It’s Thursday, the best day of the week! Science fiction in the morning, football at night!
Let’s start with the most important scientific finding of the week: scientists are now saying that it’s possible we could observe nuclear wars on alien worlds from Earth. It’s possible for us to detect the tell tale ripple of thousands of small gamma ray bursts that are the result of a nuclear war, even from cosmic distances with the latest tech. It’s statistically almost unimaginable that we would, not simply because of the likely rarity of alien civilizations, but because we would have to be observing that particular planet during the precise few minutes in thousands of years that represent a species committing suicide.
It’s a harrowing thing to contemplate after the initial rush of fascination that our first evidence of alien life might very well be watching it annihilate itself. Would we take it as warning, or descend cynically into the thought that none of us upstart collections of carbon every really have a chance in the first place?
Clive Barker’s Weaveworld is going to CW, which is about the strangest combination that I can think of, and one of the least likely. Barker has a lot of fantastic stories, but there’s this distinct point in his body of works when he turned cleanly away from horror and to a sort of dark fantastic realism. The Great and Secret Show for instance sits right on the cusp between the two periods of his writing, and its first half is brilliant, until its second half and its sequels are just flat weird. Weaveworld is one of the weirdest, and I really can’t imagine an author and story less suited to watered down CW network television.
Next, Colin Trevorrow is talking up in the media his plans for the future of the Jurassic [Noun] series. Jurassic World was intended all along to be a trilogy. Says the Trevorrow about the themes he’s going for:
“Jurassic World is all based on Ian Malcom’s quote: ‘you stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you knew what you had, you’d packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox and now you want to sell it.’ That, to me, is Jurassic World.”
Sweet moist irony! The movie was shallow, dumbed down, commercialized crap, and if you treat his quote as talking about Jurassic World the movie instead of Jurassic World, the in-film park, he has completely and perfectly summarized my opinion.
Book and movie of the week! This week’s were The Martian and the film Perfect Sense. If you want to comment about either of these, put it in its own comment with the first line being either “The Martian Spoiler” or “Perfect Sense Spoiler”. Also: if you reply to a comment with one of these spoiler tags, you don’t need to bother putting the spoiler tag yourself. Everyone should just assume that if the top level comment is a spoiler, it’s spoilers all the way down.
The Martian Spoiler
I will say without hyperbole that this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. When I read it, I started at midnight and found myself reading it straight through to the end at five am. It captured me from page one, and once the pages began flying by, I was not setting it down until it finished. The humor, the intricately plotted details, it was everything I love about science fiction. There was something so singularly human about the tale, about the ways that Mark not only beat back every impossible odd with nothing but his brain and his refusal to give up, but in that he faced everything with pride and humor. We dragged ourselves up from the mud to gaze at the stars through sheer irrational will, through a fist shaken at a world that it made no sense to believe we could either understand or dominate. It’s a triumph of spirit that is mostly dormant now, so far removed from our docile lives. But it’s still there underneath, and it’s what will take us to the stars in time.
And of course there was the pure beauty of the repeated attempts at rescue, at the other half of the story. The novel was perfect in the way that it wasn’t the efforts of a few, but truly was person after person being introduced as they came up with a different thing to try, a different way to hack together yet another attempted solution. The resources of a planet bent to save one man, and of course that wonderful quiet moment when his crew mutinies to risk their lives to save him? No sheen was taken off that moment just because I could almost hear Kirk intoning that sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.
Perfect Sense Spoiler
We struck two for two this week, because the movie was fantastic as well. It had such a brilliant slow burn of utter desperation as the world fell apart, but tinged always with hope. Falling in love as the world ends is perhaps a cliche at this point, but it worked here. The film sparkled with those little details that make you keep rolling it around in the back of your head. Why were the particular breakdowns (depression, terror, violence, euphoria) linked to the particular losses of sense? And the way that society slowly adapted each time was brilliant, like the way that the loss of taste led to eating for texture. The several minute sequence after everyone has lost their hearing, when there is no sound or music at all in the film, is absolutely as abjectly harrowing as anything from a horror film.
It got mixed reviews I see, with most of the reviewers textually rolling their eyes at the overly simplistic parable of love being the only thing that matters. Bunch of savages. The film was anything but simplistic, and while it was telling a love story in the back ground, it was merely the framework for themes that resonated far more deeply. (And if you’d like a full review as well, Seth liked it too, which I take as further evidence that he is a decent human being.)
Next week: We’ll read the classic The Forever War, and we’ll be watching Equilibrium, another bit of an older one, but one I haven’t seen yet so as ABC used to tell me, it’s new to me.