Archive for July, 2014

Is it bad to know that you’re being manipulated and still enjoy the experience? As the marketing campaign goes into overdrive for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s enough knowing “calls to action” to make even the most ardent Marvel fan balk.

The calculated choice of Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling seems targeted at the then 20-somethings who were so enamoured with Quinten Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs that they went straight out and bought the soundtrack. Then, if the inclusion of Uhura and Amy Pond doesn’t get the geek dads through the cinema door, there’s always the furry/cute factor of Rocket Racoon – or even Chris Pratt for that matter – to keep everyone else engaged. Throw in some mechandise currently experiencing its own fashion revival and you can’t help admire the sheer slickness of the whole promotional engine. But then, curiosity piqued, you dig a little deeper.

A respectable 75% average among the critics, the realisation that the story has actually been rolling since 1969 – and totally managed to slip under my radar – the comedy cool inclusion of the John C Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz… All this before you start reading the interviews with script writer Nicole Perlman and discover just how difficult it was to get her vision accepted by the male closed shop of Marvel cinematics – bizarre when you consider another recent female script-related success story. It all adds up to the fact that there’s actually a lot more on the go with this one than initially meets the eye.

Will all this combined backstory bring undue influence to the Drozbot clapometer? Unlikely but, with a favourable wind, Guardians of the Galaxy may end up on the Sci-Fi hit list for the year. At least it’s already promising an island of difference in a widening sea of cynical sequels and also-rans.

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Achtung Cthulhu

News just in over the teleprinter! Modiphius – the creators of the role-playing game Achtung! Cthulhu – are releasing their first anthology of short stories based within their World War 2/Dieselpunk take Lovecraft’s mythos. Why is this relevant to readers of Drozbot, I hear you chant at your collective monitors? Well, investigate the press release here and find me among the contributing writers.

Weirdly, tentacled intrusions from other dimensions are de rigueur at the moment with news of a variation on the Bitcoin virtual currency being themed around The Great Old One and its ilk. Participants are encouraged to trade through a series of ‘rituals’, ‘blessings and ‘offerings’, but the current minuscule value per unit indicates this will never amount to more than a stack of funny money. How things have progressed since the days when I’d send off postal orders to receive Dagon fanzine through my letterbox.

Aside from digital advances in cash, the world of video games also has a fresh structure in construction on the foundations of the mythos. Although Lovecraftian tropes can be found throughout the survival horror genre, Cthulhu games are scare – consider Bethesda’s Dark Corners of the Earth and Cthulhu Saves the World and… Well, that’s it. Isn’t it?

It’s tempting to include Wolfenstein: The New Order here, simply because it’s another WW2 alt history, but the new title from Frogwares is a much better fit. Previously engaged with Conan Doyle’s super sleuth, the development team are bringing their experience of generating – for want of a better term – ‘period drama’ to the imaginatively named Call of Cthulhu on PlayStation 4.

All of which just goes to prove that this most pervasive of horror sub-genres – with the possible exception of vampirism – still has plenty of life left in its scaled, twitching and otherworldly corpse.

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Russian One Tram

While not as full-on as Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory, I do, sometimes, have a passing affinity for locomotive forms of transport. As does the wider worlds of science fiction. From the Logan’s Run tube system, through Kim Stanley Robinson’s rolling Mercurial city, to the trams and trains of both Half-Life and its sequel, there’s an understated love for all things track related.

Compared to other elements of modern life, however, trains tend to lean more towards the nostalgic rather than speeding along the cutting edge of advancement – or at least adhering to the futuristic notions of what they should look like and do. Monorails seem to be confined to theme parks, maglev’s to airports and everything else still rattling away along on a series of archaic gauges. On the plus, the shift away from fossil fuels continues, but automation remains a topic of contention for anyone currently employed as a train driver.

With an eye to mapping out a possible future for rail travel, a report was commissioned from Arup – an independent firm of designers, engineers and technical specialists who were the driving force behind such modern structures as the Sydney Opera House and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Unfortunately, its predictions of drone swarm repair bots, vid phone services and driverless train networks didn’t find approval from the Rail Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT). “Dangerous nonsense straight out of some barmy work of science fiction”, so said acting general secretary Mike Cash. Perhaps there’s still room for negotiation if some ‘sane’ works of SF can be brought to the table.

Meanwhile Russian design company, UVZ, has come up with a sleek, futurist re-imagining of the humble tram. The R1 above, is their particular answer to the question of where rail travel is heading in the next 45 years.

Finally, and pushing the terminus into more fictional territory, some of the controversy surrounding the release of Bong Joon-Ho’s track-based sci-fi film has thankfully dropped away. While there are still issues around the director’s unhappiness about the final edit, Snowpiercer’s rise to the top of the video on demand charts means it’s now a success as far as profit is concerned. So, with luck, we may well see it reassembled from the cutting room floor. While I personally don’t rate it alongside the likes of District 9, it is still by far one of the most engaging pieces of left-field SF seen in a long time.

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