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The science fiction thread

Discussion in 'GMD Social Forum' started by Cythraul, Apr 5, 2020.

  1. Cythraul

    Cythraul Active Member

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    Hey gang, I don't think there is a thread for this yet and it seems like a big enough topic of its own to warrant its own thread. Poast here about your favorite science fiction literature or cinema, your interpretations or reviews of it, and your recommendations.

    As I've already posted in another thread, I am a big fan of Blade Runner 2049. I love the first Blade Runner as well, but I am one of those people who holds the sequel in higher regard. I might be in the minority in that regard, but that is a substantial minority from what I can tell. Maybe I like it more than the first film because it's easier for me to relate to; I was not even alive yet when the first one came out. There are "reactionary" elements to the film that I also appreciate; I don't think it's an accident that SJW types tend to be either ambivalent or somewhat hostile towards the film.

    As far as literature goes, I love Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. I tend to gravitate towards stories that are specifically about the collapse of civilizations (this is not the same thing as a story that simply has a collapsed or post-apocalyptic civilization as a narrative backdrop.) I've been meaning to start reading Asimov's Foundation series. The concept behind it sounds really cool. Actually, I tend to like most of the concepts that Asimov comes up with, even though I have serious philosophical disagreements with him (he seems to have been a kind of early fedora-tipping atheist-humanist type and I am a Catholic who is highly skeptical of so-called progress.) I've been trying to get through Neuromancer by William Gibson, but I've found it to be a difficult read.

    Alright, your turn.
     
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  2. challenge_everything

    challenge_everything Active Member

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    The Foundation series is great. The first one is not typical of the series though; it's basically short stories/novellas and each is its own logic puzzle. The others in the series (at least, as far as I've got) are novels in their own right. Foundation and Empire is probably my favourite.

    I also struggled with Neuromancer, you're not alone there. I don't really go for that cyberpunk stuff anyhow.

    I've found a good source of sci-fi books is the publishing series SF Masterworks. They have rarely led me astray and I've discovered some amazing stuff I never heard of before like Transfigurations by Michael Bishop and Wasp by Eric Russell.
     
  3. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    I loved BR2049. A lot of that is based on visuals alone; Villeneuve is a cinematic visionary. As an "SJW" type, I do think both films have problematic elements; but those don't ruin either film for me. I think there are far more redeeming elements.

    Science fiction is both a personal and professional interest of mine. I've read sci-fi since I was young, but started studying it in grad school. My dissertation has chapters on Philip K. Dick and Ursula Le Guin.

    Gibson is one of my favorite sf writers, but his style is definitely more difficult than most. He's considered by many literary critics to be a kind of transitional writer; he bridges the gap between sf and postmodernist fiction (Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 is usually identified as a predecessor to Neuromancer). That being said, I think Neuromancer is brilliant, if you can dedicate the time. But my favorite of his works (that I've read) is Pattern Recognition, which isn't really sci-fi; it's more like a surrealist conspiracy thriller with minor sci-fi elements. I have his two most recent novels on my shelf, haven't had time to dig into them yet.

    Some of my favorites...

    1. Blindsight (Peter Watts, 2006)

    This is my favorite sf novel of the twenty-first century. It's addictive and terrifying, and one of the best examples of "hard sf" I've ever read. Lots of high-end stuff going on involving deep space travel, alien intelligence, and human consciousness. The narrative starts off a bit slow, but it sets the mood nicely, and gives a good sense of the future world it's set in.

    2. The Southern Reach trilogy (Jeff VanderMeer, 2014)

    Sci-fi meets weird horror. The movie Annihilation was based on the first book, but it changes the plot significantly. The book is better, and the whole thing is a surreal, mind-bending ride.

    3. Ubik (Philip K. Dick, 1969)

    Fucked up story in which, after an explosion, a defense team begins to drift inexplicably through time. I often choose this as my favorite Dick story, but he has so many good ones. If you're a fan of Blade Runner, you might check out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), which is the basis for the film. Man in the High Castle, A Scanner Darkly, and VALIS are also good ones.

    4. The Left Hand of Darkness (Le Guin, 1969)

    Set on a world in which the inhabitants are androgynous. They assume a gender once a month for a couple days during their mating period. Lots of political intrigue, and great characters.

    5. Primer (Carruth, 2004)

    This one's a low-budget film about the accidental discovery of time travel. If you can get past the techno-babble in the early scenes, it's one of the best realized presentations of how time travel might actually work.


    EDIT: this is absolutely an incomplete list, just a few titles off the top of my head.
     
    #3 Einherjar86, Apr 5, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
  4. no country for old wainds

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    i have the masterworks edition of bester's the stars my destination on my to-read pile. also wanna get through altered carbon soonish, i like the fantasy stuff i've read by morgan.

    i'm not the most well read sci-fi guy in the world, but definitely more into soft than hard so to speak. favourite space opera is probably donaldson's gap series, my favourite of his work ahead of even thomas covenant. since you're on the subject of cyberpunk i loved neal stephenson's snow crash but i'm yet to jump into any gibson stuff.

    i wasn't huge on the blade runner sequel on first try but it's definitely worth further inspection. i admire how alienating it is stylistically but i also recall thinking the narrative arc was pretty safe and tidy underneath (typical problem with villeneuve) and finding it a bit too self-aware.

    some favourite sci-fi movies (and i'm being pretty loose with the genre definition), mostly obvious choices tbh:
    the fly, dead ringers and videodrome (cronenberg)
    the thing & dark star (carpenter)
    seconds (frankenheimer, '66)
    stalker (tarkovsky, 1979) - still haven't seen solaris lol, i like the book and the soderbergh adaptation though
    jurassic park (spielberg, 93)
    akira (otomo, '88)
    total recall and robocop (verhoeven)
    alien (scott, '79) & alien3 (fincher, '92)
    miracle mile (de jarnett, '88)
    repo man (cox, '84)
    the terminator 1 & 2 (cameron)
    2001: a space odyssey (kubrick, 1968)
    god told me to (cohen, '76)
    re-animator & from beyond (gordon)
    the man who fell to earth (roeg, '76)
    gremlins 2: the new batch (dante, '90)

    and sci-fi video games:
    metal gear solid 1 & 2
    super metroid
    /zero mission
    deus ex
    x-com: ufo defense
    master of orion 2

    oddworld 2: abe's exoddus
    shadow of memories
     
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  5. challenge_everything

    challenge_everything Active Member

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    I've read most of Dick's novels and a lot of his short stories and while I find him one of the great 'ideas' writers, he's also profoundly depressing. A Scanner Darkly is probably my favourite (Linklater's movie is also underrated).
     
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  6. challenge_everything

    challenge_everything Active Member

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    Enjoying Ted Chiang's short stories lately including Arrival (Villeneuve obviously based his movie on this). Very light-touch metaphysical sci-fi with premises like: what if we could turn off the part of our brains that distinguish physical beauty? What if god (in the old testament sense) were real and when someone died you could see them ascending to heaven or descending to hell? What if someone came up with a mathematical proof that 0=1?
     
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  7. TageRyche

    TageRyche Active Member

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    I'm a big fan of David Weber's Honor Harrington series.
     
  8. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    Have you been reading his second collection, Exhalation? I prefer Stories of Your Life and Others (whose title story Arrival is based on) but Exhalation is really good too. A lot of science fiction writing still relies on short format for exposure, and Chiang is something of a legend among authors. Rarely publishes a story; but when he does, they're whoppers.

    I took a course on Dick once--read I think eight or so of his novels (which is by no means "most"), and also a lot of stories. Since then I've read others, but he has a core few that I think are spectacular. I think he hit his stride in the late '60s, when high-concept met what I found to be more realized plots. That said, he's still very much an idea writer, and revolutionary as far as the genre goes. Literary critic Fredric Jameson calls Dick the Shakespeare of sf--pretty high praise.
     
  9. CiG

    CiG Harbinger of Metal

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    I liked Blade Runner 2049 a lot but I kinda echo Wainds here that when you set the admittedly amazing visuals aside, there really isn't a lot going on in regards to subject matter. It's very self-consciously trying to revive an aesthetic but it's not too deep or risky or challenging. For me that's okay because you need fun aesthetically driven science fiction (like Dredd and Looper) alongside the more intellectual and divisive stuff.

    Regarding books I definitely haven't read anywhere near enough to add to that part of the discussion (majority is Warhammer 40k) but I love science fiction cinema.

    Subjects like transhumanism interest me to no end, so naturally titles like Ghost in the Shell rank high on my list. Some of my favourite titles, leaving aside more obvious/already mentioned stuff:
    • Ghost in the Shell (transhumanism 101, for me one of the most classic examples of exploring the idea about whether we're our brains or our bodies)
    • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (might even prefer this to the first these days, still want you to see this Ein!)
    • Avalon (yeah Mamoru Oshii rules, this time he explores real life vs virtual reality)
    • Altered States
    • Event Horizon
    • THX 1138 (George Lucas' 1971 debut social science fiction film, really awesome especially considering it's such an early effort from the man)
    • They Live (kind of obvious but its take on propaganda, consumerism and how these things could be hijacked by a group to manipulate society is too good to leave off)
    • Gattaca (biopunk eugenics classic)
    • Upgrade (a recent favourite, not especially deep but I enjoy the interplay between a crippled technophobe trying to navigate a world where technology is everywhere and everything, and his futile resistance against the oncoming tide of inevitable integration)
    • District 9, Elysium, CHAPPiE (Neill Blomkamp rules)
    • Ghost in the Shell (the ScarJo live action that I take any opportunity to defend, unlike most Hollywood remakes/adaptions this one doesn't stray from exploring the same subjects that made the original material so great)
    Another weak spot for me are science fiction series, would love to see some recommendations in that area.
     
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  10. Vegard Pompey

    Vegard Pompey ALLY TO GOOD, NIGHTMARE TO YOU

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    God damn I want to read everything you guys are naming.

    Don't have much to add literature-wise, but I'll drop some tv show recs.

    Legend of Galactic Heroes (the 1980s anime)
    In a sense this is more historical fiction on a galactic stage than proper sci-fi, but it's my favorite thing so I have to mention it. It does frequently get compared to the Foundation series, which I haven't read yet so I can't say if the comparison is justified.

    Shinsekai Yori
    It's an anime about kids with psychic powers living in a rural society in a post-apocalyptic Japan. Despite the fantasy aesthetics I would 100% call this a sci-fi show. It accentuates the inherent horror of kids having access to reality-warping powers at their fingertips and it's heavy as fuck.

    Person of Interest
    Network procedural that evolves into an ideological conflict between multiple sides with different perspectives on the role of AI in human society. I know, no one has time for procedurals anymore, but it's excellent and so worth the time.

    Dark
    German TV series about time travel. It's on netflix, and it's killer, go see it.

    Black Mirror
    You know this one. Modern sci-fi anthology series on netflix. Very hit-and-miss, but usually at least interesting.

    and lastly, The Expanse is pretty great.
     
  11. CiG

    CiG Harbinger of Metal

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    Says who? Anyway sounds interesting.
     
  12. Vegard Pompey

    Vegard Pompey ALLY TO GOOD, NIGHTMARE TO YOU

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    Says everyone I've ever tried to get to watch that show.
     
  13. CiG

    CiG Harbinger of Metal

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  14. challenge_everything

    challenge_everything Active Member

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    Dark is great but toward the end of the last series I felt like it was getting carried away with time loop upon time loop, paradox upon paradox and kinda disappeared up its own arse in the process.

    There is also the Electric Dreams series, based upon Dick's short stories. I only made it about halfway through before giving up.

    Has anyone seen The Man in the High Castle series?
     
  15. Vegard Pompey

    Vegard Pompey ALLY TO GOOD, NIGHTMARE TO YOU

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    I personally enjoy that stuff but ultimately, my final verdict on Dark is heavily dependent on how they manage to resolve everything in the third and final season to come.

    Yeah, it's shit.
     
  16. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    Peter Watts (author of Blindsight) raves about this show.

    Fuck YES. Can't believe I forgot about this. Best series on Netflix right now (in my opinion)--that first season was sheer perfection, and the second was pretty damn close. Can't wait for the third (and final) season.

    Dark feels to me like what you'd get if True Detective were crossed with Primer. Such a good show.

    Hell yeah it is.

    Damn, that's right! I feel like this thread might give me a lot of new shit to watch. Still also need to see Aniara, which Vegard hyped.
     
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  17. Vegard Pompey

    Vegard Pompey ALLY TO GOOD, NIGHTMARE TO YOU

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    You know what? I haven't picked up new books in a while. And the advent of summer has me thinking it would be nice to go sit outside and read somewhere. So

    Bought

    Bought

    Bought :D

    (Along with some other sci-fi shit not mentioned in this thread)
     
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  18. no country for old wainds

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    i'm always looking for sci-fi books with a completely transporting otherworldly atmosphere if anyone has any recs specifically for that. preferably stuff with a compelling narrative to match, and not too bogged down in actual science.
     
  19. no country for old wainds

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    some more recent lesser-known sci-fi movie recs:

    splice
    not dissimilar to ex machina.

    marjorie prime

    eerie futuristic chamber drama about a service that provides holographic recreations of deceased loved ones, for the philosophical amongst you.

    womb

    eva green deliberately impregnates herself with a clone of her dead husband. one of the most tonally fucked up things i've ever seen, and i'm not sure any of that is intentional.

    solaris

    the soderbergh version. an eerie interpretation that's always stayed with me.

    upstream color

    carruth's follow up to primer, a film i also like but which is very different to this. this is more like a sci-fi version of later malick or korine, where the stream-of-consciousness editing makes biology seem like a symphony.

    hard to be a god

    this kind of transcends genre, arguably the most ambitious cinematic undertaking of the whole decade, but the premise is very much a sci-fi one: scientists are sent to another planet which is in the medieval phase of its history with the hope of helping the civilisation progress.

    coherence
    just a very cool parallel universes mindfuck. i tend to like all the time loop stuff as well, like primer, triangle, timecrimes, looper etc.

    the congress

    a failure perhaps, but an ambitious and at times resonant one that i'd recommend to anyone into dystopian stuff. robin wright plays herself, an aging actress who lets an entertainment company buy the rights to her likeness so they can digitise and immortalise her.

    american astronaut

    hard to describe this unless you're familiar with its main influence guy maddin, so i'll leave you with the premise: an interplanetary trader journeys across space to provide the all-female population of venus with a suitable male while being pursued by the evil 'professor hess'.

    source code

    i love this movie aside from it not ending where it should. better than moon IMO. see also: edge of tomorrow.

    upgrade

    somewhere between robocop, death wish and brain damage.
     
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  20. CiG

    CiG Harbinger of Metal

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    This is by the Cube guy right?
     

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