Dune deserves a new film adaptation

Confusing sequels, terrible prequels and poor adaptations aside, Frank Herbert’s masterpiece still stands up as the one of the truly great sci-fi novels. I first discovered Dune through David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s SF masterpiece. The “Lynchian” style, that novelist David Foster Wallace would later define as “a particular kind of ironyContinue reading “Dune deserves a new film adaptation”

How can we make AI less like the Terminator, and more like the Culture?

It’s only March and already we’ve seen a computer beat a Go grandmaster and a self-driving car crash into a bus. The world is waking up to the ways in which a combination of “deep learning” artificial intelligence and robotics will take over most jobs. But if we don’t want our robot servants to riseContinue reading “How can we make AI less like the Terminator, and more like the Culture?”

Science and superheroes : how close are we to creating real superpowers?

As Marvel’s Deadpool hits screens we ask: with three out of five fictional superheroes owing their powers to science, will we ever have real superpowers? There are, according to the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game (a source I am choosing to accept as 100% canonical), five general origins for all superheroic powers: Altered Humans (Spiderman,Continue reading “Science and superheroes : how close are we to creating real superpowers?”

The ominous ordinary: horror writers finding scares in the everyday

Some of the very best work in this genre comes from writers who embed their terrors into strikingly everyday settings. Long-lived short fiction magazines are a rarity today. And ones that have had a real impact on the wider landscape of storytelling are even rarer. So issue 50 of Black Static marks a important milestoneContinue reading “The ominous ordinary: horror writers finding scares in the everyday”

The awesome power of science fiction’s megastructures

The imaginary constructions of science fiction fill us with awe at their alien vastness. Which have you explored, and what was the most overwhelming? Sci-fi fans call it “sensawunda”, that awe and amazement that the best science fiction stories can inspire in us. The entire world felt it recently when scientists declared that observations ofContinue reading “The awesome power of science fiction’s megastructures”

The Reengineering of Fantasy

Look. I like Conan. If stories let us play out our secret fantasies in widescreen technicolor, then clearly there’s a part of me that longs to be a muscular barbarian, crushing my enemies and hearing the lamentation of their women. While Robert E Howard’s original Conan stories aren’t quite as good as the epic JohnContinue reading “The Reengineering of Fantasy”

Won’t somebody please think of the billionaires!

As levels of inequality continue to sky rocket, the plight of the rich is getting worse by the day. We’re not saying it’s as bad as what orphans, women, people of colour, plague victims, the undead or supermodels who marry short rockstars have to go through…oh wait maybe we are.  by Richelle Richenstein The poorContinue reading “Won’t somebody please think of the billionaires!”

A sci-fi history of Mars

Mars has always been, as cosmologist Carl Sagan wrote, a “mythic arena onto which we have projected our Earthly hopes and fears”. For the ancient Greeks, the red dot in the night sky was an aspect of Ares, god of war, who unleashed conflict when the balance was lost between Apollo – god of reasonContinue reading “A sci-fi history of Mars”

The Player of Games : why learning to win at games can make you a loser

The Player of Games by Iain M Banks makes a powerful argument for peace as the ultimate strategy.

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The next publishing craze? Weird Westerns.

It’s a little-known fact that one of the all-time bestselling writers of westerns lived most of his life in the English market town of Melton Mowbray. JT Edson, who died in 2014, wrote more than 137 novels, most of them westerns, and claimed in all seriousness “never to have even been on a horse”. AContinue reading “The next publishing craze? Weird Westerns.”

Can you read role-playing games?

You don’t have to actually play a role-playing game for it to fire your imagination, so why don’t RPG manuals count as books? I’m a lifelong fan of role-playing games, but I rarely play them. Dungeons & Dragons. Call of Cthulhu. Vampire: The Masquerade. Cyberpunk 2013. Traveller. I’ve been enchanted by the words and illustrations,Continue reading “Can you read role-playing games?”