- Spirit, Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz)
- The City & the City, China Miéville (Macmillan)
- Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
- Galileo’s Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins)
- Far North, Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber)
- Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding (Gollancz)
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, April 28th at an award ceremony held on the opening night of the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival.
So what do you think of the list? I’m not surprised about The City & the City being in there – Miéville makes most of the lists it seems. I need to get around to reading him some day. There are some tasty covers in that list too. I wonder how much the cover graphics affect the awards?
The British Fantasy Society released it’s long list of books recommended for the 2010 award. Ninety-five books made the list which is the basis for the short list voting that starts in June. The winner will be announced at FantasyCon 2010 which takes place September 17-19.
I’ve linked the books we’ve got in our database already (too few!) and I’ll be adding in the rest (too many!) over the course of the week, same as last time. There are a ton of new authors in this list that are new to WWEnd as well so it may be next week before I’m finished. Wish me luck.
So, what looks good to you? Have you read any of these that you would recommend?
- A Madness of Angels, Kate Griffin (Orbit)
- And God Created Zombies, Andrew Hook (Newcon)
- Audrey’s Door, Sarah Langan (Harpercollins)
- Avilion, Robert Holdstock (Gollancz)
- Bad Things, Michael Marshall (Harpercollins)
- Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)
- Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs (Orbit)
- Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
- Bryant and May On the Loose, Christopher Fowler (Doubleday)
- Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem (Faber & Faber)
- Consorts of Heaven, J.N. Fenn (Gollancz)
- Crack’d Pot Trail, Steven Erikson (Ps)
- Creatures of the Pool, Ramsey Campbell (Ps)
- Deathwish, Rob Thurman (Roc)
- Death’s Daughter, Amber Benson (Ace)
- Destroyer of Worlds, Mark Chadbourn (Gollancz)
- Dragon In Chains, Daniel Fox (Del Rey)
- Drood, Dan Simmons (Quercus)
- Elfland, Freda Warrington (Tor)
- Finch, Jeff Vandermeer (Underland)
- Fire, Kristin Cashore (Gollancz)
- Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket)
- Forever Richard, Sue Dent (Writer’s Cafe)
- Frostbitten, Kelley Armstrong (Orbit)
- Futile Flame, Sam Stone (House of Murky Depths)
- Galileo’s Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson (Harpervoyager)
- Ghost Monster, Simon Clark (Leisure/Robert Hale)
- Gullstruck Island (Us Title: The Lost Conspiracy), Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s)
- Half World, Hiromi Goto (Puffin)
- Hand of Isis, Jo Graham (Orbit)
- Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier (Tor)
- Hellboy: The Ice Wolves, Mark Chadbourn (Dark Horse)
- Ilfayne’s Bane, Julia Knight (Samhain Publishing)
- In Ashes Lie, Marie Brennan (Orbit)
- Irons in the Fire, Juliet Mckenna (Solaris)
- Jasmyn, Alex Bell (Gollancz)
- Living with Ghosts, Kari Sperring (Daw)
- Lord of Silence, Mark Chadbourn (Solaris)
- Makers, Cory Doctorow (Harpervoyager)
- Marcher, Chris Beckett (Dorchester)
- Mister Gum, Rhys Hughes (Dog Horn)
- One, Conrad Williams (Virgin)
- Orcs: Army of Shadows, Stan Nicholls (Gollancz)
- Palimpsest, Catherynne Valente (Spectra)
- Red-Headed Stepchild, Jaye Wells (Orbit)
- Retribution Falls: Tales of the Ketty Jay, Chris Wooding (Gollancz)
- Paradox, Alex Archer (Gold Eagle)
- Seeker’s Curse, Alex Archer (Gold Eagle)
- Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
- Sixty-One Nails, Mike Shevdon (Angry Robot)
- Skin Trade, Laurell K. Hamilton (Headline)
- Slights, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot)
- Snakeskin Road, James Braziel (Bantam)
- Sphinx’s Princess, Esther Friesner (Random House)
- Storm Glass, Maria V. Snyder (Mira)
- The Accord, Keith Brooke (Solaris)
- Broken Arrow, Paul Kane (Abaddon)
- Operation Motherland, Scott Andrews (Abaddon)
- The Ask and The Answer, Patrick Ness (Walker)
- The Awakening, Kelley Armstrong (Harpercollins)
- The City & the City, China Miéville (Macmillan)
- The Cold Kiss of Death, Suzanne Mcleod (Gollancz)
- The Demon’s Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan (Simon & Schuster Children’s)
- The Devil’s Alphabet, Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
- The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan (Gollancz)
- The Girl With Glass Feet, Ali Shaw (Atlantic)
- The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters (Virago)
- The Map of Moments, Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden (Bantam)
- The Mermaid’s Madness, Jim C. Hines (Daw)
- The Mystery of Grace, Charles De Lint (Tor)
- The Naming of the Beasts, Mike Carey (Orbit)
- The Pain Merchants, Janice Hardy (Harpercollins)
- The Painting and the City, Robert Freeman Wexler (Ps)
- The Prodigal Mage, Karen Miller (Orbit)
- The Red Tree, Caitlin R. Kiernan (Roc)
- The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, Jesse Bullington (Orbit)
- The Shadow Pavilion, Liz Williams (Night Shade)
- The Silver Skull, Mark Chadbourn (Pyr)
- The Spy Who Haunted Me, Simon R. Green (Gollancz)
- The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
- Thicker than Water, Mike Carey (Orbit)
- Tide of Souls, Simon Bestwick (Abaddon)
- Topavzian, P.L. Lambrou (Raider)
- Total Oblivion, More Or Less, Alan Deniro (Spectra)
- Transition, Iain Banks (Little Brown)
- The Ghost King, R.A. Salvatore (Wizards of the Coast)
- Triumff – Her Majesty’s Hero, Dan Abnett (Angry Robot)
- Turn Coat, Jim Butcher (Orbit)
- Ultrameta, Douglas Thompson (Eibonvale)
- Under the Dome, Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Vanilla Ride, Joe R. Lansdale (Knopf)
- White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi (Picador)
- Witches Incorporated, K.E. Mills (Orbit)
- Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Update – April 12: Done!
Like all of Philip K. Dick’s novels, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a strange blend of reality and unreality. It has been a full month since I finished reading the novel, and I’ve put off writing a review because it’s hard to know what to say about it. The basic plot of the book, which survived mostly intact in the film adaptation Blade Runner, has as its protagonist Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who hunts androids, robotic beings who are indistinguishable from humans except for their total lack of empathy. The lead bounty hunter has been taken down by an android, and this is Deckard’s chance to make some money he desperately needs. He proceeds to pick off the androids one by one, and the story ends when his task is complete. Ridley Scott’s film used this plot as a vehicle for dystopian and weirdly demonic imagery, and to create a film noir-like mood. Dick uses it like he usually does, as a tool for examining the tension between reality and fantasy.
The very first sentence of the book describes a “merry little surge of electricity piped… from the mood organ.” The mood organ is a tool for controlling emotions, and is a much-desired commodity in a world that is barely surviving after a nuclear catastrophe. If you don’t want to wake up in the morning, the organ can make you glad to be awake. If you are depressed, the organ can fill you with bliss. It has the effects of mood-altering drugs without (apparently) any unwanted physical side effects. The other machine which plays a large role in the novel is the empathy box, which is used primarily by followers of a religion called Mercerism as a way of sharing emotions and images with other people who are using the box at the same time. Both machines, notably, are tools for escaping interaction with reality.
And reality in the future of Androids is indeed bleak. The nuclear wars have irradiated much of the world, leading to genetic disintegration, mass animal extinctions, and popular immigration movements off-planet to Mars. Animal husbandry is considered a civic duty for those who can afford it, and a moral duty for followers of Mercerism. Those who cannot afford a real animal buy cheaper robotic “electric” models. The skies are always discolored, entire swaths of continents are wastelands, and ambient radiation transforms intelligent people into “chickenheads” by rotting their brains. The androids of the novel are not the wonder-experiencing replicants of the film; they are harsh and uncaring, empathizing not even with the death of one of their own. It is no wonder that the inhabitants of Earth escape reality through mood alterations and hallucinogens. Likewise, even the inhabitants of the supposedly nicer Mars seek an escape through the fantastic, adventurous science fiction novels of the past—one thinks of the novels of E. E. “Doc” Smith—because the reality of their situation is hardly like it appeared on the travel ads.
Deckard’s final triumph is a mixed one. Strange things happen with Mercerism and a vision Deckard has of its supposed founder. Likewise, his path intersects with an animal in such a way that leads to a brave act of acceptance of reality. Reality in this novel, as in all of Dick’s novels, is hard, but still worth pursuing for its own sake. The truth is its own reward, despite its difficulties.
Maybe it’s just me.
Maybe I just have kooky associations that run through my head. I don’t know.
But, for some reason, whenever I listen to Foreigner, I think of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Particularly Feels Like the First Time.
Okay, yes, I know, I just admitted to listening to Foreigner. Since I’ve already established that I like science fiction, it’s safe to assume I’m a bit socially awkward. The “Foreigner” confession just seals the deal. I still managed to move out, get married and have four kids. So there.
But truth be told, Feels Like the First Time harkens me back to 1977, when both Foreigner and Close Encounters arrived from some far distant place and emblazoned themselves on the world consciousness in an array of light and sound. (Actually, Foreigner formed in New York, but that’s a pretty alien place in its own right. And don’t aliens technically qualify as “foreigners”?)
Sitting here, listening to the amorous musical odyssey of Lou Gramm and his perm, I find myself waxing philosophical about Mr. Holland’s other Opus, Close Encounters. It had going for it the three things every American filmgoer was clamoring for in the Me Decade: Aliens! Outer space! François Truffaut!
So, the question dogging me is this: What happened when Roy Neary came home?
You know, I had never really considered the ramifications of his departure until I watched Spielberg discussing the film on a documentary. In that, he famously said that if he made Close Encounters now, as a father, he wouldn’t have had Roy leave Earth and his family behind.
It’s an emotionally rich situation, and one that I hadn’t really considered before. I suspect that, like most audience members of the time, I didn’t factor that. I mean, c’mon, I was eight years old. I wanted Roy to take the ride.
These days, with a family of my own, I’d be fascinated to see how the drama would play out if Roy returned.
Picture a kind of “Next Encounters of the Third Kind.” Here we are, 33 years later, and erstwhile Muncie electrician Roy Neary turns up to close the loop with the people he left all those years before.
His long-suffering wife Ronnie and their kids Brad, Sylvia and Toby, all now older than their father was when he left.
Can you imagine the emotional baggage being carried around by that group?
When the Neary clan last saw Dad, his passion for experimental gardening had gotten the better of him. Mom trundled the kids into the Vista Cruiser in a mad dash to get away from the old man for the safety of grandma’s. But at some point, they would have to return – and they would never know what became of their father.
Perhaps the government would feed them a line about how he perished in the toxic nerve gas spill in Wyoming. Perhaps not. Perhaps the family would simply think Dad flipped his cracker and disappeared forever. There’s a lot of unresolved pain there that we, as an audience, are oblivious to. But if we project forward along the narrative lines of those characters lives, we can certainly imagine the difficulties left behind in the wake of Roy’s decision to hitch a ride. I think it’s been said by others that Close Encounters of the Third Kind serves as a parable for divorce in the 1970s. That seems right to me.
So imagine Roy showing up now. Let’s say for argument’s sake he gets dropped off in a low-key affair. No government agents. No Devil’s Tower. No witnesses.
What kind of reception would he get when he found his way back to his family? Could he even find them? How could he explain himself to his wife and to his kids? How could he prove his story?
What if Ronnie was remarried? And what about Brad’s, Sylvia’s and Toby’s spouses and their kids? How would all those people deal with Roy’s re-entry?
And what about Roy’s somewhat-surrogate family, Jillian and Barry Guiler? What is his emotional responsibility, if any, to them? You would assume that, having shared the monumental emotional experience that an alien close encounter would conceivably entail, they would have some kind of bond that would necessitate Roy bringing some closure to them as well.
Further complicating matters, how would Roy’s wife Ronnie feel about Jillian? Would she be jealous? We can presume that Roy’s kids wouldn’t have strong feelings about Barry, being they would likely be overwhelmed with issues about their long-lost absentee father, but what if Roy and the now-adult Barry shared the bond of their abductions? Would Roy’s kids understand why Dad seemed to favor this stranger?
And what about Roy himself? What kind of emotional turmoil would he be dealing with?
Conversely, what if Roy returned with the aliens in a grandiose, media-saturated manner? Everyone in the world hangs on his every word as Roy relates his experience on CNN. But what do his wife and kids think of the man who left them behind so he could boldly go where no Neary had gone before?
There would be a myriad of emotional dramas and issues to be dealt with by the Nearys and the Guilers, regardless of the manner of Roy’s return.
Admittedly, these are interior dramas and not the stuff of massive CGI budgets, but I think for me this is the kind of stuff that is important for science fiction, nonetheless. It’s what makes it real.
They say you can’t go home again. But I think it would be neat to try.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to famed science fiction writer Ben Bova about his remarkable career, science and science fiction in the near future, and his latest works. Bova has authored more than 115 fiction and nonfiction books and has a huge and loyal following – myself included.
Dr. Bova is President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Two facts that help explain why his novels often morph from fiction into prophecy; at least two American companies are working on producing the orbital power-generation technology depicted in his novel Powersat.
Best known for his Grand Tour series, Ben Bova is widely regarded as the eminence grise of the space exploration sub-genre. His many accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, a Campbell Award in 2006 for his novel Titan and a 1979 Locus SF Award nomination for Colony.
Like most geeks, I am pretty amped up about the impending Tron sequel, Tron Legacy (yes, I know that I just used this space last week to rail against sequels and remakes; sue me – you think I get paid for this stuff?). Like most geeks, I have watched the trailer several times. And like most geeks, the trailer has left me with a burning question.
Namely, what’s with the albino guy?
If you haven’t seen the trailer, there is a fleeting glimpse of an albino doing an air guitar thing with a cane. A brief look at the blogosphere shows that this is a question that has lit a fire under Geek Nation.
Most bloggers I’ve seen are speculating that it’s either David Bowie or Jim Carrey (or both). However, the intrepid investigative journalists here at Worlds Without End have discovered that the albino is actually one of the Winter Brothers (we’re not sure which one, but my money’s on Edgar).
In honor of the serious hairdo sported by the presumed cyber-baddie, the WWE staff reached out to the American Society of Beauticians to help us create a list of the Top 10 Best Villainous Hairdos in Science Fiction. What follows is the result of months of furious polling by beauticians, barbers and hair aficionados from around the country.
Top 10 Best Villainous Hairdos in Science Fiction
10. Elijah Price (played by Samuel L. Jackson) / Unbreakable (2000) – The man who originally spelled out for audiences that a big head is a hallmark for the bad guy. “Jules” popped the ‘fro ala Sly & The Family Stone style, knowing that it would eventually all get shaved off before he tackled the mother-f’ing snakes on the mother-f’ing plane.
Did You Know?: His contract stipulates he must be given the coolest character name in any movie in which he is to appear.
9. Dr. Hans Reinhardt (played by Maximilian Schell) / The Black Hole (1979) – Abandoned space craft. Black hole. Wild-eyed Bee Gee. Hello, can anyone say mad scientist? And what was up with Tony Perkins’ creepy mancrush? Gang, anyone named Dr. Hans on an abandoned space craft is NOT to be trusted.
Did You Know?: He lost the part of Dr. Hans Zarkov in Flash Gordon to Topol, who was willing to do nudity.
8. Benson (played by Harvey Keitel) / Saturn 3 (1980) – At first glance, the hair doesn’t seem like much, but flip up the bad midlife crisis ponytail, and you have a rocking Black and Decker brainjack that would prefigure the Wachowskis by two decades. Trend setter!
Did You Know?: Benson found new life in a spinoff series, starring Robert Guillaume, spending seven seasons in ABC’s prime time line-up.
7. The Predator (played by Kevin Peter Hall) / Predator (1987) – Famed fifth member of the Jamaican bobsled team who failed to gain entry into Canada for the 1988 Winter Olympics on a technicality, costing his country the gold. He subsequently went on a murderous rampage in South America, helping Jesse Ventura find time to bleed.
Did You Know?: He dated Lauryn Hill while she was still with the Fugees.
6. Chet Donnelly (played by Bill Paxton) / Weird Science (1985) – In what still stands as one of the wonders of pre-CGI Hollywood, wunderkind director John Hughes managed to realistically coif Rodney Dangerfield’s prostate. And Chet had the nerve to ask Vasquez if she’d ever been mistaken for a man?
Did You Know?: He successfully ran Al Franken’s senatorial campaign in Minnesota.
5. Grand Moff Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing) / Star Wars (1977) – Who else but a Hammer vet could take grandma’s hairdo and infuse it with such menace? Was it just me, or did Princess Leia actually flee into the arms of Darth Vader to get away from Granny Cushing? Really? Darth Vader? Like he’s going to protect you? Well, he was your father.
Did You Know?: He lent his hair to Jeff Conway for the 1978 film production of Grease.
4. Wez (played by Vernon Wells) / The Road Warrior (1981) – Back when Mel Gibson traffic problems were a good thing, Wez epitomized the cliché that real men don’t ask for directions. This snarling ball of contempt for roadside assistance would later go quasi-gay as a henchman in Schwarzenegger’s Commando. Do you really want this guy going commando?
Did You Know?: He would later play tight end in the too-short lived XFL.
3. The Twins (played by Neil & Adrian Rayment) / The Matrix Reloaded (2003) – Eschewing their status as 70’s rock legends, Edgar and Johnny Winter tapped their inner Bo Dereks and dialed up some serious ghost ninja juju. Wardrobe by Mark Shale.
Did You Know?: They piloted The Suite Life of Marilyn Manson for the Disney Channel.
2. Davy Jones (played by Bill Nighy) / Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) – As Red Lobster’s spokesperson, he consummated the long-frustrated marriage of sex appeal and crab bisque. Plus, he gets bonus points due to the fact that his hairdo is prehensile.
Did You Know?: He co-starred in a revival of Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
And number one?
1. Romero (played by Frank Doubleday) / Escape From New York (1981) – Robert Pattinson, take note: this is unwashed hair that’s actually cool. With his prance, hyena laugh and octogenarian lingerie, Romero was “Cyndi Lauper” before being “Cyndi Lauper” was cool. “If you touch me, he dies. If you’re not in the air in 30 seconds, he dies.” He’s so unusual!
Did You Know?: He was the face of Jhirmack 1983.
BONUS PICK! Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin (played by John Lithgow) / The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) – Split personality meets split ends. Didn’t make the list proper because we couldn’t decide which one of him deserved the credit. The best villain in a Peter Weller film not to later star in That 70’s Show.
Did You Know?: He writes children’s books.
If you don’t agree with the results of this poll, please consult your beautician.
The Arthur C. Clarke Award jury has released it’s long list of works considered for 2010 through the website Torque Control. The long list will be whittled down to just six by March 31st with the winner being announced on April 28th.
The 41 books considered are listed below and I’ve linked the ones we’ve already got in the WWEnd database. That’s only 11 books so I’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up. I’ll add new links to this list as I get the books loaded up this weekend.
This is the second year they’ve released the long list and I really like that they’re doing this. The long list gives you some insight into what books were considered before they narrowed down to the finalists. There are a lot of worthy books in these lists so it’s great that they’re brining some attention to the honorable mentions that will have just missed the cut. There are several authors here that I’ve never heard of that are now on my radar for further investigation – so it’s working already.
It’s also a great opportunity to speculate on which books will make the short list. So which books have you read and which do you think will end up on the short list? Which would you like to see make the short list?
- Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers (Solaris)
- Shadow of the Scorpion by Neal Asher (Tor)
- Orbus by Neal Asher (Tor)
- The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury)
- Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne (Tor)
- Transition by Iain Banks (Little, Brown)
- Ark by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)
- Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
- The Accord by Keith Brooke (Solaris)
- Xenopath by Eric Brown (Solaris)
- Seeds of Earth by Mike Cobley (Orbit)
- And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer (Penguin)
- Makers by Cory Doctorow (Voyager)
- The Babylonian Trilogy by Sebastien Doubinsky (PS Publishing)
- The Wild Things by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton)
- Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn (Gollancz)
- The Stranger by Max Frei (Gollancz)
- Concrete Operational by Richard Galbraith (Rawstone Media)
- Nova War by Gary Gibson (Tor)
- Winter Song by Colin Harvey (Angry Robot)
- The Rapture by Liz Jensen (Bloomsbury)
- Spirit by Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz)
- Journey into Space by Toby Litt (Penguin)
- The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove (Solaris)
- Halfhead by Stuart B MacBride (HarperVoyager)
- Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley (Gollancz)
- The City & The City by China Mieville (Macmillan)
- Red Claw by Philip Palmer (Orbit)
- Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
- Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperVoyager)
- Chasing the Dragon by Justina Robson (Gollancz)
- The City of Lists by Brigid Rose (Crocus)
- Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer (Gollancz)
- WWW: Wake by Robert J Sawyer (Gollancz)
- Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
- The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor (Faber & Faber)
- Far North by Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber)
- Before the Gods by KS Turner (Ruby Blaze)
- The Painting and the City by Robert Freeman Wexler (PS Publishing)
- This is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams (Orbit)
- Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)
Update: They’re all in now. Happy Reading.
Let’s start off by coming clean on something that Hollywood already knows and we ourselves are loath to admit.
We, the audience, are a bunch of tramps. (And that’s putting it mildly.)
While our trampiness can be attributed to our willingness to financially support all manner of speculative dreck, for the purpose of today’s rant, I will focus my remarks on the oft-bemoaned phenomena of remakes and sequels that Hollywood seems hellbent on pushing down our all-too-willing throats.
Like the flood of remakes and sequels themselves, blogs complaining about Hollywood’s penchant for wholesale recycling of films are all-invasive. I recognize that I’m simply adding to the noise with one more blog, but if Hollywood continues to foist recycled films upon us, then we have the right to foist right back. So thank you very much.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the business proposition here. Hollywood dumps in obscene amounts of money to make a film – any film – so you have to show a decent return on investment. It makes sense to go with a property that already has demonstrated it has legs in the marketplace, with built-in brand recognition and a ready-made fanbase. It makes good business sense.
But doesn’t that kind of suck?
Hollywood has been at its best (see 1970s) when it at least had the pretense that it was putting its artists and their ideas above the desire for shareholder appeasement. There are still instances even in today’s film market where it feels that a certain film was made despite gross commercial considerations, but that’s happening with greater and greater infrequency.
Is it just me, or does it seem that every science fiction film made in the 1970’s and 1980’s is destined for the remake treatment? Just ask John Carpenter. I suspect there are probably a few TV commercials he made in-between films in the late 70’s that are probably being remade as I type this. Home movies. Maybe even a Polaroid or two. He’s the hardest working, not working director in Hollywood today. Seriously. Can They Live … Again be too far behind?
Let’s qualify "remake" and "sequel" – most of the time, they mean one and the same thing. A true sequel is the continuation of an ongoing story. For instance, Two Towers is a sequel to The Fellowship of the Ring. A sequel is something that is a necessary part in order to complete the story.
By comparison, Aliens (grand as it was) is really just a remake of Alien. I’m nuts, I know, but think about it. Alien was a self-contained story. You didn’t really need to know more than what it provided to you. And it’s the Alien franchise that I want to pick on today.
You should know that Alien counts as my favorite film of all time. Period. For a number of reasons that I’ll save for some other time when I don’t have anything else to blog about.
As far as I can tell, I’m the only person who wishes they stopped after the first movie.
That’s right – I’m saying it. I wish Aliens had never been made.
Yes, Jim Cameron is great. Aliens was great. Hudson was great. Guns. One liners. Newt. "Why don’t you put her in charge?" Burke wearing a suit with the collar up – great. Half of Lance Henrikson sloshing around in a pool of milk – well, yeah, pretty great, too. "Get away from her you bitch." Alien Queen – dorky, but what the heck, two hours in, I’ll buy it.
But when I read posts where people say it was actually better than the first film, I’m like, what the heck are you talking about? It was fun, but really the Alien universe was not improved with the advent of Aliens, Alien3 or Alien Resurrection. C’mon.
Alien. It was a punk rock shockwave across the sci fi spectrum at a time when Lucas was reintroducing Flash Gordon and Spielberg had us reaching for our xylophones to call the mothership. Alien was a seismic tremor that shook loose the Planet of the Apes-Logan’s Run-Omega Man doldrums of the 70’s and heralded something far more dangerous. Instead of Bruce Dern singing along to Joan Baez while growing intergalactic carrots on his way to Saturn, we got Parker going mano-a-mano with a headless robot aggressively trying to get Sigourney to renew her magazine subscription. Alien showed us that space is truly, deeply, really, in a word, alien. The creature had no eyes! Its tongue had teeth! And it had no respect for personal boundaries! Plus, H.R. Giger has this art school Peter Lorre vibe about him. Doesn’t all that just creep you out? Alien fulfilled its mission to tell you that the universe is a wild, weird place.
But, we’re tramps. We can’t let it alone. We want more. And we’ll pony up for it.
They had to make a sequel. They knew we would come. And we did.
Aliens was a huge hit. Bigger than the first one. So they kept going, milking the franchise and running it into the ground. Christopher Nolan was right – for the most part, the third film in any series sucks. In this case, so did the fourth film. Alien was weird in a genuine and pure way. So they kept going for it, but they manufactured the weirdness in subsequent films.
Alien felt like a punk rock anthem born in a garage. The others were studio films.
So now, we come to the Alien Prequel, coming to a theatre near you in 2011. Even without knowing anything of the story, it’s got a lot going for it. Ridley Scott, for one. Do you need more than that? Probably not, but it also has going for it that it escapes from all the narrative handcuffs placed on the franchise, thanks to films two, three and four. It’s a fresh start. A reboot, a … oh well, let’s just say it, a remake. Yeah, it is. So what?
The "so what" is that you have to ask yourself if there are any sacred cows left out in the sci fi pasture. Part of the beauty of Alien is that so much was left unexplained. Like Jaws (of which Alien has so oft been compared), you had to fill in the blanks for much of the movie. But what’s more, Alien was just weird from the get-go and didn’t really clear things up. Which is greatness. There was the derelict ship with Dumbo’s weird uncle fossilized in the pilot seat. Where did he come from? We might never know. And that is great. Where did the aliens come from? Who knows? Somewhere alien and weird. Great. Don’t shade it all in for me. Let me always wonder about that.
But Hollywood can’t let it go. And we can’t let it go. I tell you, when I heard that Ridley Scott was doing the prequel, I was gleeful. Gleeful, like a mad little kid. Still am. But now on reflection, I’m sad, too. Sad because I’d always hoped that some of the beauty would go unexplained and we’d always hang on to some of the mystery. Undoubtedly, the prequel will give us insight on where the aliens come from, why they are how they are, maybe even tell us more about Dumbo’s weird uncle. All that. And I can understand why Ridley Scott would want to restore the legacy of what was perhaps his greatest film by rescuing a franchise that has fallen into science fiction’s version of pro wrestling, a la the Alien versus Predator nonsense.
I wish I could tell you that I will stand strong. I won’t pay to go see the Alien Prequel. I will safeguard the mystery of the unexplained, of the pristine beauty of the long unknowable. But I know better. Once it’s out there, I will want to see it, too. Saying "don’t look at that thing" only makes you want to look at it the more. I just hope it’s good. Damn you, Hollywood. You know me too well.
As promised, and a little ahead of schedule, the Fantasy Masterworks series is up. This is of course a companion series to the SF Masterworks that went in earlier this week. (Scroll down the page for more on that.) There are some great books in this series, 50 in all, and again some great cover art to go with them.
Quite a few of these books are omnibus editions like The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1 and Volume 2 which include all of Robert E. Howard‘s Conan stories in chronological order. You’ll find Gene Wolfe‘s classic Book of the New Sun series in a 2 volume set and omnibus editions of 2 classic Michael Moorcock series: The Chronicles of Corum and The History of the Runestaff.
Some of these books really are old-school fantasy classics. Two books by Lord Dunsany, Time and the Gods and The King of Elfland’s Daughter, A Voyage to Arcturas by David Lindsay and The Worm Ouroboros by E.R Eddison come to us pre 1930. Never really thought I’d be adding Rudyard Kipling to WWEnd but now he’s here with The Mark of the Beast, a collection of his strange and ghostly tales. We’re gettin’ all respectable ’round here.
You know, I thought I had read a lot of fantasy in my time but I can only check off 2 books out of 50. A rather poor showing. I guess I was reading the wrong fantasy books. How do you fare with the Fantasy Masterworks list? Check it out and let us know what you think.