Archive for August, 2012

Al Bickham recently pressed a copy of The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction into my hands while on a business trip in Germany – a delightful gift that’s already making we smile thanks to a sub-section entitled ‘Mutants and Symbiotes’. It also got me thinking back to previous SF encyclopedias I’ve owned. The first, published in 1978 by Octopus Books, was edited by Robert Holdstock. Thanks to its numerous well-chosen entries and articles, I found my way to the SF peripheries via films like Soylent Green and the inner space explorations of J G Ballard. It’s long since vanished due to numerous relocations, but I do still possess Dave Pringle’s The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1996). Criticised for being Anglocentric, it’s still a diligent and compact overview of the genre within literature, film and TV. Compact, however, can hardly be used as a descriptor for Dave Langford’s on-going online opus. The Enclyclopedia of Science Fiction – SFE for short – is now a locked resource on my favourites bar. Just keep hitting the on-site randomiser and enjoy.

Eight months ago I wrote a post on the successful launch of the Curiosity mission to Mars. At the time the proposed landing system seemed overly complex and just a little bit crazy. It’s reassuring to note that EDL engineer Adam Steltzner agreed with this appraisal – check out the surprisingly slick JPL video above. It’s also fantastic that that those initial concerns ultimately amounted to nothing. The car sized rover is safely on the surface of the red planet and is already sending telemetry back to Earth.

While Another Earth still resides on my ‘ones to watch’ list, I can’t help but be distracted by Brit Marling’s latest pass across the edges of the sci-fi genre. The premise is all very K-Pax – albeit tinted by a darker, more troubling tone – as a couple of investigative journalists have their relationship tested to breaking point inside a new-age cult. At the centre of this claustrophobic sphere of influence sits Marling’s ambiguous leader who may, or may not, be a time traveller from our future. The battered dust jacket poster sets the tone, while the trailer definitely promises some thrills.