Archive for November, 2012

A belated acknowledgement to Boris Strugatsky who died 19.11.2012. He was the surviving brother of Arkady who, in collaboration, brought us the ground-breaking Roadside Picnic. This deceptively slim piece of SF was built around the central premise that an alien visitation to Earth perpetually changes the encountered landscape. The ‘Zones’ are the result. Limbos manifest – part recognisable, part incomprehensible, all arbitrarily toxic. It’s also a book about reflected humanity and how our heritage of adaptation allows us to at least attempt to deal with something truly out of this world. That, however, is a massive oversimplification. The book, as many of you may know, was made into Stalker in 1979 – an incredibly ponderous film by Andrei Tarkovsky who also brought Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris to the cinema screens. If you’re interested in the brothers Strugatsky, or Russian SF in general, check out this recent feature on Rianovosti that gives a much more in-depth appreciation of their work.

The worrying disappearance of Bob Haberfield’s home page has prompted this update. Firefrogproductions.co.uk is no longer up-and-running, which leaves fans of his work hunting for any locations where it might still be stored online. Bob was one of the key artists employed to illustrate Michael Moorcock’s multiverse novellas during the 1970s. As such, his love of Eastern myth, art and religion steered the mind away from traditional, medieval/European fantasy tropes and into pastures surreal. There was talk on Moorcock’s Miscellany that he was off designing art for inclusion in mazes and gardens. Hopefully someone out there has a water feature similar to the one above.

The extended trailer for Cloud Atlas has me living in hope of good SF returning to the cinema – regardless of the inclusion of the inimitable Jim Broadbent in the cast. There’s no doubting it initially looks spectacular but, as Henry Clay pointed out to me, there’s a tendency for films covering multiple time-frames to repeatedly prick the bubble of suspended disbelief. While Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain managed to dodge this flaw, it still failed to tie the multiple threads its narrative together convincingly. Perhaps, as the name suggests, Cloud Atlas will be able to navigate these pitfalls with greater skill.

Edward Gordon Craig is a name that lingered well after my theatre studies, mostly thanks to this quote: “I believe in a time when we shall be able to create works of art in the theatre without the use of the written play, without the use of actors.” A stimulating piece of prediction that was the wellspring of La Cucaracha but, in this present instance, also led me to the home page of artificer Max Humphries. His site is an incredible place full of invention and art where the fantastical is made workable and real. My thanks to him for permission to post this mechanised mechanic from his sketch book.

Currently loving Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief on audio-book. The opening few minutes are a bit of a scramble as it’s not just the subject matter that’s post singularity. Acclimatise to the register – alongside a setting where the boundaries between man and machine are perpetually blurred – and you’ll find a plot noir that gives more than a passing nod to M John Harrison’s Nova Swing. Rupert Degas also provides a convincing narration switching, as he does, across an impressive range of voices even before the effects team get involved. He also brings some very English shades of cad, bounder and ne’er-do-well to the titular role of the thief. Definitely get entangled with this if you can.