Archive for January, 2013


Surveillance culture is depressing at the best of times; the twisting of the previously civic duty of illuminating our streets into the decidedly uncivil act of installing light hungry CCTV. But the ongoing transformation of the UK into a world leading Panopticon, has now taken a fresh twist. The Guardian recently reported that 130 companies had applied to the Civil Aviation Authority for permission to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) within British airspace. Fine, you might think, for the makers of golf course promotional videos, but not so great when you also note requests from weapons manufacturers and “counter terrorism” specialists. All of which puts the December 2012 arrest of New York artist, Essam Attia into chilling context.

There are a host of images that I could have used to illustrate this story, but I opted for the 2002 London Transport poster above – incredibly signed off under the mayoral leadership of “Red” Ken Livingstone. It’s a suitably dark nod to George Orwell who, coincidentally, is the focus of a new season on Radio 4. And, if that shift from terrifying reality to terrifying fiction has left fans of the fantastical wanting more, you should really listen to Peter Watts’s Malak on the Starship Sofa podcast.

Great Apes

Great news everyone! Will Self is in talks to become writer in residence at BBC Radio 4. Not only should this dramatically shake things up on the scheduling front, it’s also a cool posting for fans of the fantastical. Not convinced? Well, consider the fact that Self has repeatedly cited J.G. Ballard as mentor and influence, then crosswire this to the transdimensional jaunts of My Idea of Fun, The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Great Apes and The Book of Dave. All told, a far better chance for SF to reach its subversive tendrils beyond reruns of Doctor Who on Radio 4 Extra.

A graphic novel that predicts the future? Maybe that’s where the comparison between Channel 4’s new series ‘Utopia’ and NBC’s ‘Heroes’ begins and end. Perhaps not. Plot details have been kept under wraps, but there is talk of a secret society trying to hunt down anyone who comes into contact with this forbidden comicbook. So, for ‘The Utopia Experiments’, read ‘9th Wonders’… For shadowy organisation ‘The Network’, read Tim Kring’s ‘The Company’. The proof, I guess, will be in sampling the decidedly yellow pudding on the 15th January at 22:00 GMT – apologies to readers outside the UK. With luck we’ll see a return to the dramatic heights of Edge of Darkness or Dead Head.