How Blade Runner constructs an empathy test…for the audience

The science fiction author Philip Kindred Dick believed that humans were defined – not by our intelligence or our technology – but by our empathy. The human capacity for empathy – our ability to place our self into the experience of the other – is what makes us truly human. It’s our capacity for empathyContinue reading “How Blade Runner constructs an empathy test…for the audience”

The book that inspired the Culture of Iain M Banks

Long time readers will know I am a super-fan of the Culture novels by Iain M Banks. I’ve essayed and videoed them half to death already, and in recent years have read or re-read almost Banksy’s entire output. Great artists steal, goes the saying, and Iain Banks was something of a magpie for cool ideasContinue reading “The book that inspired the Culture of Iain M Banks”

Is geek culture mere escapism?

“The only people who hate escapism are jailers.” The quote is attributed to both C S Lewis and to J R R Tolkien. Whomever said it first, it captures the spirit that both wrote their fantasy stories in. A generation later, the fantasy writer Michael Moorcock revised the quip: “Jailers love escapism — it’s escapeContinue reading “Is geek culture mere escapism?”

We need the spirit of Dangerous Visions (but we don’t need Dangerous Visions)

I loved short form scifi storytelling. Mirrorshades, the anthology that defined cyberpunk, made me want to write SF. In my 20’s I published two dozen short stories. I really enjoyed subbing stories to these mysterious old magazines that – back in the day – often still demanded you send manuscripts in PRINT! In 2008 IContinue reading “We need the spirit of Dangerous Visions (but we don’t need Dangerous Visions)”

Write better sci-fi stories with this simple idea

When high-falutin people talk about sci-fi you’ll often hear them use words like novum and the like. Critic and academic Darko Suvin came up with novum to describe the…thing…at the heart of every sci-fi story that makes it sci-fi. Androids hiding as humans! A world populated by talking apes! A portal that leads to everyContinue reading “Write better sci-fi stories with this simple idea”

Is this the moment that inspired the Force in Star Wars?

Much has been written about the origins of Star Wars in ancient mythology, via the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell. But the blockbuster movies’ origins in modern mythology are sometimes forgotten. The Foundation saga by Isaac Asimov is one of the most influential science fiction stories ever written. It inspired classic storytelling from Frank Herbert’sContinue reading “Is this the moment that inspired the Force in Star Wars?”

Science Fiction is not here to entertain you

“Are you not entertained?” Roars a muscular Russell Crowe at the crowd being entertained by murder in a provincial Roman gladiatorial arena. Maximus Decimus is a soldier. To kill men is his profession. He’s better at it than any gladiator. But as a slave he is now reduced to killing for the lowest reason –Continue reading “Science Fiction is not here to entertain you”