shame I can't remove my comment for redundancy....

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Greg 99: See, I loved Eyes Wide Shut. I understand that I'm one of the few who did.

Bruce 98: Well, I have to admit that Ben Browder is a huge part of what I like about Farscape; but another part is that I really like the themes it covers; in fact that show had a thematic richness that few shows in any genre can match.

It's close to Buffy in that regard, IMHO.

#102 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Not yet mentioned, I think: one of my all-time favorite SF movies, John Sayles's The Brother from Another Planet.

Sayles also wrote and directed one of my favorite fantasy movies, The Secret of Roan Inish, a movie that convinced me that you can do astonishing magic on about forty-nine cents worth of special effects if your script is good enough.

However. Heroes is brill, sententious narration and defective Japanese offices notwithstanding. And Life on Mars (which I just inhaled both seasons of, in the last week) is excellent, with moments of Transcendentally Great, most notably a scene in S1E7 which I intend to write a future Making Light post about.

#103 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Xopher @ 101

Makes two of us, anyway; I loved Eyes Wide Shut enough to buy a DVD and watch it occasionally. Referring back to the Opening / Closing Line thread, it has a great ending line.

And I can get behind slow-moving: one of my favorite movies of recent years is "The Long Engagement".

#104 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:59 PM:

Bruce @ 98:

What did you think was mediocre about Gataca? Writing, acting, camera work? I don't think it's a great film by any means, but I saw some solid craft in there.

I couldn't point to anything specific wrong with it; as you say, it was solidly crafted. It just seemed bland and uninspired. Definitely a very subjective thing.

Which reminds me, by some chain of assocation, of a couple of films that I don't think have been mentioned: eXistenZ, which I can't decide exactly how much I liked but which was certainly unique, and A.I., which was definitely quite bad but which kept me glued to the screen by its sheer wtfitude.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Patrick 102: I forgot about TBFAP; I love that movie. Years later when I saw Joe Morton in a speaking role, I was like "wait, he can't...oh." It also has some wonderful monologues in it. My favorite is the one that starts "Do you eat pork?"

It also has a special place in my heart because bits of it were filmed in Hoboken (the video parlor scenes were filmed at Mr. Big's (now defunct) at 9th and Washington). Sayles lived here then; I used to see him on the bus from Port Atrocity.

I haven't seen Roan Inish, but I'll make sure I do.

#106 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Squee! Someone else who remembers The Tomorrow People!

Here in the States it aired on Nickelodeon of all channels when I was, erm, still in single digits. And after it came something called The Third Eye which I never did sit still and watch but nevertheless whose title credits sequence fascinated me enough that I eventually made myself a brass wire necklace out of it. (This explanation is a very klutzy answer to "Ooo! You have a All-Seeing Eye necklace! What's up with that?")

#107 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Roan Inish is wonderful.

Another movie that's not quite fantasy, but that strikes me as something a lot of MLers would like, is Anchoress, about (you guessed it) an anchoress in 14th-century England whose mother (played by Toyah Wilcox!) happens to be the town witch, filmed in gorgeous black and white.

#108 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:23 PM:

Greg 99: See, I loved Eyes Wide Shut. I understand that I'm one of the few who did.

i think a lot of it was improperly set expectations due to misleading advertising. All the ads I saw for "Eyes Wide Shut" had the song "baby done a bad, bad thing" playing in the background. It's a rather fast beat blues song. High energy. then some slow spots, then high again. Variation, but mostly high energy.

The movie's real soundtrack seems to be based on a guy sitting six feet from a piano keyboard, trying to play some really cool music with a cue stick from the pool hall. He's playing all the right notes, but he has to play real slow to make sure he hits the right keys.

Whether my expectations are met or not can have a big impact on my enjoyment of a movie. If I expect crap and get something slightly better, I might feel pleasently surprised. If I expect amazing things and get something that's "pretty good", I might feel disappointed.

I was severely disappointed by Eyes Wide Shut. And I know part of that was due to massive mismatch in expectation versus delivered goods.

The other reason for disappointment is some yet undefined quality of the movie that I've been unable to put my finger on, but I can tell you set off my "something about this movie isn't working" when I'm watching the orgy scene and all I could think was "This might be a good time to get a refill on my soda".

I was that fricken bored. I don't know what was the cause. A room full of beautiful naked people on screen, would, I would think, be sufficient ingredients to grab my interest at least long enough to not think about Mt Dew refills, but for some reason, I was bored out of my fricken gourd.

Gattacca was equally slow. It was worse in some ways than Eyes Wide Shut because there were obvious things that I predicted would happen an hour or so before they happened. Or maybe Eyes Wide Shut was worse because there really was no plot other than "Man overreacts to wife's under-the-influence fantasy, yet can't bring himself to do the deed." And then we spend hours watching how Tom Cruise can't bring himself to cheat, or is for some other reason thwarted from cheating, on his wife. I suppose I knew from the beginning that he wouldn't actually do it.

Then, Gattacca was a standard "Man tries to pass himself off as someone else" plot. And had just about every "trying to pass as someone else" plot turn that a few years of basic television will expose you to.

Plus, I had a problem sympathizing with the main Gattacca character for one very specific reason. I may be remembering the details incorrectly, but I had issue with a guy whose eyesight was so bad that his posing as a flight crewmember would put him in a position where losing his glasses would mean a bunch of people could die.

#109 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:31 PM:

I can't believe I forgot The Prestige.

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:32 PM:

Greg 108: That's all there really was to the plot of EWS. That's just not all there was to the movie. The plot is simple; a lot of other stuff hangs on it. If I could tell you what, Kubrick wouldn't have had to make a movie about it.

#111 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:45 PM:

The Prestige

Meh. If you take the story of The Prestige and cut and snip it until it was in chronological order, you would have no movie. The only thing that made it interesting was how they chopped it up in random order to keep you from knowing completely what was going on. Take away that gimmick and most of the movie evaporates.

It reminded me of Memento in that regard. cut up the movie and reassemble it in chronological order and it's boring.

Also, I find it funny that there's a scene in the movie where they're talking one person's magic act and they say something like "He did it so fast, the audience didn't have time to figure out what happened. He needs to dress it up", and the movie itself ends by making the same mistake. All the false assumptions they encourage you to make during the whole movie are unraveled in a five second shot at the very end.

I spent fifteen minutes explaining the movie to the person I saw it with after it was over. And most of the conversation sounded like this: "No, see, they wanted you to think that, but what really happened was this, which they show you at the end."

Also, I loved Christian Bale in Batman Begins, but I could not stand his accent in The Prestige.

The only thing truly good about The Prestige was seeing David Bowie play the part of a genius far ahead of his time. Made me smile everytime he was on screen.

#112 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:14 PM:

I doubt that there is such a thing as a story that's interesting no matter how you tell it--but The Prestige would be a lot closer than most. I'm rather swoggled that anyone could consider it dull.

The book is in chronological order (twice!), and it's utterly fascinating. Admittedly, the story is different in many important ways.

#113 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:27 PM:

Greg London @ 108

A room full of beautiful naked people on screen, would, I would think, be sufficient ingredients to grab my interest at least long enough to not think about Mt Dew refills, but for some reason, I was bored out of my fricken gourd.

One of the points of that scene was that these people had no passion in them at all. Everything they had or were came from the games they played, not from what was in them. I think it takes a great deal of ability for a director to be able to make people forget about the sexual cues they've been conditioned to react to all their lives, and see this scene from the outside, as if they were anthropologists watching an unfamiliar ceremony from a strange culture.


I'd be interested to know how people with other orientations saw that scene, because I am fairly sure it was primarily aimed at straight males. Part of the reason for that I'm sure is that the culture that Kubrick was talking about is controlled mostly by straight males, and AFAIK he himself was straight.

#114 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:55 PM:

Right, I can't believe I forgot to mention eXistenZ (or however the CamelCaps go...) but come to think of it, how about Videodrome which squeaks in as it was 1983? It may be cheesy, but what cheese!

Or Naked Lunch - oh wait, that's based on real litteracheur, so it must be more of that darn counter-factual. Thanks for reminding us, bryan!

#115 ::: Comesleep ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Julia, at 88

DVDs?
What, really?
I've been making do with the library's(and now my partner in crime's mother's)VHS tapes all this time, and there are DVDs?
Must have!

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:30 AM:

One of the points of that scene was that these people had no passion in them at all.

If that was the point, it succeeded vastly beyond any other scene in movie history.

Everything they had or were came from the games they played, not from what was in them. ... and see this scene from the outside, as if they were anthropologists watching an unfamiliar ceremony from a strange culture.

So, what you're saying is that EWS was a sort of sexual Gulliver's Travels? Cruise playing the gullible gulliver?

If so, I don't know what I was supposed to learn from the various Lilliputs. Maybe "different people get off from different things"? Or maybe something more simple like "There are some messed up people in the world". Problem is I knew all that already, and didn't need EWS to tell me. Maybe I'm missing something.

That, plus, the whole basis for the movie still goes back to Tom getting all bent out of shape from his wife telling him of her fantasy while stoned. And all I could think the whole time was, dude, chill out, she was high. Or maybe I missed the point of that interaction too.

#117 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:24 AM:

I'm mildly appalled that my first actual post on Making Light is in defense of something seemingly indefensible within fandom, but I'm sure I'll get over it. To wit: Starship Troopers is one of my very favorite movies, and deserves its place on the list. I have a friend who described the "Heinlein dynamo" that could be powered by the release of this movie, but I both suspected for a long time and then read Paul Verhoeven explicitly saying that was precisely the point. I've always thought of it as a particularly involved book report. Verhoeven may have missed the deeper point of the book (although, quick! what is it? I've read it five times and still can't say for sure), but given his firsthand experience with fascism, which has colored most of his work, I think it's a fair response. Plus it's got Michael Ironsides and Jake Busey, and I don't think we'll ever see a better version of 90210 in Space. This movie brings me real pleasure every time I see it.

I'm in agreement with Charlie: some subset of Avalon, Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2 or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex belonged in there. All suffer from cod philosophizing and Avalon, in particular, can be reminiscent of a particularly overwrought story from mid-80s issues of Heavy Metal, but absolutely nothing else on film or TV has done a more brilliant job of extending cyberpunk conceits into the 21st century. Mamoru Oshii and Masamune Shirow are both pretty important auteurs of identity in the post-industrial era, and the intersection of their sensibilities makes for thought-provoking viewing. That weird part in the middle of Ghost in the Shell 2 still creeps me out, while remaining beautiful after multiple viewings.

I'd also like to spread some love for Neon Genesis Evangelion, which deserves all the ridicule it gets (cheesy Freudian psychology, helping birth the endless stream of Troubled Psychic Teen anime, multiple endings that make 2001 look like a model of cogent rationality) but which I found one of the most disturbingly intense visual experiences I've ever had. It can be accused of many things, but being dumb is not one of them.

And while I'm on the subject of Japan, I can't overlook Hayao Miyazake. Nausicaä is nowhere near as sophisticated as a movie as it was as a manga, but it's still one of the most lyrical sf films ever, from a purely visual standpoint, and for a post-apocalyptic environmentalist science fantasy it spends a surprising amount of time talking about science – among other things, the heroine is a biologist and zoologist. (All of Miyazake's films are great, but most of them are fantasies rather than sf.)

Just to blow any credibility I might have accumulated by the preceding, I have to stick up for V. While it has not held up, and the story is ludicrously implausible, hokey, and pretty much dead on arrival as far as originality is concerned, it was my favorite thing ever in 7th grade and I loveded it. I went to a Halloween party with my first-ever girlfriend and was dressed as one of the bad guys with his human mask taken off (even with the cheesy insignia, hand-made by me on felt!). I was very proud of my costume. I refuse to disown any of these memories.

As for the EW list, it's the product of many hands and I'm not sure the rankings are really meant to be taken all that seriously. I'd boot at least half the items on the list, personally, but as this comes from a non-genre publication, the results are about what I'd expect. I think if I were in charge, there'd be a lot more movies like Ice Pirates and Spaceballs in there, and I'm sad that it's too late to put Time Bandits on the list (which would rank waaaay above Brazil on my own list).

Finally, I think it's interesting that nobody's stuck up for Artificial Intelligence, which I think will eventually make its way into a list of overlooked classics. It was seriously flawed, but it tried to cram three long films into one very long film and got at least half of the material in there, and it fused the styles of two of the 20th century's most distinctive stylists without the joins showing too obviously. And it was based (however tenuously) on a Brian Aldiss story.

#118 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:28 AM:

1. EW.com Has No Taste.

2. Thank you to the people who mentioned Max Headroom. It was a brilliant show, killed off by being not only put into a deathzone slot, but by being pre-empted without warning everyone other week.

3. I think I saw ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND as part of "here's what's been nominated for Hugo BDP. All I remember, if it is a true memory, is that the reaction was overwhelmingly negative, mine included. I don't remember if anyone said, "I want the [hour and a half or however long] of my life back please," or not. It made such a non-positive impact that I don't remember anything about it other than I think I saw it, regarded having seen it as a waste of my time, and that the audience I was part of mostly was unappreciative.

Since Saturday I went to a viewing of some of this years' BDP Hugos nominated works, I've been reinforced in my lack of appreciation for Dr Who (but at least that stupid muffler's gone!), suspect that The Prestige might give me a nightmare, and the episode of Stargate SG-1 is going below No Award (so do the Dr Who episodes I've seen so far). The Stargate episode's self-referentiality annoyed me/was coy beyond my tolerance for such things. It was less smooth than e.g. the scene in Blazing Saddles where the venue changes from Old West into the the acting talent crashing into the movie set and the set and stage being shown as set and stage, with all the acting talent swarming all over the facility.... I have almost no appreciation for broad humor and the types of humor most present in that particular Stargate episode and in much of Dr Who, just don't work for me.

I suspect that Torchwood would work better for me. (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was something that I totally lack appreciation of. The most devastating comment about that body of work I've heard, though, was the comment by a friend, who'd had -really- low standards for sex partners back in the 1970s (they had to bathe regularly and be able to have some minimal level of conversational ability...). The friend said, "That wasn't anyone in Hitchhiker's Guide that I would have slept with." Ouch! I liked Blake's 7 despite its sets (or lack thereof as regards credibility...), perhaps because it had to have acting ability and good writing and editing in it to make the viewer overlook the low budget characteristics otherwise.

#119 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:29 AM:

I'm clearly working on a different level from y'all. The two SF movies that are constantly on my Netflix queue (dropped back in again after I see them) are Galaxy Quest and Monster's Inc.

#120 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Forrest L. Norville #117

Vorhoeven was not making a book that was in keeping with the novel, he was taking the book name and some character names, and applying a different, and stupid as regards operations, set of all sorts of things.

The judgment of the movie by people who've read the book tends to look at the movie in terms of the book, and in terms of sensibilities for military operations. Vorhoeven wanted to make a specific film, bottled it in a package with lettering on it that claimed to be "Starhip Troopers."

It's as if you went to a store to buy coffee beans, and the package turned out to be full of black cooking beans instead of coffee beans....

#121 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:46 AM:

"What did you think was mediocre about Gataca? Writing, acting, camera work? I don't think it's a great film by any means, but I saw some solid craft in there.
----------------
I couldn't point to anything specific wrong with it; as you say, it was solidly crafted. It just seemed bland and uninspired. Definitely a very subjective thing."

I agree with both: it had the craft, it lacked the art.

That said: as a Science Fiction movie, think if you had seen the movie in the context of Science Fiction movies 1980 - what would your opinion be then?

#122 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:10 AM:

Children of Men is a science-fiction movie, no matter the original author's opinion, since science fiction is a term agreed upon to identify fictions with particular tropes agreed upon by a community.

That it is a movie means that it is different than a book. The concepts may not have been innovative but I think it was pretty high art as a movie. Perhaps the parts that I was impressed by were stolen from other movies, one seldom knows all the sources for what one likes. But it had probably the best cartoon (in the meaning of a sequential animation) I have ever seen in it, by which I mean specifically the part when they are going into the prison, and the midwife is taken off the bus.
In Narrative Art I think it is impressive if the artist can make a comment on the nature of the art, its physics (for want of a better word), at the same time as advancing the narrative without being especially obtrusive about it.

Since any film is basically a sequence of still images happening to fast for us to note the sequence, this seemed like the smart film equivalent of embedded stories.

That the scene was a cartoon could also be seen as a commentary on the mechanic nature of the totalitarian process.

#123 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:10 AM:

#59 Clifton Royston: "The reason it functions as SF, despite the silliness of the humans-as-batteries idea, is that there were a lot of potential different ways in which it could have been developed in the successors which would have been interesting, coherent, and deep. Even up through the end of #2, it could have been turned around, and I actually took some bits in #2 as hints that they were going to."

I always thought that the humans-as-batteries was only a cover for the real truth--that the AIs were using human brains for their processors, a la Dan Simmons' Technocore. It's the only reason they'd bother to use humans instead of, say, cows. I also thought the second movie had set up a potentially brilliant ending, though in retrospect it's clear that they were simply blundering around the dark.

"They could have pulled the whole thing together in the third movie with a revelation that the "real world" they had exited into was itself simulated and no more real than the "Matrix"."

I was really hoping it was going to go in that direction too. It took me a couple of years to get back to a point where I could enjoy the first one for all the neat ideas it put in my head, instead remembering all the dumb shit they actually did.

#124 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:11 AM:

I found "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" deeply creepy, chilling, and monstrous . . . as befits its topic.

If it weren't for the far-future wish-fulfillment ending, it would have both more appalling and more true to itself.

* * *

I don't think "Starship Troopers" was a great movie, but I enjoyed it as a satire and as a poke at con-suite militarism.

#125 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:15 AM:

#123: That occurred to me to.

Also, that the Matrix started out as something like Second Life.

#126 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:19 AM:

'The judgment of the movie by people who've read the book tends to look at the movie in terms of the book, and in terms of sensibilities for military operations. Vorhoeven wanted to make a specific film, bottled it in a package with lettering on it that claimed to be "Starhip Troopers."

It's as if you went to a store to buy coffee beans, and the package turned out to be full of black cooking beans instead of coffee beans.... '

so then you cooked the beans and you realized the beans were really damn good. And then you went to store anyway to complain that you got cooking beans instead of coffee beans anyway, and then the store explained to you how the cooking beans were genetically engineered by bean artists from the coffee beans and were to be seen as an expression of one aspect of the coffee bean, their bean-ness.

I would probably forget at this point that hey, those were actually some pretty good beans.

Also if someone made a movie about a world where this took place it would be a science fiction movie, but maybe not for long.


#127 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:20 AM:

Paula @120: What I meant was that Verhoeven very obviously didn't care for Heinlein's Starship Troopers and set out to make a movie that demonstrated why. The distortions, substitutions, and misrepresentations of the book strike me as being about 3/4 part intentional, and 1/4 being Verhoeven's usual (basic) instinct (har!) for going totally over the top (see also: Robocop, another parodic film that seems to be much more widely loved outside the sf community than within it). Some of the changes he made seem wholly gratuitous, but as the fascinating comments thread at the AV Club interview I linked to shows, people have pulled quite a few interesting and sophisticated interpretations out of the movie over the years, at least some of which were intended by Verhoeven.

I have no problem with people being offended by Verhoeven's slaughtering of a sacred cow, as long as they understand that's exactly what he was setting out to do. The skeleton of the book is clearly visible throughout the movie, even when Verhoeven seems to be giving the book the finger with both hands. I've loved Starship Troopers-the-book ever since I first read it as an 11-year-old, but there's also little doubt in my mind that it's perhaps the most problematic text in the history of sf. It's not an easy book to unpack, and I can't blame a guy who had to deal with Nazis firsthand for having something of a kneejerk response to some of those problematic aspects.

That reminds me, if I were going to pick a single John Carpenter movie, I'd have to go with They Live rather than The Thing. I have nothing against "sentient spaghetti" (was that H----- E------'s phrase? I forget), and I prefer Kurt Russell to Rowdy Roddy Piper, but They Live is a perfect B-movie satire, and as I seem to be making abundantly explicit, I have a thing for parody and satire in my sf films.

On the other hand, as Nicholas Johnson makes painfully clear in his delightful memoir of working in Antarctica (along with its accompanying web site, The Thing is widely held by old Antarctic hands to be most accurate depiction ever made of working on the ice. So it has that going for it. My favorite bit of dry commentary from one of their reviews: "There are minor annoyances, such as that the crew stores dynamite in a supply closet in the main building, that they don't tie anything down outside to keep it from the wind, and that their machines start up in the cold without being plugged in, but the most noteworthy deviation from actual USAP practices is that in the film everyone has a flamethrower. In the movie, fire is a tool against insidious dangers and is employed as an agent for the community against the threat of a larger hostile organism. In the actual USAP, employees are forbidden flamethrowers." Another one, from a different review: "The intelligence and technical ability of the alien is just as prodigious and preposterous. Constructing a cavernous underground work area and a spacecraft out of camp debris in just a matter of days is simply too far-fetched. Just submitting the work orders alone would take longer."

#128 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:34 AM:

Forrest L. Novell @ 117:

[AI] fused the styles of two of the 20th century's most distinctive stylists without the joins showing too obviously

I can't agree--I thought the first third (the Kubrick parody) and the second two-thirds (the Spielberg self-parody) were jarringly different in tone. But as I said upthread rather differently, I give the film full marks for moxie and idiosyncracy.

My take on Verhoeven is that, like a theremin producing audible tones by heterodyning two close but not identical radio frequencies, his pretend-bad movies interact with one's memories of actual-bad movies in an interesting way. But it's a pretty rarefied pleasure, and I'm not sure I'm quite post-modern enough to fully appreciate it. I liked The Fourth Man, though.

#129 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:43 AM:

Tremors! And I would like to give a vote for the late, great, severely underappreciated Space: Above and Beyond, which was way ahead of its time.

Also, I have a sneaking affection for Hell Comes to Frogtown, just because everybody involved is clearly having a lot of fun with it. It's so bad it's good and it belongs at No. 25.

#130 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:50 AM:

bryan @ 121:

That said: as a Science Fiction movie, think if you had seen [Gattaca] in the context of Science Fiction movies 1980 - what would your opinion be then?

I'm not sure. It's quite possible my SF-hungry, not-too-picky 18-year-old self would have eaten it up.

#131 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:51 AM:

Cathy, #24: Good point about the impact of the original V miniseries. I watched that, and it wasn't half bad... unlike the series, which made me gag. It can also be read as a take on "To Serve Man," minus the ambiguity.

Fungi, #27: No, TNG tackled homosexuality like ClassicTrek tackled racism: ham-handedly and with no regard for Campbell's aphorism. Beating the viewer (or the reader) over the head with your Message makes for very poor storytelling.

Albatross, #69: SO with you on DS9 being the best of the Trek shows! While they didn't entirely get away from the Magic Reset Button, the stationary setting of the show made it much harder to use, which couldn't help but improve things.

Forrest, #117: My primary beef with Starship Troopers, and the main reason I've never managed to sit thru the whole thing, is very simple: he took out the power suits. Without the power suits, it may be a decent movie, but it is NOT Starship Troopers; the suits are integral to so much of the story that you pretty much have to futz with everything else once they're gone. If they had just made the damn movie and called it something else, or called it "inspired by" Starship Troopers, I might very well agree with you. (And I see that Paula said this much better, in #120.)

I've also heard the "Purloined Letter" argument applied to this movie: that Verhoven got SO many things SO wrong that it couldn't possibly have been accidental. Interesting that you found something from Verhoven himself saying the same thing.

General comments: Include me in the chorus of those who think the omission of B5 displays extreme ignorance of the field.

I have never been able to sit thru a complete episode of the old Dr. Who; after about 5 minutes, I run out of the room screaming. The new series, however, has actually managed to interest me... although not to engage me in the same way that Buffy did or that Bones has. But at least now there's actual PLOT going on. Also, the updated theme music is Full Of Win.

Side issue, tangent from the mention of theme music. Does anyone else here feel that Enterprise was immediately branded as "not part of the real Trek universe" by the theme music alone?

#132 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:52 AM:

For as much as I enjoyed The Matrix for its fusion of Hong Kong action and comic-book philosophy (more Warren Ellis than, say, Alan Moore), I find it baffling that it's caught so many smart people in its pseudo-intellectual clutches. The first movie aspired to baroque Dickianism and missed, and then the second movie has a French character named The Merovingian and a lengthy scene with "the Architect" discussing similitude and reality without acknowledging that, say, Baudrillard, Derrida or Saussure even existed – although The Merovingian did manage to cram a whole bunch of clichés about Frenchy love for wine, women and cynical realpolitik into his artificially intelligent scenery chewing (I guess having a venal and worldly AI is sort of pioneering, at least in the movies). After the eyeball-rolling ending of the second movie (not to mention the Cave Rave), I couldn't bear to watch the third, although I've been assured I didn't miss much.

I read what seemed like hundreds of multi-thousand-word screeds on sites like kuro5hin and Salon about the vasty depths of the philosophy in the trilogy, and all I could ever conclude was that either I was missing something basic or the writers of these screeds really missed their college philosophy classes. Philosophically, it would have been a pretty sophisticated Star Trek episode. A stunning postmodern deconstruction of reality (or should I say "reality"?) it wasn't. Trying to turn it into one has always struck me as a colossal waste of time.

#133 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Forrest @ 117:

That weird part in the middle of Ghost in the Shell 2 still creeps me out, while remaining beautiful after multiple viewings.
OMG I love that bit. Creee-pay!
Just to blow any credibility I might have accumulated by the preceding, I have to stick up for V.
Another classic from my single-digit years that I have vague memories of being creeped out and fascinated by. I was recently browsing through the library and came across the novelization of the series, and was pleasantly surprised to see it was by our own Writer Beware guru A. C. Crispin. So I checked it out. I kept waiting for this one scene I remember in total isolation from any context, the Vistors were displaying a human girl trapped in a glass box to demonstrate to the rest of the humans "see what happens when you mess with us," and I had nightmares about her running out of air in there. But if it showed up in the novelization I didn't recognize it when it happened or was alluded to. In any case, much guilty pleasure fun to be had, regardless. And there are sequels...

#134 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:02 AM:

Side issue, tangent from the mention of theme music. Does anyone else here feel that Enterprise was immediately branded as "not part of the real Trek universe" by the theme music alone?

I can still make myself tear up by singing it.

IMO, although it devolved into a sorry mess, Enterprise began as something wonderful. From the first time I heard that song, I knew that I was in the Star Trek of my daydreams, the imaginary world I put myself into when I first read the novelized episodes as a wee child at a summer camp several miles out from the middle of nowhere. It was just so right. And that part in the opening montage where the astronaut, having been asked a question, looks offcamera, smiles, and gets that faraway expression . . . Okay, gettin' goozy, better shut up . . .


#135 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:13 AM:

Lee @ 131: you know, it's interesting, the 11-year-old me was totally enamored of the power suits, but what's stuck with me over the years is the on-ship discussions about philosophy and the various spiky, sometimes contradictory points Heinlein was making about politics. I think the reason the suits didn't show up in the movie was probably simply that they're unfilmable. The movie would have had to stick to a single POV character much of the time and the rest of the dialogue would be radio chatter and HUD icons, which (sort of) worked in THX 1138 but wouldn't work so well in a putative action film. Remember that the squads were spread out over hundreds of square kilometers much of the time, which doesn't make for very exciting visuals.

To tie into Tim @ 128's response, I grew up watching films like Delta Force, Top Gun and Red Dawn. It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that a good part of what Verhoeven was attempting to do was to link Heinlein's not-fascist-but-not-not-fascist politics in ST to its logical flowering in The World According to John Milius. From that point of view, mimicking the style and structure of those cheesy old movies becomes an explicit stylistic tie between Cold War action movies and the book, and making a more faithful adaptation of the book would have gotten in the way. And also would have hindered his ability to put Patrick Neil Harris in full SS drag, which is the most overt visual punchline in the movie, and also the funniest, in my opinion.

That said, if I ever get filthy rich, I'm going to make the version of The Stars My Destination I've had kicking around in my head for the last 15 years. That seems like another book that's more or less unfilmable as written (especially now that De Niro's getting too old to play Gully Foyle), but the version in my head would be rad. Maybe someday you'll all get to see. ;)

#136 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:24 AM:

Top 25 Fantasy Movies and TV Shows of All Time

I don't have a complete list, but I would have to include Excalibur. It's all the best bits from the various Arthur legends stitched into one. Also on the list:

Ladyhawke
Kiki's Delivery Service
Spirited Away
The Hobbit

#137 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 05:13 AM:

My own feeling onThe Matrix is that the nature of the plot lays it open to philosophical debate: the questions are there, however amateurish the answers in the movie. Agent Smith, with no existence outside the computer-generated world, can still give the same answer at Descartes when asked what he can be sure of.

Likewise Total Recall, or the repeated element in Doctor Who on the loneliness of immortality. The questions are there, even if the movie answers involve blowing things up.

Another example, arguably better than Total Recall or The Matrix is eXistenZ

Meanwhile, like Descartes, I know that I am thinking. Everything else is a comment thread.

#138 ::: timprov ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 05:29 AM:

I'm tempted to give them a great big pass just for giving some credit to Futurama, which I find sadly lacking in the Whedon-obsessed section of neoprodom I seem to find myself tidally locked to.

But they totally forgot Real Genius, so no.

#139 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 06:23 AM:

xopher,

yes, go see roan inish. great & beautiful movie. & the first movie (my sister &) i ever bought the soundtrack for, right away, just to be in it again.

& i'm ashamed that i didn't think of akira until someone brought it up, it being one of my three favourite movies of all time. but i'm not much of a listy person, really.

#140 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 06:45 AM:

I just watched Ghost in the Shell 2 again thanks to this discussion and am happy to report that it's just as good the fifth or sixth time as it was the first. It's not as quotable as the first movie, but the first movie doesn't have a cybernetics researcher named "Haraway", either. Or nearly as much gratuitous basset hound symbolism (cf. ref. Avalon).

Nobody makes movies like Mamoru Oshii. People who enjoyed the Ghost in the Shell movies (or Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade, a counterfactual (to use the word of the moment) retelling of the original Brothers Grimm Little Red Riding Hood set in a Japan that's administered by Nazi Germany in the aftermath of World War II where the Axis emerged semi-victorious) should check out his other live-action movies. They're hard to pigeonhole, being neither sf nor police procedurals nor any other single genre, but they have the same characteristic Tarkovsky-esque (read: deliberate to the point of obtuseness) pacing and the same obsession with reality and identity: The Red Spectacles, Stray Dogs and Talking Head.

#141 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 08:06 AM:

I saw Real Genius at the campus ACM movie night and was surprised how much I loved it, bad science and all.

#142 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 08:28 AM:

Lee @133: Does anyone else here feel that Enterprise was immediately branded as "not part of the real Trek universe" by the theme music alone?

I have a friend who hates HATES HATES that theme; watches Enterprise but hits the mute button at the opening credits. It may be the lyrics that annoy him the most; if the opening to Star Trek TOS played with its original lyrics, the show might not have lasted as long as it did.

However, I'm with Jenny Islander @134: I thought the opening evoked a longing to search beyond the horizons, and the montage of exploration was fitting. I felt since this was the beginning, something different than the 'Federation Triumphant' theme (as in Star Trek TNG (my description of the music, not an official title)) was appropriate.

#143 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 08:34 AM:

Lee @131: My primary beef with Starship Troopers, and the main reason I've never managed to sit thru the whole thing, is very simple: he took out the power suits.

My understanding is that Heinlein had been popular in Japan as recently as the 50's. I like to think Starship Troopers inspired a whole genre of anime.

#144 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Wow, 142 comments and I still can name five more candidates: Red Planet, The Island (debatable), Deja Vu (ditto, but bonus points for extreme recentness), and The Postman and I, Robot (and bryan@126 goes triple here – these are movies based on the core concepts, not film translations).

Also, I'm going to defend Aliens making the list: I saw it years before I saw Alien, and it stands on its own merits.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:19 AM:

I thought 12 monkeys was one of the better movie treatments of time travel. And it has Madeleine Stowe. (Sigh...) And I got to see Frank Gorshin in charge of the psych ward.

#146 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Jenny 136: I think you need to watch LadyHawke again. Rutger Hauer is no better than he ever is; Matthew Broderick's accent is from the Dick Van Dyke (pre-AA) School of Cockney, and the plot is full of holes that would have saved a lot of trouble in California last week. Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty good, but can't save the rest of it.

Not to mention the solar eclipse the day after a full moon, which won't go away even under the "it was a miracle!" explanation some friends tried to plaster it over with. (And no, it wasn't two weeks later, or even an extra day later, because they wouldn't have had to fight the wolf into the cage had that been so. It was the next day.)

#147 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Xopher @ 146... On the other hand, LadyHawke has Leo McKern as a defrocked monk.

#148 ::: Nike ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Greg London, xopher (108, 110):

During a previous round of "Eyes Wide Shut? The Worst. Movie. Ever. or The best thing since sliced bread?" someone linked to this review of the movie. The review's central thesis: "The real pornography in this film is in its lingering depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of millennial Manhattan, and of its obscene effect on society and the human soul."

Now, I haven't seen Eyes Wide Shut so I can't comment on how accurate the review is, but I did find it pretty interesting in it's own right.

#149 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Welcome, Forrest. I've never got round to seeing Starship Troopers, but you're not the only obviously smart person to suggest I might find it better than the consensus view suggests.

#150 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:04 PM:

Tim Walters #107

...(played by Toyah Wilcox!)...

Toyah Willcox.

(Sorry. I can't help correcting it)

#151 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:52 PM:

"Real Genius". Yay! is that in the last 25 years?

Laslow Ollifeld lives!

As for the Matrix. The first one was OK for me because I worked out a plot that made sense in my mind. When they blew that solution away in 2 and 3, well, I try not to think of the sequels as part of the original.

My theory, my desparate hope, before Matrix 2 came out was that the computers were military machines designed to defend humans, and some kind of war or natural catastrophe happened, and the machines put humans in the matrix to save them, keep them alive while they cleaned the atmosphere, and then their programmed got perverted over time.

Then the whole "brain as battery" stupidity got explained away with something that actually made some sense and didn't violate basic laws of thermodynamics.

Yeah, it's basically an old Star Trek episode, but at least it made some sense on some level.

Oh well. Matrix 2 and 3 are dead to me. I find matrix 1 is enjoyable if I pretend 2 and 3 just don't exist.

#152 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Greg London, there's also a damned fine SF novel called Wolfbane (I think Pohl, but bear in mind that my brain has apparently decided to randomize authors this week) which has human-brains-ganged-for-parallel-processing as a plot engine; it was the first thing I thought of when I saw The Matrix.

#153 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Greg London, there's also a damned fine SF novel called Wolfbane (I think Pohl, but bear in mind that my brain has apparently decided to randomize authors this week) which has human-brains-ganged-for-parallel-processing as a plot engine; it was the first thing I thought of when I saw The Matrix.

#154 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Greg 151: Yes, that was my theory too. Except that in my version only Agent Smith was insane, and the other Agents were defending the Matrix (on which all of humanity depended for survival) against the misguided religious fanatic inhabitants of Zion. (No, I wasn't connecting that to real-world Zionists at all.)

After all...it's not machines who can't live without sunlight. It's biologicals (like humans). And that's what I mean by physics so bad the bad guys become the good guys.

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:57 PM:

The Dead Zone didn't make the list either.

#156 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:59 PM:

JESR @ 152/153: You were halfway there; Wolfbane is by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. I tracked down a copy when I was trying to real all of Kornbluth's stuff (WAY easier said than done these days) and was actually a little disappointed. I felt like it lacked the courage of its convictions. Of course, I was also reading a lot of old Norman Spinrad and older Jack Vance at the time, which may have torqued my perceptions somewhat.

Also, to stir the pot a little more, my list of 10 favorite movies, period, also includes the much-beloathed Dune (I'm not consciously being contrarian, honest), weirding modules and all. I think my enjoyment of it is helped by the fact that I'd already read the book before I saw the movie, so I was able to (semi-unconsciously) fill in the gaps in the film's storytelling with my memories from the book. Max von Sydow, Siân Philips, Jürgen Prochnow, the Navigators' Guild, especially scenery-chewing performances by Sting and Brad Dourif, even the Toto soundtrack – it's a wild-eyed mess (although comparatively restrained by Lynch's standards) and I love it, although I would probably have also loved the hideously unwatchable results if Alejandro Jodorowsky, H.R. Giger and Moebius had actually made their version (just the Giger production sketches of the Harkonnen architecture was enough to ick me out).

Speak not to me of the miniseries version, which demonstrated why more "faithful" adaptations are often a bad idea. SO BORING. Also, anybody who thinks any of the other books need to be adapted really ought to think again; I used to be a huge fan of Herbert, until I reread the first 4 or 5 Dune books recently. The fall-off in quality between Dune and its sequels is alarmingly palpable. In fact, the difference in quality between Dune and any of Herbert's other books is pretty severe (I have a soft spot for The Eyes of Heisenberg, Whipping Star and The Godmakers, but that's because I was 6 when I first read them).

#157 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:04 PM:

Forrest in 135 --

Power suit combat could be filmed effectively in an action-movie sort of way; it would be difficult in some ways (mustn't lose the viewer) but a combination of careful scene setting -- show the drop from the ground, closing in on a single pod that turns into one guy in armor -- and a mix of context switches (run the audio track as the helmet chatter; switch the visuals to what the current speaker is doing/seeing) and very wide CGI shots from altitude showing the scale of the effects and the battle would work.

I'm not sure what you'd do this for, precisely, since it's unlikely anyone is going to make a Starship Troopers movie again and the logistical arguments against power armor are diverse, but it could be done.

#158 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Forrest Norvell- I suspect my copy of Wolfbane is in one of the younger generation's room, so rereading it is difficult beyond my abilities.

Total concurrence on the Dune commentary. The Lynch version is another thrill-ride of whackiness while the Sci-Fi version works way better in screencaps than broadcast.

My particular hopeless search these days (excluding the books I know I own which I suspect are in the kids' rooms) is for a copy of Whipping Star which doesn't fall apart in my hands before I can finish it. The most common paperback edition has the worst case of pulp paper disease I've encountered.(I'd also like to reread The Dosadai Experiment, but suspect it's also in the hands of the barbarian invaders).

(Prays fervently that the duplicate post demon leaves me alone this time).

#159 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:50 PM:

JESR @ 158: I hear you. My copies of Whipping Star, The Dosadi Experiment, The Godmakers, The Eyes of Heisenberg and Destination: Void all came bundled in a "Worlds Beyond Dune" box set and are, as an edition, the worst-quality books it has ever been my misfortune to own. Brittle, crumbling paper (that has darkened to a handsome café au lait over the years), blobby type, cracked glue, and otherwise cheap binding ensures that my copies are all loose collections of disintegrating folios rather than actual books. The only thing in their favor is that the cover illustrations are awesome for everything except Destination: Void. They'd all fit in a nice, chunky trade paperback, but who'd buy middling, 70s works by Herbert that weren't connected to Dune?

Graydon @ 157: I hope you see my point, though. A bunch of troops spread out over a huge area, bouncing hectically from one locale to another could be portrayed visually (and interestingly – I have friends in pre-viz who would be salivating at the chance to model something like that), but it would be a brave director who would do so, because it would be going against just about every action movie convention, which tends to be about tightly-bunched, small-squad combat, because that's what's easiest to fit in a single shot. It's practically a war-movie law. It would be tough to put that on-screen without losing the most interesting underlying idea that Heinlein was putting forth, which was the way that technology acts as a force multiplier. I'm not saying anything's impossible, just that it's hard.

I'm also not sure that Heinlein's actual book is begging to be turned into a film. Moreso than most of his books (along with, say, Citizen of the Galaxy and a couple of the other juveniles), it's fundamentally a political philosophy laboratory, not an action story. I really like what Verhoeven did with his movie on its own merits, and I think my enjoyment of it is rooted in my willingness to let it not be a movie of a book, and more a cranky outsider's commentary on American politics and the ideology of action movies. Maybe people would have cut it more slack had it been a musical. ;)

#160 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:57 PM:

(#50 - yes, very true about Terminator. Is my face red. So what the heck is Total Recall doing on this list?)

Starship Troopers the movie is worth watching, even though it is a bad movie. The animation for the bugs is impressive.

I don't begrude Verhoeven the right to make ironic statements about fascism, so my main two objections to the movie involve the Hollywood prettiness of most of the cast and the relentless stupidity of the Federation military.

It was a blow against the movie that they took the powered armor out - not as egregious a sin as bleaching Earthsea but certainly "Why did you make this movie? Was there no other fascist SF available?" Replacing powered armor with lightly armed and armored infantry operating practically without air support, artillery, etc. was just bizarre, reminiscent of a computer game where the player neglects one of their technology trees.

I might have accepted that the intent was to gloriously whittle down overpopulation with human wave attacks. But closely packing apparently defenseless and horribly expensive spaceships in low orbit? Did they let a defense contractor design their war plan? There's a fine line between a realistic military debacle and "Don't go into the basement to investigate that weird noise! There's a serial killer on the loose!"

I find it hard to rely on movies that require inexplicable stupidity (reasonable stupidity, as it were, is just fine). This is one reason I enjoyed Lifeforce (1985) - generally, characters make reasonable decisions based on what they know. They often fail, but that's life/unlife/space vampires for you.

As an aside, the computer-generated "Roughnecks" series included powered armor, and from the few minutes I've seen they just ignored the "spread over square kilometers" part of the story.

And as a final aside, this did remind me of another SF review gone awry. As I recall, a CNN reviewer of Starship Troopers took the Nazi parallels a bit too far and declared that the Arachnids represented the Jews. (I didn't find a transcript that included this, but I clearly remember the incredulity in a crowd of mostly-Brandeis graduates who had just returned from the movie.)

#161 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Real Genius: 1985, according to IMDB, which adds: Plot Keywords: Smart Kids / Beautician / Military / Weapon / Party more

And there's more! The same director did a movie for which I've got a real soft spot: Rambling Rose. I never knew that.

#162 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 07:10 PM:

Speaking of Val Kilmer... Does 1997's The Saint as SF, even borderline? After all, it is about achieving cold fusion. I think. I was never quite clear about that.

#163 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 07:41 PM:

and the logistical arguments against power armor are diverse,

I confess that I enjoyed Aliens for a number of reasons that I won't go into. But the one thing that just bugged the sht out of me was those... those... things that the machine gunners used.

I loved the "loaders", great for moving equipment around in a hanger, etc. A bit cumbersome, sure, but they weren't using them in combat. But those... those... things oooh, they bothered me.

Weapon's stabilizers or something. dumb. dumb. dumb.

Powered armor is the same thing for me. I can't stand it.

And yes, of course, to enjoy Aliens, one has to overlook the fact that someone left the keys in the aircraft carrier orbiting the planet, with the engine running, and no one aboard to defend it. Which didn't bother me as much as those... those... things... because, well, because they never show you a shot of a completely empty Bridge, so they weren't sticking your face in it.

#164 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:03 PM:

City of Lost Children and Delicatessen

La Femme Nikita

Dark City (As mentioned above Roger Ebert is a big fan of this movie, in part because of its influences.)

Contact

Naked Lunch

Buffy (S4+ contains plenty of SF)

Fight Club (If Being John Malkovich is SF, so is this.)

The Truman Show (Highly underrated and unquestionably SF.)

...and if we must have a film from Spielberg or Lucas, Minority Report, the best of the qualifying bunch despite the execrable Tom Cruise.

#165 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:03 PM:

Life on Mars (#102 ::: Patrick) #62 ::: Julia

Just a quick post to note for Julia @ 62 & Patrick @ 102 that this week I've seen the first ads saying that Life on Mars will be coming to Australian television later this year. (Lost, OTOH, is fairly well advanced here, and the final episode of The West Wing was shown here about a fortnight ago. After the series had a very troubled history on a commercial station which treated it badly, it was picked up by our ABC (public broadcasting) and re-run as double episodes.)

[tangent] There's been discussion (see threads on the SMH's blog Tribal Mind) about whether the popular overseas shows that have a long lag in arriving here will succeed once they make it to Oz free-to-air TV (about 80% of Aussies don't have 'cable'). The theory goes that a large chunk of those who'd be the main audience will have either bought DVDs online (a lot of people have 'multiregion' DVD players for UK/Europe & USA regions, as well as Asian), or downloaded episodes. That way they can take part in online discussion & other internet-enabled interaction with the show as well.[/tangent]

#166 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:10 PM:

Max Headroom, as others have mentioned... all these years and still I have a terrible crush on Theora Jones.

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:24 PM:

I kind of liked Real Genius too. I've heard rumors that the bad guy is based on one of the professors at Cal Poly Pomona ... one I had for several classes. His intelligence is beyond my level by quite a bit, and it made for interesting homework assignments. (There was another student who got some notoriety by breaking Dr L's compiler-compiler (he found a special case that Dr L had missed).)

#168 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:25 PM:

Interesting to see hints from this group as to where the line between what is sci fi and what isn't is drawn. Looks rather blurry.

#169 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Tetsuo: The Iron Man

#170 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:41 PM:

Epacris @165: I'm a slightly odd demographic because I'm a Brit currently resident in California who makes it back to Blighty for Christmas. So I do things like watch a friend's boxed set of series 1 of Life on Mars while I'm over there because half my LJ flist has been talking about it; and promptly order that, and then the boxed set of series 2 as soon as it hits Amazon UK.

But yes, the desire to be able to join in the online conversation (and avoid being spoilered) does make for a very strong incentive to get stuff through other channels before it hits the free-to-air. The only reason I hadn't ordered the New Who DVDs was because I was trying to avoid buying things I might find under the Christmas tree, and then I was spending my money on stuff like the Blake's 7 DVDs instead...

#171 ::: Samuel Tinianow ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:47 PM:

Eternal Sunshine is SF for people who don't like SF. It's not terrible, but the story strikes me as pretty average. Same deal with The Matrix, really. ("What if the world, like, isn't real, man?")

#172 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:53 PM:

I think some people are implicitly taking SF to read "SF (& of course F)" or perhaps the more general "speculative fiction" retcon, and others are not. I can see Being John Malkovich falling under fantasy or speculative fiction, but I can't see how it would fit as science fiction.

#173 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 10:35 PM:

My evaluation of The Matrix is marred by the fact that we saw it the week of the Columbine massacre. I think of the movie as a celebration of the same sociopathic attitude that drives spree killers, serial killers, suicide bombers, and terrorists, the notion that our enemies are not really human. But it could be if I'd seen it at a different time, I'd think it was swell.

I wouldn't put Starship Troopers on any list of Top 25 All-Time SF Movies. Or even Top 250, or Top 2,500. It was lots of fun, but mindless. And, hey, did you all know that Robert A. Heinlein wrote a novel with the same title; perhaps someone will make a movie out of that sometime?

I couldn't make head or tail of what Verhoeven was trying to say in the movie -- at times he seemed to be celebrating war, at times he seemed to condemn it. Then I read an interview where he said he was trying to celebrate the soldiers, while condemning the governments and big business at home who are cynically empowering themselves with the soldiers' blood. Seemed to me that he would have been better off making The Forever War, in that case.

Patrick #102: Life on Mars! Yes, yes, oh God, yes! We're still waiting for Season 2 to come along on BBC-America. I don't really recall which one was S1E7; this capsule description doesn't really help.

George Smiley #164: I have a fascination with what is and isn't sf, so bear with me if I argue with you.

Eternal Sunshine is definitely sf. It's about new technology and how it affects people and relationships.

Buffy: Not sf. It's got supernatural vampires and demons and magic and stuff. That trumps computers and genetic manipulation.

Fight Club: Not sf. Spoiler: Gur cebgntbavfg jnf, fvzcyl, qryhfvbany, ab fhcreangheny be nqinaprq grpuabybtl ryrzragf.

The Truman Show: Hmmmmm... Tough one. I'm going to go with a ruling that it's not sf. There's no supernatural or future-technological element in it. It's set in the present day.

On the other hand, it's a present day where the most popular and influential TV show of all time, one which has aired for 30+ years, doesn't exist in the real world.

So I'll say it's an alt-history story, and therefore sf after all.

Samuel Tinianow #171: I say fie to you! Fie! I loved Eternal Sunshine, I thought it was brilliant, and I love that crazy Buck Rogers stuff that the kids like.

Clifton #172: I'd call Being John "hard fantasy," and then I'd be prepared to hit with a stick for being excessively pedantic.

#174 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Greg London --

The support harness for the whatever the space marines were using as a SAW in Aliens didn't bother me at all; it's some sort of ammo-tank-backpack, electrical chain gun thing, at which point that rigid armature patrol sling rig made perfect sense.

Not leaving an anchor watch behind is indeed dumb, but presumably there's an AI on board performing that function -- they've got humaniform, Turing-complete robots, after all -- and what was lost was the ability to talk to it when they lost both the shuttle and the armored vehicle and their high-power comms. (Dim memories of the plot suggest this was the case -- they were trying to get to the most likely location of a comm from the colony so they could tell the ship to send another shuttle.)

#175 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Mitch, 173: What TV show is that?

#176 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 11:00 PM:

it's some sort of ammo-tank-backpack, electrical chain gun thing,

Yeah, yeah, I know exactly what it is supposed to be. And it doesn't make any sense.


Not leaving an anchor watch behind is indeed dumb, but presumably there's an AI on board performing that function

What if they were fighting other humans who had a spaceship and boarded the carrier while they were on the surface? The AI's can't kill, if I remember correctly.

Also, the whole "comms" thing was a bit silly. We've got satellite phones, but they had to do to a remote tower? And if there were AI's on the ship, why didn't an AI bring the reentry vehicle down, rather than Bishop having ot fly it by remote control.

A couple of major plot holes there.

But those... things... made absolutely no sense...

#177 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Mitch @173:

My choices are, obviously, SF rather broadly construed. You (interestingly) reject Buffy because it has magic & supernatural elements.

So: if the science in a given piece that is ostensibly SF is demonstrably *bad* science, I'd argue that it's not science, but magic or fantasy (or lamentably, journalism). As you know, there are very, very many such cases. Putting aside the question of storytelling merit and literary craft, does *bad* science exclude a book from being considered SF, in your view? (Yes, I make a living as a scientist...)

#178 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Xopher@13 describes the Star Wars prequel trilogy as recent live-action-but-still-without-noticeable-acting crapfests.

I want to take issue with this: I noticed quite a bit of acting, particularly by Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor. The noticeable lack was of writing and direction. E.g.: Obi-Wan Kenobi's final speech in ep. III after his duel with Anakin. The speech was a crapfest, but McGregor did a magnificent job of selling it.

#179 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 12:22 AM:

T.W., #168: Ask two fen, get three opinions. :-)

#180 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 12:40 AM:

George Smiley @177 - I'd say bad science doesn't exclude a work from being science fiction: Star Trek and Star Wars are both sf.

I go with Damon Knight's definitions: SF appeals to the authority of science, fantasy appeals to the authority of the supernatural.

TexAnne @175 - Sorry, you've confused me. What TV show is what?

#181 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:12 AM:

I cannot believe no one here has mentioned Red Dwarf. That is definitely my favorite SF piece of all time, because it's an SF comedy show that works for both SF fans and non SF fans.

I think one of the reasons I rank that and Futurama (both SF comedy) so high is that their comedy settings allow them more freedom to do a "concept of the week" plot, and thus they can go deeper, and weirder, and broader more easily. There are a lot of ideas that I saw dealt with in Red Dwarf and then echoed later in Babylon 5, TNG, etc. I'm not saying they got the idea from Red Dwarf, but RD did it first.

Also, to the people who have mentioned Jurassic Park, I say YES! As ridiculous as it was, that movie had an incredibly profound effect on my generation. Anyone who reads xkcd has to see that.

I'll agree with Babylon 5. Its absence is the most glaring omission.

Max Headroom... was also incredible, however it is basically the definition of "ahead of its time." Because of that it seems to be neglected really often, even in more leaned lists of top SF.

#182 ::: Mikal Trimm ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Forgotten sci-fi movies? Should be on a list of really great sf movies? Let's go to the kiwis, shall we, and remember "The Quiet Earth".

(And I really liked "Pitch Black", come to think of it -- I refused to see the sequel, however...)

#183 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:20 AM:

#169
re: Tetsuo the Iron Man:

Heh, speaking from experience, that movie is the only one that I've seen that put a living room full of hungry college SF/anime/gaming geeks off their late-night meal. Kind of disturbing to see: popped in the rented tape, started eating, about 10 minutes later everyone stopped eating and just simply stared at the really disturbing images being presented over the next hour or so.

As a group, we thought the movie was fascinating (for various distinctions of the term), but not one we wanted to see again, at least not in the near term... (this was about 13 years ago...)

Is it SF? I don't think so... given my recollection of what I saw, its either a very twisted symbolism piece or the sick imaginings of a very demented director... I haven't seen any of Tsukamoto's (the director) follow-up movies, and I'm not certain I want to...

#184 ::: Samuel Tinianow ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:29 AM:

Mitch #173: Funny thing, I'm sure that my evaluation of Eternal Sunshine is affected by the context in which I saw it, i.e. enrolled at a college full of film majors who thought it was GOD. I don't have any significant dislike for the movie, I just see it as sort of an offshoot of the kind of dystopia stories that I abhor (ones where the plot relies on large numbers of people inexplicably accepting some doctrine that is obviously a total crock--like memory erasure being a good thing), and I really can't see it as THAT good.

Had I not been surrounded by idiots fawning over how OMG DEEP it is, who knows?

#185 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:54 AM:

Samuel #184: Ah, that'll do it. Heightened expectations about a movie can make a perfectly good movie seem worse than it is.

Whereas I had no expectations; I just popped it into the DVD player and was blown away.

The visual playfulness was brilliant. I also loved the updating of the tale of the Magic Junk Shop/Magic Bookstore.

I do think many people would find memory editing to be a benefit. And, remember, the doctor in that story had been toiling for years in anonymity, suggesting that he really hadn't found many people who wanted his services.

The acting and writing were terrific.

The moral, in the end, came down to, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

And the moral of Being John Malkovitch was "Don't be a dick." Also, "Maybe you're not a misunderstood artist. Maybe you just suck."

#186 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:20 AM:

Bernard Yeh @ 183:

I think Tetsuo is a particularly grimy example of sf cinema – maybe a kind of grindcore sf? Especially with the slingshot ending, which takes the movie in a completely different direction than you'd expect a horror movie / surrealist narrative to go. I never saw Tetsuo 2: Body Hammer, but I did see Tokyo Fist and found it to be, in its way, even more confrontational, although much less difficult to watch and far less aggressively weird. The two movies of Tsukamoto's I've seen make a convincing case for him as a Japanese David Cronenberg, and like Cronenberg's, his stories have a slipstream quality to them that makes them fall between genres.

That said, Tetsuo is one of the two movies that I watched multiple times in one evening in college, going out after each viewing to find more people to drag into the lounge, because it was just too incredible not to share. A movie that deranged comes along only once in a very great while. (The other, for those who care, is the first Emergency Broadcast Network video, Commercial Entertainment Product, rendered unreleasable on DVD because of the insane number of sample and video clearances it would require. It is a monument to fair use and sample culture, and is also one of the funniest "music videos" I've ever seen.)

#187 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:28 AM:

As the former editor of a major Quantum Leap newszine, I should stick up for it here, although to be honest I haven't opened the last three seasons on DVD yet. (I'm too busy watching the 2005-2007 seasons of Doctor Who.) EW earned my disdain over fifteen years ago by saying nasty things about Quantum Leap, without giving any particular reason for their scorn.

There's still a fairly active fandom for Quantum Leap, although it seems to have devolved into an over-emphasis on its lead actor. You know the fellow: he also got stuck playing the least likable starship captain (excluding guest cast) in the history of the Star Trek franchise.

Aside from that one line item, this is just another in a long series of recent published "best of" lists that show a serious lack of in-depth knowledge of the subject. I'd scrap half of what's here, move the rest up a bit, and intersperse most of the glaring omissions others have mentioned.

#188 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:26 AM:

#164 George Smiley: La Femme Nikita? Do you mean the Luc Besson original, or the TV series? I've only seen the movie, and I can't imagine how anyone could think of it as SF. It's definitely on the gritty end of spy thriller.

#176 Greg London: Having read the *cough cough* Colonial Marine Technical Manual, I can tell you that the waist-mounted machine guns are actually "smart guns." The mount isn't just to support the weapon; it also allows it to aim itself. I'm not sure if that makes it seem more or less insane to you, but there you go.

#180 Mitch Wagner: "I go with Damon Knight's definitions: SF appeals to the authority of science, fantasy appeals to the authority of the supernatural."

My general rule-of-thumb description (natch) of science fiction is that science fiction explores how technology affects human beings, both as a society and as individuals. Fantasy, in contrast, asks what if the world we think live in was actually quite different?

#189 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:57 AM:

Mitch--never mind. Insomnia makes me stupid.

#190 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 08:02 AM:

I tend to take a relaxed attitude toward the issue of what is or isn't fantasy or SF. Many works of fiction are both. Some are a little of one and a lot of another. Some are technically SF but that's not what's interesting about them. As with such charged categories as "heterosexual" and "homosexual," it often helps if we remind ourselves that we're talking about things people do rather than things people are.

#191 ::: AS Easton ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 08:16 AM:

starship troopers, the film, was one of the best documents against american imperalism in recent memory, tis also pretty fantastic as an act of pastiche and parody on several levels.

#192 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 09:21 AM:

Having read the *cough cough* Colonial Marine Technical Manual, I can tell you that the waist-mounted machine guns are actually "smart guns." The mount isn't just to support the weapon; it also allows it to aim itself. I'm not sure if that makes it seem more or less insane to you, but there you go.

What in heck would a person be doing that's so bloody important that they can't be bothered to aim and fire the weapon strapped to their chest?

never mind, no good can come of this line of questioning.

After all, they did leave the keys in the carrier, with the engine running, and no one aboard...

#193 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Serge @ 145

And I got to see Frank Gorshin in charge of the psych ward.

Ah, he plays the inmate running the asylum. Perfect role for him :-)

#194 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 09:42 AM:

I agree with some of Jim's comments, but wow, some just seem really off the mark to me.

I don't know if "Matrix" deserves to be #1, but it deserves a single digit (and no, not that one, Mr, Macdonald!). You just have to ignore the other two movies and do the occasional close-eyes-and-stick-fingers-in-ears, which is par for the course with any SF mass-media product. Seriously, great vision of virtual reality, an unintentional parody of the sort of silly philosophizing such things invariably bring out in writers, great new movie technology, etc.

Don't want to pile on about "Eternal Sunshine" but it's certainly SF, a much better and more affecting story than a lot of commenters make it out to be.

I had the same "Man! I'm getting old" reaction to not seeing "Alien" on the list.

"Children of Men" had some very powerful moments, but the plot made no sense at all (which I hear was true of James' original as well). The final nails in the coffin were the horrible, fatuous, cliche-ridden commentaries on the DVD (yes, that's cheating, but whatevah).

I loved "The Prestige," both in novel and movie form, and think it deserves to be on the list somewhere.

I also loved "1984," which was both very faithful to the book and a well-done movie. "Brazil" is just a commentary on "1984," and I like it (except when Gilliam does his gross-out shtick) and think it deserves to be on the list. As does "Twelve Monkeys."

#135 Forrest: One of my fondest SF moments is in Ellison's "Jeffty is Five," when the narrator talks about having seen a movie version of "The Stars My Destination."

The sad result of reading this list, though, is realizing that while there have been some good SF movies/TV shows in the last 25 years, there really haven't anywhere near enough...

#195 ::: meteorplum ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:27 AM:

andy brazil@83

top 10 best british tv sf of all time[...] Anyone fancy doing a USian version?

In nearly chronological order:
* Twilight Zone
* Outer Limits
* Lost in Space
* Star Trek (Classic)
* Star Trek: The Animated Series
* Star Trek: Deep Space 9
* Babylon 5
* Futurama
* Firefly
* Battlestar Galactica (new version)

Honorable mentions: Battlestar Galactica (original series), V, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Files


graydon@157
Starship Troopers remake? Go anime! Call it "Fascist in the Shell". :-) But less un-seriously, power suits are nothing if not the ancestors of mechs, so they ought to know how to deal with them cinematically. And seemingly non-sequitur cuts between action sequences and philosophical discourses (in a high-school setting, no less; another anime sub-genre) are also de rigeur. It's an easy two-fer.


forrest@156/159
Had two entirely different sets of reactions to the two Dune adaptations: Lynch: Cool, but WTF? Sci-Fi Channel: I'm glad that scene made it in; couldn't they have budgeted for blue contact lenses for everyone? Enjoyed them both, but for very different reasons.

Also, your list of non-Dune Herbert books left out The White Plague, which (snark alert) might make a nice prequel to Children of Men, though I'd love to see the Jorj X. McKie books as movies. Having recently seen Hot Fuzz, I'd love to see those lads take a crack at messing around with SF tropes the way they did with action films in Hot Fuzz and the horror genre in Shaun of the Dead.


serge@162
Haven't seen The Saint in its Val Kilmer incarnation. But if the IMDB plot summary is in any way accurate, The Saint is no more a Science Fiction movie than most Bond films[1]. It seems like "cold fusion" could've been easily replaced with anything that makes a sufficiently big boom without affecting the integrity of the plot to any important degree. A MacGuffin, however SF-y, does not an SF film make.

While I'm on the subject of SF-y elements not being sufficient for making a film SF, I'll commit (potential) heresy by claiming that Star Wars (episodes IV-VI) is not SF. This is based on my (almost certainly non-original) corollary on Clarke's and Niven's Laws: Any medium which treats science like magic is Fantasy, and any medium which treats magic like science is Science Fiction.[2] Under this definition, Being John Malkovich could be SF, as evidenced by the experimentation with the "portal" by the characters (not to mention the nearly immediate desire to commercialize on the discovery). However, I desparately want to call it "magical realism", whatever that means.

mitch wagner@173
When something is set, or whether the science in it is currently possible shouldn't be the criteria for deciding if a work is SF or not. If that were the case, both 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and 1984 would not be SF. Even if we set aside my possibly idiosyncratic definition for SF aside, I think most people who are even aware of the question might agree that SF has something to do with imagining how science or technology affects one or more persons. From that perspective, The Truman Show is definitely SF.[3]

[1] Moonraker is a notable exception (for Bond films) by having SF elements--space travel, genetic engineering and human eugenics--that are actually tied intricately into the plot. E.g.: Jaws' willingness to save Bond ties directly into his (Jaws') and his girlfriend's rejection by Hugo Drax for inclusion into, literally, the new world order. Its like Gattaca without all the OCD washing.

[2] It follows that Star Wars: Episodes I-III are bad SF, due entirely to the inexplicable introduction (from a plot perspective) of "midi-clorians".

[3] It is arguable that Truman's life as a unknowing participant in his own reality show parallels the life of Siddhartha, both of whom were shielded from many of the unpleasant realities of the human condition by a father figure (the actual father in Siddhartha's case). Vg vf engure vafgehpgvir gb abgr gung va znal jnlf, Gur Gehzna Fubj raqf ng cbvag jurer Fvqqunegun'f yvsr fgbel zvtug or fnvq gb ernyyl ortva. Vg fhttrfgf gung FS (naq fpvrapr) vf nobhg gur qvfpbirel bs bowrpgvir ernyvgl, engure guna rayvtugrazrag.

#196 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 11:48 AM:

Greg London @ 192 +

You are right, that weapon would make an excellent door stop. It bothered me too, the first time I saw the movie, but it didn't bother me enough to ruin the movie for me. And come on, surely you've seem something equally botched in RL that some rear-echelon bozo was trying to foist off on a unit of unsuspecting (hah!) grunts for combat testing.

For instance, there was the persistent rumor during the Vietnam War that some bright soul had decided to put a half-block of C-4 on top a Frisbee and call it a controllable-flight grenade. That sounded crazy enough to be true.

*googles briefly*

Oh ... someone's reinvented the idea as a UAV I guess there's nothing new under the sun.

#197 ::: meteorplum ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 11:53 AM:

mitch wagner@180
Yeah, what you said what Damon Knight said. (My post@195 should've made it up back in the 170s but I noobed.) But it sounds like our personal definitions for SF and Fantasy are within a stone's throw of each other, and we're both in the same neighborhood as Heresiarch@188.

patrick@190
I'm all for having a relaxed attitude about categorizing fiction, and I mostly don't let how a work is categorized affect whether I'd be interested in checking it out (notable exception: Romance novels, though I'm willing to check out most "chic flicks"). Having said that, I also want some common vocabulary which identifies elements that works have in common. Perhaps it's better to think of labels like "SF" and "Fantasy" as tags in the "web 2.0" sense rather than categories in the "which section in the book store do I find this" sense.

And having said that, I would love to hear how and why you and other respondents might categorize/tag any of the following works:
* Star Wars: A New Hope
* Star Trek (original series)
* 1984 (book)
* Reign of Fire (film)
* Going Postal (the Pratchett book)
* Foundation Trilogy
* The Handmaid's Tale (book or film)
* Mad Max Trilogy
* The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
* The Magic Goes Away

#198 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 12:01 PM:

It's undoubtedly a matter of over-expectation, but I started resenting the first Matrix movie after about 20 minutes. At first I thought it was going to be a classic van Vogt style onion plot: the onion of many layers containing a shallot, containing garlic, containing a tiny pearl at the center. And when Switch takes off across the roof tops I thought, "Oh, wow, a razorgirl!", figuring at least the first level down was going to be cyberpunk.

But no, no cyberpunk, and before the 20 minute mark it's made clear there's only one plot twist per movie, and you've already seen it. Major disappointment, and there was nothing afterward to make up for that.

Besides, casting Keanu Reeve as Neo? The Wachowskis didn't think anyone in the audience might have seen "Johnny Mnemonic"*? They even use the same line somewhere in the Matrix: "Hit me!"

* From the deafening non-mention of it in this thread, I conclude that everyone here agrees with me about Johnny: highly forgettable.

#199 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 12:19 PM:

And come on, surely you've seem something equally botched in RL that some rear-echelon bozo was trying to foist off on a unit of unsuspecting (hah!) grunts for combat testing.

I can imagine a crate of (insert dumb weapon idea here) sitting in the armory. I can imagine that troop of Marines in Aliens being issued said gear in the hangar deck. And I can imagine Private Hicks doing something vile, disgusting, and revolting with said device, probably in front of Vasquez just to tick her off, before slipping said device out an airlock somewhere.

But I can't imagine anyone in their right mind taking it into combat.

Well, OK, they might take it into combat, but it would get dropped in the first ditch.

Exploding Frisbee? Good grief.


#200 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Re comment #195, unless you're excluding Farscape for being produced in Australia, or have inadvertantly left off #1, that list make no sense to me. Especially... look, have you tried to watch "Lost in Space" lately? It isn't even enjoyable as camp.

#201 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:16 PM:

meteorplum @195: It's most definitely true that there are a great many sf stories set in the present day or historical past, but, still, a future setting guarantees that a story is science fiction. And most science fiction is set in the future.

I think most people who are even aware of the question might agree that SF has something to do with imagining how science or technology affects one or more persons. From that perspective, The Truman Show is definitely SF.

If that's all it takes, then You've Got Mail is sf.

My reason for wanting to exclude The Truman Show is that it doesn't contain any speculative technology at all. Not a lick. Everything in that movie is achievable using the technology that existed at the time of its creation.

But in the end I agree with you, because it postulates an alternate present where the most popular TV show in the world, by far, is The Truman Show.

#202 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:35 PM:
Mikal @ 182: And I really liked "Pitch Black", come to think of it -- I refused to see the sequel, however...
The sequel worked better when it wasn't thought of as a sequel.* And if, on that Alcatraz planet, one didn't think too hard about the really inconsistent effects of sunlight on various characters depending on their proximity to the main character. Those thoughts avoided, it was kinda fun. Wouldn't rank it with any "best of" list, though.

*Except there was this common thread in both movies, thematically or psychologically, of Riddick being cursed with unasked-for responsibilities he's ultimately, tragically, unable to fulfill, which might not be enough to save a bad movie in anyone's mind except my own soppy sentimental one.

Karen @ 187: There's still a fairly active fandom for Quantum Leap, although it seems to have devolved into an over-emphasis on its lead actor. You know the fellow: he also got stuck playing the least likable starship captain (excluding guest cast) in the history of the Star Trek franchise.
Wasn't he also the one prominently seen leering at Bonnie Raitt in the music video for "Thing Called Love"? Or was that the lead from Inner Space? (Another one not mentioned yet! A fun, comic, but admittedly not groundbreaking flick from the late '80s. "Congratulations. You just digested the bad guy." Gotta love it.)

IMDB to the rescue: Inner Space's lead it is--Dennis Quaid was in the Bonnie Raitt video. Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula was not. And the only reason I'm not just deleting this entire damn tangent is, someone's gotta mention Inner Space, darn it!

#203 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:50 PM:

Bruce @ 198:

From the deafening non-mention of it in this thread, I conclude that everyone here agrees with me about Johnny: highly forgettable.

Au contraire! I remember it quite vividly.

The part I saw before I walked out, that is.

Which would be the first ten minutes or so.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Anybody remembers Tom Cruise in Ridley Scott's Legend? By the end, when the unicorns were given their horns back, thus being brought to life, I had hoped/expected that, since they had been dead for a long time, they'd by then be zombie unicorns.

#205 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Incidentally, there was an anime adaptation of Starship Troopers, produced in the 80s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers_(OVA)

#206 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Serge @ 204

Actually, I believe* if you look past Tom Cruise and the twee of it all** (and the occasionally annoying Tangerine Dream score), you'll find some good writing. The basic plot structure shows an understanding of the requirements of the fairy tale. Too bad it got covered over by all the music video imagery and editing.

* I'm working from 25 year old memory here, so I may just be confabulating something not so good into something a little better to make the memory more pleasant. But Eva's watched it more recently, and this is her opinion too.

** I just love being able to juxtapose those two. /snark

#207 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Mentioning "Legend" makes me remember another candidate for the Fantasy list, that just makes the time period: "The Last Unicorn". Can someone explain why more of Peter S. Beagle's stories haven't been filmed? "A Fine and Private Place"*, "Tamsin" or "The Innkeeper's Song" would be fabulous either animated or live-action.

* imdb has a listing for "A Fine and Private Place", but it has no information other than date and director's name, and there's no link to or from Peter Beagle.

#208 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 206... I'm working from 25 year old memory here, so I may just be confabulating something not so good into something a little better to make the memory more pleasant.

Or maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I first and last saw it, in 1986 (?).

Going way off SF/F, one of my favorite 'medieval' movies is probably Robin and Marian. Great cast. Great script. And an ending that always leaves me with a big lump in my throat.

#209 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:04 PM:

meteorplum @ 195: I wasn't forgetting The White Plague, it just wasn't included in the box set I was discussing. I have a copy, and consider it one of a handful of Herbert novels aside from Dune that have held up over the years. It reads more like a particularly politically engaged Stephen King novel more than Herbert. That said, I think it was published in the early 80s (Wikipedia says 1982, for what it's worth).

I think NESFA could get a solid collection out of Herbert's BuSab stories. Or somebody could, at any rate (I'm thinking of the Del Ray collection of Larry Niven's Gil Hamilton stories).

Bruce Cohen @ 198: The only memorable things about Johnny Mnemonic are the cameos by Ice-T and Fightin' Hank Rollins. That's my favorite Henry Rollins performance ever (aside from a few of his more entertaining spoken word sets). Gibson hasn't had much luck with film adaptations.

DaveL @ 194: I've read "Jeffty is Five" a few times, and somehow I never noticed that bit. I'm unsurprised that of all the writers working in sf, it was Ellison who did that. I really miss him reviewing movies; I don't always agree with him (has anybody, ever?), but his movie criticism is probably the best to have come from a genre author.

I think I have a similar take on Aliens that I do to Starship Troopers, except I don't think Aliens was attempting satire. But both are action movies, and are thereby techno-fetishistic fantasies that have little connection to reality. I don't think Aliens is really striving for verisimilitude, or at least any more than, say, Commando or Predator. If we're going to talk about howlers, how about the idea of anybody – Arnie or otherwise – carrying a Vulcan through the jungle, much less firing it?

While I'm on the topic of Cameron, I think it's interesting nobody mentioned The Abyss, arguably his most in-genre film (I file The Terminator in with Aliens – I know people who think it's a smart take on time travel, but whatever). He really worked hard on it (I knew people who were following the making of the movie, and people almost died on the set numerous times) and it's hard to say whether the original cut or the director's cut has a lamer ending. It's a shame it turned out to be so forgettable.

#210 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:09 PM:

Forrest @ 209... The Abyss, forgettable? I don't know about that. I certainly never forgot the scene of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio having to drown herself.

#211 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:13 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 206 / Serge @ 208: Y'all need to watch Legend again. Once upon a time I had a girlfriend who was borderline obsessed with that movie, and I'm here to tell you that it's got an awesome Tim Curry performance and not much else. Also, all the little bits of fluff floating through the air everywhere makes me sneeze just thinking about it. Never before or since has a supposed fairy tale looked more like something that belonged on Cinemax late, late at night.

Over the years, Tangerine Dream has lent their talents to many an undeserving effort. I'm thinking particularly of one epically bad b-movie "dead aliens in the Man's freezer" film that had some of their better 80s work in it. The Legend soundtrack, by contrast, sounds pretty phoned in. It's hard to believe it's by the same group that put out Zeit.

#212 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:17 PM:

Serge @ 210: I meant "forgettable" in the sense that it appears to have been forgotten. ;) There's a number of beautiful scenes in the movie, but overall, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts. I've always sort of wondered if the superoxygenated fluid thinger in there would actually work, and / or if it was a borrowing from The Tomorrow War.

#213 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Forrest @ 211... After all, this is Tim Curry we're talking about. He was the only reason I watched some episodes of the TV remake of Family Affair. I mean, Tim Curry as a nanny?

#214 ::: Emmet ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Fade@5: I am coming round to the viewpoint that for 2001 to work, the absolute minimum screen size required is "taller than the viewer", and the optimum is around three times that.

I am of the opinion that Eternal Sunshine is science fiction, and one of the best acted pieces of cinematic science fiction ever made; it was quite interesting, watching the making-of conversation with Jim Carrey and the director on the DVD extras a few weeks back, just how much of the effort that went into making that film work from everyone else involved seemed to have been Jim-Carrey-wrangling to get a non-over-the-top performance from him without being too obvious about it.

Xopher@154: I had, IIRC, three different explanations at the end of Matrix Reloaded which would have made more sense than the third film did.

In re The Island: has there ever been a genre work in which people lived in a restricted, futuristic or post-disaster, environment enlivened by the promise that selected individuals would be shipped out to a utopian paradise, in which the twist was that they actually were being shipped out to a utopian paradise ?

#215 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Bruce @ #207: This isn't an answer to your question, but in case you are not aware, Peter Beagle has said he was completely ripped off by the film company that made The Last Unicorn. They never paid him a penny of the royalties the contract obligated them to, and since he doesn't have much money he's had to do a fundraising campaign from his fans just to raise the money for a lawyer to sue them to get paid the royalties they owe him. Ouch.

#216 ::: Steve L ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Shannon @78: Yes, yes, Until the End of the World (1991) by director Wim Wenders. Sure, it's long, and drags in places, but it is brilliant and easily makes my top ten list. I hope they do release the longer version. I can't wait.

And no mention for Donnie Darko? Directed by Richard Kelly, 2001. Sure, it's mostly about teenage angst and alienation, and very good on those topics, yet it's also sf. Well written, too.

#217 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Donnie Darko, yes! Anybody who hasn't seen it should go rent it at once.

And how on earth did I forget Repo Man? It's only one of my favorite movies. Not only that, I see two other people mentioned it and I missed both of those.

#218 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 04:19 PM:

The mention of Tim Curry reminds me that, for all its lameness, Fern Gully is better SF and a better movie than Starship Troopers.

In my opinion. Remembering that I watched it several times when it first came out on VHS, having offspring of that age.

#219 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Anybody remembers The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Michael Praed as you-know-who? It had many episodes that went into outright fantasy, such as The Seven Swords of Wayland.

#220 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Serge @ 208

Yes! Robin and Marian is one of my favorite action movies of all time. I get a lump in my throat at the point, early in the film, where Robin says plaintively to Marian in response to her question about why he followed after Richard to the Middle East for all that time, "He was my King".

Forrest L Norvell @ 212, Serge @ 213

Agreed, the visuals and the sound in Legend are at best bland, and at worst annoying. The writing, I think, could have supported a much better made film.

And Tim Curry? Indeed. It's a shame he's mostly doing voices these days; he's a niche that needs to be filled. It's almost painful, sometimes, watching Terence Mann channeling Tim Curry in "The Dresden Files".

Emmet @ 214
I am coming round to the viewpoint that for 2001 to work, the absolute minimum screen size required is "taller than the viewer", and the optimum is around three times that.

I agree. I saw it the first time in Cinerama on a giant screen (in an almost empty theater) and it was mind-blowing. A few years ago I watched a DVD on my laptop, intending to do a lot of frame-by-frame analysis, but I just couldn't get past how diminished it was.

Clifton Royston @ 215

Yes, I'd heard that years ago, but forgotten it. But I can still dream, can't I?

Clifton Royston @ 217
Yes, run, do not walk to rent the Donnie Darko DVD. But be sure to get the Director's Cut; it makes the movie flow much better, and makes the director's intent somewhat clearer.


#221 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 05:05 PM:

I'm amazed that anyone got much out of the Starship Troopers movie. It seemed to me like either:

a. A completely vacuous action film with no meaningful content,

b. An attempt to cover the book, which demonstrated deep incompetence and lack of talent, or

c. A sort of propoganda-swipe at Starship Troopers, or maybe militarism in general, in the form of a parody.

Now, of the three, (c) is the least damning. But if you're doing parody, it's polite to tell the people buying tickets so, and the propoganda side with the campy 50s-esque TV news and stuff, just seemed over the top and silly and pointless to me. The political ideas in that book are almost entirely wrong, IMO, but they deserved something better than that steaming pile of crap.

The whole "it was all a swipe at militarism and facism" line makes me think of the success of the play in _The Producers_.

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 220... One of my other lump-in-the-throat scenes is when Marian finds what Little John really feels about her.

#223 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 06:25 PM:

How d'ya do I
see you met my
...
faithful haannndymannn....

#224 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 06:29 PM:

Serge @ 222

I had the feeling the sheriff probably respected Robin more than he did the lord or the king.

#225 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:16 PM:

has there ever been a genre work in which people lived in a restricted, futuristic or post-disaster, environment enlivened by the promise that selected individuals would be shipped out to a utopian paradise, in which the twist was that they actually were being shipped out to a utopian paradise?

It would take a real smartass to say "the Bible".

...

The Bible.

#226 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:47 PM:

P J @ 224... Yes. It is a great movie, isn't it?

#227 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:50 PM:

In the department of movies with great endings (although what led to the ending was so-so and yes I did read the original novel)...

Fahrenheit 451

Remember the people walking in the snow while they are memorizing the works of Literature that the rest of Humanity doesn't want anymore?

#228 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:56 PM:

Forrest L Norvell @135: That said, if I ever get filthy rich, I'm going to make the version of The Stars My Destination I've had kicking around in my head for the last 15 years. That seems like another book that's more or less unfilmable as written (especially now that De Niro's getting too old to play Gully Foyle), but the version in my head would be rad. Maybe someday you'll all get to see. ;)

AFAIK, Gully Foyle was black. That detail was never in the forefront, but was subtly established. Bester reports that some readers felt he tricked them.

It would be a shame if one of earliest black heroes of SF was replaced (even if the character was played by De Niro).

That said, I'd like to see your version. Even better than a movie, would be a miniseries; I think the novel might require that scope, and it did have distinct sections that could be broken out into separate episodes.

#229 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 228

It's been way too long since I read "The Stars My Destination"; could you refresh me on the clues to Foyle's race? The only characters whose race or ethnos I can remember are Robin Wednesbury who was black, Saul Dagenham, who was Jewish, and Y'ang-Yeovil and Bunny what's-his-name who were at least partly Han Chinese*.

* After all these years I still remember the slanging match Y'ang-Yeovil and Bunny get into in Mandarin when they first meet.

#230 ::: meteorplum ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 08:45 PM:

jesr@200
I didn't include Farscape because I've not seen enough of it to make a judgement. Others in that category include: Lexx, Dark Angel, Star Trek: Enterprise, Heroes; For that matter, here are a couple of series that just didn't grab me as a viewer, though lots of people seem to hold them in some regard: Quantum Leap, Stargate, the rest of the Star Trek franchise.

I probably would not enjoy a marathon session of Lost in Space now, but I'd enjoy a couple of episodes here and there. I certainly enjoyed them in the late 70s when I watching them as after-school TV re-runs, while simultaneously discovering Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dickson, etc.[1] The fact that most of the series was cheesy was perfectly acceptable, even in light of my journey through "real" SF. I suppose I included it because of its influences (good and bad) on other SF shows and movies that come after it.

If we're going for a list of American SF shows for the ages, I would reduce the list to 5.5:
* Twilight Zone
* Outer Limits
* Star Trek: The Original Series
* Star Trek: Deep Space 9
* Babylon 5
* Firefly[2]


mitch wagner@201
Are you saying that all stories set in the/a future are science fiction? That casts a rather wide net, no?

As for You've Got Mail, since it's a remake of The Shop Around the Corner (1940), one might argue that they've just replaced snail mail with email/instant messaging. However, I'm willing to go the extra mile and suggest that You've Got Mail might just have some SF elements. Physical letters and emails are not the same thing, and neither of them are equivalent to IMs. There certainly are people who still consider email itself to be more science fiction than daily reality, and they probably would find this aspect of You've Got Mail to be as "science fiction" as GM crops and space travel. However, those people, and most of us, are probably not interested in watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks get into the nitty-gritty of SMTP servers and chat client minutiae. We are interested in seeing how much their "identity" differs in their online life vs. real life. And it is not lost on me the irony of having this discussion in the comment thread of a blog by people in the book business.


[1] Public library. I started at the A's. So I was a bit OCD. :-)

[2] In its current form, Firefly is an episodic mini-series at best. Serenity helped to complete it somewhat, but it was only 12 episodes, people! And I'm writing as a fan!

#231 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 228: The only black actors I can come up with the proper... uh... gravitas? to utter lines like "I kill you filthy" and not sound like clowns are Paul Robeson (RIP) and Sidney Poitier (who's even older than de Niro). Maybe Chiwetel Ejiofor, although he's seemed a little clinical in the two or three things I've seen him in so far... Dang, time to rethink things!

What I'm actually saying is that it managed to completely escape my notice that Gulliver Foyle was black. Time to reread the book! Not that that's a chore! I think my preference for De Niro comes from his awesome performance in the remake of Cape Fear, which has always colored (no pun intended) how I read The Stars My Destination.

Anyway, thanks for pointing that out! You saved me from a theoretical faux pas! ;) (I could not *believe* that the miniseries of Earthsea pastified the characters, after everything Le Guin, Delany, and a double handful of other authors have said about the cover art of the books over the years. WTF, people?)

#232 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Bruce Cohen @229: It's been way too long since I read "The Stars My Destination"; could you refresh me on the clues to Foyle's race?

A bit rushed (somewhere to be), but the clue I recall reading the book was the strongly jealous reaction of Robin Wednesbury (as you commented, was established as black) when Folye asked for her help in seducing Olivia Presteign.

I've forgotten where I read Bester's comments...

#233 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:43 PM:

I think I like sci-fi best when the science becomes a participating element, even a character peer in it's own right, in the story and not just decorative props, ahem, Star Wars.

I know sci-fi runs a full spectrum from barely to hard core but why do the geeks look at me funny when I call shows like The Incredible Hulk science fiction? Science created the real antagonist out of the humanity of the protagonist. Sure he's just a green Jeckle but science instigated the conflict and offers a hope(me thinks a false one) of resolution. Ah maybe I just read too much into a comic adaptation out of nostalgia.

#234 ::: Stephanie Zvan ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 12:44 AM:

"In the immortal words of Socrates, 'I drank what?'" Yeah, Real Genius definitely. Not that I can quote blocks of dialog wholesale or anything.

I'd also think that the longest running American science fiction series has earned a place on the list. I mean, anytime a single word becomes a badge of fandom...indeed. Sure, SG-1 has its issues (like everything else mentioned here), but ignoring it is silly. Not that we needed more proof that EW is silly on the subject of SF.

#235 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:50 AM:

meteorplum@230: Yes, I am saying that all stories written in the future are science fiction. Can you think of any counter-examples?

I'll exclude day-after-tomorrow type stories from that definition. For example, a political thriller set in 2009 might not be science fiction.

I can't imagine calling "You've Got Mail" sf by any reasonable definition. If "You've Got Mail" is sf, then everything is sf.

#236 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:11 AM:

Forrest L Norvell @ 231

Djimon Hounsou

Although I think Chiwetel Ejiofor would do very nicely. Have you seen "Dirty, Pretty Things" or (for a totally different experience) "Kinky Boots"*?


* Clinical? Well, he does wear a nurse's uniform at one point.

#237 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:54 AM:

#201 Mitch Wagner: "My reason for wanting to exclude The Truman Show is that it doesn't contain any speculative technology at all. Not a lick. Everything in that movie is achievable using the technology that existed at the time of its creation."

Speculative social organization is speculative tech. And a society that will allow a member to be systematically and constantly lied to, without his consent, for the sake of everyone else's entertainment is definitely speculative. (Not quite as speculative as I would like, but still.)

#238 ::: Fats Durston ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Re: Old discussion ca. 90 - 110

I hated the raves for Gattaca so much that it inspired my first "post" ever online.

(And it's still there:
http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue57/letters.html
The last line is pretty funny in retrospect.)

I'm almost always disappointed in some aspect of filmed sf, probably because there are so many ways to botch it, and the committee work that is inherent in the creation of movies means that there's always someone on hand to screw things up sfnally. This notwithstanding, there are scenes here and there that are just fantastic representations of sf as I want it presented:
-The re-entry/crash that begins Pitch Black
-The re-enactment of Star Wars in Reign of Fire
-The (admittedly CGI) bullet falling out of Wolverine's regenerating head
-The shattering of the first null-space machine in Contact
-Every single robotic movement in Robocop, except for the one where the mech has a tantrum.

#239 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 03:32 AM:

Nobody else has mentioned a TV movie from the early 1970s with Diane Varsi and William Shatner, "The People," based on the short stories of Zenna Henderson. I don't know that I'd recommend it to everyone; I have a nostalgic fondness for it because it was the first time I saw Shatner play a part and be funny and charming instead of a blowhard. It's true sf though, about aliens living in hiding on Earth.

On the other hand, how could anyone overlook Journey to the Center of the Earth starring James Mason and -- wait for it -- Pat Boone?

#240 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 04:06 AM:

Rob (#228) Re Gully Foyle being black: wouldn't the whole facial tiger tattoo thing (referenced in the alternative name of Tiger! Tiger!) not work terribly well with dark skin -- unless it is meant to be a fairly light complexion? OTOH, it's been at least 10 years since my last reading of it, and like several others here, most of my life is packed away in boxes now, making quick checks difficult.

BTW, my friend doesn't like the De Niro idea because he sees Foyle as a big Irish bruiser type, with Celtic racial characteristics like fair skin & reddish hair.

#241 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:29 AM:

If I had the money to produce a film (and step back while someone with talent would direct), it'd be Clifford Simak's The Way Station, which is the story of a Civil War vet who once was approached by aliens to be in charge of a transfer point for the galaxy's teleportation system. And he's still alive today. Like that novel, the movie'd be an intimate thing in the countryside, but with bigger things brewing up. Kind of like Francis Ford Coppola's The People, based on the Zenna Henderson's stories.

#242 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:52 AM:

always thought that the humans-as-batteries was only a cover for the real truth--that the AIs were using human brains for their processors, a la Dan Simmons' Technocore.

"Why are you so afraid of us, Neo? We're just like you."
"You aren't. I'm human! You're just programs running on human brains!"
"Neo, you're a program running on a human brain."

I think the reason the suits didn't show up in the movie was probably simply that they're unfilmable. The movie would have had to stick to a single POV character much of the time and the rest of the dialogue would be radio chatter and HUD icons

A war film in which the combatants are spread out over miles; most of the action sequences are all special effects; you never see more than the characters' eyes under their helmet visors; and the dialogue is radio chatter and HUD icons? Sounds like Top Gun. That didn't do too badly.

#243 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:56 AM:

Tehanu @ 239... I just noticed your own post about The People. I wish someone would release it on DVD.

(Same wish re Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection.)

#244 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:58 AM:

Tehanu @ 239... Wasn't the main character of The People played by Kim Darby? I think Dan O'Herlihy was also in it.

#245 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 07:57 AM:

Hehe, now I want to put Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure in the list. Also, possibly Back to the Future. The far-future utopia we get in Bill and Ted is one of my favorites, even though we glimpse it only briefly.

The problem with including comic superheros in an SF list is that they are usually two different genres. Is Batman SF? He certainly has a lot of tomorrow's gadgets. Is the Flash? He was created by some kind of science. J'on Jones is pretty much as Sci Fi as we can get, last of his race from a dying mars. Ok, then the Martian Manhunter and Batman are, but John Constantine and Swamp thing are fantasy, or horror, or magical realism. But... they're in the same world! The Justice league is primarily aliens, alien policemen, a few gadgeted humans; but then you add a god-powered lady. Eighty percent sci fi, 20% fantasy? Nah, it's comic books... which is all just the great big mash of Speculative Fiction.

That's one of the reasons I like comics so much, I think. In all the major universes, science and fantasy rub elbows and bump up against each other all the time.

#246 ::: meteorplum ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 09:01 AM:

mitch wagner@235

Yes, I am saying that all stories written in the future are science fiction. Can you think of any counter-examples?

* The Prophecies of Nostradamus
* The Left Behind series
* Most religious texts
* The horoscope in your local paper

I'll exclude day-after-tomorrow type stories from that definition. For example, a political thriller set in 2009 might not be science fiction.

Why this exception? Day-after-tomorrow stories are one of the staples of SF.

I can't imagine calling "You've Got Mail" sf by any reasonable definition. If "You've Got Mail" is sf, then everything is sf.

You've Got Mail is not SF the way 2001 is, but it's more SF than, say, Cell. I'm not suggesting that either of the two newer works are canonical SF, but they both contain SF elements (though I'd consider "The Pulse" to be bad SF, if not purely MacGuffin-esque). As I've said before, I'm in the "labels as tags" camp. I believe that using these labels as boundaries will end up gerrymandering works into categories that become harder and harder to define, and cause people to focus more on which shelf a work comes from rather than how good it is.

#247 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 10:02 AM:

A couple of days ago I watched a movie our DVR caught called "Last Night". I had never heard of it, but liked it. It's clearly a low budget indie, made in Toronto by the look. Not a great movie, but, uh, likable.

My hesitation there comes from the fact that the entire movie is about the lives of a few people* in the last six hours before the end of the world. Not what you'd think would be a low-key, character-driven movie, but it works. Naq vg raqf jvgubhg nal purngvat.

* One of the characters is played by Sondra Oh, in a pre "Grey's Anatomy" turn, and there are small parts for David Cronenberg and Genevieve Bujold, whom I've had a crush on since she was considerably younger. And I've been impressed with Oh since "Double Happiness".

#248 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 10:40 AM:

meteorplum@246: Just to be more precise -- science fiction includes, but is not limited to, all *fictional* stories set in the future. The prophecies, religious texts, and the local horoscope are not fiction, and I'm fine including the "Left Behind" series as science fiction. I've never read it, but I've seen enough reviews to say that it's likely to be bad, and bigoted too -- but it's science fiction.

As one of our blog hosts said a while back: "Fiction" is an understanding between the writer and reader. Fiction is when the writer says, "I'm going to tell you a made-up story now. It didn't happen" and the reader says, "Got it!" Some fiction writers like to describe themselves as professional liars, but they're being tongue-in-cheek -- they do not intend their stories to be believed as true, except in a metaphorical sense.

"You've Got Mail" lacked that sensawunda needed for science fiction. Even at the time it was made, more than 10 years ago, e-mail was pretty ordinary for most people.

If "You've Got Mail" is science fiction because it deals with the futuristic technology of e-mail, should we also include "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" as science-fiction because it deals with that futuristic, TV stuff. How about "House" and "ER," which have a heck of a lot more science and technology in 'em than "You've Got Mail" does.

Some day-after-tomorrow stories are science fiction, certainly, but I think most aren't. Political thrillers and techno-thrillers are, again, lacking in that sensawunda at technology that *might* exist -- indeed, technothrillers describe technology that *exists,* or at most is a refinement of existing technology rather than new technology.

#249 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Anybody else liked Wing Commander ?

#250 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Mez @240: Re Gully Foyle being black: wouldn't the whole facial tiger tattoo thing (referenced in the alternative name of Tiger! Tiger!) not work terribly well with dark skin -- unless it is meant to be a fairly light complexion?

The story described it as a 'Maori mask' IIRC. The Maori were Polynesians, but while doing a little Google-searching, I found this picture of Mike Tyson with what was described as a Maori tribal tattoo.

OTOH, it's been at least 10 years since my last reading of it, and like several others here, most of my life is packed away in boxes now, making quick checks difficult.

My predicament as well, or I'd see if I could find Bester's comments on the character (I'm thinking maybe in the author's forewords and afterwords in the Starlight collection, as he did talk a lot about his writing career), or look for better illustrations from the book.

This may require an expedition to the attic (or perhaps the library). Not happening soon, though.

#251 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 11:55 AM:

I would be fascinated to hear the evidence that Gully Foyle was supposed to be black. I've read "The Stars My Destination" more than once and completely missed out on that.

The tattoos were described as looking like a Maori mask, but a) that doesn't mean that Foyle had skin like a Maori, and b) IIRC their removal left him with scars that went red - and thus became visible - when Foyle was agitated. That sounds more like a white person to me.

#252 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 12:50 PM:

ajay @251: I think the strongest evidence will be the author's intent. Which I recall reading. Somewhere.

Given that the book was written in the 50's, you could see how creating a Negro hero could be a subversive act. Bester got the story rolling, got you identifying with the character, and then gave some indicators. I don't recall he was ever explicit in the story, but he was more clear in his comments about his intent.

If you can find your copy, re-read the scene I described upthread. It isn't proof, but it is suggestive.

Chapter and verse will require a little more digging, which I won't even start on until I've had some sleep (working a night shift job).

I'm hoping there are lurkers who agree with me (and that they'll step up and do the heavy lifting).

#253 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Rob: will do. I take your point about author's intent, but I wonder if you might be thinking of another book?

Anyway, I think More Research Is Indicated, as the scientists say. I'll try and dig out my copy.

#254 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:16 PM:

I'm not sure this is good news, but Universal has optioned "The Stars My Destination". Producer is Lorenzo di Bonaventura. IMDB lists the title as a 2008 project, but details are only available on IMDbPro, and I don't have a login there anymore.

#255 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Serge@249: Anybody else liked Wing Commander ?


Please provide a postal mail address so that I may forward you the medical bills incurred from falling off my chair.

That was most unkind.

#256 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:41 PM:

has there ever been a genre work in which people lived in a restricted, futuristic or post-disaster, environment enlivened by the promise that selected individuals would be shipped out to a utopian paradise, in which the twist was that they actually were being shipped out to a utopian paradise?


If you look at the story from an unusual angle Millennium might fit. The story Air Raid it's based on would fit better.

Until I looked just now, I hadn't realised John Varley was credited the screenplay as well as the story. From the differences, I would have thought it would have been a different writer on the script. (It's fairly obviously been through a committee)

#257 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Greg London @ 255... I take it that you didn't care much for Wing Commander. Sorry for any harm I may have caused you.

#258 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Leah @245: Ok, then the Martian Manhunter and Batman are, but John Constantine and Swamp thing are fantasy, or horror, or magical realism. But... they're in the same world!

What does sharing a setting have to do with it?

Let's imagine a group of authors decide to collaborate on a fictional town -- let's call it Oaksfall, Vermont. They come up with a history of the town, agree on a few prominent citizens, neighborhood names, locations, etc.

So now these authors write novels set in Oaksfall. One is a mystery writer, so he writes a mystery -- straightforward mundane fiction, with no fantastic elements. Another writes a romance novel. A third writes a story about Oaksfall's wiccan community, with actual working magic.

Do the first two books become fantasy novels, even though they have no fantastic elements in them, just by virtue of sharing a setting with the third? Do the first and third novels become romance, and the second and third mysteries?

What if the novels had been set in the real-world setting of Park Slope, Brooklyn, instead of a fictional setting?

#259 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:16 PM:

The Truman Show ought to be SF, if only because it's set in 2035 or so. General rule: if you're telling a story that spans an appreciable fraction of your characters life then you're writing historical fiction or SF, whether you know it or not. If you don't know that, then it's likely that big chunks of your story won't make sense---time will pass for your character, but it will stand still for the rest of the world.

It's true that most of The Truman Show looks like it's set in an idealized past rather than in the future, but then, the same is true of one of Charlie Stross's recent SF books.

What does bother me about The Truman Show is that we do get occasional glimpses of the mid 21st century world and it looks far too much like the world we live in. The only hint that it's the future is that we have some civil engineering that's beyond current technology. If that were a more important part of the movie, I would call it a major flaw. The filmmakers just don't seem to have asked themselves the question: where and when is this supposed to be happening, and what would a world in which these things happen be like?

#260 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Serge @ #241: The Way Station is a favorite story of my husband's. I'm going to commend your taste in books, but I'm still not certain about your taste in film...

#261 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:36 PM:

Tania @ 260... Humph.

#262 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Tania @ 260... When I was still living in Quebec, we had a running gag in fandom about one of ours, writer Elisabeth Vonarburg. She was and still is a person of discriminating taste (*), but she liked the movie Krull. As a result, whenever she'd offer an opinion about any movie, we'd mock-dismiss it by reminding her of that ghastly movie.

(*) The proof is that she calls me her friend.

#263 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Matt Austern @ 259: What's the evidence that "The Truman Show" takes place in the future? It's been years since I saw it, but I remember it being set in the present day. But it's an alternate history, one where the longest-running, most popular TV show is about the life of this guy Truman, and it's been on the air since the 60s.

#264 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Meteorplum, #195:
Lost In Space??!!! Even at age 10, the only reason I watched that was because I had a flaming crush on Guy Williams that overrode both taste and judgment. It was, after all, up against ClassicTrek, and the difference in quality was... noticeable.

An anime Starship Troopers might be something I'd actually watch. You certainly make a good argument in its favor.

A MacGuffin, however SF-y, does not an SF film make. Hear, hear! I've been saying for 30 years that Close Encounters of the Third Kind was mislabeled as SF on exactly that basis. CE3 was an action-adventure film; the story premise is, "Can the Hero and the Heroine beat the Big Bad Government?" In order for it to become science fiction, it would have had to have started about where it STOPPED.

I do see the original Star Wars trilogy as SF; the magic/religious angle of The Force isn't enough to override all the space-opera tropes. OTOH, I'll happily argue that ClassicTrek is more of a Western with SF trappings than it is actual SF. And Firefly pinged my "Western in space, BTDT, 30 years ago and without the CSA subtext" button. It's all subjective. :-)

Tim, #205: Interesting -- I might go look for that.

Serge, #222: Yes, absolutely. "You were Rob's woman. If you'd been mine... I'd never have left." One of the finest statements of absolute loyalty and unrequited love ever made.

Anticorium, #225: Thank you. That was my first thought as well, at least up until the last bit. But then, I've always thought that Kissing Hank was just brilliant.

Forrest, #231: What about Avery Brooks?

Leah, #245: Here's my personal take on the genres of various (DC) comic characters.
Superman: action/adventure with SF trappings
Batman: Gothic horror
Green Lantern: space opera
The Flash, The Atom, Martian Manhunter, Hourman: science fiction
Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Adam Strange, Hawkman: fantasy
Elongated Man: mystery/comedy/romance with SF trappings
Dr. Strange: occult fantasy
Swamp Thing, Man-Thing (I can't remember which is whose): horror

(Actually, the "with SF trappings" bit can be applied to some of the others as well. And this is all completely subjective.) I leave the Marvel characters as an exercise for someone else.

Serge, #249: Was Wing Commander the one that felt like a barely-disguised version of Feintuch's Midshipman's Hope? Or am I thinking of something else?

#265 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Lee @ 264... And Marian's expression when she realizes what Little John just said is priceless.

#266 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Lee @ 264

I will always think of Lost in Space as the show that pioneered the use of ragged strips of black vinyl plastic in set decoration and costuming.

#267 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 04:28 PM:

What's the evidence that "The Truman Show" takes place in the future?

Truman's "world" is inside a dome so big that you can see it from space. I believe this was what someone else was refering to when they mentioned civil engineering not possible with today's technology.

therefore, it must be in the future.

unless you allow parallel worlds, in which case, it could a bajillion years ago if the parallel world skipped the age of dinosaurs and went straight to homo sapiens.

#268 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:09 PM:

Lee @ 264... I never read Feintuch so I couldn't say. I think of Wing Commander as WW2's North-Atlantic battles in space. Taken that way, it's fun.

#269 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Btw, that Mike Tyson tattoo is not what I'd describe as traditional Maori. See Moko for more.

#270 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Lee, #264.
I would argue that Star wars is less sci-fi than Close Encounters.
With Star Wars I can set the whole thing in another environment and tell the same story. It is an opera but the space part is decoration. So sci-fi by art department not storytelling.
Close Encounters isn't about beating the big bad government; it's about confronting an outside unknown that crossed your mundane path and impacted on your life beyond your control and conflicts with the limitations of your human self in the human world.

#271 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:37 PM:

The problem with The Truman Show is it was meant to be more sci-fi than it turned out. Our character in his human nature is in conflict with an artificial environment & existence created by technology, by an inhuman opponent that is the entertainment industry.

#272 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:54 PM:

This is the sort of thing I meant about decades-long stories having to be either historical fiction or science fiction. Was the early part of The Truman Show historical fiction set in the 60s? It sure didn't look it to me. The world, and the medical technology in particular, looked more recent than that.

#273 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Serge @#261 & #262: I will confess to an abiding affection for the film version of Conan the Barbarian. I know I deserve to be mocked.

Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And onto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
#274 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:25 PM:

Rob @ 252: your evidence is suggestive but inconclusive, especially because Bester used interracial relationships and jealousy in other stories (I think I'm thinking of Golem-X, which for some reason I finished). Also, I agree with ajay -- I have a hard time imagining how Foyle's "invisible tattoos" would work with a dark complexion. You know, due to my extensive experience with tattoos removed through semi-magical futuristic processes.

Bruce @ 254: Having options and a provisional release date more than six months in the future plus four bucks will get you a sandwich in LA. Has William Gibson ever gotten the options back for Neuromancer?

Lee @ 264: Avery Brooks might be a fine Gully Foyle, being appropriately Jacobean in his acting style (please don't ask me to explain that statement ;). I only saw him in American History X and a couple of the Spenser movies, where he was pretty good (which means I just outed myself as not being particularly conversant with at least one domain of fandom). Wouldn't that be casting to type, a little, though?

How did everyone end up arguing about genre again? My standard is, it's a science fiction movie if it feels like a science fiction movie when you're watching it (pace Samuel Delany on post-structuralist constructions of genre). That may not be the most objective standard in the world, but it sure gets around a lot of fruitless debate.

To wit: if you think Truman Show is sf, more power to you, because that's a far more charitable assessment than mine, which is that it was a poorly-thought-out episode of The Twilight Zone – with a dash of freshman philosophy pretension – blown up to movie length. I'm way more appreciative of smart movies trying to act dumb than dumb movies trying to act smart.

#275 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Support the Genre Denial Syndrome telethon with your generous donations!

#276 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:42 PM:

I thought that Wing Commander was mostly innoffensive B-movie. There were some really cheesy elements (stupid cat aliens), but it didn't make me feel cheated out of the price of admission. OTOH, I remember almost nothing about it.

Among SF B-movies, "Supernova" did feel like a ripoff. "The Chronicles of Riddick" was like a schlocky 1950s SF novel brought to gloriously dopey life.

#277 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Forrest L Norvell @ 274

You can get a sandwich for only 4 bucks in LA?

That option press release concerns me in several ways. First, why this producer? His track record is not impressive, and I'm not convinced he'll know what to do with it. Second, why now, after so many years? Or is it just that all of PK Dick's stuff has been optioned by others, so the producers are starting to go after other writers? Third, with so little information, as you imply there's no reason to believe that they've started preproduction, or even have a schedule for doing so.

#278 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 07:01 PM:

Forest, #274
I think the what is scifi debate is a byproduct of the agreement that EW has no f* clue of what they are talking about or what scifi is.

#279 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 12:02 AM:

Whew, go on a business trip and see what happens to a perfectly good hour when things finally go slack for a bit.

Since the discussion has gone outside the original 25 year window, what about the 1980 PBS TV-movie version of Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven?

I remember sitting being mesmerised by it, and then pining for a rerun. The thing burned itself into my brain, and I was elated when they were finally able to rerun it and release it on DVD, alas without all of the original soundtrack. IMHO, it's one of the best pieces of TV ever, regardless of genre.

#280 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 02:20 AM:

For the record, Charlie Stross quotes The Matrix twice in Accelerando. (Though it is the same line twice.) Good or bad is debatable, but cultural touchstone it indisputably is.

#281 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 04:23 AM:

T.W., #270: One of the greatest things about SF, to me, is that you can tell any kind of story in an SF setting -- it transcends genre. Star Wars, for example, is the classic "hero quest" tale transposed into space. So our personal definitions may be different enough here that we'll just have to agree to disagree.

#282 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 04:49 AM:

Serge @ 244 (& Tehanu @ 239) A year or two back, I picked up a local Region 4 The People DVD (1972 version) in a $3 bargain bin at the back of K-Mart. I wonder if it's a rarity now? I can't see it listed from the imdb page, or search one out quickly.

The cast list from the eBay listing is "William Shatner, Kim Darby, Diane Varsi, Dan O'Herlihy, Laurie Walters, Johanna Baer, Chris Valentine, Stephanie Valentine, Jack Dahlgren, Andrew Crichton, David Petch, Dorothy Drady, Mary Rose McMaster, Anne Walters, Tony Dario", and John Korty directed it.

#283 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 04:52 AM:

Lee,#270

That's the best part of scifi- reader defined.

Meets in the middle and shakes hands.

#284 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:17 AM:

Epacris... The People for $3, at K-mart? What humiliation. Sure, I haven't seen it in about 30 years and it might not hold up, but K-mart?

Larry Brennan... Unfortunately, because they had lost the original of The Lathe of Heaven, the DVD wound up looking worse than the 3rd-generation videotape I had of it. How people can lose the original of a movie, I have no idea.

#285 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 08:00 AM:

Anyone mentioned O'Bannon's 'Dark Star' yet? Cheap as chips, imaginative - teach the bomb phenomenology indeed! - and, of course, where Mike Myers stole that whole Bohemian Rhapsody routine.

#286 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 08:01 AM:

Re 'Dark Star' - just realised, it is a lot older than 25. It was older than 25 when it escaped...

#287 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 08:57 AM:

Martyn Taylor... About Dark Star...

"Let there be light."

#288 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Forrest,

What the hell did happen with Golem-X, anyway? I finished it, too, but I can't say I'm any the better for it--or the worse for it, for that matter.

It's almost like Bester's four novels recapitulate Heinlein's four periods of writing.

#289 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Silent Running, if only because if Huey, Dewey and Louie.

#290 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Serge @ 284, the local K-Marts have extensive DVD selections, ranging from locked glass-fronted-security-cased fancy collectors box sets through many intermediate shelf-steps to the bargain bins.

When I'm done misting up the glass with sighs of unfulfilled desire for the 3-digit-dollar sets, a good rummage through the bargains can turn up surprising little goodies, among much dross. The next step up has been good, too; finding cheap ($10-12) copies of the original Stepford Wives and Manchurian Candidate, for instance, when the sequels came out at full price (~$30-35).

Note: put LJ link on this post instead of usual blog, for those thinking of trying it out. It's not as pretty, but has the same material.

#291 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 11:37 AM:

adamsj: Bester was incapable of writing anything mediocre--it was all either pure gold or utter trash. Racist and sexist trash, at that. He has the most uneven output of any writer I've ever read, veering from divine to completely unreadable and back again. Completely inconsistent. And yet, there's The Stars My Destination, Demolished Man, "Fondly Farenheit," and assorted other brilliances. So what can you do? *throws hands up in the air*

#292 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Epacris... Unfortunately, I'd have to go inside a K-mart store and we boycott them. Maybe Target has those DVD bins too.

#293 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 01:02 PM:

adamsj @ 288: What the hell did happen with Golem-X, anyway? I finished it, too, but I can't say I'm any the better for it--or the worse for it, for that matter.

Could be worse--could be The Deceivers.

#294 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Anybody remembers 1968's Charly?

#295 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Serge,#289

Silent Running was the first scifi to make me cry.
And Space 1999 was the first to give me nightmares.
Agh, not the one eye tentacle mummifying doppler scream wreckage monster; go post traumatic stress guy with fire axe.
Fun childhood.
So any reason why the list was so focused on only the most recent 25 years of scifi other than target demographics of the advertising base.

#296 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 05:45 PM:

T.W. @ 295... The original 25-year cutoff point probably was because Entertainment Weekly didn't expect its public to have a memory that reaches farther back.

Space: 1999... I don't remember the post traumatic stress guy with fire axe, but I do remember the one-eyed tentacled monster. The episode was the bringers of wonder and was one of the better ones.

#297 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Serge @ 284 - I know! The DVD release of The Lathe of Heaven is pretty messy, but it still recalls the sense of wonder I had oh-so-many years ago, sitting on the sofa in my Grandmother's house in Brooklyn watching it on her elderly Sony Trinitron.

As for Space 1999 I was too young to recognize it for the junk it was, so I loved it. Especially Maya, the shapeshifter. She was very hot to the pre-adolescent version of myself.

I never understood the jumpsuits with the zippers on their sleeves, though.

#298 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:16 PM:

Serge 294: Of course! I also remember the rumors that its existence was responsible for the first movie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being titled Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

#299 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:18 PM:

My favorite Space: 1999 moment was in an episode where some unseen aliens, not wishing humans to land on their planet, drop some machines on the Moon that generate an atmosphere. Upon seeing this, the gang just slides one of the command center's portholes open to breathe in the pure air. Without first having to unlock it.

#300 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:34 PM:

Xopher @ 298... I also heard that. I should probably buy the DVD of Charly, but my wife absolutely hates it. The ending isn't exactly cheerful, that's true.

#301 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:35 PM:

I wonder if, watching Questor Tapes again, I'd find it as good as I remember it to be.

#302 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:42 PM:

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Star Cops (or did I miss the reference?).

#303 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 08:08 PM:

Charly? Wasn't that Flowers for Algernon? I don't know if I ever saw the movie... but I first read that story as a small child, and more recently used it occasionally as a text when teaching high school kids with learning disabilities. It resonated well with them.

Here's a question about David Lynch's Dune. It holds a special place in my heart because I saw it before I read the novel, and I saw it when I was young, maybe 12, and it was one of my first skiffy experiences (love that adjective!) This was about 20 years ago, and I distinctly remember the movie being loooooong. Like, 4-6 hours long (with commercials), and I remember scenes, like seeing the baby worms in their drowning tanks, that I never saw again when I found the movie again later on in life. Does anyone else remember a super-long extended version?

#304 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 11:50 PM:

Kouredios...

Charly indeed is Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon. There is the short story, which I think is better than the novel, probably because of the latter's dilution of the story's impact. As for the movie, there was the aforementionned movie of 1968, with Cliff Robertson, which I think Keyes wasn't happy with, for some reason. There was another movie version about 10 years ago, which stuck closer to the novel, but it was OK. And it didn't have the earlier movie's score by Ravi Shankar.

About David Lynch's Dune... The 1984 movie wasn't 4 hours long although there were times when it felt like it was. When it was released on TV in 1988 (?), they added stuff back in. Maybe that's what you saw. Or was it the miniseries released on the SciFi Channel in 2000?

#305 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 11:55 PM:

Fragano @ 302... Star Cops... With David Calder as the cop in charge of security on a Moon base, right? PBS showed that about a decade ago, and I wish somebody would release it on DVD. Yes, it's available in Europe, but my player couldn't handle it. Who knows? Somebody released The Champions for North-America in 2006 so why not Star Cops eventually?

#306 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 07:37 AM:

Serge, yes. 1984 sounds about right. No, I avoided the Sci Fi channel version. What I did see of it made me scream.

And there being both a short and long version of Flowers for Algernon makes sense now too, since I remember reading a short story out of a collection at my grandma's house when I was...probably about the same age as I saw Dune. It was really the only thing to read at her house, and I read it over and over.

#307 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 08:40 AM:

Kouredios @ 306... It was really the only thing to read at her house

Spoken like a true word nerd. We have have to have something to read and, in desperation, we'll read the text in the back of a Rice Kripies box if that's all that's available.

As for Lynch's Dune as expanded on TV, what was it that made you scream? I never could make it thru the whole thing myself, due to some problems I had with the original movie version.

("Huh... Muad'dib... Not that I'd think of questioning your wisdom, but did you have to make it rain? All the worms are dying... Oh, and you just destroyed star travel in the process... Just saying...")

#308 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Oh, no. The expanded Lynch hooked me. The skiffy channel version frightened me. I think it was the acting, primarily. *shivers* But then, I didn't give it enough of a chance to know for sure...

#309 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 10:41 AM:

kouredios... You should try the SciFi Channel's miniseries of Dune. True, William Hurt acted the way he did in Lost in Space, meaning, like he didn't want to be there, but that was just him. I liked the costume design too, although I question dressing up the Bene Gesserit as if they were Southern Belles.

#310 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 12:00 PM:

I did recently reconsider and put it on the Netflix queue...but it's pretty low on the list right now. *g*

#311 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Serge @ 309

Another good thing about the miniseries was that it treated the political machinations as seriously as the other aspects of the story. I thought Lynch's version was way too deep into the Baron's perversion and not so much in the Guild or the Emperors maneuverings.

Yes, I liked the costumes and sets, too. And some of the CGI work was nice. It was even better in the sequel, which was based on "Dune Messiah" and "Children of Dune".

#312 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Kouredios #306 and Serge #307: Too true. I remember once being on a babysitting job and literally the only thing in the house to read, outside of that day's newspaper, was a horrible porn bestseller called The Betsy. And I read it. From cover to cover.

I was 14 years old at the time. That could have been counted as child abuse. :-)

#313 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Lee @ 312... Was it good for you too?

#314 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Speaking of David Lynch's Dune... If you look closely at the scene where the Third-Stage Navigator meets with the Emperor, watch the background as the Navigator's big tank approaches and you'll notice a First-Stage Navigator falling on his face.

#315 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Serge @ 313

Chalk up yet another liquid moment. I sprayed my keyboard with coffee when I read that. Good thing I was turned away from the prototype hardware at the time. Maybe we should put warning labels on posts: "Warning: may be hazardous to your keyboard".

#316 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 315... I think Xopher called such posts YOMANKs, as in 'You Owe Me A New Keyboard'.

#317 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 05:41 PM:

One blog I recently visited at James Nicoll's behest (thelawdogfiles.blogspot.com) calls it a "Class I Beverage Alert".

#318 ::: Karl Kindred ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 07:27 PM:

Two things:

First, I realize most people dismiss it as mindless zombie horror move schlock, but I REALLY liked "28 Days Later." And if "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (which I enjoyed) is SF based on premise, then 28DL can't be far off the mark either. And it had logical zombies; come on, is there anything better?

Second, I'd really like to see a decent production of Clark's "The City and the Stars" (and yes, I do mean the newer version and not the prior "Against the Fall of Night" storyline). THAT would probably make my top 25 some day.

Also, for a list of the best SF, this is hideously short on great videogames. Regardless of what you think about the series as a whole (or even videogames as a form of entertainment), Final Fantasy VII was beautiful, epic and full of the kinds of SF moments that a whole generation will remember.

...And Buffy, B5 and Stargate are all missing from the list as well. I guess that was more than two things. Oh well.

#319 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 08:03 PM:

Serge 316: Much as I wish that had been original with me, I got it from someone else here. Unfortunately I can't remember who. Or whom.

#320 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 08:43 PM:

And it had logical zombies; come on, is there anything better?

Uh, +5 zombie killing weapon?

#321 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 01:18 AM:

How about a +5 zombie unkilling weapon?

#322 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:19 AM:

Two comments:

1) Very US-centric list. I'd be adding in some lesser known British gems, such as "UltraViolet" and "Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

2) I'd go for the past 30 years - that allows me to slide in a couple more British ones - "Blake's 7" and "The Day of the Triffids".

I'll gladly second the calls for "Dark City", which was lovely the one time I saw it; also "The City of Lost Children". I'd also put "Ghost in the Shell" and "Akira" onto the list (even if both of them do rather weird me out - I just put that effect down to me not being Japanese). Another second for "Babylon 5".

But I'm completely astounded that nobody has mentioned "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (either of the BBC series - radio or television). It was the trigger for a lot of new fans (certainly I can remember people in high school talking about it a lot) and it also had so much fun in parodying the genre.

It appears this is a list designed to act as a trigger for bloggers to say "WTF were you thinking?!?" and start creating lists of their own. If this is the case, it's fulfilled its purpose.

Oh, and Epacris (@165) - It's not that a lot of people own "multi-region" DVD players - it's that DVD players in Australia are *purposely* not locked to the region system. Thank Dr Alan Fels for that one (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) - his mob looked at the region system (which, for reasons known *only* to the large media distributors, puts Australia in the same region as Brazil, Argentina and Peru... gee, thanks guys) and decided that the main reason the blasted thing would be used was to restrict what was available. Since part of their rationale is to *extend* consumer choice, rather than restrict it, the ACCC had no hesitation in saying "no" to region locking, with the happy result that I have a nice cheap DVD player which plays things from regions 4, 1 and 2 without so much as blinking.

This means I can do things like order things from the UK (such as the "Sharpe" series) rather than waiting for the item to reach the shelves here in .au (I was really annoyed when I was able to buy the UK DVD of "Once Upon a Time In Mexico" while the film was still in its cinema run here - the question which leapt violently to mind was "how dumb do you think we are?"). It's good for more "fringe" interests (such as the aforementioned "Sharpe" series, which I don't think actually got played on .au TV) or films which didn't quite make a huge selling (such as "The Prophecy"). If I had to wait for things to get put out on region 4 DVDs, I'd be waiting one hell of a long time for some of them.

(PS: Terence Stamp played the transexual character in "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert")

#323 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:28 AM:

"How about a +5 zombie unkilling weapon?"

then the strategy would be to get in a room with a narrow door, and when the zombie horde tries to get through unkill the first one. And then keep doing that.

#324 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 10:29 AM:

kouredios... Want to borrow my DVD set of the Dune mini-series?

#325 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Meg Thornton @ 322... his mob looked at the region system (which, for reasons known *only* to the large media distributors, puts Australia in the same region as Brazil, Argentina and Peru... gee, thanks guys)

I wonder if that's why the only DVD I could find of 1980's Flash Gordon was from Brazil. The film was in English ("Hi! I'm Flash Gordon, from the New York Jets!"), but the interface was in Portugese.

#326 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:49 PM:

Rob Rusick @252: Chapter and verse will require a little more digging, which I won't even start on until I've had some sleep [..]

ajay @253: [..] I think More Research Is Indicated, as the scientists say. I'll try and dig out my copy.

I actually did get started on this before I went to bed, going up into the attic and digging up my own copy. If I may pat myself on the back for a moment, when I salted this batch of books away, I was clever enough to have labeled the boxes, and make a list of what books were going into which boxes (having thought to do this from previous experience trying to find a particular book, even when boxes had helpful subjects labels such as 'Art and architecture'). The Stars My Destination turned out to be the first book in the first box of SF hardcovers (and not the copy I was expecting; apparently I gave away my first paperback copy). I also dug out my copy of Starlight, but I could not find any detail there on the author's intent for Gully Foyle.

So I'm ready to start with Chapter and verse. The evidence is still thin, but doesn't convince me that I'm wrong. My hardcover copy was printed by Franklin Watts (1987). I'm giving page numbers so anyone following at home can find their way relative to the chapter starts.


Physical descriptions of Gully Foyle
Chapter One (pg 14):

As Foyle passed the door he had a quick view of himself reflected in the polished chrome of the leaf . . . Gully Foyle, a giant black creature, bearded, crusted with dried blood and filth, emaciated, with sick, patient eyes . . . (pg 17)

I thought of putting this under 'Suggestive' below. He is wearing a spacesuit as he is described here, but the spacesuit is neither bearded or crusted with blood.


Chapter Three (pg 28): Gully Foyle runs out into the Presteign shipyards with a bomb, attempting to blow up the Vorga:

Presteign watched the B-3 pit. A figure appeared, dashing swiftly toward the pit, veering, dodging, bulling forward. It was a giant man in hospital blues with a wild thatch of black hair and a distorted face that appeared, in the distance, to be painted in livid colors. (pg 41)


Chapter Seven (pg 80): This is the strongest contraindication to my thesis . . . but it doesn't convince me I'm wrong.

Jisabella and Foyle have returned to the asteroid of The Scientific People looking for the Nomad, and Foyle contronts their leader Joseph*:

And Jisabella, looking at Foyle, cried out in horror. The old tattooing had returned to his face, blood red against the pallor of the skin, scarlet instead of black, truly a tiger mask in color as well as design. (pg 84)

* To do Bester right, I would have to replace the 'o' in 'Joseph' with the symbol for Mars.

A little later, Jisabella seeks to anger Foyle, and then holds up a mirror so he can see what she saw:

He saw the old tattoo marks flaming blood-red under the skin, turning his face into a scarlet and white tiger mask. (pg 85)

You would think that should be the end of it, but Bester is a master of misdirection (recall how he used the code book in 'The Demolished Man'). Pallor, according to the dictionary utility I use, is described as: Unnatural lack of color in the skin (as from bruising or sickness or emotional distress). He had just recently been unbandaged from a major procedure on his face. This is not his natural skin tone.


Chapter Twelve (pg 135): Olivia Presteign (who is blind) begs her father to describe 'Fourmyle':

"What's he like, father? Tell me. What's he look like to you?"

"He is big. Tall, very dark, rather enigmatic."


Metaphorical descriptions of Gully Foyle
Chapter Six (pg 69): Foyle talks under the anesthesia, and reveals that there is 20 million in platinum bullion he plans to salvage from the Nomad:

"I'll kill him," Jisabella said. "I'll tear him apart with my own two hands and you won't find anything inside his carcass but black rot." (pg 75)


Suggestive
Chapter Six (pg 69): Jisbella enlists Harley Baker, M.D., to deal with Foyle's tattoo. She described what they had tried up to them to cover the tattoo:

"We tried makeup but that didn't work. The damned tattooing showed through. Then I bought a dark skin-surrogate and sprayed it on."

"Did that do it?"
"No", Jiz said angrily. "You have to keep your face quiet or else the surrogate cracks and peels. Foyle couldn't control himself." (pg 70)
Dark skin surrogate because it would better cover the tattooing, or because it was the appropriate match for his skin tone? If it was only to cover the tattooing on his face, would they have had to spray his hands also? And how would you expect the surrogate on his hands not to crack?


Chapter Eleven (pg 121): Foyle (passing himself off as Fourmyle) had encountered Jisabella for the first time after abandoning her to Dagenham's forces at The Scientific People's asteroid settlement. She has appeared at a swank event hosted by Presteign, as Dagenham's date. He assumes that she has already exposed him, but takes her out onto the dance floor, and while they dance they both parry and catch up. She tells him that Presteign, Dagenham, and Intelligence are looking for the PyrE which had been shipped on the Nomad. He has it (even figured this exotic material must be what they have been interested in), but does not know what it is, and asks her. She responds:

"I've got an idea. And I could tell you, Gully, but I won't." The fury in her face was luminous. "I'm running out on you, this time. I'm leaving you to hang helpless in the dark. See what it feels like, boy! Enjoy!" (pg 128)
This is a voice of the 1950s, rather than the 25th century . . . but the writer writes for his audience.


Chapter Eleven: Robin negotiates with Foyle, offering a piece of information she had withheld, in exchange for her freedom from him. He accepts, but immediately reneges, as he wants her assistance in romancing Olivia Presteign:

She leaped to her feet in a blaze of fury. "You're in love with her? Olivia Presteign? In love with that white corpse!" The bitter fury of her telesending was a startling revelation to him. "Ah, now you have lost me. Forever. Now I'll destroy you!" (pg 135)
We have had every reason to believe up to that point that Robin detests Foyle: he has raped her and blackmailed her. When they witness the apparition of The Burning Man (pg 112, concluding Chapter Nine), she tells him it is "Gully Foyle [..] burning in hell." Yet here is this passionately jealous reaction. I think this is in part writing to the audience of the 1950s; who else could a black girl love but a black man? And Olivia is as 'white' as a woman could be; an albino.


Race in the 25th century
Chapter Three (pg 28): Robin Wednesbury is introduced and described as [..] a tall, lovely Negro girl [..].


Chapter Four (pg 42): Peter Y'ang-Yeovil is introduced:

Captain Peter Y'ang-Yeovil of Central Intelligence was a lineal descendant fo the learned Mencius and belonged to the Intelligence Tong of the Inner Planets Armed Forced. For two hundred years the IPAF had entrusted its intelligence work to the Chinese who, with a five thousand-year history of cultivated subtlety behind them, had achieved wonders. Captain Y'ang-Yeovil was a member of the dreaded Society of Paper Men, an adept of the Tientsin Image Makers, a Master of Superstition, and fluent in the Secret Speech. He did not look Chinese.


Chapter Ten (pg 112): Foyle had tracked down one of his leads, Dr. Sergei Orel:

He was short, swarthy, and olive-eyed, recognizably Russian by his name alone. More than a century of jaunting had so mingled the many populations of the world that racial types were disappearing. (pg 114)


Chapter Fifteen (pg 171): Speaking to Foyle from the future, Robin reveals herself as "Robin Wednesbury that was [..] Robin Yeovil that is" (pg 186), and that she has forgiven Foyle.


While introducing Robin earlier in the book as a Negro, Bester undercuts his later descriptions of race. Race is seen as irrelevant. I think this is meant to be subversive of race-conscious 1950's America.

I hadn't been able to find anything written by Bester or about Bester that addressed this (and I'm certain I'd read something asserting his intent that Gully Foyle was black), but I'll go with what I have for now.

#327 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Serge @324. Hmm...tempted. Why don't I just kick it to the top of the netflix queue, which will probably take about the same amount of time. I'll let you know what I think, for sure.

#328 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Meg 322: I loved Ultraviolet, except for the ending, which I thought was a copout on the nice moral ambiguities of the rest of the series. At one point, my friend said "Oh, they're going to kill him now," and I asked him "You mean the bad guys, or the vampires?"

#329 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:02 PM:

kouredios @ 327... Should you change your mind, you know how to reach me.

#330 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 04:38 PM:

*face-smite*

Talking about fantasy movies, the amnesia just deserted me, and I recalled two that have to go near the top of my list: "Neverwhere" and "Carnivale".

And in other Neil Gaiman news*, I've just found out that the release date for "Stardust" is 10 August, and that it's listed as "complete". Also, the production company is Bonaventura, which holds the option for "The Stars My Destination". I"m going to be either very happy, or very annoyed come August, as "Stardust" is one of my very favorite Gaiman stories, and if they do well by it, that bodes well for the Bester.

* This may not have been news to you; I haven't been tracking movie news for a while now.

#331 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Doesn't Morgan Freeman hold the rights to Rendez-vous with Rama, and in fact has been for a few years?

#332 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Waitwaitwait...there was a movie of Neverwhere? *looks frantically*

Oh, a UK miniseries. No wonder I didn't see it. No one in the US has the godsdamned sense to broadcast anything even marginally intelligent, let alone...*subsides muttering*

Well, I expect I can rent it or get it on DVD or something.

#333 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Xopher @ 332... Actually, PBS showed Neverwhere a few years ago, and it is available on DVD. Also, unless I'm mistaken, the mini-series came before the novel.

#334 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Xopher, you can get "Neverwhere" from netflix, or buy the DVD from just about anywhere. I rented it first and decided I had to have my own copy; I watch it about once every year or so.

#335 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Serge @ 331

It's listed as "announced" at IMDB, and Morgan Freeman is the only cast member listed. They don't list who bought the option. There's a team of screenwriters listed, so they're probably still in the writing stage. Release is listed as 2009, that and a cup of coffee will keep you awake for awhile.

#336 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Anyone seen a TV series called "Masters of Science Fiction"? According to IMDB, they are going to air a production of Heinlein's "Jerry was a Man" in July.

#337 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 06:38 PM:

I've got the Neverwhere DVDs. Actually, one of my professors has them. I need to give her back her book on Samuel Johnson and get my DVDs back. She definitely got the better end of that deal.

Serge, it turns out the Dune miniseries is 3 DVDs and I only get 2 at a time from Netflix. I think I'll take you up on your generous offer.

#338 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 07:08 PM:

kouredios... Just email your address to me and it shall be done. Want to borrow the 2nd miniseries while you're at it?

#339 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 11:13 PM:

#326 Rob Rusik: Most of that seems pretty circumstantial and subject to interpretation. I still can't get a black Gully Foyle to work in my head. My problem, is, basically, that if you take black skin and add a blush of red under it you get...black skin. If the tattoo removal took enough of the pigment out that the red would be visible, it would be visible all the time--just white instead of red. I do admit, though, red and black would be much more tigery than red and white.

Maybe Bester thought of him as multi-racial--I'd buy a swarthy Foyle. That would make sense, really, in Bester's racially-blurred world. (IIRC, he mentions Robin Wednesday's race precisely because it's so rare for anyone to have one at all.)

#340 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Gnnngh! Coming back here after a busy Saturday, then making dinner and so on, tonight I find that I somehow put the post below in the wrong thread, discussing Philip K. Dick, including films of his works, instead of here. <sigh> Hopes my mind comes back one day. <takes breath> "This time for sure" …

Has anyone else seen the just-released film Sunshine? I was in part pleased and impressed, with niggles, and also disappointed and puzzled, if intrigued, in other parts. There are some very obvious references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, also Alien, and I suspect other film references for the trainspotter. This review is a reasonable, unspoilered, encapsulation.
It was certainly a lot more interesting and enjoyable than many 'science fiction' films over the last decade or two have been for me.

#341 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Considering the meanmeanmean reactions I got for liking Wing Commander, maybe I shouldn't say this, but... but... but... I liked The Postman AND Waterworld.

#342 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 07:01 PM:

Serge, #313: Please tell me that didn't mean you're the author in disguise!

If not, then the answer is, "Not as good^H^H^H^H interesting as the one with succubi that I managed to read part of off the grocery-store rack at age 12."

#343 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 07:29 PM:

Lee @ 342... Nope. I wasn't the author whose naughty work corrupted you at a tender age. I also am not an author at all, nor have I ever played one on television, but I am married to one.

#344 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 08:01 PM:

Serge @ 341

I'll be merciful; I sort of liked "The Postman", too. Consider me heaping faint praise on it. Um ... maybe I should make that faint damns, to fit the saying? It was OK, but it could have been better, and would have been if they'd followed Brin's story a little more closely.

#345 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 09:12 PM:

#344: The Postman (the novel) consisted of one truely great short story, one OK one, plus a tedious contrieved (IMHO) last half. I think Costner's adaptation avoided some of the sillier aspects of the novel (cyborgs), but added some schmaltzy stuff I didn't care for.

I think it's heart was in the right place, though, and Brin's incandescent disgust with would-be warlords and white supremacists survived intact. The movie didn't deserve the scorn it's recieved.

#346 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:22 PM:

Someone just sent me an e-mail asking to set up a face-to-face meeting with a telepresence company. Is that the ultimate irony, or what?

I thought the novel was a nasty argument for the fueherprincip. I'm sure it's a very popular novel in the Bush Administration.

#347 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Bruce Cohen... Sure, The Postman was shmaltzy. But, as Stefan said, the movie's heart was in the right place. I personally don't think that having the cyborgs would have been silly, but it might have heaped too much onto the movie, which instead went to the essence of the story.

As for Waterworld... Take away evil Dennis Hopper and you have a movie with beautiful moments, like when the Mariner stops hating everybody and teaches he kid how to swim. Oh, and by the way, the expanded version's ending is quite a downer. In the original theatrical release, after the Mariner takes a handful of people to the only island he knows of, he leaves to look for other places like it. The expanded version has the camera pull back until it shows a plaque left there a long time ago by Sir Edmund Hillary.

#348 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 01:43 PM:

#326: Rob, thank you for doing the donkey work so the rest of us don't have to. It's not clear, as you note, but I don't think the evidence supports a black Gully Foyle. At least, not very black.

#349 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 03:59 PM:

just rented "Stranger than Fiction" this weekend, the one where Will Ferell's character hears the voice of some author who is writing his life's story, and then announces in third person omniscient that he's going to die. It wasn't... great, but it was well worth a rental. may be worth a matinee, if you're in the mood for it.

Not sure how much my liking of the story had to do with the quality of the story and how much it had to do with my identification with the author's craziness and with Will's geekiness.

Don't know if I'd call it SF, maybe just weird.

#350 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:08 PM:

Greg London #349: I never caught Stranger Than Fiction, but the concept is pretty much identical to that of The Comforters, Muriel Spark's first novel (incidentally, one of the few novels I've ever read that I thought would be impossible, not to mention pointless, to film). I'm sure the execution is quite different, but the central conceit of someone hearing their life narrated as by an author is the same. It's one of the very best novels I've ever read.

#351 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:22 PM:

For Gully Foyle.
I find it interesting that there has to be hard evidence of a character's ethnic group in the first place and that if it's not spelled out with big highlighted specific words then the perceived default is white. If we're not told up front the character is black then they must be white.


#352 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:22 PM:

ethan, at some point, I was wondering whether the plot could be traced back to something BCE. I could imagine one of the Greek gods narrating someone's life and then the person somehow overheard it. Just another version of third person omniscient, after all.

#353 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:56 PM:

tw,

I find it interesting that there has to be hard evidence of a character's ethnic group in the first place and that if it's not spelled out with big highlighted specific words then the perceived default is white. If we're not told up front the character is black then they must be white.

like neil gaiman's anansi boys. apparently some readers got through the whole book without realizing that the protagonists/antagonists are both black (as are almost all of the rest of the characters).

(i got it right away, but i was helped by the fact that i was listening to it by audiobook. but i think the first time i realized it was when the author (he later said it was on purpose, & that he borrowed the device from nalo hopkinson) described a minor character as "white.")

one reader said in comments on gaiman's blog, "i guessed spider was black, because he's suave & he raps. but charlie [his brother] is so nerdy & uptight i was sure he was white [big smiley]." or words to that effect. aargh.

so the book is partly about (i don't think this is a spoiler) what if your dad is the trickster god & you are a straitlaced nice-boy computer programmer who can't stand to sing in public?

but that comment made me wonder if the whole dad-is-the-trickster-god is somewhat a metaphor for being black/caribbean in the uk & the us, where you'd just better be self-assured, witty, & extroverted?

#354 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:13 PM:

The Right Stuff isn't SF, but it is about some things that are very much of concern to this field.

#355 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:33 PM:

Miriam Beetle #353: It was instantly obvious to me that Fat Charlie and the majority of the characters with whom he interacts are black (the trick was the relationship between Spider and Fat Charlie), especially when his father was the Wednesday Spider himself (or Himself, one should be very careful about gods). That, however, is because I know Anansi as 'Nancy'.

#356 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:47 PM:

fragano,

i also read american gods before i read anansi boys. you never know with gods (see: blue-eyed jesus) & their aspects, but i guess i was probably going into the book expecting the sons to be black.

which makes the reactions of some neil gaiman fans all the more perplexing.

#357 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 09:41 PM:

Miriam Beetle #356: One of the oddest things I've seen is the stained glass window in the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, which contains a Christ who looks to me very Central Casting Scottish.

Some people, apparently, are never satisfied.

#358 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 02:40 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 355

I thought everyone knew him as Nancy.

#359 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 04:43 AM:

I find it interesting that there has to be hard evidence of a character's ethnic group in the first place and that if it's not spelled out with big highlighted specific words then the perceived default is white. If we're not told up front the character is black then they must be white.

Not really, no. If I'm reading about a character called Raghesh Rajkumar, and his ethnic group is never mentioned, I'm not going to assume he's white. Same for Wu Xiaohong or Titus Naikuni.
But if I'm reading about a character with the name of Foyle, I'm going to think "Well, everyone I've ever met called Foyle is white; so I'm going to assume Gully Foyle is white too." If I'm reading about a nonspecified character with a typically white name, I'm going to assume he's white.

#360 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 08:00 AM:

ajay @ 359... Don't most people, no matter what their own ethnic group is, make that same assumption? And if someone is simply referred to as 'Foyle', don't most women as well as most men assume that the character's gender is male - until he/she refers to 'his' or 'her' car?

#361 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 358

Well, I knew him (under admittedly unusual circumstances) as Nathalie, but all that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.

#362 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Bruce Cohen #358: Ghanaians don't. Some West Indians don't. Jamaicans do.

#363 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 01:48 PM:

ajay #359: On that argument you'd assume that Rosa Parks was white. I'm not sure that works.

#364 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 09:36 PM:

After Rob Rusick dissected The Stars My Destination in #326, I dropped a note to Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein. Some years ago, they combed over both the British and the American editions of the novel and pieced together the closest possible restoration of Bester's intent. (See Dave Langford's discussion for some of the typographic problems.) Few alive are more intimately familiar with the novel.

The word from Casa Eisenstein: Gully Foyle is not black. As Rob found, there's no substantial evidence in the book, and the conjecture runs into trouble with Gully's tattoo.

#365 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Re #326 and #364: Went to basement, checked Bester's autobiographical essay in Hell's Cartographers. He devotes several pages to the genesis of TSMyD but does not mention Gully Foyle's color.

(Tangentially, I realize that Bester must have written a ton of nonfiction for Holiday over 25 years. I wonder what it's like. Might make a good collection.)

#366 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:25 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 365: There was one piece from Holiday collected in a (sort of) recent Bester short story omnibus (Redemolished, that was it. It also had a fascinating, if wisely-cut foreword from Stars My Destination that provided a little bit more world-building.) It was a piece explaining what vacationing in space would be like, once that industry got off the ground. I recall it had an interesting bit on zero-g cooking.

#367 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 05:59 AM:

363: On that argument you'd assume that Rosa Parks was white. I'm not sure that works.

I would indeed - if I'd never heard of her before. Also the Rev. Dr Martin L. King. I didn't say it was a perfect heuristic. But given that most people in the world with names like "King" and "Parks" are white, I think it's the best one I can get.

#368 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 08:00 AM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey @364: As Rob found, there's no substantial evidence in the book [..]

I thought the line "He is big. Tall, very dark, rather enigmatic" appearing late in the book, fairly straightforward.

I am not black, so I can't reference my own skin as how it might react to scarring. I do have a sort of birthmark running down the center of my face, which would show when I was laughing vigorously, for instance. Otherwise not noticeable. I imagine that it would show, even if I were black. It was never 'blood red vivid', but if it were, I would think it would certainly show on black skin.

Bester may have been describing something grounded in reality (some account or other he read of), or he may have been going with a fictional contrivance.

#369 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 08:50 AM:

T.W at #351 wrote:

> For Gully Foyle.
I find it interesting that there has to be hard evidence of a character's ethnic group in the first place and that if it's not spelled out with big highlighted specific words then the perceived default is white. If we're not told up front the character is black then they must be white.

I agree with your comment in general, but for the specific case of _The Stars My Destination_, it is a critical plot point that tattoos show up well on Gully Foyle's skin - in fact, more so: the flush of broken capillaries (from his tattoo removal) shows up extremely well. This puts at least some limits on his possible ethnicity.

#370 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 09:49 AM:

#368 Bob Rusick: I thought the line "He is big. Tall, very dark, rather enigmatic" appearing late in the book, fairly straightforward.

"Dark," in fiction of that era, referred mostly to hair color (and every now and then some swarthiness of skin, especially in villains). The excerpts posted earlier support dark hair, dark beard, pallid skin.

Think of the cliche phrase "tall, dark, and handsome." Think "romance novel hero." Then think about what book Bester took as his model.

#371 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 01:19 PM:

On the whole "races in sf" subthread -

I write fanfiction, and one of the OCs I've created in the Blake's 7 universe is a biochemist of Indian (subcontinental) origin. Her name is Tirren Phale (because I got the name first, and the ethnicity second) and she actually speaks in my head with the same sort of SRP accent that the rest of the B7 cast uses. She only lapsed into "Industani" in one story so far, and that's purely for the purposes of blending in. Another OC is an ex-slave smuggler who is strongly Australian in attitude and manner (to the point of being identifiably so in print), but I've yet to mention either her skin colour or any other details about her except her height (she's about the same height as Avon, minus maybe an inch or so). I have a suspicion she may well wind up being either of Asian or Aboriginal Australian heritage, probably both combined, with a bit of Caucasian thrown in for good measure. Genuine Aussie Heinz, in other words.

My point with both of these characters is that race as we understand it today is something which really doesn't appear to matter in the B7 world. There's one canon black character, and there's no real bones made about her colour (the actress got more problems from the directors than from the scripts). Gender tends to be more of a discriminatory factor than colour in the universe of B7, and this is why I think a lot of my OCs in this universe tend to be female. (Well, that and the fact that I think I have problems writing believable male characters).

I've noticed that the whole "race" issue is one which does tend to be treated well in most futuristic fiction. Shall we deal with the issues of gender and sexual preference instead?

#372 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 01:22 PM:

#370 DaveL: Think of the cliche phrase "tall, dark, and handsome." Think "romance novel hero." Then think about what book Bester took as his model.

And then, to do due devil's advocacy, think of the ethnicity of *that* book's author. At which point stuff gets way too tangled for me.

I vaguely remember reading various issues of Holiday in the early/mid 60s, and hadn't quite twigged that Alfred Bester, SF author (whom I mostly hadn't read anyway at that point, being rather young) and Alfred Bester, Holiday editor, were one and the same person. I do recall that the editorials seemed to be well-written and had something that could be described as a Voice.

#373 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:31 PM:

joann: good catch. Alexandre Dumas, the most popular and most successful black author in history.

#374 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Steve 369,
Well that conclusion and reasoning does work if all your experiences are that only light skin scars like that.
For me I have seen too much variety of birth marks and scaring on different skin types first hand, let alone a lot of tribal marking photo's in reference material, and know it doesn't have to be light skin to look like that description.

#375 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 03:22 PM:

ajay #373: Or the most popular and most successful multiracial writer in history...

#376 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 03:27 PM:

ajay #367: Given the large number of black, Asian, Hispanic and multiracial people with European names, I'm not sure that is a good approach.

(I seem to recollect a novel with a character named 'Robert E. Lee' from Virginia, who was a Chinese-American.)

#377 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 03:52 PM:

fragano said,

I seem to recollect a novel with a character named 'Robert E. Lee' from Virginia, who was a Chinese-American.

the majority of lees in the world are undoubtedly chinese. does that you are sure, ajay, that anyone with the last name of "lee" is chinese until you see hard evidence otherwise?

on kind of that subject, i had a rabbi chinn, growing up. two n's, & not vaguely chinese. but i think he got double takes a lot (even his name & title without the man was probably confusing to many; chinese jews are pretty rare).

#378 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 03:54 PM:

urg. does that mean you are sure. sorry.

#379 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:12 PM:

miriam beetle #377: And all of the Chinn's I've come across have been black (as opposed to the Chins).

For that matter, we might consider this gentleman. His name? Donald Keith Duncan.

#380 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:31 PM:

fragano,

And all of the Chinn's I've come across have been black

huh! i never heard of a chinn besides my rabbi &, you know, his kids. & he's eastern european all the way, as far as i know.

& now that i'm on the subject, it's always a weird little buzz when i visit san francisco & see banners for the reelection of (councilman?) ed jew. a chinese guy, of course. if his family had come to the states more recently, it would probably be jiu.

#381 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:32 PM:

And, Fragano, let's not forget Michael Clarke Duncan. He's a comic-book fan too.

#382 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Miriam Beetle #380: It's amazing the names that we come across. I do happen to know a Chinese-American named Roger Jew, btw.

#383 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Fragano Ledgister & ajay @ #373 and #375,

For the most popular and successful multi-racial writer in history, I think I'd vote for Aleksandr Pushkin. His great-grandfather was Abram Petrovich Gannibal, an African slave who was the favourite of Peter the Great, and who, through his talent for mathematics and engineering, ended up as chief of artillery and fortifications for the entire Russian army.
(Here is an interesting article from the New Statesman about Gannibal's life).

It's hard to match Pushkin's popularity in Russia; it seems like every district of a Russian city has its statue of him, all decked out with roses like a local god.

#384 ::: nike ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 05:14 PM:

I've noticed that the whole "race" issue is one which does tend to be treated well in most futuristic fiction.

No, it isn't.

#385 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 05:35 PM:

How we fill in the blanks tells us a lot about our selves.
The tattoo description doesn't tell me the character's race; it tells me the plastic surgeons in the future suck.

#386 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Jenny #383: You could be right, though my feeling is that Dumas has been more popular.

#387 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 06:06 PM:

#376, #378: Depends on the context. If I'm reading a book set in 17th-century England and there's a character called John Lee, I probably won't assume he's Chinese, because there were very few Chinese men in 17th-century England. If it's set in modern-day Los Angeles, then, yes, I will assume that John is (ethnically) Chinese. (I have a non-Chinese friend with the surname Yeo who suffers from the same problem. Wing is also an English surname as well as a Chinese one; as is Young. )

As I say, I don't think it's a perfect heuristic, but I can't think of a better one. I'm sure there are lots and lots of non-European people with European surnames. But I'm also fairly sure that they are outnumbered in most cases by the European people wwith the same surnames. No doubt there are lots of black people called Kelly. But if I am told that someone called Kelly is waiting for me at the airport, I'm going to look out someone white-skinned and red-haired, wearing a green bowler hat and carrying a pig under one arm* because that's the way the numbers work.


*THIS IS A JOKE

#388 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 06:08 PM:

How we fill in the blanks tells us a lot about our selves.

I've been sitting out the discussion mostly because I haven't read the book in question. And I don't know what race/color/whatever I would think the character in question would be.

I do however disagree with the above.

Theoretically, one starts with no a priori knowledge, accumulates what the author gives them, and determines what they can know with various degrees of certainty (or at least reduce some information to some finite number of possible interpretations, based on some set of ambiguous statements.)

However, were an author to tell me about some character standing out in the rain, I will assume said character is on a planet, and the rain is composed of water, until given some reason to think otherwise.

And I find it tells nothing about me that I assume planet-based-water-composition rain.

Now different readers like different tales, and some like the puzzle challenge that comes from decoding what the author says versus what you assume and actually know. I'm not one of them.

I liked Sixth Sense because my experience assumed Bruce Willis was alive rather than a ghost, and the point at which I realized that Bruce was a ghost was in line with when Bruce realized he was a ghost, and that it was part of the whole story and the story was told from Bruce's point of view.

I didn't like The Prestige because they chopped various things up and mixed them around in time to keep you off your feet, to let you assume incorrect information, but that wasn't how the characters actually experienced it. The viewer's point of view/experience didn't match any of the character's.

But I certainly don't look at my mental image of the old man in "The Old Man and the Sea" and think it's says a damn thing about who I am as a human being.

#389 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 07:07 PM:

ajay #387: You must get surprised quite a bit, then.

(This past semester I had a student named Brendan O'Riley. He's black.)

#390 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 07:13 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @386: I suppose it depends how one defines 'popular'. Certainly Dumas created a free-floating legendary archetype, so I expect many more people world-wide have heard of the Three Musketeers than have heard of Evgeny Onegin. But popular as an author, i.e. with people reading the original texts nowadays, I'm not sure.
(Incidentally, I wasn't aware until I read this thread that Dumas had a Haitian grandmother. Making Light educates me yet again!)

Greg London @388:
However, were an author to tell me about some character standing out in the rain, I will assume said character is on a planet, and the rain is composed of water, until given some reason to think otherwise.

But then, when you're reading any book set in the future, or in an alternative society whose heritage isn't specified, you should probably assume that the characters aren't white until told otherwise, since statistically most of the human race isn't. As in Ursula Le Guin's books.

I admit this may not have any relevance to Gully Foyle: I haven't read the book under discussion either. And I don't think that it necessarily reflects on your attitude to race if you tend to imagine characters as being of the same race as yourself in the absence of any other information. It may be more about self-identification with the characters. I think there was some research that suggested that if, for example, a novelist never mentions the protagonist's hair colour, and the reader forms a mental image of the character, he or she tends to substitute their own hair shade. (I can't remember where I read that so I might be making it up, but it sounds plausible).


#391 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 10:13 PM:

Jenny #390: I think there was some research that suggested that if, for example, a novelist never mentions the protagonist's hair colour, and the reader forms a mental image of the character, he or she tends to substitute their own hair shade.

Perhaps this is the real explanation for the populaity of Darkover?--every redhead on the planet reads it and says "Wow, they finally wrote a book about redheads!"

I myself have something close to what in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Copper Beeches" was called a "peculiar shade of auburn". I'm not entirely sure that all the characters in my reading come out that color. Most of them seem to have dark brown or blond hair.

#392 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 01:03 AM:

It's not just humans where gender is assumed. These are my cats. One is female. Which one?

#393 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 01:10 AM:

Marilee #392: I don't know which one's female, but they're ADORABLE the way they LOVE EACH OTHER!

Also, I totally used to have that same microwave until very recently.

#394 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 01:24 AM:

T.W:

How we fill in the blanks tells us a lot about our selves.
The tattoo description doesn't tell me the character's race; it tells me the plastic surgeons in the future suck.

No it doesn't. What it tells us is that unlicensed doctors trying a procedure for the first time based on a written description they found in a several hundred year old textbook suck.

#395 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 03:03 AM:

ajay @ 387

What, you've never heard of the Black Irish?

#396 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 06:00 AM:

It's not just humans where gender is assumed. These are my cats. One is female. Which one?

The tabby! The tabby!*

What?


To throw in my twopennorth, my mental images usually assume brunettes, although I'm blond. On the other hand, I haven't spent a lot of time looking at my hair since I cut it short ten years ago. I will say that everyone here tends to sound a lot like me when I read you; obviously I'm pleased when I hear myself coming up with interesting and well-informed stuff; on the rare occasions when someone says something foolush, it makes it easy to forgive.


* The tabby looks just like Mog, a friend's cat, who really is female. In fact, I can't think of a male tabby I've met. My experience has reinforced the stereotype dammit.

#397 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 06:21 AM:

You must get surprised quite a bit, then

Not really, no. Where I live, most people's ethnicities seem to correspond fairly well with their names. And I don't often meet people already knowing their name but nothing else about them.

#398 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:10 AM:

Jenny #390: I suppose you're right. Dumas's father, by the bye, was a brigadier general in the army of the First Republic, known to his Austrian enemies as 'die Schwartze Teufel'.

#399 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:11 AM:

T.W at #374 wrote:

> Well that conclusion and reasoning does work if all your experiences are that only light skin scars like that.

To tell the truth I've never seen the phenomenon Bester describes - the ghost of a removed tattoo coming back as a red tattoo shaped blush when the wearer is angry or excited - and I'm not entirely sure I believe it would happen like that, though I'm happy to accept it for the length of a book. Still, as I imagined it, it would be something to see on pale skin. And as for what bester imagined? I have no idea.

#400 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:13 AM:

ajay #397: I see.

#401 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 09:43 AM:

#399: good point. In my limited experience it's the reverse; scar tissue stays white when the skin around it flushes red.

#402 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Jenny@390: But then, when you're reading any book set in the future, or in an alternative society whose heritage isn't specified, you should probably assume that the characters aren't white until told otherwise, since statistically most of the human race isn't. As in Ursula Le Guin's books.

Certainly. And I think it is safe to say that most readers cannot imagine a character without imagining some specifics about them. I think it might even be safe to generalize that the more specific tags a reader has, the more the world can come alive in their mind.*

The alternative is to imagine a faceless, genderless, raceless individual who is going through some nonspecific motions of the story.

And then when the story ends with the line "But that's what it's like being the family dog." you can say "Ah HA! I did not assume the character was human. I WIN!"

But my opinion is that there is some sort of implied agreement between author and reader, that the author not be a dick and withold important information unless it that information is also being witheld from the point of view character.

Which is why I enjoyed the information being witheld in Sixth Sense, but absolutely hated how information was withheld in The Prestige. In Sixth Sense, Bruce didn't know he was a ghost, and we didn't know he was a ghost. In The Prestige, both protaganist and antagonist knew information taht was not presented to the viewer. The reader's view was from Michael Caine's point of view, but Caine's character isn't present for most of the movie, so it isn't a fair to put the reader/viewer into that viewpoint.

Given that implied agreement, I think the author's job is to give sufficient detail such that any specific information that is relevant to the story is given sooner than later, and that any assumptions the reader makes are guided by the author's hints and should be reasonably accurate for most cases.

If the race of a character is ambiguous, then either the author did his job and the character's race is unimportant, or the author failed to do his job and failed to provide sufficient details to the reader.


*: Note that this does not mean infodump. This means finding one or two details that teh author can give the reader so that the reader can fill in all the unsaid information.

#403 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Does anybody remember how early in Delany's Nova we realize that Lorq von Ray is black?

#404 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 11:14 AM:

joann @ #372, et al:

The author's ethnicity notwithstanding, the protagonist of the Dumas novel in question is explicitly described as having black hair and very pale skin. Dumas even wheels out Teresa Guiccioli at one point to remark how much like a Byronic hero he looks.

#405 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 12:14 PM:

Greg london @ 402

I have to agree completely about "Sixth Sense". IMO* the real genius of the script, and in general of Night Shyamalan's work is that many of the mysteries, probably all the important ones, are at the meta-level, and so invisible and impenetrable to the characters in the first place. Sixth Sense is not Willis' character's story at all; he's a plot device for telling it, a sort of frame. The story is about the Haley Osmond character, and the choice he's given about how he will or will not use the power he's got. But we don't know that until we find out what Willis is, and the two surprises taken together reinforce each other.

Note that this does not mean infodump. This means finding one or two details that teh author can give the reader so that the reader can fill in all the unsaid information.

Again, I agree. I'd go farther and say that an author's success in this area often comes from having visualized the entire scene, foreground characters, background, setting, and all, in great detail, such that the details actually given in the story constrain the vision of the reader as much as possible to be consistent with the author's vision.

* Humble? Hah!

#406 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 07:14 PM:

ethan, #393, I don't have that microwave anymore, either! They are cute, but they're also all lying down on a heating pad, which attracts cats.

Neil, #396, you're right! Almost everybody who comes to the house assumes the white one is female. I'll correct them and they still call Giorgio "her." I guess white is associated with female.

#407 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:21 PM:

I guess white is associated with female.

I've heard that theory associated with cars. White car=>female owner.

Dunno if it's got anything to it, but I've heard it.

#408 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 09:39 PM:

ajay @ 387 - Whew, we must be operating under different sterotypes. I'm down with the green bowler, but I'd expect him to have a bottle of Jameson's in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other. (Also a joke.)

Neil Willcox @396 - I dunno. We had tenants who had an enormous, lovable tabby called Gregory. Not female, BTW.

Marilee @ 406 - I don't particularly associate white fur with female cats, but I always feel kind of sorry for male persians. And female bulldogs.

#409 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 11:02 PM:

marilee,

Almost everybody who comes to the house assumes the white one is female. I'll correct them and they still call Giorgio "her." I guess white is associated with female.

also, bizarrely, people associate dogs with male & cats with female. as if they could reproduce asexually.

my boyfriend's parents have always owned cats & dogs. at one point they had one male dog (belgian shepherd), one female dog (collie) & one male cat (black, short-haired). even though they were their own durn pets they would call the cat "she" half the time, & the collie "he" an equal amount of time. only the belgian shepherd's gender remained static.

#410 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:22 AM:

ajay @399
scar tissue stays white when the skin around it flushes red.

When I had set my legs on fire (long story), and the burns healed, the skin was so thin that the burned areas would turn magenta in a hot shower and lavender on a cold day. It took about a year for this effect to disappear.

Now it reacts the same as the rest of my skin. But it's not thick scar tissue.

#411 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:45 AM:

Who knew I had the ability to sex cats over the internet? This makes up for the time on Making Light when I incorrectly sexed a dragon.

I was making assumptions, but in this case my prejudices were working for me - the only white cat I remember meeting was male, and also very stupid indeed. Being white and stupid he was very bad at catching any of the local wildlife.

This has nothing to do with any white cats you may know and love, who I'm sure are as bright as you might want.

#412 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:57 AM:

On the subject of surnames:

Supposedly, everybody with my maiden name can trace his or her common ancestry back to medieval Europe--except the ones in the Philippines, who are no more closely related to us than Adam.

#413 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 05:51 AM:

ajay #387: I realize that your image of a stereotypical Irishman is intended as a joke, but I really must object. Giving a stage Irishman a green bowler hat, or even a drink in each hand as Larry does further down the thread, is all very well, but it is most offensive to Irish people to suggest that this archetypal Paddy would own a pig so stunted and dwarfish that it could be held under one arm.

A real Irishman's pig is big enough to serve as a footstool for a whole family of thirteen at the dinner table, grunting companionably as the children warm their calloused bare feet on his hairy pink hide and toss him the odd tough cabbage stalk or lumpy potato skin from their plates.

If your image of the true, the noble Hibernian is holding something porcine under one arm, it can only be a piglet, probably named "Rashers".

#414 ::: Del ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 06:14 AM:

I was making assumptions, but in this case my prejudices were working for me - the only white cat I remember meeting was male, and also very stupid indeed. Being white and stupid he was very bad at catching any of the local wildlife.

Hence Stupid White Cats, and White Cats Can't Jump.

#415 ::: Del ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 06:18 AM:

I was making assumptions, but in this case my prejudices were working for me - the only white cat I remember meeting was male, and also very stupid indeed. Being white and stupid he was very bad at catching any of the local wildlife.

Hence Stupid White Cats, and White Cats Can't Jump.

#416 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 07:50 AM:

abi @ 410... I had set my legs on fire

Ouch.

#417 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 08:29 AM:

Serge @416
That is a very loose translation of what I said, yes.

#418 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 09:04 AM:

abi @ 417... I can imagine what the Universal Translator had to work with before decanting it to a restrained 'ouch'. Care to tell us what happened? I learned from an early age about the dangers of handling fire. Having your dad tell you that, when he was a boy, he had burned his hair will get thru to the minds of impressionable children.

#419 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 09:26 AM:

Hence Stupid White Cats, and White Cats Can't Jump.

(hands)

(head)

(groan.)

#420 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 09:26 AM:

Hence Stupid White Cats, and White Cats Can't Jump.

(hands)

(head)

(groan.)

#421 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Serge @418
I can imagine what the Universal Translator had to work with before decanting it to a restrained 'ouch'.

Well, about half of it was in Spanish.

What happened was that I spent a long, sunny day on a beach in Spain with a few travelling companions, and got myself a nice case of mild hyperthermia. It was enough to make me stupid.

It was my turn to cook dinner, using a primitive stove made from a couple of tin cans and the usual local fuel (denatured alcohol). We were short of matches, so I built a wee campfire to the side to act as a fire source (the stove burned out frequently).

Being stupid from the heat, I put the plastic bottle of fuel down too close to the fire. After a wee while, it heated up enough and exploded, spraying my legs and hands with flaming alcohol. My sarong, of artificial fibre, caught and melted against the back of my right calf.

Since I was already sitting down, it was no challenge to remember the first two stages of Stop, Drop and Roll. One of my companions came over and patted the flames out as well.

Then we had a language challenge. I had four companions, two blokes from Ecuador and two girls from England. One of the Ecuadoreans and I were able to speak both Spanish and English, but everyone else was a monoglot. And my fellow diglot was off down the beach flirting with one of the Englishwomen. So I had to get Felicity to get my vital documents from the tent and explain to Patricio that we needed the other two back, while addressing the comments of the various locals who were attracted by my piercing screams.

That was not the bad part. The bad part was that we had a 20 minute drive to the nearest source of pain relief. I cannot convey to you how bad that drive was, with 15% partial thickness burns. It hurt worse than childbirth.

I spent 8 days in the hospital after that, improving my Spanish with the assistance of my 12 year old roommate, newly without her appendix.

These are the formative experiences of one's life, I suppose, but I'd rather not do that again.

#422 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 09:40 AM:

abi @ 421... Like I said, ouch and a few additives thrown in.

When the subject of your kids playing with fire comes up, are you planning to recount the whole thing to them and to end with Smokey's "Let that be a lesson to you" ? Having a child discover that even the person in charge of protecting them can make serious mistakes teaches them a valuable lesson. It certainly did that to me.

#423 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 01:13 PM:

The only reliable cat colour stereotype I know is that tortoiseshell/calico cats are female, and even that isn't infallible (a vet student friend of mine knew a male tortoiseshell with Klinefelter's).

#424 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:13 PM:

abi @ 421

What Serge said: "Ouch" + additives. It seems like there are a lot of experiences that in hindsight are educational, entertaining, or amusing, but that you really would rather not have gone through and definitely don't ever want to have again.

I empathize with the pain of the incident. Did I understand correctly that the scars are no longer noticeable? If so I'm glad to hear it.

#425 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Serge & Bruce,

The scars are not really noticeable*; I am mildly tortiseshell** when tanned***. Since vitiligo runs in my family, burn scars are merely a foretaste of the future.

I haven't turned the episode into an instructional fable for the kids, but they know that I was burned at one time. We're pretty humourless about fire safety around the family, and the kids are both such rule-keepers that they haven't needed additional urging.

-----
* but I don't shave the back of my right leg any more.
** although this is not proof that I am female.
*** so not much of a problem, these last 14 years in Scotland

#426 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Moving briefly back toward the topic, my "don't assume" moment came with Manny's skin color in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I think I was about ten when my mother read it to me.

When I figured out that he was black, it subtly changed the way I read.

#427 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:38 PM:

abi... I don't shave the back of my right leg any more

Isn't that an excessive way not to spend time on that? By the way, I wasn't thinking of the scarring, or that your legs were like Liam Neeson's in DarkMan. I was simply thinking of the pain you had to endure.

#428 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Serge,

Actually, my first laugh about the incident (the morning after, in the hospital) was when I realised that the insect bite that had been really bugging me on the back of my left leg was gone. Extreme, but effective.

#429 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:02 PM:

abi @ 428... You really do go for extreme solutions.

#430 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Yeah...another reason not to become a problem to me*.

-----
* joke

#431 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:21 PM:

abi @ 430... Gulp.

#432 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 05:51 PM:

abi @ 430

And everyone thought I was making a joke when I was talking about Library Ninjas! That's why she got the job.

#433 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 09:17 PM:

I have scars and stria. Some of the scars have faded, but some are still white-white against my other skin. The stria, though, is so thin that it shows the color of the tissue underneath, so not only am I red/purple/blue in some places, you can see veins.

#434 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 11:17 PM:

Huh oh... It's scar-comparison time. Harrrr, me lad...

#435 ::: sheila r ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 01:53 AM:

i am blown that farscape was not on ews list of scifi greats. by far the best scifi series ever. also star trek voyager, dark city. i guess what i consider great scifi is different from ew. my list:
1. farscape
2. alien
3. battlestar galactica (present day show)
4. firefly
5. twilight zone (rod serling)
6. the arrival
7. dark city
8. star trek voyager
9. star trek (original series)
10.outer limits
and more which i don't have time to list

#436 ::: sheila r ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 01:53 AM:

i am blown that farscape was not on ews list of scifi greats. by far the best scifi series ever. also star trek voyager, dark city. i guess what i consider great scifi is different from ew. my list:
1. farscape
2. alien
3. battlestar galactica (present day show)
4. firefly
5. twilight zone (rod serling)
6. the arrival
7. dark city
8. star trek voyager
9. star trek (original series)
10.outer limits
and more which i don't have time to list

#437 ::: sheila r ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 01:53 AM:

i am blown that farscape was not on ews list of scifi greats. by far the best scifi series ever. also star trek voyager, dark city. i guess what i consider great scifi is different from ew. my list:
1. farscape
2. alien
3. battlestar galactica (present day show)
4. firefly
5. twilight zone (rod serling)
6. the arrival
7. dark city
8. star trek voyager
9. star trek (original series)
10.outer limits
and more which i don't have time to list

#438 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 07:35 AM:

Sheila, without quarrelling with the quality of the shows/films you list, the idea was "Top 25 SF from the last 25 years" — possibly to relate to the EW audience, which is thought to be on the young side and less likely to be familiar with older series or pictures.

That only takes us back to 1982 (ghu, I feel old), so the original, 1977, Star Wars doesn't make the cut. Alien was 1979 (tho' Aliens in 1986 is in). The original 1960s Star Trek and The Outer Limits are out of contention too. How is that new Eureka TV series going? It sounds on the SF side.

I also loved Farscape, tho' could see it's derivative and silly sides as well (Blake's 7, anyone? a dose of Matrix meds when that blew in, &c.). Part of my love was revelling in the Oz accents of the minor actors and recognising bushland scenes on 'alien' planets (not to mention parts of the Homebush Olympic site masquerading as Florida (!??! ROTFL)), as well as major Aussie actors doing all sorts of odd little roles.
People in New York & California at least are probably well over that happy little shock of recognition of some place onscreen that other places can be a bit starved of.

#439 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 02:10 AM:

Epacris at #438 wrote:

> Part of my love was revelling in the Oz accents of the minor actors and recognising bushland scenes on 'alien' planets (not to mention parts of the Homebush Olympic site masquerading as Florida (!??! ROTFL)), as well as major Aussie actors doing all sorts of odd little roles.
People in New York & California at least are probably well over that happy little shock of recognition of some place onscreen that other places can be a bit starved of.

Too right! It was a hoot to see snow gums in "The Ukraine" in [insert name of Jackie Chan movie], though I missed the English language signs marking Falls Creek ski runs.

One day I've got to see _Queen of the Damned_ - it seems to be universally reviled, but it's got *Melbourne locations*!

#440 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 02:27 AM:

Steve Taylor @ 439

One day I've got to see _Queen of the Damned_ - it seems to be universally reviled, but it's got *Melbourne locations*

You can have my copy if you like. My wife and I like to get trashy movies on sale (this was $5 US as I recall), but this one was just mite too trashy. On the other hand, it did have Claudia Black, so it wasn't all bad.


#441 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Steve Taylor #439: Queen of the Damned ain't universally despised! I love that movie!

It's absolutely terrible from any objective standpoint, but I enjoy the crap out of it. It helps that Stuart Townsend is a dreamy dreamboat.

#442 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Epacris @ 438: People in New York & California at least are probably well over that happy little shock of recognition of some place onscreen that other places can be a bit starved of.

Perhaps true of Manhattan and some bits of LA and San Francisco, but I can say that seeing bits of the outer boroughs pop up was always amusing (e.g. in Goodfellas).

As far as OZ locations go, I recall one scene in Farscape with several major characters driving on a very non-US highway through "Florida". At least they were on the correct (right) side of the road, but the road signs were all facing the wrong way. Certainly they could have fixed that post-production.

I also recall The Matrix making me absolutely crazy because I couldn't figure out what city it was filmed in. It wasn't the US, and the street furniture was wrong for Canada. And it was too modern for the UK. I had to sit through the credits to discover it was (mostly) Sydney. I had no idea that Austrailian cities had so many high-rises, despite knowing that Australia is one of the most urbanized countries on Earth.

#443 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Epacris @ 438... Larry Brennan @ 442... I was rather amused(*), watching The Astronaut Farmer, to notice how all the landscapes that were supposed to be in Texas were all New Mexico locations. In fact, the mountain near which Farmer lands is here in Albuquerque, not that far from my backyard. Mind you, there wasn't much else that was amusing about that movie.

#444 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 06:20 PM:

I remember watching Mission Impossible 2, and being suprised that the city of "Sydney" they were supposed to be in matched up pretty well with the geography of Sydney as I remembered it. I'm sure someone who's spent more than 3 weeks in Sydney can tell us of the glaring errors I will have missed.

If I hadn't known already, the park at the end of Matrix:Revolutions gives away the city for almost anyone who's played tourist there; without checking I think the view of downtown Sydney is something like this, and if they had panned to the right they'd have given the game away.

#445 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Larry 442: The city in the Matrix looked just a little bit wrong somehow...now I know why. That was good. It should look wrong.

#446 ::: meteorplum ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 07:16 PM:

[re: recognizing landscapes]

[snark]
And of course, everyone who's ever spent time in Dallas instantly recognized those famous mountains when watching the X-Files movie.
[/snark]

#447 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 07:17 PM:

Can people tell that the street scenes of Superman returns's Metropolis were filmed in Sydney?

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